Nakama - Most Intimate

Cover Most Intimate.jpg
Cover Most Intimate.jpg

Nakama - Most Intimate

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BARCODE: CD 7090040250148, LP 7090040250155

RELEASE DATE: 12th December 2016

FORMAT: CD, LP, digital download, streaming

RECORDED:  Propeller StudioHans Andreas Horntveth Jahnsen, May 2016

MIXED/MASTERED: Christian Obermayer

PRODUCED: Christian Meaas Svendsen

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Most Intimate is Nakama’s third release. Their previous albums have been very conceptual, dealing with the relation between sound and silence on Before the Storm and then form as something malleable on Grand Line. Most Intimate is different. It is more personal, more transparent and more.., well, intimate. It offers a close-up on the musicians and how they deal with music in different roles. Because even though the music on this album isn’t conceptual, the structure of it is, and it is hard to talk about the music without talking about the structure. Band leader Christian Meaas Svendsen explains: «I wanted to make a collaborative album portraying the musicians as ensemble players, improvisers, soloists and composers. In order to fulfill that vision we decided to write small Dedications to each other. I wrote for Andreas, Andreas for Adrian, Adrian for Ayumi and Ayumi for me. The only rule was that the person who received the dedication was to be omitted from the composition. Each of the dedications are followed by a solo improvisation, or as we have called it here — Gratitude — from the receiver. The solo is then followed by a synthesis of the two former, a short improvised something with all four, but with the dedicator and the receiver swapping instruments. We have called these pieces Unifications. I also made a little theme with a corresponding variation to serve as a wrapping around it all. In addition we made a fifth Unification which is a free interpretation of the aforementioned theme, and in which all of us swap instruments so that we play the one instrument we did not get to play in the other four Unifications. All in all the recording consists of 15 tracks which present the band in literally all possible solo-, duo-, trio- and quartet combinations. The duos are presented on the opening track which is the variation on the theme, the trios on the Dedications, the quartets on the Unifications, and the solos on the Gratitudes. The album can be experienced without this knowledge, but is really structured to be listened to as the way it is grouped - as a question, a response, and a sort of agreement (Dedication, Gratitude, Unification). With the exception of the title theme, none of us had heard any of the other compositions beforehand. We had been touring for 9 days, and I wanted the tour to culminate in a recording session which took advantage of the fatigue we were suffering from. Great things happen when the discerning, analytic and intellectual mind is bypassed, and it is that flavor which Most Intimate is representing.»


1. Intimate
2. Dedication I
3. Gratitude I
4. Unification I
5. Dedication II
6. Gratitude II
7. Unification II
8. Total Unification
9. Dedication III
10. Gratitude III
11. Unification III
12. Dedication IV
13. Gratitude IV
14. Unification IV
15. Most Intimate

Adrian Løseth Waade - violin & more
Ayumi Tanaka - piano & more
Andreas Wildhagen - drums & more
Christian Meaas Svendsen - bass & more


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Dave Summer - Bandcamp Top 30

There’s a grand unification taking place in this session from the Nakama quartet of multi- instrumentalists Ayumi Tanaka, Adrian Løseth Waade, Andreas Wildhagen, and Christian Meaas Svendsen. They each take a turn running with violin, piano, bass, and drums, and each contribute compositional ideas. They perform as duo, trio and quartet. Unsurprisingly, the results span a great array of expressionism. What is surprising, however, is how cohesive the entire project sounds. The quartet sounds just as comfortable with extremes of avant-garde dissonance as they do with gorgeous melodicism. Compelling stuff, both as a cerebral exercise and as a listening experience.


Creaig Dunton - Brainwashed

Grand Line, Nakama’s last release and the project’s second overall, was a sometimes ­chaotic mass of free jazz improvisations held together by a structured sense of composition that seemed to be at odds with the music itself. Most Intimate has a similarly focused conceptual foundation, but rather than the grand gestures of the last album, here they are much more personal, with the quartet members each writing parts for one another to play. The concept is admittedly complex and convoluted, but in execution it works in more ways than just being a novelty.

Most Intimate is made up of a series of "Dedications," "Gratitudes," and "Unifications." The dedication pieces involved one member of the quartet writing a piece in honor of another member, with the caveat that the performer receiving the dedication did not perform. The subsequent gratitude piece is that recipient playing a solo performance in response. Finally, the unification is a performance by the full quartet, but with the person giving the dedication and the person receiving swapping instruments. This is bookended by two full band pieces, and an improvisation in the middle where the members play the instrument they did not in one of the previous arrangements.

Yes, it is complex enough that a diagram or a flow chart could have been provided to specify all of these varying arrangements, but it really is unnecessary to appreciate the album. Unsurprisingly the opening and closing pieces ("Intimate" and "Most Intimate", respectively) are the most traditionally composed and rich sounding, with not only all performers involved, but also playing their preferred instruments (as duos). For "Intimate" a slow, intentionally repetitive passage of Christian Meaas Svendsen's bass and Adrian Løseth Waade's violin as first establishing a rhythm, with Ayumi Tanaka's piano adding a delicate counterpart. Percussionist Andreas Wildhagen's contribution is a sparse, but effective passage of cymbal playing. Concluding "Most Intimate" is less of an insistent rhythm and more of an expansive piece of music. Driven by piano and violin, with the bass and percussion being more of an accent, there is a gentle peacefulness to the piece that is subtle and light without being insubstantial.

The first "Dedication" piece, omitting percussion, is also an extremely graceful sounding work, one that at times drifts precariously close to an easy listening jazz sound, but never crosses that line. The following "Gratitude" piece is therefore a performance for solo drums and has Wildhagen doing a lot with just a standard kit. With the toms played lightly enough to have a resonating melodic quality to them, there is significant depth to the solo, and the exceptionally high quality recording really helps magnify these subtleties. The short "Unification" that follows has a higher tempo and a looser, more urgent improvised sound that at times drifts nicely into more abrasive territory.

The rest of the album follows this model, with the violin­less "Dedication II" taking on percussive throb that makes it stand out, both from rattling snare drums and more aggressive piano with a more aggressive sound. It is followed by the violin solo “Gratitude II” featuring Løseth Waade's instrument played in mostly unconventional ways, such as sharp string bowing or muted plucks. "Gratitude III" omits the piano and in turn becomes a less melodic, slowly building rhythmic piece, and Meaas Svendsen's subtle vibrations of "Gratitude IV" compliments the spacious and delicate preceding "Dedication IV" very well.

Nakama is all about conceptual complexity, and Most Intimate is no different. However, it is not necessary to fully appreciate the album. My first listen was actually without any knowledge of the underlying theory and structure used, and I found it enjoyable just on that superficial level. The varying arrangements make for a diverse sound, mostly following a pattern of a more open sounding piece, then a solo, then a full band improvisation that has a distinct rawness to it likely magnified by the fact that half of the band are not on their primary instruments. With that alone it is a wonderful album of pieces of varying complexity, and the knowledge of how it was conceived is just an extra dimension to appreciate.


Olav Opsvik - Jazznytt

Dei som har fulgt med på hans virke i nokre år har nok sett at bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen har mykje på hjartet, men produktiviteten frå både kvartetten og plateselskapet som går under namnet Nakama har nok få sett føre seg. Den siste plata til kvartetten han deler med pianist Ayumi Tanaka, fiolinist Adrian Waade og trommeslagar Andreas Wildhagen, Most Intimate, er den tredje frå kvartetten og nummer åtte frå plateselskapet i løpet sitt første leveår. Og både Meaas Svendsen, kvartetten og plateselskapet gjer seg markert, og etter mitt syn sterke, i det konseptuelle. Dei er eller ikkje redde for å gå inn i søken og forsøksvis svare på store spørsmål.

Den første plata frå kvartetten, Before the storm, som kom for ganske nøyaktig eit år sida, utforska stilla som musikalsk parameter. Så kom Grand Line, der ulike formstrukturar blei testa ut. Begge deler høyrest litt teknisk ut, men blei løyst med open nyfiken og varmt samspel, der ein godt kunne sjå bort frå det storformale og konseptuelle for å lytte etter detaljane og utsagna frå kvar einskild musikar.

Men der dei to første platene har slike distinkte, formtekniske konsept, skriv Meaas Svendsen at han tenkte det ville vere fint «å ikkje vite, til ei forandring», og viser til ein zen-dialog frå The Book of Serenity med sitatet «not knowing is most intimate». I den relativt lange teksten Meaas Svendsen har skrive før den har blitt lekkert utskåren i det turkise platecoveret, hevdar han difor at musikken på plata ikkje er konseptuell i seg sjølv. Men strukturen på albumet er likevel det.

Kort forklart er konseptet som følger: Dei korte spora er fordelt mellom serier av tre titlar: «Dedication», «Gratitude» og «Unification», i tillegg til eit avsluttande tittelspor. Kvar av bandmedlemmane har skrive ein dedikasjon til ein av dei andre, og soleis har alle fått kvar sin. Så må kvar einskild svare med takksemd, før alle samlast i ein påfølgande «Unification», der komponist og mottakar av dedikasjonen har bytta instrument. Høyrest det komplisert ut? Ja, det er kanskje det.

Men det har blitt skikkelig fin musikk av det! Variasjonen som kjem med ein serie korte snuttar, framfor eit lang strekk av fri improvisasjon, er veldig apellerande. Dei små komposisjonane, eller dedikasjonane, er enkle, men også sterke og tydelege. Desse eigenskapane har heilt tydeleg smitta over i dei påfølgande improvisasjonane, og sjølv i spesialnummeret «Total Unification» der alle har bytta instrument, er det klåre utvekslingar og utsagn som vert presentert. På alle spor er der rikelig med luft.

Eg kan godt forstå at svevande sitat som «not knowing is most intimate» er noko ein kan meditere på lenge og vel, men med open, kreativ og fri improvisasjon mellom gode vener gir Nakama eit konkret døme på kva det kan bety. Vi veit ikkje heilt kva som vil skje i neste augneblink, og å angripe den uvissa saman er heilt klart ei intim oppleving. På Most Intimate høyrer ein klårt eit trygt rom og alt det gode som kan kome ut av det, og Nakamas konseptuelle tilbøyelegheiter har gitt nok eit sterkt resultat.