Union Chapel Session: Jan Jelinek / Midori Takada

Electronic musician Jan Jelinek and Japanese composer and percussionist Midori Takada recently lit up Islington’s Union Chapel. Jelinek’s opening fifty-minute set was a wonderful cocktail of experimental electronica, like pure, sweet candy for the ears. Airy and ambient atmospherics padded out the space while a slippery, skittering rhythm emerged, looping quietly and bringing back cherished memories of his golden Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, which is considered a classic.

Saying that, the set was largely absent of beats or beat-sequences, but when they did arrive, they came with venom, pounding deep in the low-end like a bass-heavy, stomping titan, submerged as it was in a lone spotlight and drenched in banks of roiling smoke.Other oscillations and unbalanced wobbles signalled dangers on the horizon, at one point sounding like an attempted alien abduction. As the deafening levels increased, the music overdosed on high volume, surrendering to pure sonic worship and falling upon its knees in front of its crossfading deity.

The chorus of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ emerged, ripening at just the right time to produce delicious fruit, but that was the only sign of the pop world, the real world, and the radio interference was quickly snuffed out. The set ended with a warning and a subsequent attack, a virus loose in the system which glitched everything out beyond all reasonable control and caused as much mayhem as a gremlin, the words lagging and decaying in the face of a malicious entity. Jelenik created a tapestry inside the cavernous chapel, tweaking the controls here and there, speeding things up and then slowing it all the way down until a new dimension emerged.

Midori Takada delivered a mind-blowing performance, too. Initially, the spotlight traced its way to the back of the chapel, looming behind the audience as it lit up the aisles. Takada walked slowly down the aisle, filling the entire space with the sound of a ringing bell – music, and a performance, that wasn’t restricted to the stage alone, stripping away the confines and standardized expectations of a musical performance.

The percussion tingled in her hands, setting a precedence in its sensitivity to the vibes in the air, with a focus on every specific timbre. In her eyes, all tones are created equal. Suspended in the air, her music echoed with mystery and revelation, mysticism bleeding into spirituality; the kind and benevolent philosophy to be found in deeper meanings. As a gong rang out, there was a glimpse of something bigger, of Music Herself appearing in all of her beauty and radiance, resounding and manifesting her glory, her true self unclothed. The gong continued to ring as Takada explored its different tonal qualities – tapping, clinking nails against its side – and as the lights poured through the everything-and-nothing music, a special moment unspooled.

Takada expertly mixed performance art with the musical, the differing percussive timbres intermingling with the more melodious xylophone. As the cymbals clanged, Takada spoke about form being emptiness, and emptiness being form: a music lesson, but a life lesson, too. Midori was on another level, another plain of existence summoned up through her music. The sequences on the xylophone were beautifully melodic, shining like bejewelled waterfalls carrying an endless stream of notes, endless life. Midori’s music is all about life and wellness. Vitality. Happiness is possible when you’re with her music.

Her later vocalisations spoke of coconut trees, of quenching a thirst, and the tropical melody produced a little spring; it was a resting place. Those sensitive melodies were a sharp-but-sweet contrast to her exceptional drumming, which amassed on the border like a battery, ready and willing to fire. Energy and release. Fire and water. Fury and tranquillity: that was the message.

The earlier electronic set complemented Takada’s music perfectly; both artists struck an equal balance between form and emptiness, music and its twinned silence. Arigato, Midori.


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