Aki Onda | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Aki Onda

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As a founding member of Audio Sports--an oddball hip-hop trio with Boredoms ringleader Yamatsuka Eye and producer Nobukazu Takemura--Japanese-born producer Aki Onda crafted masterful sampladelia that showed off his striking facility with modern electronics. But his recent solo work draws on more primitive technology. Since the 80s Onda has used a simple cassette recorder to chronicle whatever sounds strike his fancy as he travels around the globe, stashing the informal travelogues in a cardboard box. In recent years he's begun raiding the boxes for material for new recordings and, as he writes in the liner notes to 2003's Bon Voyage! Cassette Memories Vol. 2 (Improvised Music From Japan), transforming the tapes into "strange soundscapes that were utterly severed from reality." Indeed, it's hard to pin down any of the pieces on the album to a specific place; Onda makes a kind of musique concrete that emphasizes environmental sounds over compositional logic. "For the Birds," for example, features the sound of birds chirping over an unidentifiable machine hum, jarringly broken up by a snippet of somebody strumming a guitar and singing; Onda returns to that fragment several times, preserving the harsh noise of the tape rewinding. Other tracks focus on rain landing on a metal roof or the reverberant din of a subway station; in "The Little Girl in Tangier" it's a child's mumbled, whimsical song. For his live performances Onda hooks up a pair of Walkman-style cassette players to a mixing board and creates collages in real time using an assortment of tapes. Intentionally trying for a murkier sound, he uses old guitar and bass amps instead of loudspeakers. As he told an interviewer last year, "I make the determination of sound quality by mimicking the human memory system. We don't remember things clearly and mathematically, like digital media does. Rather, the details of our memories are distorted and compressed, like fuzzy images wedging themselves into the realm of oblivion." Sat 5/27, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 773-227-3617, $12. All ages.

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