Japan’s improvisational music scene is pretty amazing; it’s able to sustain itself, even flourish, despite being completely abstract and inaccessible. The fact that it manages this while not even having any specific genre dynamics makes it even more interesting. While a majority of the improv community tend to be technology-oriented — electric guitars, sequencers and other forms of digital sound creation — Tetzui Akiyama sets out to accomplish the same thing with a single acoustic guitar.
Pre-Existence is loosely shaped like evolution itself, beginning with a random confluence of dissonant notes and jarring, grating sounds. Tetuzi accomplishes this by what sounds like massive detuning of his guitar strings while playing. The result is a balance between taut, splintery notes and slack tunelessness. As the disc progresses, Tetuzi offers more concessions towards a conventional song structure, even going so far as to hint at melodies and strummed chords. In the end, he acquiesces to the primordial discordance from the beginning of his journey.
Tetuzi’s command of sound with his acoustic guitar is incredible. Not only does he create music based entirely on sounds you don’t expect to hear coming from a guitar, he uses silence as a second instrument. There are moments on the album when Tetuzi lets a particularly sharp note ring out and fade into a second or two of nothing before sound is unearthed again. It’s like that old jazz adage: “you’ve got to listen to what he’s not playing.” This album begs the question, “What it pre-existence? Lack of sound structure or the sound of silence?” Either way, Tetuzi Akiyama plays it masterfully.