Tuesday, October 22nd, ISSUE is pleased to present esteemed Japanese band ASA-CHANG & Junray on their first visit to the U.S. Drawing on material from the project’s entire discography, Asa-Chang performs as a trio with Yoshihiro Goseki (clarinet, flute), Anzu Suhara (violin), and the “Jun-Ray Tronics” soundsystem. The evening also welcomes back sound artist, composer, and 2015 ISSUE Artist-In-Residence Lea Bertucci & composer, vocalist, and improviser Amirtha Kidambi performing in a recently formed duo. The project features improvisations for voice processed through idiosyncratic misuse of tape machines and marks the release of their first album, Phase Eclipse, to be released on Astral Spirits.
ASA-CHANG & Junray is the name of the Asa-Chang experience, and comes from the “Jun-Ray Tronics” soundsystem developed by self-taught tabla guru Asa-Chang. Junray (derived from the Japanese word for pilgrimage) has been described as an attempt to summarize musically the entire experience of human emotion, or “kidoairaku.” Based in Tokyo, Asa-Chang has spent much of his professional life touring with multi-million-selling J-pop acts and is regarded as one of Japan’s premiere session percussionists. In the early 2000s, his group was met with worldwide acclaim from the success of debut international album Tsu Gi Ne Pu and the single “Hana,” a revelry of tabla, overlapping vocals, strings, and electronic elaborations that stands as an achievement of early-aughts innovation between pop and avant-garde sensibilities. BBC DJ and tastemaker John Peel had featured the single regularly on his radio show; and, even recently, they have garnered new admirers, with German concert series ReiheM describing the song’s pointed impartiality as in the spirit of Robert Ashley or David Behrman.
The duo of Amirtha Kidambi on vocals and Lea Bertucci on tapes and electronics finds new territory in extending the sonic possibilities of the human voice through electronic manipulation and improvised tactics. Taking a more integrated approach than simply filtering voice through electronic processing, Bertucci manipulates Kidambi’s voice through tactile methods with tape machine, including manual speed control, by physically touching the reels as Kidambi’s live voice is fed through the machine. Kidambi reacts in turn with a vocal arsenal of timbral techniques, creating a literal visceral feedback loop of noise, processed, and polyphonic voices.
Influenced equally by jazz, Carnatic, and western classical vocal techniques, the duo takes a thoroughly freely improvised approach. Their pieces command form through looped repetitions, stark dynamic and textural contrasts, slowly unfolding melodic motifs among harmonic beds and a formidable mind-meld in reactivity between Kidambi and Bertucci. For the astute listener, the explorations may conjure a real-time version of postwar musique concrete or the groundbreaking experiments of live electronics pioneer Pauline Oliveros' tape improvisations. Their forthcoming album Phase Eclipse, featuring studio improvisations along with a full live concert from The Kitchen, will be released on Astral Spirits in November, 2019.