The last time I encountered the seemingly ironically-monikered p.o.p. – a collaborative project between Reinhold Friedl and Hannes Strobl – they were obsessing over floorings. On this outing, they’re joined by Elena Kakaliagou and Nora Krahl, contributing French horn and voice, and violincello respectively.
This thematically-orientated set of experimental compositions explores a floral fixation. IKEBANA is the Japanese art of arranging flowers, and each of the album’s tracks is named after a style of bouquetry. But the concept runs far deeper than that: each composition is effectively a sonic interpretation or, perhaps more accurately, a representation of each type of arrangement.
The sleeve notes contain a definition or description of each style: the album’s second track, ‘rikka’ records ‘the oldest formal style of flower arrangement, developed in the early fifteenth century. Strict formal rules. Minimalistic.’ And so it is that the sparse musical arrangements conform to the same parameters.
‘Nageria’ – an eleven-minute epic which builds to a discordant crescendo of crushing proportions – is quite terrifying. According to the sleeve notes, ‘nageira’ is arranged in a tall vase, and means ‘thrown in’, which is literally how the flowers are conventionally placed into the vase, although this style has more recently become formalised. Correspondingly, the flurry of cacophonous noise that forms the composition is very much freeform in its nature.
To describe ‘IKEBANA’ as ambient would be somewhat misleading: while it is a work which one would reasonably call ‘background’ music, it also manifests as a quite ominous-sounding and sometimes unsettling work: ‘shimentei’ is dark, bleak, rumbling, its low-end discomfort unpredictably rent by bursting blasts of funnelling anguish. It’s supposedly the only ikebana form that is conceived to be looked at from all sides, but from whichever angle you listen to this Merzbow-like conglomeration of sound, it’s quite disturbing.
‘IKEBANA’ is a deep, dark and quite unapproachable album. Never will I stand in the local florist’s wondering which flowers to buy for my wife with the same disinterest again: Friedl and his accomplices have indeed altered my psychology of perception.