We’re not sure if we can call three luminaries a supergroup, but at the very least, Shinya Sugimoto, Jeremy Young and Julia Kent form a super trio. In 2016, it was just Sugimoto and Young performing live; this time, piano, guitar and atmospheres are joined by processed cello for a deeply textured excursion.
The little sound effects that run throughout the album are a source of fascination. Radio waves, static crinkle, found objects ~ the odds and ends of a material life ~ form a bed atop which the instruments lie. At times, the melodic lines repeat in various permutations, allowing one to concentrate on what lies beneath. Due to their sharp edges, the tape loops are able to escape the piano notes, peering around the corner of the ivories. When single strands of cello appear, they two forces fight for dominance (“Fiction 3”). But when layers of cello stretch upward like turtles on the backs on turtles, the other sound fragments disappear below the clouds.
Total Fiction, along with Olivier Alary’s Fiction/Non-Fiction and Saltland’s A Common Truth, taps into a newly popular vein of discussion: what is a fact? The LP presents itself as the opposite, but it’s clearly real; while in the news, we continue to encounter facts later exposed as fiction. The artists could not have known in advance that their album’s title would be used by the current United States president (calling a New York Times report “total fiction”), but this rip makes the album accidentally timely.
The album’s illusion lies instead in its construction, as it’s impossible to determine which parts were recorded separately and which were recorded together. It’s more likely that the five “Fiction” pieces, along with the four other tracks, are meant to operate as short stories, decorated with water, scuffles, and occasional dissonance (“Archived Heart”). The live version will contain “visual improvisations”, yet fear not: we suspect that these images will be impressionistic, allowing room for interpretation without searing specific narratives into the brain.
Halfway through, the album seems to gain weight. By this time, one has grown accustomed to the combination of instrumentation and adornment, and they begin to work in tandem. In “Nocturne”, the rewinding tapes are a novelty, but by “Horizon”, they have become a familiar part of the scenery. As the sound levels surge around them, the track begins to suggest images: the last message from a loved one, rewound obsessively until the tape breaks, the drone implying frenzy and disarray. From this point forward, Total Fiction suggests yet another interpretation of the title: the fictions we tell ourselves in order to make it through: fish tales, autobiographical scrubbings, revisions replaced by rewrites. But just as the disclaimer “all similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental” seems untrue ~ after all, our fictions are inspired by our experiences ~ so does the claim that this album is total fiction. It feels true, even while its definition remains elusive. (Richard Allen)