Review: Akira Rabelais, "Caduceus" (Samadhisound)


I was listening to "Caduceus" just now, and when I shut it off, it kept going. At least that how it seemed, but it turned out that the faint undulating drone was coming from somebody's leaf blower and the high resonances of its motor among the houses. The effect was no surprise: Another of Akira Rabelais' recordings consists only of street noise on Hollywood Boulevard, and in Samadhisound's web blurb, he writes that his creative process is largely about "listening and waiting for the tracks to reveal their intentions." Like John Cage, he's able to hear anything as music.

So where most musicians impose their structures on sound, Rabelais tries to hear what sound is saying to him. That attitude gives his art a transcendent I-Ching quality, an ability to cross beyond our fleshbound sphere; if his music makes you think of wind or waves or solar flares, it may not be an imitation so much as a connection.

The connection goes both ways. Avoiding randomness, Rabelais channels his sources so you feel as if you're involved in a spirit conversation where the motion and dynamism of the invisible come through. The messages can seem clear but distant, or they can assault your eardrums with almost painful intensity. The album's end is a long, slow fade like the gradual loss of connection with the divine mind as our planet moves out of signal range. The experience can be sorrowful, or it can be like the transition to sleep and the promise of a new dream.

Rabelais has discipline; he spends a lot of time combining computer files via his self-designed programs (available for free download on his web site), such as Time Domain Mutation. His sources this time are mainly radio static and guitar -- the caduceus of the title, he says, though you won't often recognize the instrument. Sometimes the music floats with melodic beauty, sometimes it churns in total abstraction, but it always rings with selflessness and truth.

Over at Samadhisound, David Sylvian and Chris Bigg have attuned the CD packaging to Rabelais' aesthetic. The images arrive courtesy of the artist Eric Rondepierre, who has discovered amazing worlds in the deterioration of old photographs: Time and chemistry interact with artificial images to open unintended new portals into nature.

The distinction between man and nature isn't a real one, although we're always fighting for a separate and even adversarial identity. As Akira Rabelais knows and shows, it's a battle we can never win.

"Caduceus" is available here, or at and various other places.

Read my 2002 interview with Akira Rabelais here.