The Future Primitive

Terumasa Hino
Double Rainbow
Sony : 1981

TH, trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn; Herbie Hancock, keyboards; Masabumi Kikuchi, keyboards, piccolo; Kenny Kirkland, keyboards; Mark Gray, keyboards; Steve Grossman, soprano sax; Barry Finnerty, guitar, flute; David Spinozza, guitar; Butch Campbell, guitar; Lou Volpe, guitar; James Mason, guitar; Emily Mitchell, harp; Sam Morrison, wind synthesizer;  Anthony Jackson, electric bass; George Mraz, acoustic bass;  Steve Turre, acoustic bass, conch shells, didgeridoo; Reggie Workman, acoustic bass; Eddie Gomez, acoustic bass; Airto Moreira, percussion; Don Alias, percussion; Manolo Badrena, percussion; Harvey Mason, Sr., drums; Lenny White, drums; Billy Hart, drums.

“Don’t strive to be original, be aboriginal.”
-Arthur Jafa

One of the most astute observations about Miles Davis was that his music was so fresh because it was so grounded. That was never more true than during his electric period when Miles realized the surest way to innovate was to dig his way deeper into the tradition rather than work his way out of it. So-called pure originality is a myth. And fetishizing the recent past is its own trap. But there are still forward-looking lessons to learn from burrowing back to the aboriginal.

This stunning track from Terumasa Hino is one of the few tributes to Miles’s electric music that deserves to stand alongside it. It places futuristic synths and electronic textures over a flotilla of primal rhythms, meshing them together until they’re virtually indistinguishable. The music’s circular sense of time is grounded in the deep crosstalk of the basses. Hino’s keening solo channels Miles, but the track’s most impressive feature is its radical use of open space. The conch shell breakdown toward the end feels like On The Corner gone on walkabout.

It helps that Hino tapped a number of Miles’s most famous collaborators for this project. The all-star roster touches on the many different modes of his career. The arrangements are by none other than Gil Evans (partnering with the great Masabumi Kikuchi), the keyboard lines come courtesy Herbie Hancock,  there’s sax by Steve Grossman, and percussion from Airto. A few of the other top-notch names in the mix: Reggie Workman, Kenny Kirkland, Don Alias, and Billy Hart.

There’s plenty of exceptional art that focuses on Australian aboriginal culture. Some stuff we recommend that will deepen the vibe of this post:
–Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines is a fascinating account of the mystery and meanings of the timeless aboriginal “dreaming tracks.”
–Peter Weir’s film The Last Wave is fine thriller that conjures the apocalypse via aboriginal myths and rites.
–Even better is Jerzy Skolimowksi’s overlooked masterpiece The Shout, which involves aboriginal magic. Based on a story by Robert Graves, it features John Hurt as a music concrete composer.
–The quote at the top comes from Burnt Sugar‘s press kit. It serves as as a motto for Greg Tate’s excellent future-mucking ensemble.

Hino assembled his remarkable team to record Double Rainbow in San Francisco. Decades later, the Bay Area birthed the Future Primitive Sound Sessions,a key spawning ground for turntablists like DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, fellow travelers who also excavated the past in order to better navigate the future.

You can’t judge this album by its gawdawful wannabe yacht rock cover. But let’s embrace the cheese for a moment and affirm that this is a Double Rainbow truly worth losing your shit over.

Usually when a didgeridoo appears in music, it’s wise to run the other way. Hino’s is one of the few tracks to successfully employ the instrument. There must be more, but other than Aphex Twin’s ‘Digeridoo’ (another future primitive classic) we couldn’t think of any. School us in the comments!

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6 Responses to The Future Primitive

  1. Andy Haas – Arnhem Land (Avant):: on John Zorn’s label. Hass plays Didgeridoo in duos w/ musician such as Ikue Mori, Cyro Baptista, Keiji Haino, Fred Frith, etc. It’s been awhile since I actually listened to this because it’s boxed up and in storage, but I have fond memories of quality listening sessions featuring this disc.

  2. Co-sign to DJM. Arnhem Land is a fantastic record.

  3. Yuganaut sometimes feature a didgeridoo. They’ve got an album on ESP-Disk that you guys might dig – This Musicship.

  4. Mwata Bowden occasionally plays didgeridoo live—the one time I saw him do so I thought it worked pretty well. That was ages ago, though. I don’t know if he’s been recorded playing it.

  5. Thebe Lipere sometimes plays an imbumbu, which seems to be basically an African didgeridoo — on Evan Parker’s Synergetics: Phonomanie III he plays it with George Lewis’s Voyager computer system and the results are just amazing, particularly if you’re interested in that particular bag of Lewis’s.

    I saw Craig Harris play a didgeridoo to nice effect with a Hamiet Bluiett band once — it didn’t sound much like a didgeridoo at once. Don’t know of any of his recordings. (I also saw Haas so far back that I didn’t know there was such a thing as free improvisation; I thought they were playing some very far-out compositions.)

    I also like Annea Lockwood’s Thousand Year Dreaming and Stuart Dempster’s Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel, but those may be a little more in my bag than yours. Though speaking of Dempster, check out Joe McPhee’s Common Threads, which has some effective didj work from Dempster.

    And are there no Kate Bush fans here?

  6. Along the same lines of the previous post, Evan Parker also has an album on Leo with Richard Nunns called Rangirua where Nunns plays the didgeridoo on a few tracks. Pretty interesting stuff, and a fairly quiet and spacious album for Parker. Great post, by the way! Also digging on the Mujician stuff as well–the reissues you guys have been throwing out there have been off the charts. Thanks!

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