Luigi Turra: Ki

With three CDs weighing in at 138 minutes, Ki is an epic, three-part work of so-called “reductionist sound cinema” by musique concrète composer Luigi Turra, who's previously issued material on labels such as Trente Oiseaux, Dragon's Eye Recordings, and Koyuki. Scant details about the recording are provided, though we can report that Turra is wholly responsible for the recording's compositions and sounds, and uses various instruments, objects, and field recordings to bring them into being. It's tactile material in the extreme, with the unique timbres of the various sound sources presented in all of their individuating clarity during the three discs' long-form meditations. Two of the release's three parts were previously released, the first disc's “Ki 1: Enso” in 2007 on Small Voices in an imperfectly mastered version and the second self-released as a limited-edition CD-R EP in 2007 and heard in the and/OAR set for the first time in its full-length version.

Presented in three parts, the material on the first disc's “Ki 1: Enso” exudes an Eastern character due to the presence of instrument sounds associated with the Far East, such as the pipa and shakuhachi. The first part presents a free-flowing and patiently unfolding journey that weaves together—sometimes alternating between—musical and field recordings-based passages: after Turra inaugurates the piece with a bell strike, violent percussive ruptures, footsteps, and the playing of a wooden (perhaps shakuhachi) flute appear; a range of field recordings sounds follows—ambient sounds of the natural outdoors and the crunchy footsteps of a figure trudging through grassy terrain—until the returning bell strike signals the piece's end. The second part moves from an introductory episode of bird chirps, drum noises and low-pitched string plucks into a somewhat eerie nightscape of haunted tones and ghostly atmospherics, with at one point wordless voices erupting in an anguished moan. The final part of “Ki 1: Enso” unfolds as a dramatic, pipa-plucked plod with droning field recordings billowing on all sides before its musical elements, in the opening CD's most memorable passage, turn mournful, with the powerfully affecting mood mitigated somewhat by the persistent punctuation of field recording noises.

The second and third CDs are both forty-five-minute, single-movement settings. The aptly titled “Ki 2: Ancient Silence” opts for an explorative approach that Turra pitches at a subdued level in terms of volume and dynamics. Field recordings and musical elements again intermingle, with pages turning among the former and agitated percussive clatter the latter. Though the presentation is at times extremely minimal—during one episode, the sound consists of nothing more than water droplets and the residual echo following from them—the trip remains engaging nevertheless, due in large part to the continual shifts in character from one episode to the next. Patches of silence sometimes separate said episodes, while reverberant swathes of shimmering tones form bridges between them in others. The sound elements themselves aren't wholly unlike those heard on the first disc—percussion and flute sounds appear again—but their presentation is on the whole slightly more low-key by comparison. “Shasekishu,” the previously unreleased third part of the Ki trilogy, perpetuates the unhurried flow and wide-ranging character of the middle disc (the title, incidentally, translates into English as “ Sand and Pebbles ” and is also the title associated with a thirteenth-century, five-volume collection of Buddhist parables). Not surprisingly, granular percussion sounds figure into the presentation, as do bowls, bells, flute, and even chanting, and as a result the meditative piece develops a highly aromatic and evocative ambiance over the course of its forty-five minutes. There's no lessening of attention to detail in the work's final part, and despite the length of the entire three-disc journey and its generally slow unfolding, the listener remains engaged up to the final moments.

September 2011