Leigh, Geoff/Yumi Hara - Upstream

"It's difficult to discern whether Geoff Leigh and Yumi Hara are improvising freely, or if they've pre-composed the pieces on their Upstream collaboration. If it's the former, then their spontaneity has generated a good degree of melodic invention. If the latter possibility is so, then their works have an untethered nature, working through a succession of encounters that often sound ritualistic or meditative. Although a multi-instrumentalist, Leigh concentrates mainly on the flute, although it's frequently fed through an entanglement of electronic effects, lending a subtly harmonized burr. Hara plays keyboards, changing her palette from acoustic piano to hard-edged organ sounds. Often, she can be gently ruminative, but there are also spells where Hara rumbles with great intensity on the piano's bass notes or charges up to a Gothic organ sustain. Their music possesses some highly contrasting densities. Leigh coats his small gongs with an effects burnish, spangling into infinity. Hara also alters her voice at times, again with a subtly harmonized displacement. Leigh sometimes overblows, creating a harsh edge, suggesting the sound of a Japanese shakuhachi flute. This is made all the more gripping when surrounded by the overall atmosphere of slowly evolving calm. The pair also evoke a specific Tibetan Buddhist feel, with bells and a vocal drone, or alternatively matching their high-vaulting voice and soprano saxophone ranges to the imaginary sounds of ocean-deep whale communications. Leigh and Hara have produced a deeply sensitive soundscape, populated by a number of surprising (and exciting) forays into a more intense form of expression.

Geoff Leigh plays the flute and soprano saxophone, as well as carrying an array of smaller percussive or blowing instruments. He was an early member of the English band Henry Cow, who were innovatively perched somewhere between the encampments of freely-improvised jazz and complex modern composition. He played on their debut album Legend in 1973, subsequently departing, but again turning up on 1975's In Praise Of Learning. Leigh went on to play with Slapp Happy, Hatfield And The North and Mike Oldfield. In the Radar Favourites band, he also worked with Charles Hayward and Charles Bullen, two-thirds of what was to eventually become This Heat. By the end of the 1970s, Leigh was gigging with Univers Zéro in Brussels, and released his debut solo EP Chemical Bank. In the 1980s, living in Rotterdam, he became increasingly involved with North African music. Returning to the UK, he formed the Ex-Wise Heads, a duo with bassist Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree. In 2005, he forged a firm connection with Faust. Lately, Leigh has become something of a regular at the Hastings Electric Palace Cinema, where he creates improvised soundscapes to accompany experimental films.

The Japanese singer and keyboardist Yumi Hara moved to the UK in 1993. She has performed regularly in two duo settings, with Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, and with ex-King Crimson violinist David Cross. She has been a member of the Japanese oddball-kitsch performance-art songsters Frank Chickens since 1996, and Hara's compositions have been performed by the renowned new music groups PianoCircus and Ensemble Bash. Since 2001, Hara also has an after-midnite career as a drum'n'bass DJ, spinning under the name of Anakonda."

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  • LabelMoonjune
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