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Hugh Hopper - Hugh Hopper & Yumi Hara Cawkwell: Dune CD (album) cover


Hugh Hopper


Canterbury Scene

2.42 | 8 ratings

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2 stars HUMI was a collaboration between the late bassist Hugh Hopper and Japanese vocalist and keyboardist Yumi Hara Cawkwell, who in one year recorded and released one official studio album, a limited edition live album and a live DVD also issued for a select audience only. "Dune" is the first of these collaborative efforts, and was released by US label Moonjune Records in 2008.

And it is an album that quite clearly will have a limited appeal to a niche audience, despite Hopper's involvement and that this is one of the latest recordings he appeared on prior to his illness and subsequent passing away. This due to the nature of the music explored, which combines several stylistic expressions that each on their own generally appeals to a limited audience.

The foundation for these proceedings may arguably be described as jazz. Hopper's bass, loops and electronics and Cawkwell's vocals, keyboards and percussion tend to be improvisational in nature, and while subtle and careful we're dealing with a free form variety of this style here. Not that any of these compositions ever comes across as traditional jazz in any manner whatsoever, but in terms of style and expression the 10 pieces explored have a closer relationship to jazz than to any other genre I'm currently aware of.

But rather than being dramatic, flamboyant instrument performances Hopper and Cawkwell both opts for a dampened, careful approach. If there is anything such as new age or ambient freeform jazz, this CD is a very good example of just that. The performances emphasize moods and atmospheres, and the developments are careful and frequently in slowly developing circulating patterns. And as an additional flavour is the use of electronic sounds and effects, more often than not in the shape of dissonant sounds, noises and drones. Adding a distinct experimental electronic tinge to the proceedings, and in transporting the totality of this production into some sort of avantgarde musical universe. Albeit one of a minimalistic rather than truly challenging nature.

What strikes me most when getting familiar with this production is that many of these pieces would work fairly well as soundtracks. Haunting, ghostly sounds are frequently employed, in particular in the sequences featuring bass and piano alone. But there's some kind of otherworldly, alien atmosphere throughout. Not of a kind and character that will interest any audience to speak of I suspect, but for a select few this production will undoubtedly be regarded as an effort bordering the brilliant. Personally I'll readily admit to not being that charmed by this disc as a standalone musical experience. Circular Dune is a strong atmospheric creation however, and Long Dune another effort that works fairly well, but the remaining tracks is, in my opinion, much better suited to be atmospheric background music in a movie of some kind. With an old fashioned ghost movie or a dystopian exploration as the type of film production I believe this material would be best suited for.

Opinions will be divided on this production, of that there is no doubt. If ambient, freeform noisescape flavoured music of a jazz orientation sounds like an enticing description to you, this is a CD you probably should investigate further. If not, this is a production that most likely won't make a grand impression.

Windhawk | 2/5 |


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