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Thursday, February 20, 2003

Review - Complete Studio Recordings

Artist: Syzygys

Posted on Thu, Feb 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Complete Studio Recordings
Label: Tzadik
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Complete Studio Recordings

The idea of a Japanese "female duo who plays microtonal pop music" should justly send shivers of terror down your Pizzicato Five-battered spine. But when you notice that Syzygys' complete recorded works are released on the label that brought you post-apocalyptic Japanese treats like the Ruins and Otomo Yoshihide, you in turn steel yourself for a paint-peeling screech-fest of epic proportions. Yet the music of Hitomi Shimizu and Hiromi Nishida fits into neither of those categories. In fact, these 19 songs must be some of the most delicately uplifiting "progressive" music to emerge from Japan in quite some time. Limited neither by cuteness nor by rage, Syzygys creates music on an organ modified to avant-classical vagabond Harry Partch's 43-tone model. Shimizu plays said organ (which, apparently, is a bitch to tune), while Nishida accompanies on violin. Both ladies handle vocal duties, while other musicians are occasionally called in to flesh out the sound with percussion or other instruments. The merging of the microtonal organ's intrinsic oddness with the lush familiarity of the violin builds a base upon which the two harmonize like choir girls. The result is music that -- not unlike Partch's -- is somehow possessed of an intrinsically Arabic feel, accentuated by some lovely vocal flourishes. Definitely unique, but not in the way you expect it to be.

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