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Tomo-Nakaguchi Tayatau

On his second full-length sonic voyage, Japanese sound artist Tomo-Nakaguchi leaves the beaming rays of his debut Smile behind, immersing himself instead in the murky depths of his darkest emotions.

Released: 4 May 2022

Under the choppy waves of Tayatau we find Tomo swimming stalwartly against the gentle currents of his first musical foray. The natural/technological equilibrium at the heart of his sound has entered a state of flux. The core components are still here – celestial percussion, airy pads and deep-sea bass – but the ragged edges have frayed further into the fore. Digital noise, computer bleeps and glitch effects are strategically placed throughout like booby traps. And as if in response to the world’s state of unrest, these noisy encroachments tend to unsettle just as much as the rest soothes. The boat may be well-anchored, but the sharks circle closer by the minute.

This unease leaks out of the sound, flooding the whole album. Landing at just short of an hour, Tomo’s musical journey takes longer this time around, with strong winds blowing his once-short song structures off course. Tracks drift haplessly into whirlpools of found sounds while others are assailed by wild lashings of mutilated instruments.

His course is fraught with other dangers too. A tidal wave of distortion overshadows the otherwise pacific guitar tones of ‘Halation’, sounding not unlike the vacuum-packed textures of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Only Shallow’, while the ending of ‘Waking up in the night zoo’ tumbles to shore in erratic washes of glitches and skips. Despite the turmoil, the clouds do part occasionally. Melodious loops break through the server-room hum of ‘Resonance of spark’ and flickers of guitar and piano melt through the ice of ‘Snowblink’, as do echoes of John Cage’s prepared piano on ‘Whiteout’. But the standout is surely ‘A drizzly day in Asagaya’, with its hazy guitar noodling, free jazz sax interruptions and grounding streetside soundscapes.

“Tayatau” is a Japanese word that means drifting, floating and unstable, an attempt by Tomo to apply terse terminology to the sense of uncertainty that has swept across the globe. His music then, acts as its accompaniment, tracing a trail across shifting seas without a destination in mind. Maybe Tomo is suggesting that going with the flow is just enough to stay afloat.