Oh No Noh ~ Kanzi

Once again, multi-instrumentalist Markus Rom (Oh No Noh) has delivered a warm, intricate album with an endearing video.  Regular readers may remember the tiny cassette tape brought to life on last year’s stop motion “Alba.”  This year Katharina Huber transforms “relying on words alone” into a loving, hand-drawn tale.  This is also the only track to feature a guest instrumentalist, as Damian Dalle Torre decorates Rom’s electronics with sax.  First comes a hand, then two, then six, bodies merging and separating, losing form, multiplying, reaching out.  In the early frames, the theme seems to be self-comfort: how would you hold yourself if you had more arms than an octopus?  Then multi-colored strings are extended, grasped, even ingested.  The new theme is connection.

While there is a slight incongruity to naming an instrumental track “relying on words alone,” the message seems to be that one cannot rely on words alone; thus the mingling of bodies, the arms of reassurance.  “Loan” uses loops as sonic strokes; the sounds of the cassette are clearly audible, the guitar an emerging echo.  Early single “Drift” continues in this vein, adding percussion to lend the piece an air of propulsion.  This thread ~ as if imitating the video ~ is extended to the title track, a Japanese word translated as feeling.  Other titles bear origins in Danish and Igbo.

The music yields a sense of security, the organic and the technological teaming up to reassure listeners that calm is achievable.  The back half highlights triangles and introduces voices, signs that things are moving in the right direction, from solitude to company, from drift to anchor.  The footsteps of “Skvader” underline a human presence, the domestic rustlings like preparations for guests who arrive in the middle.  Words yield to music, music to tone, and balance is restored.  (Richard Allen)

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