Monday, May 23, 2011

Otomo Yoshihide - #14

Otomo Yoshihide

If one would ask me, who'd I think the musician is, that brought music forward the most during the last two decades, my answer would be, without hesitation, Otomo Yoshihide. The guy is responsible for a quantum leap in music. I believe, I first came across one of his recordings, when "We Insist?" was released in 1992.  At that time, Otomo Yoshihide was a virtually unknown turntablist and guitarist. This has, of course, changed and he is a household name, so to speak. He's partly Noise, equally Avant-garde, he's Rock and he's, of all labels, sometimes mainstream. The latter especially when he writes film music.

I can only recall having seen him live once a solo artist. Must have been in 1995 at the Taktlos festival. Otomo Yoshihide on stage with turntables, digital samples and an electric guitar. And he pulled it through! About an hour of high energy stuff, you were easily forgiven to think, that he was about to break the turntables on stage and smash the guitar to pieces. It didn't happen in the end, but the performance left you standing there, with your mouth open and the realisation, that you just experienced a very energetic artist with a message. The video I chose to illustrate this point, seems to be rather typical of the way he played the instrument. And what I've seen so far on the internet, he's still working the old Technics machines.

Back to "We Insist?". Otomo Yoshihide plays turntables, samples, tapes and guitar and is supported by some of the finest musicians in the genre. You might recognise the names of Yamatsuka Eye, Kato Hideki and John Zorn. The CD is a rollercoaster ride and a very enjoyable one at that. I'm pretty sure, you can't find this as a new CD anymore, but try any auction platform on the internet and the album should be there. As for prices, I can't tell, but really, I don't suppose Otomo Yoshihide is very collectable, so you should get it for a very decent price.

You also might want to check out his band "Ground Zero" (which I've seen live as well). They were at the forefront of the Japanese alternative Jazz/Rock/Avant-garde scene for a while. Their release "Plays Standards" is, what it says, but dont' expect anything like one to one cover versions. The songs are being torn apart, shredded into sometimes unrecognisable pieces and released like badly glued works of art. If you can't stand "Those Were The Days" anymore, here's a chance to listen to the track in a completely different arrangement. There's some rather difficult to listen stuff available, but I'd suggest to start either with the aforementioned "We Insist?" or one of the "Ground Zero" releases. And then work your way into the complete output of Mr. Yoshihide. His latest group is a Jazz one and "Out To Lunch", a cover version of the Eric Dolphy album, has just been released. Let me say, if you have Eric Dolphy's album on your shelf, don't expect a faithfull transcription notewise, but one that's coming from the heart.



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