Geoff Leigh & Makoto Kawabata – Review from “The Wire” May 2018
Flautist/soprano saxophonist Geoff Leigh and guitarist Makoto Kawabata too have colourful backgrounds, and each of them has vast discographies behind them. Leigh has played with Henry Cow, Faust, and The Artaud Beats, while Kawabata is the founding member of Japanese psychedelic rockers Acid Mothers Temple. The first time that Leigh and Kawabata played together was in 2014 in Kyoto, Japan.
The recording of that performance was released by the Acid Mothers Temple label two years later as Spatial Roots : a performance that develops slowly, the players sounding uncertain of each other, with Kawabata's guitar often fading in the mix. Having worked together on several occasions since then, tonight's performance sees Leigh and Kawabata both confident and loud.
The players start without hesitation. Leigh samples his flute, processing the arabesque notes through a laptop. Kawabata mirrors Leigh's fluttering notes with nimble dashes across the fretboard his black headless guitar, approaching the instrument like a sculptor might approach clay.
An experienced sarangi player, Kawabata then draws his curved bow across the strings to produce textures that are malleable and forever shifting. He tells me later that the size and shape of the sarangi bow allows him to easily alternate the tension of the bow hairs, which makes for better control over the sound.
There is virtually no low end, but both players work hard to fill up empty spaces. Leigh's close miked flute puts an accent on each suck of air, giving the impression that a vacuum is forming inside the venue. Because his setup is coming through the PA, but Kawabata's guitar is not, an interesting spatialisation occurs. The flutes bounce around the venue in stereo, while Kawabata's controlled use of overdrive force the soundwaves into different corners of the room, meaning that the reflections from the guitar amp arrive with a slight delay into each ear.
In the second half of the performance Leigh and Kawabata move onto soprano saxophone and electronics respectively. Kawabata's pocket piano and effects chain bring additional nuance, while Leigh's looped microphone taps and mouth clicks impart a syncopated rhythm track.
The sound remains at a constant intensity throughout the concert. It would have been preferable to experience a greater dynamic shift between the two players – Leigh's singing bowls and cowbells can barely be heard – but being hit by a wall of sound can be just as satisfying.
Concert was at Iklectik, London, UK, 2nd March, 2018