Aki Onda with Loren Connors & Alan Licht "Lost City"


Dusted, USA, 2015
Text by Bill Meyer


In Chris Marker's La Jetée, still images accompany a spoken soundtrack, highlighting the way that people perceive moments in isolation even though they are part of an endless flow of time. The effect of this technique was not lost on Aki Onda, whose work with photographs and cassette tapes of field recording made on his journeys around the world considers the meaning of frozen pieces of pasts by sharing them with strangers in distantly removed places and times.


Onda moved to New York not long before the towers came down on 9/11/01 and this process became a way to manage both the collective trauma he witnessed around him and the fulminating fear and jingoism that followed it. The result is Lost City, a series of images that he showed by screen projection with accompaniment by guitarists Loren Connors and Alan Licht. The effect of filtering the grain of black and white film through the projection process corresponds to the sounds they selected and they way they are registered on this LP, which constitutes a physical documentation of the project. The LP's packaging is elaborate, with the record, a big foldout poster of Onda's pictures, and a pamphlet all encased in a heavy plastic sleeve; it's a hefty thing, game to defy the cold facts of impermanence.


Onda chose well when he elected Loren Connors to soundtrack Lost City. Connors has spent a quarter century incorporating loss and memory into his art. He has composed odes to long-dead icons and paved-over New York neighborhoods, and on a more personal level his playing is an ongoing document of his quarter-century long task of living with Parkinson's disease. The recordings, one a duet with the indefatigable Licht from 2007 and the other a solo from 2005, include coughs and shuffling that betray the situation of the microphone nearer to the audience than the guitar amps. What you get is a magnification of distant sound, grainy and flicking, much like the projections of Onda's photos must have appeared. Reverberation, room sound, and silence all bleed together with the stark notes, feedback groans, and suspended chords. On the duo side, the music is violent, full of jagged curves and explosions. The presence of such events within the murky entirety of the music corresponds to the unavoidability of trauma in life.