Yoshihide Otomo

Les Hautes Solitudes

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Even in the ethereal, extreme world of the Japanese onkyo scene, this trio is hardcore. Les Hautes Solitudes is a soundtrack of sorts, in the sense that the group apparently improvised the piece while viewing the 1974 film of the same name by Philippe Garrel that starred Jean Seberg, Nico, and Tina Aumont. Indeed, the first thing one hears is the sound of a reel-to-reel projector, forming a fluttery drone that continues throughout the work softly rising and falling in the mix. It's paired with Sachiko's quiet but steady sine waves, producing a bi-level matrix to which Yoshihide and Sugimoto add ornamentation and observations. Their contributions are decidedly spare; very little of Sugimoto's relatively melodic guitar work (as heard on Opposite, for example) is in evidence here. Instead, he plays his guitar in a far more percussive manner, either using the body or strongly damped strings as often as not. Likewise, Yoshihide's turntable work (plus Sachiko's periodic use of contact microphones) is entirely abstract, forgoing the use of vinyl -- other than as a reliquary for clicks and scratches -- and instead making the most of those sounds which can be derived from the turntable itself. There is, amusingly enough, a point about a third of the way through where Sachiko actually comes close to generating a melody of sine patterns. This is yet another example, by this point almost to be expected, of these musicians' ability to educe a wealth of richness from an ostensibly limited palette. By remaining so resolutely spartan for such a length of time, they run the risk of disengaging even very tolerant listeners, but for those who negotiate this challenge, the music actually becomes intimate, even accommodating. The whir of the projector assumes a comforting air, the clicks of the contact mic or the caressed phonograph cartridge turn into old friends offering fine, if arcane, conversation. Les Hautes Solitudes is yet another fine and beautiful document of the astonishingly fertile Japanese improvised music scene. Highly recommended.

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