0: Umarete Wa Mita Keredo

Sylvain Chauveau's a bit of a chameleon, someone who's shown himself throughout his career to be easily capable of adapting to different musical contexts and styles. This latest outing by 0, one of his group projects, features acoustic music composed by him in 2013 and performed by percussionist Stéphane Garin, flutist Jùlia Gàllego, and Chauveau and Joël Merah on acoustic guitars. Reminiscent of Morton Feldman in its minimalistic design and inspired, in part, by traditional Japanese music, the music was performed as live accompaniment to Ozu Yasujiro's 1932 silent film Umarete Wa Mita Keredo (I Was Born, But...) at the cinema l'Atalante in Bayonne, France.

Though 0's original presentation matched the ninety-minute duration of the film, the group opted to record a shortened version for this flau release. Modest in duration and arrangement, the fourteen tracks are refreshingly stripped-down, with some featuring a single instrument only (the vibes meditation “Jùhachi” and flute setting “Nijùkyù,” to cite two examples), and the acoustic presentation is refreshing, too. Each delicate setting plays like a self-contained snapshot that one imagines would easily complement a scene within the film.

Even when all four are playing, as happens during the pretty “Shi,” for instance, Chauveau's music, which is typically gentle and rhythmically lulling, never loses the kind of understated quality and stately elegance characteristic of early Japanese classical music. There's a poetic purity to the arrangements and compositions that's strongly appealing, notwithstanding the understated tone of the material. Much of Umarete Wa Mita Keredo's charm would have been lost had its serene settings been dressed up in excessively elaborate treatments.

December 2015