Dune CD album
HUMI (Hugh Hopper & Yumi Hara Cawkwell) (New York: MOONJUNE)
7 June 2008 by Sid Smith
A certain kind…
Though collaborator Yumi Hara Cawkwell may be less well known than ex-Soft Machinist, Hugh Hopper, she is no less talented. A gifted composer, performer and one time associate of London-based Japanese performance art popsters, Frank Chickens, Cawkwell has been steadily building a reputation that has seen her working with ex-King Crimson violinist, David Cross, providing thoughtful arrangements of Soft Machine repertoire for the Delta Saxophone Quartet, and stints as turntable-twirling DJ.
Oscillating between classical-sounding abstractions and looped-based electronics, these open-ended improvisations recorded in 2007 and 2008, chronicle two musicians respectfully seeking common ground. Her keyboards (both piano and organ) and sombre vocals offer a yearning ambiguity to Hopper’s grounded motifs and nimble exploratory figures.
Inevitably there’s a hit and miss aspect that creeps in occasionally. Though the tentative meandering of “Awayuki I and II” makes for an inconclusive experience, the terrain mostly consists of engaging and provocative pieces. “Long Dune” has Cawlkwell’s voice echoing forlornly across slowly shifting patterns of Hopper’s descending bass, and more demonstratively on the unsettling “Seki no Gohonmatsu”; which also bears the purr of Hopper’s trademark fuzz bass. Here, Calkwell give a full-blooded vocal to words taken from a traditional Japanese folk-song conjuring something that comes off being simultaneous ancient and drenched in modernity.
Elsewhere that mixing-up of traditions and disciplines continues. Messiaen-like shards of piano splinter across the abrasive “Shiranui,” and Softs fans will be intrigued to hear “Hopeful Impressions Of Happiness” – a bold reinvention of a song with nearly the same title from Soft Machine’s debut, proof were it needed, of that 40 year old album’s seminal status.
From soothing moments of calm reflection to jagged swipes at the psyche, the collective oices of HUMI form textures, moods, improvisation and formal compositions into a cohesive, expressive language. Beyond the confines of genre, subtle, striking and eloquent, don't expect anything obvious from this duo.
18 June 2008
Incredible release from this Canterbury icon features his one-of-a-kind bass sound with Cawkwell's keyboards & vocals. Her singing is definitely more in the avant vein of Dagmar Krause or Catherine Jannieaux but the harshness comes and goes like ocean waves washing up against the beach. At times she is atmospheric (both in her singing and keyboard playing) and at other times she is more angular and experimental. Hugh's bass is a little different on this outing as he is using more phase effects rather than his signature fuzz sound so his parts are more impressionistic than we have come to expect. One thing you cannot say of Hugh Hopper is that he repeats himself or stands still. This album is really unlike anything he has done before - and I mean that in a good way! For fans of progressive music in the sense of "pushing the boundaries", Hopper is always fascinating. I think this will be one of his that the listener will return to again and again, always finding new nuances that escaped with the last listening. Although Cawkwell's singing may take a little getting used to for some fans, after a few tracks the marriage of her parts and Hopper's becomes the most natural thing in the world!
DOWNTOWN Music Gallery
Featuring Hugh Hopper on bass guitar, loops & electronics and Yumi Hara Cawkwell on keyboards, voice & percussion. When my friend, Hugh Hopper, was here earlier this year to perform with Nick Didkovsky & John Roulat, in Bone, he mentioned being excited about a collaboration he was working on with a fine Japanese keyboardist & vocalist named Yumi Cawkwell. The disc has just arrived and it is a treat, indeed. On "Long Dune," Hugh's bass has a warm, thick, lovely sound along with Yumi's sparse, selective piano. When Yumi's wordless voice enters, it adds a sublime, spooky ambiance. On "Shiranui," Hugh stacks up layers of fuzz, distinctly distorted and rich-toned bass(es) in a most astonishing way with Yumi's superb piano floating on top. Hugh alters the sound of his bass on each piece, the sound is consistently fascinating. In a way, this disc is like a second part to Hugh's first solo bass album, '1984,' perhaps not nearly as frightening, but as intense nonetheless. Hugh continues to be the master of loops and does an amazing job of selecting just the right snips of sounds to loop and alter in different ways. Occasionally ominous, yet consistently mesmerizing. - BLG
all about jazz
June 26, 2008 by John Kelman
One well-known artist; the other, not-so. Bassist Hugh Hopper first came to public attention as a member of legendary British group Soft Machine in the late 1960s, but since then the experimental disposition that ultimately resulted in his leaving that band has been heard across a spectrum of projects, from the jamband fusion-centricity of Soft Machine Legacy (MoonJune, 2006) to the spontaneous improvisation of Soft Mountain (Hux, 2007) and experimental looping of The Stolen Hour (Burning Shed, 2004), a multi-media project with graphic artist Matt Howarth. Keyboardist/vocalist Yumi Hara Cawkwell's story is more serpentine. Schooled in Japan and spending eight years as a practicing psychiatrist, she relocated to England in 1993 where she studied left-of-center musical forms, and is now an active participant on the London experimental scene. Dune is Hopper and Cawkwell's first recorded collaboration (under the group name Humi), and it's one of Hopper's most unorthodox releases to date.
Hopper began experimenting with primitive tape loops back in the 1960s, inspired by the work of minimalists like Terry Riley. His own 1984 (Columbia, 1973) is a masterpiece of these early experiments, and the unearthed Soft Machine disc Spaced (Cuneiform, 1996) demonstrated a similar disposition for abstruse concepts heard on Dune, without the added benefit of 21st century technology. The music—a series of improvisations, compositions and, at times, indeterminable blends of the two—is largely dark and brooding, though the dynamics range from whisper quiet to near ear-shattering, with Hopper's loops and heavily processed bass taking on far more than the rhythmic role it's often assigned. Cawkwell's keyboard playing runs the gamut from oblique acoustics to spacious, almost psychedelic synths. Her voice is redolent of traditional Japanese music in the eerie landscape of " Seki no Gohonmatsu," while it's purely textural on the delicate abstraction of "Long Dune."
While there's no shortage of improvisation, there are clear constructs and, in at least one case, a clear source of inspiration. As many groups reinterpret pop songs from the 1960s forward, "Hopeful Impressions of Happiness" has to be one of the most unusual—twisting early Soft Machine''s "Hope for Happiness" into a new, unrecognizable form. The entire album feels as if it were shot through an odd prism, refracting the church organ and accompanying angular bass lines of "Awayuki I" into a foreboding, alien landscape.
Dune isn't without its beauty, but it possesses a power and density that, on tracks like the fuzz bass-driven "Scattered Forest," tends to be more jagged and dramatic. Not the ever-vigilant Hopper's most approachable collaboration, it is one of the most unique. With an emphasis on atmosphere and color, Dune is the kind of experimentation that explains why, forty years on, Hugh Hopper continues to be a vital, if not undervalued, explorer of uncharted sonic territory.
Track Listing: Long Dune; Shiranui; Seki no Gohonmatsu; Circular Dune; Scattered Forest; Hopeful Impressions of Happiness; Awayuki I; Awayuki II; Distant Dune; Futa.
Personnel: Hugh Hopper: bass guitar, loops, electronics; Yumi Hara Cawkwell: voice, keyboards, percussion.
all about jazz
July 5, 2008 by Nic Jones
In Hugh Hopper's case, age seems to be bringing with it a certain restlessness of spirit. This duo with Yumi Hara Cawkwell mines a seam of disturbed minimalism the surface of which is ruffled and undermined by Hopper's deft way with lower end sonics and Cawkwell's declamatory yet understated vocals.
It all comes together on "Hopeful Impressions Of Happiness" where any dippiness implicit in the title is put to rest by Hopper's way with tape loops and electronics and Cawkwell's incantatory yet spooked way. What's notable also is the fact that any meditative quality is purged from the music, making for a more rewarding listening experience.
A meandering quality pervades "Circular Dune" but it's not enough to alter the fact that the music is still underpinned by mutual understanding. The duo proceeds by stealth, with Cawkwell's keyboard contributions giving the music an air of unease which again lifts it above and beyond the background.
Depth of colour serves more or less the same end on "Futa" where Hopper gets emphatic and an odd, mangled theme emerges from a bed of loops and staggers around as if bewildered by the prospect of the day. If sound can be applied with the strokes of a brush then that's what's happening here, the duo melding as one even in their shared commitment to irresolution. In view of that, the fade on the piece is singularly appropriate.
"Seki no Gohonmatsu" is arguably governed by that irresolution. Cawkwell's vocal, consisting as it does largely of long tones, flirts with the unworldly but Hopper's bass guitar manipulations keep the music grounded in a place that's all too worldly, one that's welcoming to any and every adventurous spirit.
"Long Dune" is perhaps fusion purged of all excesses. Cawkwell spins out some lines on what sounds like almost straight piano while Hopper sounds in thrall to irresolution. By sheer dint of the lack of volume the music holds the attention, rich as it is in the promise of something to be resolved. The fact that it isn't resolved is perhaps the best testimony to how open-ended this duo's approach is.
Track Listing: Long Dune; Shiranui; Seki no Gohonmatsu; Circular Dune; Scattered Forest; Hopeful Impressions Of Happiness; Awayuki I; Awayuki II; Distant Dune; Futa.
Personnel: Yumi Hara Cawkwell: voice, keyboards, percussion; Hugh Hopper: bass guitar, loops, electronics.
Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages
3 February 2009 by Vitaly Menshikov
Prolusion. The name of this English outfit, HUMI, is compiled from the first names of its participants, Hugh Hopper and Yumi Cawkwell, the first two letters of one's first name and the last two of the other's. I believe there’s no need in enlarging on Mr. Hopper’s work: Still one of the main driving forces behind Soft Machine, he became a living legend already in the ‘70s, and has been also playing with too many other artists to even remember all of them, let alone listing them here. As to Yumi Cawkwell, this Japanese lady (her maiden name being Hara) is also a citizen of the UK to where she relocated fifteen years ago. Originally a psychiatrist, in her new homeland Yumi practices exclusively as a musician, and she is a classically trained musician, by the way. Otherwise how would she have received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in composition (which she did, in 1995, at London’s City University)? I think nobody knows how the artists have found each other, but the result of their meeting, the “Dune” CD, is present. This is their first collaboration to date.
Analysis. Dissimilar to anything I have previously heard from Hopper’s entire repertoire, “Dune” is generally a unique creation, but while it has quite a few other virtues as well, originality as such is its main quality to my way of thinking. Judging by the languages that the disc’s ten tracks’ titles are written in, it seems Hugh and Yumi each penned an equal quantity of compositions for it, and although some of those are slightly different from the others, the creation as a whole comes across as being pretty uniform in both approach and style, thus proving it is a truly collaborative effort. It might happen that I’ll touch on one or two of the pieces specifically, but generally I think there is no special need for a track-by-track investigation in this particular case. So I’ll try to focus on the entire creation, by describing its most characteristic aspects, and will begin with the musical style here, which (perhaps logically, considering the album’s general uncommonness) evades me regarding its precise classification, at least by using a traditional genre terminology. The elements of jazz, symphonic, spacey, minimalist, texturally-electronic and ambient can all be intermixed among themselves, but can appear as separate features as well, particularly often the first three. Some other entities, though still predominantly contrasting, if not conflicting, in character, are to be found in the album’s emotional message: dark and disturbing, psychedelic and smoothly meditative, stimulating and relaxing, and even sleepy- as well as somnambulistic-like ones, of which the former two seem to be prevalent, due to their more instantly recognizable nature, for sure. As hinted above, singularity is all around here, and Cawkwell’s singing, though manifesting her Japanese roots from time to time (on Seki no Gohonmatsu in particular), is overall full of strangeness, too. Her vocals are often accompanied by echoes and then her voice seems to be wrapped up in a ghostly aura, adding an extra sense of the marvelous to the music as such which already in itself appears as a mysterious, kinda extraterrestrial, landscape. Yumi’s keyboard playing is generally one of a kind, her wonderful ability to jump from pure improvisation to strict compositional accuracy within the same thematic storyline, let alone the piece, making me scratch my head wondering how, why and to where the border between those two, completely different, styles disappears? Cawkwell’s personal keyboard equipment includes synthesizers and piano, but on Awayuki-I she is behind a church organ. That being said, this is probably the most paranormal musical entity in the set and is one of the winners to my mind. Besides playing the bass in the standard manner, Hopper, by using specific techniques, elicits a wide variety of non-traditional sounds from the instrument. Some of those are electronically processed, via the bass pedals, but since Hugh deploys other, special, electronic devices as well, it’s at times hard to recognize a real source of his proceedings, though it doesn’t matter after all as the overall result is fascinating, in the majority of cases. While revealing quite a few structurally dense, rock-sounding, episodes (normally with Hopper’s trademark fuzz-bass riffs as their basis) along the way, the music is nevertheless more often relatively transparent than otherwise and is barely audible (think very, at times extremely, quiet piano passages coming as if from the stratosphere) on some occasions, then bringing to mind a rarefied air, though there are also a couple of moments that only arouse associations with an open space. That said, it’s the latter two aspects of the outing that somewhat prevent me from enjoying it in a non-stop regimen :-), having also slightly affected its rating.
Conclusion. Don’t give up on this recording after its first play – in spite of all, to put it briefly. It is not destined for a superficial listening. Unless you are devoid of any imagination (which would mean you are not a prog lover), take on the journey again, and you will be rewarded. For the most part, this is a truly massive musical palette which, moreover, will strike you with its fancy appearance as well as its richness in metaphysical entities.
In tentative explorations, humming bass and spectral piano fragments circle each other warily, like gunfighters looking for some kind of giveaway gesture of intent, while distant, mournful, wordless vocals accrue in deepening layers like a weeping tragic chorus. The result is a menacing alienating ambient landscape: bravely uncomfortable music that never takes the easy route.
All Music Guide/Billboard.com
by Mihael Nastos
Of the many recordings electric bass guitarist Hugh Hopper has produced over three decades since leaving Soft Machine, this one might be the bravest and most distinctly innovative and atmospheric of his career. With the bassist teamed with keyboardist and vocalist Yumi Hara Cawkwell, the paradox of a hot, steamy desert caravan as opposed to cold and bleak deep space is somehow conjured and realized. ...A strange and wonderful confluence of modernity, scientific experimentation, and futuristic vision, this may very well be Hugh Hopper's most challenging recording date since his epic 1984, and a coming out for the intriguing ideas proffered by Cawkwell.
If you’re one of those who has a problem putting your imagination to work, have no fear, as the artists duly inject an ethereal and somewhat prismatic sequence of events into your mind’s eye. Sit back, relax and relieve yourself of life’s trivialities because the Humi will take you for a highly imaginative exposition that you may never forget.
all about jazz
Questo album molto sperimentale di Hugh Hopper e Yumi Hara Cawkwell proietta il bassista dei Soft Machine verso il futuro e allo stesso tempo rispolvera la sua passione per i loops e per l’elettronica che aveva caratterizzato i suoi anni formativi e le sue prime escursioni solistiche. Senza dimenticare alcuni episodi un po’ oscuri della storia della band di Robert Wyatt e Mike Ratledge, come quella sperimentale Spaced che solo pochi anni fa è riemersa dall’oblio del tempo grazie alla lungimiranza di Steve Feigenbaum e della sua etichetta Cuneiform.
In questo caso è invece la Moonjune Records di Leonardo Pavkovic a mettere a disposizione di Hugh Hopper una importante occasione per il gruppo Humi che vede il bassista inglese affiancato da una poco nota artista giapponese che sembra in realtà essere la leader del progetto, almeno da un punto di vista spirituale.
La tastierista Yumi Hara Cawkwell si è trasferita in Inghilterra nei primi anni novanta, si è occupata di psichiatria e ha trovato una valida occasione per esprimere le sue pulsioni artistiche attraverso la musica. La sua scelta di campo è ben evidente in direzione della musica sperimentale che pesca dal minimalismo per dispiegare trame misteriose e suggestive.
La musica di questo Dune sembra giungere a noi attraverso una cortina d’acqua, come se fosse eseguita in una caverna posta al di là di una cascata, i suoni si muovono elegantemente e senza soluzione di continuità, proteiformi e densi, pervasi da nebbioline colorate tono su tono, senza slabbrature apparenti.
Il titolo “Hopeful Impressions of Happiness” evoca suggestive ipotesi di collegamento col lavoro dei primi Soft Machine, all’epoca di quella stralunata “Hope for Happiness” che era stata uno dei cavalli di battaglia del gruppo alla fine degli anni sessanta, prima dell’ingresso di Elton Dean e della inevitabile sterzata verso il jazz. Ma l’ascolto del brano ci fa capire inesorabilmente che di acqua sotto ai ponti ne è passata parecchia e che il passato non ritorna. Si potrebbe addirittura dire che in queste lande sabbiose che rimandano la luce del sole come se un milione di specchietti minuscoli fossero stati piazzati nei punti strategici del panorama, il passato diventa futuro e il futuro diventa passato, come l’inesorabile inversione della sabbia nella clessidra della vita ci fa capire ogni giorno.
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
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