Somnambule - Writing About Music

Nobukazu Takemura, A Concert in Three Halves

Union Chapel, Saturday 7 February 2004

The screen at the back of the stage announces ‘Part 1 – Improvisation, Part 2 - Nobukazu Takemura and Child’s View’. Nobukazu takes to the stage, trademark ponytail and cautious, watchful features recognisable from photographs. Picking up a white guitar he begins to improvise with the drummer. He treats the instrument like a found object, something he’s encountering for the first time. The result for much of the brief set sails uncomfortably close to noodling. The drummer meanwhile plays little spits and flurries without doing anything particularly remarkable. Just as the music begins to gain energy and focus, they stop playing and leave the stage.

Half an hour later Takemura returns with Child’s View, a pseudonym used periodically since the early 90s. This incarnation of the group comprises Matt Lux (bass), Mikael Jorgensen (guitar, keys), Nobukazu (guitar, laptops, vibes), Aki Tsuyuko (vocals, keys), Anna Mizoguchi (vocals, vibes) and a drummer unnamed in the programme. For the first few numbers they appear almost painfully self-conscious. The Union Chapel’s acoustics and chilly atmosphere do them no favours: the drums ricochet off the Victorian architecture like gunshots, Takemura sits hidden behind three laptops and the rest of the group play with serious, impassive faces. The overriding impression is of an awkward repertory band playing unfamiliar material. Throughout the evening Aki and Anna sing lyrics with utter conviction that are impossible to make out. It’s difficult to tell what live performance brings to this music - exposing these songs to London’s wintry air seems to be tarnishing their shiny surfaces.

Some of the audience begin to leave while others giggle derisively to each other. But it’s just at this point that a tiny sonic detail - a brief quaver in Aki’s voice - serves to rupture the increasingly negative impression. This moment of fragility opens up the possibility of warming to the music. The abstract visuals which had previously annoyed give way to depictions of the everyday: dogs, ducks, powerstations, a child skipping. And the realisation dawns that Child’s View is all about pop music rooted in the familiar, but open to possibility. As the next instrumental – a gorgeous piece of Steve Reich-like impresssionism – shows it’s a form of pop whose liquid boundaries enable it to metamorphose with beguiling fluidity. Next a song mutates from eery atmospherics into an extended guitar freakout. Two more songs from Takemura’s ‘10th' cd (2001) are performed and the concert is over except for a single encore.

Children are unburdened by conventions, open to possibilities and delighted by surprises. So too with Child’s View.
Colin Buttimer
Published by Absorb