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Baker's Dozen

Burn Again: Lawrence English's Favourite Albums
Kate Hennessy , November 19th, 2015 10:52

After celebrating Room40's 15th birthday, the label head and ambient composer pauses in his hometown of Brisbane to go from Swans to Japanese court music in taking Kate Hennessy through his 13 "foundational" records


Nippon Gagaku Kai ‎- Gagaku - Ancient Japanese Court Music
I'm always suspicious of the notion that the orient is some kind of exotic space in which the worn occidentalist might find new inspiration. So this choice might seem hypocritical but I can honestly say the first time I heard it my entire body quivered with a pure emotive energy the likes of which very little music has brought about in me.

A large amount of the sensation is down to the shō, one of the most beautiful and aesthetically interesting instruments to ever grace this planet. The shō, like the phoenix at rest, is just such a wonderful, auditory vision of perfection. Even down to the fact that it must be warmed over a flame before it is played - every element of the instrument is elegantly ritualistic and charmed.

There's a wonderful scene in the Akira Kurosawa film Dreams, where a boy watches a fox wedding in the rain. The percussion during this scene is a wonderful extension of this music, at least to my ears. Now that I think about it, that film is like a visual rendering of this music, as Kurosawa opens your skull and pours in his vision, not into the optical nerves but straight into memory, straight into the subconscious.

It's a marvellous feeling when art like this etches itself into your psyche. Gagaku does this for me entirely! If I needed a sound to carry me off this planet, then this might be it.