The widespread isolation of pandemic culture provided the natural incubator for DJ Krush to spin echoes of turntablist gestures alone in a Japanese temple as winter turned to spring.
Please trust me that while I’ve only seen Krush live a handful or so of times, I have listened to countless hours of his recorded concert performances, and this is, I believe, one of his finest. Krush originated as a Japanese hip-hop DJ, and from the beginning emphasized abstraction and atmosphere, as well as utilized regional music and sonic culture as source material and inspiration.
This hour-long set was first streamed in late February as part of the MUSO Cultural Festival, broadcast from the temple Daichuji, located in the Japanese city of Numazu, Shizuoka, by the foot of Mount Ashitaka. A brief accompanying statement explains: “Within the temple, a conceptual live performance was filmed as if to experience the essence of Zen through sound.” The festival takes its name from Muso Soseki, who founded Daichuji in 1313.
The show opens with an exceptionally sparse seven minutes of elegant, cautious play, then ratchets up to something closer to the smokey, noir quality of his early work. From there the pace slowly builds, remaining downtempo throughout, but gaining depth: more sounds, more motion, more contrast. Even as the audio accrues, there remains room for the slightest hand gesture to bring a warble to the surface, for his wrists to syncopate martial drums and drop in quick samples. So much gets folded in: dance music, chanting, birdsong, and rapturous percussion stuttered in his mixer.
The show ends as it began, with choice bits of sound, wooden flutes from some of his most famous music, until the beats drop out. From there on, for the last five minutes or so, the work is Krush at his most ghostly, not mournful so much as reflective, peaceful, finally resolving in a climactic drone before dissipating like a candle blown out.