Yoshihide Otomo


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Experimental composer/improvisers have long had a fascination with developing systems that manage to combine the two. For example, a system of rules might be applied which constrains players within certain guidelines where, as long as they don't exceed certain boundaries, they are free to improvise. John Zorn' s game pieces such as Cobra come to mind, which he likened to a baseball game where, despite fairly rigid rules being in effect, the outcome is uncertain, although it will always retain the character of baseball. Otomo Yoshihide had a long history of brilliant work in improvised ensembles (as well as rock and jazz groups) and had been devoting much of his time prior to this recording investigating ultra-quiet free improvisation utilizing sine waves and extremely abstract electronics, resulting in delicate music at the very edge of hearing. His previous recording for Tzadik, Cathode, was very much in this area. The listener is quite taken aback, therefore, at the sheer volume and ferocity of the initial composition here, a virtual onslaught of percussion and electronic noise. The instructions to the musicians were to "play loudly and create new sounds before the previous sounds disappear." There is no real chance to listen to the fellow performers, much less react to what they are playing. The result is a giddy, almost neurotic welter of harsh banging whose purpose, contrary to most free improvisation, is not to cohere but to open up a new and difficult space when free improv gets too comfortable. The music thus becomes difficult on a whole other level than normally difficult music. One cannot give Yoshihide too much credit for refusing to play by the rules, even if those rules are supposedly infinitely flexible. Similarly on the two relatively quieter pieces, "Anode 2" and "Anode 3," he instructs his players, "Do not respond to the sound of others," asking for the near-impossible. The works have something in common with the music of groups like AMM, but there is a subtle difference, as if by setting up roadblocks Yoshihide has forced his participants into new and unexplored territory. Anode is a fascinating album and perhaps will be regarded as a major signpost in the continuing history of creative music.

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