When it comes to creating vivid, alien worlds through sound and performance, O Yama O always charm and surprise. The duo of Rie Nakajima and Keiko Yamamoto are joined by Marie Roux on drum and Billy Steiger on violin for Bruxelles, an enchanting performance from 2019 that sounds beamed in from a distant, ancient universe. It is music of chance and circumstance, built on scavenged sounds that transform into magnetic, cajoling forces.
Bruxelles opens with fried melodica and scratchy percussion on “Namekuji,” keeping a safe distance from the building air within the empty space. As pops and rattles tick away and Steiger’s violin extracts a few notes from the ether, anticipation builds. Once Yamamoto starts singing, though, the room is hers. Roux’s rapid heartbeat-like rhythm adds a propulsive force while Nakajima’s micro orchestra finds its footing, but the gentle incantations are a bright light pointing out the fracturing debris.
Throughout Bruxelles, Roux’s drumming is a driver, grinding out simple yet potent rhythms that hold the ramshackle sonic junkyard together. O Yama O exist in this bizarre space where the spectral clatter, like on “My Body” and “Uma,” are this impermeable cocoon, rattling and clanging in every direction, protecting the musical ruminations underneath. On the latter, Nakajima’s palette starts soft, a foundation building from the shifting core, finally coalescing into a shapeshifting, jangling metallic resonance. It’s beguiling on its own, but as the soundscape interacts with Yamamoto’s voice and Steiger’s violin excursions, it becomes monumental and primordial.
In the moments where multitudes of divergent elements come together at interesting angles and in aurally satisfying ways, O Yama O is creating the music of the distant cosmos. Bruxelles is yet another quick taste of the magic they conjure with the most unlikely of components. When closer “Nogitsune” comes to a howling, cathartic end, I’m lost in the otherworldly dissonance and not sure I ever want to leave this world anyway.
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