Commend See

Sea Urchin (sound)
Aki Goto’s Shirotento Orchestra (object)

The fifth installment of Commend See maps the movements of earthly and celestial beings by means of musical creation. Birth, planets and cosmic timing underscore Natal Uranus, il corpo sotto la sabbia / Birthdays, a collaborative offering and unfolding fable from Sea Urchin and Aki Goto’s Shirotento Orchestra.

Aki Goto brings her holistic vision and practices  to the Shirotento Orchestra project, a celebration of individuality and an embrace of the present moment. Aki’s multi-faceted exploration of illustration, painting, video, garment making, installation, sound and permaculture is distinct yet universal. Combining the creative forces of the Berlin-dwelling duo of Francesco Cavaliere and Leila Hassan, Sea Urchin first presented their vitalizing blend of hypnotic spoken word, psychedelic sound sculpture and aquatic dub in the 2016 album Yaqaza for Belgium’s (K-RAA-K)³ label. Beloved within and far beyond Commend’s walls, Sea Urchin were invited to translate the Orchestra’s stories into their own bubbly dialect and complete the See circle.

“Birthdays” was created in celebration of a shared revolution in Aki’s close upstate community of Saugerties, New York. An intergenerational mix of participants gathered under a white (“shiro”) tent (“tento”) on Aki’s property to perform her first score. Xylophone bumped with harmonica, recorder, wood block, guitar, voices and a myriad other conduits, a lively ruckus and spirited sound parade. Enchanted by “Birthdays,” we invited Aki and the Orchestra to perform and record a new piece at Commend in early Spring of 2016. That work, “Leap Year Love,” is a romance between the elements – and instruments – of wind and metal, inspired by the tradition in which gender roles in a marriage proposal are reversed once every four years.

In 2018, as the planet Uranus moved into the sign of Taurus (Francesco’s sun sign), Sea Urchin began to tinker with the live recording of “Leap Year Love,” generating two new, responsive works. “Natal Uranus, il corpo sotto la sabbia” is a scene of environmental tidings, pensive percussion and guitar in rivulets of looping samples guided by Leila’s chants. “Pendolo due,” or “the second pendulum” is followed by “una radura scompare,” or “vanishing glade,” where Sea Urchin imagine a couple adrift in a disorienting landscape, guided by lilting, ostinato bass and freeform rhythms. These incantations are influenced by the Orchestra’s recording reviewed under the Urano power: the sign of changes.

In Sea Urchin’s second working, Cavaliere and Hassan invoke the epithet “bimbo ozono sotto il sole a picco” (“baby ozone in the blazing sun”). “Vento invano” (“wind in vain”) is the first utterance in a stream of softly struck steel drums, slanting beat and whirling, pixelated voice; slipping into a sparse and ruminative invocation over tabla and metallic string sheen. “Bimbo ozono sotto il sole a picco” cites an additional, elemental visual source: Aki’s surrealist painting, which adorns the cover of this fantastical release.

Arriving four years from its prior leap year inception on Saturday, February 29, Natal Uranus, il corpo sotto la sabbia / Birthdays will be presented in two limited versions: a cassette and digital offering containing all four extended works; and an artist edition LP, with “Natal Uranus, il corpo sotto la sabbia” on one side and Sea Urchin’s edit of “Birthdays” on the other. Artwork from the mind and hand of Aki Goto, with design by Will Work for Good.