Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin
Libra Records 211-047
Kira Kira (Satoko Fuji)
Libra Records 204-048 (librarecords.com)
The brilliant Japanese avant-garde composer and improviser Satoko Fujii, who happens to play piano and accordion and conduct three separate orchestras on three continents, celebrates her 60th year in 2018. Japanese tradition calls it kanreki, which is best explained to a Eurocentric as literally coming full circle in life. The Japanese (lunar) calendar, unlike our Gregorian one, completes a whole cycle covering 12 junishi or animals – mouse, cow, tiger and so on. But with each animal comes the mystical elements, measures of space and time or five jikhan which, when factored in means that a person completes a life cycle at 60 (12x5). And so Satoko Fujii has been born again. To mark the fire and brimstone of youth Fujii has decided to celebrate her 60th year with 12 new albums, one for each junishi.
This very unique and year-long Japanese birthday fête also means that we get to experience the full force of Fujii’s creativity. It’s clear from the fecund surge in the music of two of the 12 albums that Fujii’s music comes from a part of her being that is highly imaginative. The music that ensues is audacious and is propelled through her body to the nerve endings of her fingertips, from where it explodes out of the instruments that she plays. Magically, on the music of Ninety-Nine Years with Orchestra Berlin and on Bright Force with the quartet Kira Kira, the spark of the Fujii-electricity also reaches the members of both ensembles in such a manner as to ignite each one like a nuclear burst from the corona of the sun.
On the former recording Fujii simply acts as conductor; the proverbial catalyst in the detonation of her musical bombs. There are five songs on Ninety-Nine Years – each forming a vignette in an unravelling scroll that begins with a mystery in Unexpected Incident, and ends with another one, Follow The Idea, as well. Meanwhile each work on the disc is linked to the other like a series of arresting complexes of musical events characterized by movement, from immobility through acceleration, to a vanishing point propelled by both metronomic pulses and effusive lyricism. The music of Bright Force – as the album title suggests – emerges from its own proverbial solar explosion and is resolved in the quietude of the mysterious Luna Lionfish suite, a strikingly lyrical feature that closes an extraordinarily edgy album.