REVIEW: Midori Takada at Cafe Oto

Midori Takada at CafeOto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2017. All Rights Reserved


Midori Takada
(Cafe Oto on 11 April 2017; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Japanese percussionist/composer/performer Midori Takada gained cult prominence in the early 80s with her soundscape album Through the Looking Glass, with its moods and rhythms located somewhere in the Jon Hassall and Steve Reich ambient/minimalist zones infused with reference to traditional Japanese musical forms.

Her 5 date European tour, ostensibly to promote the long awaited multi-format reissue of the album by the Swiss label WRWTFWW (We Release What the Fuck We Want), culminated at Cafe Oto with a single, mesmerisingly intense solo set lasting 45 minutes, but so packed with intent and surprising coalscences of sound, not to mention the physical demands on Takada herself, that its duration became immaterial.

To say that she is a whizz on marimba could sound glib - but she was just that. The calm and meditative atmospherics summoned through her virtuoso, flowing mallet work set the tone for the opening segment of the set, and had the youthful audience captivated in silent communion, hardly even addressing smartphones!

The only minor reservation was a brief excursion in to slightly awkward poetry recalling her childhood, which seemed superfluous, given the quality of her playing.

Swivelling to crash the massive gong cymbal to her right to break the spell, Takada dipped to return to delicate tapped tones then introduced a barrage of hyperactive action on strategically positioned drums which had her twisting and turning to flood the room with a wash of multi-layered percussive energy.

Another enchanting (in the best sense of the word) marimba sequence followed, bolstering the initial statement, after which Takada drifted over to play, in sequence, on a string of drums and cymbals leading to the far right of the room where she ended the set with great poise.

Walking back through the acclaim of the audience's standing ovation, she beamed. There had been something about the evening that recalled Yoko Ono's equally brief but rewarding 45 minute sets back at Cafe Oto in March 2014 (REVIEWED) - a perfect distillation of the performer's art.

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