Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Otomo Yoshihide - Piano Solo & Quintet/Sextet (OTOroku)

‘Piano Solo’ begins with a pure ringing feedback tone.  A buzzing metallic hum begins to intrude.  This, in turn, is buried in a corrugated rusty roar that vanishes as quickly as it arrives.  This is all somehow done with a piano.  Abandon hope all ye seeking any traditional piano signifiers; this is sculpted alien noise with a fascinating texture and fluid dynamics.  Large indistinct aural shadows loom large in a hissing fog of sound, snarling industrial beasts growling opaque threats.  The juddering scraping mass of noise is fierce and weather-like, resembling sudden torrential flurries of iron poles falling on a warehouse roof.

‘Piano Solo’ is grinding in intensity; its quieter sections still harsh and sandpaper-rough.  There is an interesting ebb and flow, the noise swells brilliantly, each eruption preceded by a natural congealing ascent.  The bellowing plateaux are numbing and violent.  The piano itself seems to be screaming, its wires taut and tortured, every microscopic distress amplified greatly.

A punishing but fascinating study in oblique approaches to instruments; the piano, in this case, barely glimpsed beneath the abstraction.

‘Quintet/Sextet’ comprises two long group improvisations from Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Tony Marsh, John Edwards, Evan Parker, and John Butcher.  Side A is dense and tumultuous from the start; guitar, saxophone, bass, and drums all tightly meshed together before unknotting in a section of complete calm, a snowfall of cymbal-wash from Marsh blanketing the sound-field; Butcher’s sax fluttering at the periphery.  There is a sense of cold stasis throughout, a mass accumulating through shivering nebulous action, Parker often snaking cracking fissures through the frost.  Side B is full of croaking, groaning, and rumbling; the glacial surface tested by internal tectonic stress.  Any warmth created in the full-ensemble passages is always dissipated into slow heat-death.  ‘Quintet/Sextet’ is an effective exercise in contrasting action and stillness, beautifully balanced.

More information on OTOroku releases can be found here.

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