Part one of the project launches with the lead track ‘Shinogi’, which unites Kodo with one of the original dubstep pioneers and Magnetic Man co-founder Skream. It’s a thrilling fusion of electro beats, organic percussion and hollered chants. While it’s not by any stretch dance music, it is informed by its structures: the hypnotic spell of trance and the ever-escalating sonics of IDM.
Skream says: “From the minute I had the meeting regarding collaborating with Kodo and learning more about the process it takes to become a member of the group, I knew I wanted to do it. Whilst I was working with them, I was doing more and more research into them as a band and realised just how big a chance it was working with people of this scale.”
‘Kodo Together’ offers surprises at every turn. Ninja Tune’s Elkka’s individuality shines through with ‘Pawā’ as its maximalist production uses ethereal vocals as the core motif for its off-kilter house rhythms. Similarly inventive is Kevin Saunderson and Justin Cholewski’s offering, ‘Before The Storm’, in which Kodo’s bombastic intensity amplifies the power of the track’s techno drops and breakdowns.
On ‘Right Here’, Icelandic songwriter Emiliana Torrini and Belgian ensemble The Colorist Orchestra layer Kodo’s gently thudding drums with atmospheric strings and tender vocals. Meanwhile, Jamaican music collective Equiknoxx’s ‘Miami Vice Chancellor and A Dam In His Sandler’ is a typically forward-thinking, stripped back affair, while Italian experimentalist Andrea Belfi’s, ‘In The Horse Stable of the Sphinx’ the Kodo drums provide more of a groove than an attack, providing a playful undercurrent for the surging acoustic instrumentation.
The release of ‘Kodo Together’ represents a landmark moment in the history of the Japanese collective, whose roots lay in Sado, an island adjacent to Niigata on the country’s west coast. Having debuted in 1981, Kodo has performed over 6500 times across five continents, with memorable highlights including a set at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert and contributing to Vangelis’ official anthem for the 2002 World Cup.
Kodo currently includes 34 performers, whose ages range from young adulthood to septuagenarians. New members must complete a two-year apprenticeship at Kodo’s centre on Sado, where they learn taiko, dance, song, bamboo flute, and other traditional arts in the rich natural and cultural surroundings. Once they’re fully integrated into the Kodo ensemble, they join performances focused on taiko drumming alongside other traditional Japanese instruments such as fue (a bamboo flute), shamisen (a three-stringed banjo), koto (a zither), and narimono (metal percussion).
‘Kodo Together’ will be available to stream on July 9th. More tracks forming part two will be revealed in the coming weeks.