Tetuzi Akiyama is one of the foremost improvisers in the burgeoning Tokyo underground. He's been around for almost 20 years and has cranked out an impressive, and lengthy, discography. "Pre-Existence" is Akiyama's contribution to Locust's intriguing Wooden Guitar series. It's a record that is at times infuriating. It leads you down paths you never wanted to take and leaves you there, stranded and lost with only your wits to find your way home. While this challenge might seem like too much work to some, the rewards awaiting at the end of "Pre-Existence" are too great to pass up.
My impressions of the Wooden Guitar series before hearing "Pre-Existence" were that it would follow in the footsteps of the Takoma sound. However, Akiyama destroys that notion. There is no quick fingerpicking or raga like compositions on "Pre-Existence." Akiyama is more interested in the empty spaces between each note. His minimalist approach draws out emotions you didn't even know you had. This is a dense tapestry of scattered sounds. The label describes this album as "puzzling," but it is because Akiyama's approach can be so confusing at times that sets this record apart. It is never clear what road he is going to take, but by the time the journey comes to an end it becomes obvious that he never wanted to lead you astray.
I'm just as interested in the silence on "Pre-Existence" as I am in the actual music. Aside from the effective use of long silences at the end of every track, these quiet moments are distributed within the walls of each piece. "Condemnation" is a taciturn conviction. The minor notes and empty spaces make you feel uncomfortable. It's like a master interrogator turning the screws and causing you to confess your deepest sins. "Mystification" proves to be the complete opposite, with detuned hopeful sounds flickering in the night sky. Again, Akiyama paints a masterpiece with his steel strings. Each carefully chosen note is not only introspective, but contemplative as well. It's not just about choosing what to play next so that he is satisfied, but also what will change the listener's perception? In this way, "Pre-Existence" is a wholly psychedelic experience.
"Pre-Existence" is a wonderful blues-laden album. Akiyama is more than just a unique voice in the world of solo guitar exploration, he's a pioneer. Throughout the peaks and valleys of this record, we are exposed to new forms and ideas. And each subsequent listen brings forth something you didn't hear or think of the previous time through. That is the mark of a special album - it is dynamic and unchanging at the same time. "Pre-Existence" is beautiful and magical, like the folklore of Akiyama's native land. Simply, this is an impressive evolution of sounds. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (31 October, 2005)