Japanese percussionist Midori Takada basks in rediscovery with hypnotic and pummeling music | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Japanese percussionist Midori Takada basks in rediscovery with hypnotic and pummeling music


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A little over a year ago, New York label Palto Flats collaborated with Swiss imprint WRWTFWW to reissue Midori Takada’s beautifully meditative 1983 solo album Through the Looking Glass, galvanizing an unlikely comeback, and—for many listeners—a discovery. Takada is an imaginative Japanese percussionist whose work in the 80s and 90s gracefully dissolved lines between free jazz, minimalism, and new age. The sound she developed still rings utterly contemporary, melding pulsing rhythms on tuned percussion and sharing Steve Reich’s adaptation of the circular rhythms of West Africa—but creating something more fragile and less mechanistic. On both Through the Looking Glass and Lunar Cruise, her ravishing 1990 collaboration with jazz pianist Masahiko Sato, which was also reissued last year, she created a dynamic vision, strewn with mesmerizing epics that build from slowly alternating patterns of marimba, keyboards, and drums. The latter album, which features Yellow Magic Orchestra vet Harumi Hosono on bass and sounds a bit dated in its booming drum sound and production, puts a pop veneer on a wide range of grooves and atmospheres, as on the Arabic-tinged “A Vanished Illusion.” Before making those solo records Takada collaborated with traditional musicians from Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. She distilled those experiences in her Japanese group Mkwaju Ensemble—whose 1981 debut, Ki-Motion, will be the latest Takada title to be reissued by WRWTFWW when it comes out this June. Rather than baldly emulating what she experienced in those collaborations, she's created modern, richly pulsing music that refracts African rhythms as drum beats pile up and pull apart within a seamless mixture of electronics and marimba. Video of a recent solo performance indicates that her current practice features deftly programmed, bracing, and meditative drum and marimba music.   v

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