Yumi Hara Cawkwell featuring Tatsuya Yoshida (London: Bonobo's Ark) photo by Seán Kelly
Apr 18 2012, 10:01 AM by Stuart A Hamilton
We've been bumbling along with Ms Cawkwell for a few years now through her collaborations with the likes of Tony Lowe, Mammal Machine, Geoff Leigh and Hugh Hopper, but this is her first actual solo album. Although, this record does feature Tatsuya Yoshida who does a fair bit of drumming and singing. Now, if you recognised any of the names I dropped a couple of sentences ago, then you will appreciate that this isn't straight down the middle music, but something out there on the edges.
DME Music Site
In the land of ostinato and eloquent minimalism, a master pianist claims back her past work and gives her light, if complex, web a delicate spin.
More known to the wide world for her work with prog veterans David Cross and Hugh Hopper, Ms Cawkwell has a classical background to her adventurous side, so her composer skills are in demand when it comes to a performance with an avant-garde slant. Over the years, Yumi's been writing pieces for both soloists like fellow travelers Kate Ryder or David Appleton and ensembles of various format, but now she decided to present a selection from her catalogue from the author's perspective, backed by Tatsuya Yoshida, who owns an equally impressive CV, on drums. The results are as bold and eclectic as those red shoes over black lace on the cover, and if there's a Kate Bush association in play, some idiosyncrasy serves "Statement Heels" quite well.
It's too obvious in songs such as "Walk In The Middle Of The Road", a reflection of Fukushima meltdown, where synthesizers create somewhat new agey atmosphere to contrast with rather earthy vocals, in the musique concrete improvisatory approach to "Archaeopteryx" and in the onslaught of "Cosmos Massive No. 901" that marries Rachmaninoff's discipline to Bud Powell's sensuality. But from the off-beat that drives the title track, in which two piano lines weave a DNA spiral, the music's elegance is magnetic, albeit quirky, and this piece rightfully made Yumi a finalist of The British Composer Awards in 2006. Still, if Terry Riley-like xylophone splashes of "Farouche" feel natural, the "Fortitude" hymn floats into this context on organ wave totally unexpected, Cawkwell's multi-tracked voice soaring in a celestial chorus. At the same time, "Sense Of Homogeneity" that was written for an actual choir has a plastic pop quality to it - light entertainment in comparison to the rest of the album. Indeed, there's a suspicion that more homogenous drift could render it all more palatable, but as a statement of intent Yumi's "Heels" dig deep.
Monday, February 13, 2012
"Statement Heels" is a collection of Yumi Hara Cawkwell's pieces originally written for other performers in the past twelve years, newly recorded by Yumi and Tatsuya Yoshida, plus some additional pieces.
"Statement Heels" is an album that you need to hear.
Yumi Hara CAWKWELL plays the piano like a “bohemian cat” travelling all around the world.
Yumi Hara CAWKWELL, born in Tokyo, is a versatile musician living in London. Upon graduation from School of Medicine in The University of Tsukuba, she’d worked as a psychiatrist for a while. However she immigrated into London suddenly in 1993 for her dream of mastering music and graduated School of Arts (Music) in City University London. Via learning composition, piano, or ethnic music, she started playing in improvised, flexible and eclectic style, with lots of renowned artists (e.g. David Cross, Hugh Hopper, Geoff Leigh, Akira Sakata, Yoshihide Otomo, Tatsuya Yoshida, Hoppy Kamiyama, Kazutoki Umezu, etc.etc.). Already known as a founder of Humi (a short-lived project with Hugh), Geoff Leigh & Yumi Hara, or Mammal Machine.
This album (it’s surprising this is Yumi’s official solo debut album) can be said as a compilation of her splendid works for New Age and Classic music scene. Furthermore, with the collaboration of a renowned Japanese drummer Tatsuya YOSHIDA, she’s seasoned her previous creations with matured rock essence and structure easy to grasp for rock music freaks. No more expression needed I think but she’s played with lots of brilliant musicians in Canterbury Scene or avantgarde jazz rock world like Hugh Hopper or Geoff Leigh enough to let us enjoy over the sea eccentrically waved … that means that we cannot foresee what will happen upon her play namely.
Tatsuya YOSHIDA’s drumming is superb, and amazingly, he completely supports Yumi from behind, without standing in front of her. And of course, Yumi’s keyboard play reminds me something like a cool creek streaming quietly and naturally (like “The Milky Way” with a flood of stardust and brilliant star-gems), and sometimes like a hot spring gushing out from between rocks (the fourth track “Cosmos Massive No. 901”, in which she plays the piano as percussion, is short but very impressive!), and it’s so mysterious all of her play can satisfy us “naturally”. Her voices (especially in the third track “Walk On The Middle Of The Road”, maybe associated with some Japanese fairy tales) are so unique and weird, like an incantation by a magician, that we can be immersed into her inner mind (exactly step by step).
Let me say,she can show herself at her best in the last three tracks that push their avantgarde weirdness in the facade with her magic voices and psychedelic electric piano sounds (on the contrary, her easy-listening tunes sound a bit strange for me sorry). As previously mentioned, we can hear in the tenth track “Archaeopteryx” something of Bernard Vitet, a French avant-jazz pioneer around 1970, with her intentional Zeuhl-ish paranoid voices and Tatsuya’s Zeuhl-ish drumming. Guess her eclectic talent can be found when we finish listening to this album thoroughly. Recommended for both avantgarde progressive fans and jazz / new age ones.
1. Statement Heels (3:54)
Total Time 50:52
* Yumi Hara Cawkwell – all instruments