Astro Twin/Cosmos

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This two-disc set documents two Japanese improvising duos, each of which includes the astonishing vocalist Ami Yoshida. Astro Twin is her partnership with analog synth performer Utah Kawasaki, while Cosmos pairs her with electronicist Sachiko M. (see their fine album on Erstwhile, Tears). The Astro Twin disc is given over to two lengthy, untitled pieces. On the first, Kawasaki confines himself to static-y clicks and buzzes, issued in short flurries that punctuate the space with palpable force, sometimes billowing forth in short, rhythmic pitter-pats. Yoshida, who sounds like no other vocalist around, even within the more arcane reaches of avant-garde improv, integrates herself within this abstract area to the extent that it's often difficult to distinguish her from the electronics. Tending to remain quiet and subtle, she emits strangulated cries, wheezes, and whistling tones that are devoid of traditional emotional qualities yet manage to be quite affecting nonetheless, as though of plaintive, alien origin. When a gasp or sigh that's recognizably human emerges, it almost comes as a shock, suddenly transporting this abstract music into the realm of the personal. The second track isn't too dissimilar, though Kawasaki's sputterings are a little bit smoother and Yoshida's voice figures more prominently, making it far easier to differentiate the two. This also allows the listener to hear the performance more as a "traditional" improvised duet with the musicians reacting off of each other. In this sense, Yoshida more than holds her own with many of the more established names in avant vocalizations. The Cosmos disc finds Sachiko M. indulging in her beautiful, pristine, and ultra-minimalist side as she coaxes gossamer sine waves from her "empty" sampler and delicate rattles and rustles from a contact mike. She and Yoshida work sublimely together, like intertwining vines. Sachiko is content to let a pattern remain on hold for lengthy stretches, acting as a bed in which her partner's gauzy breaths and sub-vocal moans gently shift the linens. The music on both discs is spare in one sense but, upon close examination, reveals layer upon layer of detail, far richer than your average free improv session. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
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