Eiko Ishibashi is a composer and multi-instrumentalist who wears many hats. Over the last decade and a half we’ve heard her recording left-field music with such avant-rock luminaries as Jim O’Rourke and Keiji Haino; making ear-grating prog-punk with Tatsuya Yoshida from Ruins; crooning low-volume ambient ballads on the album Carapace; singing over angular jazz-rock on Car and Freezer; experimenting with musique concrète and electronica on Satellite; and recording Nils Frahm-ish piano solos on I’m Armed. And that’s just a small selection of her output.
Tonight she wears yet another hat: that of the film composer, playing an hour-long suite of songs based on her soundtrack to the multiple-Oscar-nominated, Palme d’Or-winning movie Drive My Car. Each composition is turned into a duet between herself and the alto saxophonist Kei Matsumaru. It’s an interesting twist, given that there aren’t any saxophones on the original soundtrack, but Matsumaru has a soft, sighing, vibratoless delivery that often sounds like a flute, or even a string section, which fits many of these tracks.
Ishibashi sits behind a grand piano and a laptop, switching from piano to flute to laptop and back again, triggering passages of dialogue from the film, activating shimmering drones and digital delay pedals. On Drive My Car (Hiroshima), she plays an eight-bar piano riff – with an insistent right-hand arpeggio and a left-hand bass line – and puts it through a loop pedal, which allows her to play flute over the top, engaging in tight, slightly discordant harmonies with Matsumaru. Elsewhere she triggers a sample of herself playing a big-swinging drum pattern using brushes – similar to the one used on the film track We’ll Live Through the Long Long Days – and plays a slow, tangle of chords on the piano while Matsumaru improvises, delicately.
At just under an hour, the concert leaves you wanting a little more. The encore – a duet for piano and alto sax which sounds like a ballad from the short-lived mid-70s collaboration between Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek – is quite sublime: plenty of us would happily have sat through another half hour along those lines.
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