RF at Urban Guild

02Nov06

The reason that Marié came down from Tokyo, lugging her accordion with her, was to play a gig with RF — from San Francisco — at Kyoto’s Urban Guild. RF stands for “radio frequency,” of course, but it also stands for Ryan Francesconi, the center of a cosmos of musicians that participate in the RF project. The unit that played at Urban Guild included — in addition to Ryan’s guitar and laptop — Marié Abe (Four Flea Circus) on accordion, Midori Hirano on piano, Mami Sakurai (Audio Safari) on vocals and Tim Frick (of The Life on Earth — and he makes his own instruments) on bass guitar and second guitar. RF primarily performed variations from Views of Distant Towns, a new CD inspired by Murakami Haruki’s Kafka on the Shore. I haven’t heard Views yet, but judging by what I heard at UG the disc must be absolutely gorgeous. I have two older RF works — Falls and Inferno — which are both stunningly beautiful examples of lush minimalism. Francesconi blends acoustic music, field recordings, found sounds, aleatory computer effects, and hushed harmonic vocal layerings to create music that is quiet and dense at one and the same moment. Francesconi’s music manages to find a middle space between the minimalist soundscape and the pop song. Like Town and Country, Francesconi creates evocative music that seems to have some narrative flow, in the sense that an orchestral work might have narrative flow, while at the same time creating chambers of sonic drift that allow for a separation from melodic themes and an inhabitation of an ambient microtonal universe.

The show itself was spectacular — “enrapturement” might be the best term to describe the feeling engendered by the complex melodic structures and flowing harmonies arranged by RF, who spent equal portions of the evening singing, pulling crystalline harmonics from his guitar, and tending to the laptop. Orbits, gravities, lush lonely insects singing in slow motion night fields, a harmonic so beautiful that it smashes.

Here’s a shot of Tim, playing bass. I ended up taking far more pictures of Tim and Mami Sakurai than any of the others simply because they had a nice amount of light on them for my digital camera. The photo at the top of the entry shows Tim on the left, Ryan in the middle, and Marié on the right.

Here’s Mami Sakurai, from Audio Safari.

Here’s a shot of Akita and Ai, enjoying themselves before the show. Urban Guild is a great place to see music — the main floor has tables and bench-style seating so you can order food (which is delicious) and drink wine and relax into the music. There’s a kind of warm, organic sense about the place; it’s laid back and mellow, but homey at the same time — not at all like some lame ‘chill room’ that disguises the quiet and boring nature of its space with a facade of ‘cool minimalism.’

Click here for the RF homepage.

Click here for the Urban Guild homepage.

I picked up my RF CDs from CD Baby. They don’t have all the RF releases, but I highly recommend CD Baby — they’re a distributor of CDs made by (truly) independent musicians. They’re reliable, super nice, and the sell great music.



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