On Mouse On The Keys’ “Aom”


“The concept was: ‘Utilizing elements of modern French music represented by composers such as Debussy and Ravel, along with the hardcore music of the ’80s and ’90s (…) and mixing them in a style reminiscent of Detroit techno.” – Akira Kawasaki

I recently came across some music that reminds me of what it might sound like if pianists from Steve Reich’s ensemble had quit and formed an aggressive yet melodic band with just keys and drums. Mouse On The Keys, from Japan, is a trio of drummer/keyboardist Akira Kawasaki, keyboardist Daisuke Niitome, and keyboardist Atsushi Kiyota. On the tracks on their recording Machinic Phylum, they make a syncopated instrumental music that’s been described by one critic as a blend of “minimalist classical music with hard-hitting rock” (Hashim Bharoocha, redbullmusicacademy.com) and by one YouTube viewer as “an insane instrumental band.” The band’s sound has a vigorous, expansive quality to it, exploring unusual meters beyond 4/4 and jazz-inflected chord changes played with muscle.

The recording’s first track, “Aom,” is fiery, refusing to settle into a predictable groove–it keeps shifting as the two pianos and drums interlock and play in one another’s off-beats, maintaining a constant sense of tension. But the manic funk is just part of the group’s equation. From 1:53-2:45 the piece takes flight on a six beat feel, the piano chords modulating to ever further keys. When the piece returns to its opening section, the concept Kawasaki described–a style that would blend hardcore punk, French piano music, and Detroit techno–sounds about right.

You can read an interview with Kawasaki here.