THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE
ELECTRONIC/ESOTERIC/ECCENTRIC

 By Gary Steel

It’s a good, long, and challenging album that keeps twisting your perceptions of where it fits in the electronic landscape,
and that has to be healthy. I’m talking about Self VA (Important) by Kouhei Matsunaga, a sprawling and eclectic
work that easily makes up in sharp-shooting brilliance what it lacks in flow.

On the first few tracks, Matsunaga plays around with a particularly malevolent form of dubstep that conjures up the ghosts
of a very specific soundworld, that of Scorn man Mick Harris. This stuff isn’t for the faint-hearted: Matsunaga uses all his
computer skills to forge a sound that’s full of menace, and isn’t afraid to use the kind of worrying dissonance so beloved of
proto-industrial groups like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle.

Anyone who makes it first those first two gruelling tracks, however, is in for a surprise. While Self VA is never an easy
listen, Matsunaga employs a former Jungle Brothers member to rap on one glitch-hop track, and several other friends
help out elsewhere. The untitled (all the tracks are untitled, naturally) track 7 feels like a battle between four free jazz
bands all blowing their horns simultaneously, where track 10 is a fresh, arrhythmic groove that has enough funk in its
squelch to make you shake that booty (but please don’t try to dance, you’ll hurt yourself).

The real joy, however, comes in giving yourself up completely to the inferno. Track 4 is a nine-minute epic into abstract
territory that yields a bounty of interestingly horrible noises.

Unlike Jimi Tenor’s disappointing recent album with Fela Kuti’s drummer, Tony Allen, which just ended up sounding like
a faux Afro-beat album, Mapstation’s latest, The Africa Chamber (Scape) is a genuine attempt to morph those African
influences into a different context. Stefan Schneider (aka Mapstation) got another former Fela Kuti musician, Nicholas
Addo-Nettey, to provide a tapestry of percussion, over which sumptuous yet austere electronic textures are added.
This thing of beauty also features guest shots from Annie Whitehead’s trombone, and all-in-all, it’s a great alternative
to snorting Rescue Remedy.

 Kouhei Matsunaga – Self VA (Important)

4 Stars

Sonically and compositionally challenging album that goes on for a tad long, and is all over the show stylistically.
But hey, every one’s a winner.

 Kouhei Matsunaga is that rare species: an electronic musician who doesn’t feel compelled to put every single digital
fart of his own creation out on the market, simply because it exists. His last solo album came out way back in 1998, an
age ago in his chosen genre. Recently, however, there have been collaborations with Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio and
Autechre’s Sean Booth, and a production credit on an album by Sensational (ex-Jungle Brothers), so he appears to
be coming out of his shell. Matsunaga, who grew up in Osaka, Japan, now lives in Berlin where his underlying interest
in techno is more in step with the environment. Not surprisingly, his music carries trace echoes of both the physically
arresting Pan Sonic and the twitchy cathode-ray complexity of Autechre, but cuts a wider orbit.