Continuing on from his prior release on Tzadik, simply titled Cathode, Otomo Yoshihide returned here to his "Cathode" concept with three more pieces of controlled improvisation using a similar approach. Essentially, Yoshihide limits the sound areas to be explored by the musicians (for example, long tones or percussive clicks) but then gives them complete improvisatory freedom within those areas. On "Cathode No. 4," the 11-member ensemble is roughly split into those who produce long, bowed drones on various acoustic and electronic instruments (including voice) and the dual snare drums of Kumika Takara and Mari Furuta, the latter apparently limited to drum rolls of various kinds. It's an odd juxtaposition, the eerie, keening tones colliding uneasily with the vaguely military sound of the snare, forcing the listener to reconcile the two sound worlds. "Cathode No. 5" is a more successful piece, a gorgeous sonic array created by a quintet including koto, guitar, inside-piano, sine waves, and turntable. Here, it's impossible to determine what constrictions were placed on the performers, but it hardly matters; the result is a diverse, almost tactile panoply of audio images, all coalescing miraculously into a convincing whole. The final work, "Cathode No. 3," is even more ravishing, a sensuous wash of ringing, ethereal drones serving as a backdrop for another compositional attack, as guitarist Taku Sugimoto is allowed to introduce a previously composed piece of his own into the mix, a delicately strummed, free-form song. The effect is lovely and only builds in intensity as additional elements seep into the work's structure; lower drones, rumbling percussion, the amazing voice of Amy Yoshida, and static crackles all conspire to create a wonderfully rich, ominously dark soundscape, alive and swirling with possibilities. Ensemble Cathode was yet another step along the astonishingly productive career of Yoshihide, and is one of his most demanding and rewarding releases. Very highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick