I don’t delve much into Japan’s creative-music scene. It’s the distance, the language, the simple inconvenience. But I try to check in occasionally. Otomo Yoshihide was a pretty obvious touchstone. The recently departed Itaru Oki was a nice discovery (thank you, NoBusiness Records) that is still unfolding for me.
And I take random stabs sometimes. Through Squidco, I found the trio sim and their 2009 album with Otomo. Dry steady beats are the foundation of Monte Alta Estate, not necessarily rocking out so much as following a studious rock aesthetic, with squiggles of life in the background: electronic scratches; backwards speaking or singing; a turntable needle running over a blank record to produce those comforting little curls of static. It’s all brightly lit, more treble than bass. The simplicity sometimes overstays its welcome, as on the opener “5.5mm,” but it’s a good time overall.
The “magic” is all in those background sounds, built by Otomo (turntables and synths) and Sim’s laptop noise performer, Ootani Yoshio. That ongoing chatter against the staccato rhythm helps define the personalities for each track.
There’s a enjoyably stumbling feel to “Am” and “Dig” — everyone is marching in tempo but no single instrument is setting the beat. “Dig” even gets a bit frenzied toward the end. “Freska” feels fresh and alive: Sustained keyboard chords in the back alter the color as the guitar and drums — and a hint of a bass pulse — keep driving forward. It’s mechanical but it’s enjoyable.
Here’s a few seconds of cut-up babble leading into that keyboard sheen. Note the little turntable-vinyl pops deep in the mix.
“Oom” loosens the reins for a freer sound, including quietly jazzy drumming against a “solo” of samples and chopped-up keyboard work, in Burroughs-like cut-up technique A stumbling non-beat turns up the intensity near the end.
Guitarist Oshima Teruyuki was Sim’s composer. On Bandcamp, you can find another 2009 effort of his in the same vein — Signal Extraction, with the trio SNO.
Teruyuki’s more recent output includes two long-form noise pieces released on Bandcamp this year. R1 is built from brash synthesizer sounds, including airy bursts and mechanical rattling. R2, about twice as long, includes the same palette while adding ominous voices (in English) and a more gaunt silences.