MIDORI TAKADA’s pursuit of the color of sound
With original pressings of Midori Takada’s treasured debut work Through the Looking Glass selling for $750, collectors that have been longing to obtain the Japanese composer’s masterpiece will be happy to learn that Palto Flats and We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Records have recently reissued the album. Available on CD – for the first time - and LP, this four-song suite, which came out in 1983, has been considered by many the Holy Grail of Japanese ambient and minimal music.
With a background in classical music, Takada made her first appearance in 1973 as a percussionist for the Berlin RIAS Symphonie Orchestra. She slowly began growing apart from more traditionally Western music and developed an interest for Asian and African creations, as well as free jazz. Her quest for inspiration took her to Bali, where she studied the traditional Indonesian ensemble music called Gamelan, which is mainly based on percussive instruments and bamboo flutes or xylophones. She also gained access to Korean rhythms through musician Chi Soung-ja, which gave her a profound sense of the inner balance that can be obtained through compositions. This mystical side of her music, however, does not intend to soothe the listener but rather to create the ideal atmosphere to reflect upon transcendental issues. She clearly crafts tunes that are not meant to be heard in elevators or airport lounges, or as post-exercise relaxation. The subtle complexity of her musical works of art is what has gained her a privileged spot in the ambient movement, which was led by men only until her arrival.
In 1981, two years before starting her solo career, she formed the Mkwaju Ensemble along with Joe Hisaishi and Hideki Matsutake, in which she took her first steps towards minimalism and began playing African drums. When Through The Looking Glass was first released, very few understood its many layered compositions, and it took a while for the public to realize that Takada had created something unique by bringing together telluric elements that altogether merged into a new, almost out-of-this-world sound.
In her own words and alluding to the evocative name given to the album, “Isn’t a mirror like an endeavor of layering an illusion upon an illusion?”
The reissue has been carefully remastered respecting the original production, in which Takada sought to examine the color of sound, perspective and time. In fact, the album starts with the piece Mr. Henri Rousseau's Dream, which could have easily been conceived inside the famous painting, in an exotic and whimsical context surrounded by colors and textures that only seem possible in some ethereal plane of existence. The following three songs, which are as oneiric as the first one, complete the exquisite journey that Takada takes us to in Through the Looking Glass.
Text by Tamara Izko
Photography: Bartek Muracki