Haino review

Keiji Haino and Sitaar Tah! – Animamima (aRCHIVE/Important)

Drones have been a major part of Keiji Haino’s repertoire for a while, a potent weapon in his eternal war/love affair with a universe which at various times he seeks to dissolve into, manifest inside himself, refuse entirely, and, for the rest of the time, play and explore – all through sound. Animamima, released on aRCHIVE’s excellent imprint in a beautiful book-like package designed by Sun O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, was recorded in Tokyo on June 26, 2004 and documents a collaboration between Haino, with a full armory of drone makers including electric tambura, electric shruti box, electric hurdy gurdy, as well as rhythm box, flute and voice, sitarist Yoshidaikiti, throat singer Fuyuki Tomokawa, and Sitaar Tah!, supposedly a 20 piece sitar orchestra.

The first disk begins with a drone similar to those found in some of Haino’s previous works – “Abandon all words at a stroke” or “So, Black is Myself” and the mini-CD “Shruti Box” for example – serene, majestic, crackling with latent energy. The sound gradually thickens as London born voice performer Fuyuki Tomokawa, throat singer and winner of the Avant garde khoomei singer award in Tuva for two years running, contributes overtone laden vocals that weave in and out of the mix, until it reaches a dense swirling, mostly beatless maelstrom of sound reminiscent of Can’s Tago Mago or Tony Conrad period Theater of Eternal Music with top notch recording equipment and pharmaceuticals. Haino contributes some spectacular flute and gorgeous forelorn falsetto vocals. It goes on for ever and you don’t want it to stop.

The second disk further intensifies the roaring, joyful vortex of sound with Haino’s screaming hurdy gurdy work, before receding after 25 minutes into a throbbing dense mass of slowly shifting resonant strings. The whole 98 minutes is as remarkable as anything Haino has done in a long illustrious musical life. At a time where drone-based music is in danger of sinking into generic cliché, Haino and company have made something bracing, free, yet very accessible, and finally not like anyone else at all.

Originally published in The Wire, 2006.

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