Rachel Cordasco of the website Speculative Fiction in Translation, interviewed me about my translation of Japanese author Yusaku Kitano’s science fiction masterpiece, Mr. Turtle. Click the cover below to read!
My latest translation into English, of the science fiction masterpiece Mr. Turtle by Japanese author Yusaku Kitano, is now available! Read the description below and click the cover to be directed to Amazon, or click here to peruse the publisher’s page. If you are at all a science fiction fan, you won’t want to miss this.
What’s a cyborg turtle to do when his shell is torn in two?
It’s a fair question in the bizarre, compelling world of Mr. Turtle. Originally published under the name of its protagonist as Kame-kun, this English translation captures all the visionary integrity that won it the Nihon SF Taisho (Japan’s Nebula) Award in 2001. Acclaimed in Japan for his quirky brilliance, Yusaku Kitano explores notions of nonhuman life in novels as diverse as Crayfish Man (2001), Fox Possession (2011), and even a series of animal-themed picture books for children. His love of humor and the absurd only serves to emphasize the underlying seriousness of his work, which in Mr. Turtle plumbs its most cerebral depths. Kame-kun is a hero in a half shell of an altogether different sort, a killing machine designed for combat who wants to enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life—working his blue-collar job, going to the library, and typing on his laptop—even as he is haunted by vague memories of a war on Jupiter. To determine his future he must piece together his past, navigating an unsympathetic society toward revealing the novel’s philosophical heartbeat.
A character study of surreal wit, Mr. Turtle mixes equal parts action and insight, all the while crafting an homage to its chosen genre unlike any other.
In a review I wrote last year of Aaron Parks’s Arborescence, I made a comparison to an Andrew Wyeth painting entitled Chambered Nautilus. Having spent my teens in the state of Connecticut, where this painting is housed at the Wadsworth Atheneum, I stood before this painting on many occasions but had rarely known a sonic equivalent until encountering some of the more recent ECM releases. In the interest of expanding the aesthetic connections of the music I review on these pages, I wanted to share some information about Artsy, an online source set up with the goal of making the world’s art free to view for all. In particular, the folks at Artsy have set up a fine Wyeth page, accessible by clicking the chamber below.
I have now reviewed every release in the JAPO catalogue. Shout outs to Craig LeHoullier, Steve Lake, and Bernd Webler for helping make my JAPO listening complete!
Any of you regular readers out there might have noticed that I recently reviewed the two latest XtraWATT albums. These stand as my backward entry into ECM’s other sub-labels. I do, of course, plan to also explore WATT and CARMO in full on this site, although such reviews may be sporadic, mixed in as they will be with the most up-to-date ECMs, along with albums from farther afield.
Below is a list of all JAPO releases, hyperlinked to my reviews for your convenience.
JAPO 60001 Mal Waldron The Call (Feb 1971)
JAPO 60002 Abdullah Ibrahim African Piano (Oct 1969)
JAPO 60003 Barre Phillips For All It Is (Mar 1971)
JAPO 60004 Herbert Joos The Philosophy of the Fluegelhorn (Jul 1973)
JAPO 60005 Dollar Brand Ancient Africa (Jun 1972)
JAPO 60006 Bobby Naughton Understanding (Oct 1971)
JAPO 60007 Edward Vesala Nan Madol (Apr 1974)
JAPO 60008 Jiří Stivín & Rudolf Dašek System Tandem (May 1974)
JAPO 60009 Children At Play s/t (1973)
JAPO 60010 Enrico Rava “Quotation Marks” (Dec 1973, Apr 1974)
JAPO 60011 Magog s/t (Nov 1974)
JAPO 60012 OM Kirikuki (Oct 1975)
JAPO 60013 Manfred Schoof Quintet Scales (Aug 1976)
JAPO 60014 Larry Karush/Glen Moore May 24, 1976 (May 1976)
JAPO 60015 Herbert Joos Daybreak (Oct 1976)
JAPO 60016 OM Rautionaha (Dec 1976)
JAPO 60017 Stephan Micus Implosions (Mar 1977)
JAPO 60018 Ken Hyder’s Talisker Land Of Stone (Apr 1977)
JAPO 60019 Manfred Schoof Quintet Light Lines (Dec 1977)
JAPO 60020 Rena Rama Landscapes (Jun 1977)
JAPO 60021 Globe Unity Orchestra Improvisations (Sep 1977)
JAPO 60022 OM OM with Dom Um Romao (Aug 1977)
JAPO 60023 Lennart Åberg Partial Solar Eclipse (Sep 1977)
JAPO 60024 Contact Trio New Marks (Jan 1978)
JAPO 60025 George Gruntz Percussion Profiles (Sep 1977)
JAPO 60026 Stephan Micus Till The End Of Time (Jun 1978)
JAPO 60027 Globe Unity Compositions (Jan 1979)
JAPO 60028 Barry Guy Endgame (Apr 1979)
JAPO 60029 TOK Paradox (Jun 1979)
JAPO 60030 Manfred Schoof Quintet Horizons (Nov 1979)
JAPO 60031 AMM III It Had Been an Ordinary Enough Day… (Dec 1979)
JAPO 60032 OM Cerberus (Jan 1980)
JAPO 60033 Elton Dean Quintet Boundaries (Feb 1980)
JAPO 60034 Peter Warren Solidarity
JAPO 60035 Tom van der Geld/Children At Play Out Patients (Jul 1980)
JAPO 60036 Contact Trio Musik (Oct 1980)
JAPO 60037 Es herrscht Uhu im Land s/t (Dec 1980)
JAPO 60038 Stephan Micus Wings Over Water (Jan 1981)
JAPO 60039 The Globe Unity Orchestra Intergalactic Blow (Jun 1982)
JAPO 60040 Stephan Micus Listen to the Rain (Jun 1980, Jul 1983)
JAPO 60041 Stephan Micus East Of The Night (Jan 1985)
I’m currently embarking on a little project, for which I am compiling my “Top 100” ECM reviews to date. Whether you’ve been following my blog for five years or five days, I trust that you will have some favorite reviews of mine. It would be of great help to me if you could list those reviews that you feel are most effective at capturing the spirit of the music, as well as those that led you to new and meaningful discoveries, by leaving a comment to this post. Thank you!
Although I’ve reached a major milestone here at between sound and space, there’s little time to rest on my laurels. ECM will be releasing five albums stateside on June 2, so look out for those reviews soon, along with reviews of a few European-only releases, including Cyminology’s latest, Phoenix. I’m also preparing a small batch of articles and live reviews (among them, a stellar performance by Sheila Jordan with the Steve Kuhn Trio at Birdland) for All About Jazz. I will link to those as they appear.
Thanks to a new friend, I will soon be introducing a new “Rarities” category, diving into the most obscure ECM items on the planet. On a related note, I will be turning my attention back to the JAPO catalogue as well and hope to finish reviewing it within the year. In addition, I will be catching up on my reviews of ECM-related books, DVDs, and other such materials along the way.
To my dear readers, old and new:
Five years, three months, and 16 days ago—on 10 February 2010, to be exact—I began this blog with the intention of reviewing every proper ECM and ECM New Series album ever produced. Over 800,000 words and exactly 1330 posts later (1331 if you count this one), I can now lay claim to that goal in earnest. (For those keeping score, I’m following the U.S. release schedule. I have an additional review, specifically of Robin Williamson’s Trusting In The Rising Light, written but forthcoming elsewhere.) During that time, people have often asked me: What do you get out of this? To answer that would require just as many words as I’ve written for this project, and so I would humbly refer you to my past posts. Suffice it to say that ECM has given me more than any other label in a life already brimming with sounds, and that my reviews, such as they are, can only meet its contributions halfway in reciprocation.
On that note, there are many people without whom these words would not be appearing on your screen. First and foremost, I must acknowledge everyone at ECM. Their kindness and generosity have validated my endeavors here every step of the way, and their acknowledgment of my work has led not only to my traveling to Munich and even writing liner notes for an album (see Terje Rypdal’s Melodic Warrior), but more importantly has created a lifelong relationship of mutual respect. My dedication in reviewing them all—daunting as it may seem in retrospect—is nothing compared to that of releasing them all, and we must all be grateful to ECM for its incalculable enrichments. I particularly want to thank, in Munich, Manfred Eicher for trusting me to serve as an unofficial mouthpiece for the label’s oeuvre; Steve Lake for his wise words and counsel, and for always making the time to accommodate my many requests for out-of-print and otherwise hard-to-find releases and interviews; Guido Gorna for coming through with scans of other rare materials and digital booklets when physical CDs were nowhere to be found; Christian Stolberg for sharing his love for ECM during my pilgrimage to Germany; and Sun Chung for believing in me not only as a fan, but also as a human being. Although not in Munich, I also consider writer Paul Griffiths to be a major part of the ECM family, seeing as he has almost singlehandedly shaped the voice of the New Series imprint with his peerless CD booklet essays and reflections. I am proud to call him my friend and have benefited immeasurably from his critical mind and way of looking at listening. In New York City, I bow to ECM Records publicist Tina Pelikan, not just for what she has done for me—providing all the materials I ever needed for review, arranging press tickets for ECM concerts, etc.—but more importantly for the unfathomable work she has done to promote especially New Series artists in the U.S. Also in New York, my hat goes off to ECM Records USA label head Sarah Humphries, a rock of inspiration to musicians and fans alike for both shaping and maintaining the integrity of the label’s international profile.
I must also thank the many ECM artists whom I have befriended these past five years and their unwavering support of my writing. It’s always nerve-wracking for me to share my thoughts with the musicians about whom I’m opining, and I can count myself lucky for having met no resistance to my hyperbole-prone musings.
In addition, I am indebted to those who have supported my project from day one, especially Paul Geffen, whose ECM Discography is as an invaluable resource and whose generous promotion of my work continues to draw new support across social networks. And on the journalism side of things, I gratefully acknowledge music writer extraordinaire and fellow obsessive John Kelman, Michael Ricci of All About Jazz, Cliff Furnald of RootsWorld, and Steve Layton of Sequenza 21 for providing alternative venues to my ramblings. There are countless more of you in this vein whom I will never forget. You know who you are.
Of course, no such acknowledgments list would be complete without my deepest, most heartfelt expression of faith in all of you who have read my words—some from the very beginning—with such enthusiasm and genuine interest. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you all in various capacities and look forward to strengthening these new friendships as our shared love for ECM brings us closer. It’s for your eyes as much as for my soul that I do what I do on between sound and space.
I feel it only appropriate that my last review before reaching this point should have been of Keith Jarrett’s Creation. It says everything and more about how ECM has changed the recorded landscape and the musicians who so tirelessly work its soil. And because, fortunately, ECM shows no signs of slowing down (the label is, in fact, releasing more than ever), I will continue tilling right alongside them so long as there is music to be heard and those of us around to hear it.