October 18, 2008
Ticklish Matters (Sub Rosa 1998)
This one is a puzzle to me. Ten years have passed and it still befuddles me because I cannot make heads nor tails out of it. I cannot compare itto anything because I have yet to hear anything that approximates the dada anti-music compiled on Ticklish Matters. I’ve heard more difficult, noisy and chaotic albums, but none disorient me in the manner of this one. It’s not even a satisfying listen because it jumps from genre to genre, sample to sample and beat to beat every few seconds, but somehow I believe it is one of the more soothing albums I own.Maybe it is due to its frequent usage of drones, classical motifs and quiet, but busy percussion, but its restlessness makes my woes seem like a mellow moment in time.
A few years ago, a Sudanese immigrant came to teach Science at my school. After months of monotonous meetings, he whispered “They are busy being busy.” I felt this was a perfect description of how our administrators puttered about the building making copies, handouts and speeches to create the appearance of progress. Somehow I have flashbacks to these words whenever I hear Ticklish Matters because it is definitely “busy being busy.” So much happens without any progression as this Japanese musician just poofs out clouds of chatter that say nothing, but creates a sense of calm. I feel like I am listening to an ant farm cannibalising its progeny as samples trample ambient passages while orchestras slowly crush plaintive piano chords. Please don’t expect a difficult listen from my description because it really is an amalgamation of beautiful ideas piled onto one another until nothing quite makes sense. It is one of the most chaotic, but gorgeous albums that I’ve heard. On first listen, a mess is apparent, but repeated journeys reveal more of its genius amidst the playfulness and insanity.