404 Wally Shoup and Paul Kikuchi : Aurora Distillations | PM
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Wally Shoup and Paul Kikuchi : Aurora Distillations

Duration: 32:11
Format: LP
Release Date: April 2012
Cover Art: Wally Shoup

Download at Bandcamp


  1. apparitions
  2. deluge
  3. aperture
  4. switchbacks

In September of 2010 saxophonist Wally Shoup and percussionist Paul Kikuchi ventured to the old cascade tunnel for a recording session.  The 2.6 mile tunnel, finished in 1900 and abandoned in 1929, provided a unique acoustic environment for the two musicians.  Though the session had its challenges, such as schlepping instruments and recording equipment into the tunnel and a chilling wind, the distinct “voice” of the tunnel became an integral and haunting aspect of the resulting recordings.  This album documents an ambitious site-specific work by two of Seattle’s celebrated improvisors.  This album was made possible in part by the generous funding of Artist Trust’s GAP program.

Artist Bio:
Paul Kikuchi is a percussionist, composer, sound artist, and educator originally from Indianola, WA.  After playing in rock bands as a youth, Paul went on to study music at Bennington College (BFA) and California Institute of the Arts (MFA).  He currently works as a musician and educator in Seattle, WA.  Paul is involved in a wide variety of musical projects, from percussion ensembles to jazz quartets, as well as his own groups that feature his compositions and invented instruments.    He is a founding member of the acclaimed Empty Cage Quartet, an ensemble has toured extensively and released seven albums since 2002.  Kikuchi’s recent work has emphasized performances and recordings in site-specific locations such as train tunnels, cisterns, and nuclear cooling towers. He actively performs internationally and his recorded music can be heard on a number of record labels both in the US and abroad.  Paul is the founder and artistic director of Prefecture Records, an organization that supports contemporary music through performance, documentation, and education.  As a music educator Paul has taught at West Sound Academy, The American International School of Budapest, the Oakwood School (Los Angeles) and the Community Arts Partnership (Los Angeles).  He is currently audio faculty at the Art Institute of Seattle, and teaches freelance at organizations such as Jack Straw Productions and The Wing Luke Asian Museum.  Paul’s work as a musician and composer has been recognized and supported by Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, 4 culture, Artist Trust, Earshot Jazz, Chamber Music America, the American Composer’s Forum, the Jack Straw Foundation, and the Montalvo Center for the Arts, among others.  He has been featured in publications such as the Earshot Jazz Magazine and the International Examiner.

Wally Shoup plays unfettered, emotion-laden alto saxophone and has been involved in freely improvised music since the mid-70′s.  He has worked with a wide array of musicians, including Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, Evan Parker, Davey Williams, La Donna Smith, Jack Wright, Paul Hession, Dylan Van der Schyff, Paul Flaherty, Chris Corsano, Reuben Radding, Toshi Makihara, Daniel Carter and many others.  His work is documented on several  labels, most notably Leo Records, which has released four of his CD’s,  Strange-Attractors, who released Immolation/Immersion (w/Nels Cline and Chris Corsano) in 2005, and Clean Feed, who released The Levitation Shuffle in 2007.  His current projects include the free-jazz Wally Shoup Trio (w/Gust Burns and Bob Rees) and skronk-jazz trio Ghidra (w/Bill Horist and Mike Peterson).  He was named one of Seattle’s 50 Most Influential Musicians by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine in 2008.


Clifford Allen, Ni Kantu
Auroura Distillations presents an LP’s worth of duets between percussionist/composer Paul Kikuchi and alto saxophonist Wally Shoup (there is one percussion solo, “Aperture,” which opens side two). It’s a bridge between Kikuchi’s sonic research leanings (with Stuart Dempster, among others) and contemporary improvisational acumen (the post-Carter/Bradford Empty Cage Quartet), and finds the pair exploring space and resonance in an abandoned and partially collapsed railroad tunnel in Stevens Pass, Washington. Shoup’s tack is often searing, but here he sounds positively introspective and subdued – but that doesn’t mean the music isn’t fraught with intensity, for the duo’s economy of phrase combined with reverberant spatial sound-mapping makes for powerful results. Across four improvisations the pair – or trio, as the space is certainly an active participant – document an interesting relationship between musical and spatial action. The environment is resonant and present, but at the same time the recording does not feel overpowered by where it took place. Both open and narrow, Aurora Distillations presents a simple and effective imprint of conversations between air, limbs and concrete.

Tom Burris, Free Jazz Collective
In September 2010, Wally Shoup and Paul Kikuchi recorded a set of sax and percussion improvisations inside an abandoned train tunnel in Washington State. The tunnel is 2.6 miles long, providing enough natural reverb to give the proceedings a dream-like aura. Shoup is a spatial improviser, generally leaving plenty of silence on his canvas, which makes the location a natural setting for him. This is my first exposure to Paul Kikuchi, who augments his drum kit with bells, ringers, and assorted clangers – and even a set of walkie-talkies. His rapport with Shoup is one of such familiarity that based on this recording, one would assume they are brothers. An interesting recording experiment and a good improv set. Vinyl is limited to 250 copies, so hurry!

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
This album was recorded in the old Cascade Tunnel in September of 2010. There are two giants of West Coast free/jazz sax – Oluyemi Thomas and Wally Shoup. Especially since Sonny Simmons moved to the East Coast and Prince Lasha passed away. There a number of great (west Coast) saxists who do play on the freer side like Larry Ochs or Vinny Golia, but those cats often choose more diverse options. Mr. Shoup has no problem meeting and recording with other like-minded musicians like Nels Cline, Paul Flaherty or Chris Corsano and most often records in a duo or trio situation. I hadn’t heard of drummer Paul Kikuchi before this although Shoup does have a knack for finding players who can match his energy and creative spirit.  Even though this session was recorded in a tunnel, the sound is still quite dynamic. Mr. Kikuchi sounds as if he is playing a large cowbell with some reverb added although there is no reverb just a wide open space. The duo take their time to slowly expand and circle in on each note or sound. Rather than a blast-fest, this duo is more diverse, weaving their way through more restrained soundscapes. Kikuchi sounds as if he playing some sort of gamelan gongs on the second side before Shoup re-enters. His tone is warm, dark and deep, closer to the sound of tenor sax than an alto. They build to an intense crescendo, powerful and focused. Not too fast or too slow but just right, ascending together as one strong spirit. This type of transcendence certainly feels great! Dig in while the limited edition lasts.

Gapplegate Music Review
Drummer-percussionist-conceptualist-leader Paul Kikuchi has been devising some remarkable explorations of the free-ambient spectrum in years past. Many of the releases I have covered in the various blogs. There’s a new one, for limited release on LP and as a download. It’s saxman Wally Shoup and Paul in a series of duets, Aurora Distillations (Prefecture 005).

First thing to note: the entire session was recorded in a 2.6-mile-long cascade tunnel built in 1900 and abandoned in 1928. The environment provided the date with a natural ambiance that frames all the music in a most unusual way. There are long reverberences more than echoes, stimulated by where the musicians set up, and the drums and percussion benefit from it especially. Shoup’s alto, too, gets much from the natural cavernousness. In fact Wally often seems to be playing the tunnel as much as the alto. Or rather, he plays tothe tunnel, like how the JATP sax soloists would often project to the balconies with crowd arousing honks and squeals. The content of the playing-to and the results, understandably, are quite different here. But there is a kind of parallel.

There are four relatively short works, all filled with a free evocation, almost a ritual sense of sonic purpose. The third segment is by far my favorite, for Kikuchi’s remarkable play of metallic bell-like percussion, but it’s all worthwhile. This may not be Wally Shoup’s greatest performance and this may not be Paul Kikuchi’s most impressive ambient outing. But in both cases one must remember that it is spontaneous music to sound the old tunnel, and so it is not as much a performance as a paean to that space.

It’s something to appreciate and zone into. It may not be absolutely essential but it is absolutely a world of its own. Explore.