Ume in the Middle (MP3 album)
Cinematic, beat-driven fusion of taiko, percussion, voice, turntable, throat singing, koto, shinobue and electronic effects.
9 MP3 Songs in this album (43:33) !
Related styles: WORLD: World Fusion, WORLD: World Beat
People who are interested in Massive Attack Afro Celt Sound System Thievery Corporation should consider this download.
On Ensemble – Ume In The Middle – May 5, 2009
By fusing traditional Japanese drums, or taiko, and contemporary mediums like hip-hop, electronica, and rock, On Ensemble creates a beautiful chemistry of sound. On their second full-length studio album, Ume in the Middle, releasing May 5, 2009 on Turtlefield Music, the fusion of time-honored eastern and western components with contemporary elements offer a modern-day feel to world music that is beyond interesting.
Through continuous avant-garde musical stylings and a sense of giving back to the community, On Ensemble fortifies their sound by caring deeply about their music and their audience. The members, Masato Baba, Kristofer Bergstrom, Shoji Kameda, and Kelvin Underwood have been playing music for the majority of their lives and have studied taiko under professional groups and masters from the United States and Japan. Their experiences have helped them mold themselves and their sound into something they feel is important and meaningful.
Producer and main composer of the group, Shoji Kameda, stresses On Ensemble’s live performances and recordings as two separate art forms. “You will never recreate the experience of a live performance on an album, because you aren’t experiencing the music as it happens,” Kameda says. “You’re not there with the artist feeding off their energy. Once you record something and play it back, it becomes an echo of that experience, a facsimile, a photograph of the moment. I feel like the way to make an album come alive is to embrace the studio and recording process as part of the creative process.” Ume in the Middle, recorded in the band’s small Silverlake studio, was approached in this manner and the product is a vibrant recording full of life.
The song “After Rain” is one of On Ensemble’s signature pieces that they often perform live. “It has Japanese music elements with the fue (bamboo flute) melody in the beginning along with throat singing,” says Kameda. Throat singing, or overtone, is a particular style of singing in which the voice is able to generate two or more notes at the same time. These techniques are found all throughout central Asia; the most famous is the Tuvan style. “After Rain” is also driven by Underwood’s playing on the drum kit in 5/4, a non-standard time signature, and Kameda’s use of effects on some of the koto (Japanese stringed instrument) parts to get a guitar-esque sound, as well as a gated vocal effect. Combine that with Baba’s vocals at the end to give a rock tinge, and a riqq solo (traditional Arabic tambourine) at the end by the band’s good friend and frequent collaborator, Patrick Graham, and you have a highly developed song representative of the On Ensemble sound.
While On Ensemble revolves heavily around the rhythmic melody of the Japanese drums, they cite contemporary jazz composer and Japanese harp player June Kuramoto, hand percussionist Patrick Graham, pianist/composer Kimo Cornwell, as well as jazz groups Esborn Svensson Trio, The Bad Plus, and Cinematic Orchestra among their influences. Sigur Ros, Mum, Mouse and Mars, Balinese Gamelan and overtone singing from Central Asia also find their way into the On Ensemble sound. The group has managed to gain a lot of knowledge about their music and genre, but is constantly trying to perfect it. On Ensemble is a band that is very conscious of trying to push boundaries within their art form, and are constantly learning and incorporating new ideas and elements into their music.
“Their work combines 21st century experimental sound with centuries-old Noh and Kabuki music… With the combination of ancient drum rhythm and the scratching on a turntable, the piece was a mix of old and new that took one from a primeval place to a contemporary dance floor. The combination was a great mix, technically precise, and the unique sound was delightful to hear.”
The Beat Goes On at the Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival
Brenda Knepper, AllAboutJazz, October 19, 2005
“One of the most innovative and musically fresh groups ever to take the stage... a very talented and unique group with the guts to take a centuries old art form to another level.”
Taking Taiko and Cerritos to Another Level
Glen Creason, CerritosInk, March 5, 2007
“… a bit like progressive rocker Beck in that way, taking a familiar sound and reinterpreting it for a new generation.”
Taiko In Transition
Alex Isao Herbach, Staff Writer, Rafu Shimpo - Los Angeles Japanese Daily News, Friday June 29, 2007
“On Ensemble is an exciting taiko ensemble looking at new ways to apply traditional Japanese drums… Be it English lyrics, throat singing, melodically rhythmic koto passages, traditional flutes, or electronic manipulation, the exciting range of taiko drums solidly supports the pieces. From the deep tones of the largest taiko to the intricate patterns of the shime daiko the compositions are interesting with plenty of exciting drumming.”
Martin Patmos, "Dust and Sand CD" Review, Modern Drummer Magazine, April 2006
“With their latest release, Dust and Sand, On Ensemble propel the art form into mesmerizing territory with a swirling amalgamation of flutes, koto, turntables, and Tuvan throat singing astride propulsive poly-rhythmic drum patterns. The result is an album that is completely original and brilliantly conceived…”
Brian Moore, "Dust and Sand CD" Review, TransformOnline
“Their music incorporates the explosive drama of Japanese taiko drums, dazzling percussion, bristling electronics and World music themes. There are a number of surprising interpretive vocals on the album that keeps the music fresh and exciting… assures a standing ovation (at least from me) for the group.”
RJ Lannan, "Dust and Sand CD" Review, New Age Reporter