Hi No Tori
“Hi No Tori” is a transliteration of a Japanese term meaning ‘bird of fire’, and marks the first time that Cyril Bondi and Toma Gouband have worked together on record. Bondi I’m familiar with from his work as one half of diatribes (with d’incise); this is the first time I’ve come across Gouband, though he’s previously worked with the likes of Kim Myhr and Evan Parker. The duo tease a number of percussive textures from a variety of objects, most of which weren’t formed with musical purposes in mind; in this way “Hi No Tori” shares a family resemblance with recent work by Luciano Maggiore and Enrico Malatesta. There’s difference in the details, however, with Bondi and Gouband’s music coming across as perhaps more gestural — more audibly the result of scrapings, rattlings, tappings, whallopings — than that of the Italians.
For me, the appeal of “Hi No Tori” is a double one: first, there are some fantastic timbres of all shapes and colours scattered throughout the album, zinging and hissing and wumping and pattering; second, the rhythms that animate these timbres are ear-catchingly complex, not in the sense that they set out to overwhelm the listening brain with too much information, but rather that varying degrees of regularity are sifted through and tested. While many musicians are interested in playing very quietly in order to introduce a kind of instability or contingency into their music, Bondi and Gouband perhaps achieve something similar here on a rhythmic level, with things constantly shifting gently between pattern and noise. At the same time, though, there are those lovely sounds — having something in common with rain drumming on a roof, though not always timbre — that offer a different window onto the music, turning attention away just a little from questions of rhythm, allowing you the listener to stop counting, if you want.
It’s not as if there could ever be sound without rhythm, outside of time: that would be like speech without an accent (or an ‘eternal sound’, a sonified divine). Maybe splitting these qualities into two distinct concepts is ultimately unhelpful, distracting attention away from the experience of how music as a sensory, cognitive, and communal thing happens or becomes. Or doesn’t, as the case may be. With “Hi No Tori”, things definitely do happen, no grandiosity or emotional manipulation, just drummings, organised now more loosely, now more tightly, filling the ear-bowl with thoughtful sounds, trickling away again.
“Hi No Tori” is released conjointly with an album from the Insub Meta Orchestra, which features four structured pieces for an ensemble of 29 players — both releases are well worth checking out.