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S. Fujii & Otomo Y. - Perpetual Motion

S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!


Satoko Fujii and Otomo Yoshihide have so much in common. Both are among the most highly regarded avant-garde music artists in the world today, both come from Japan and both first made their mark in the ’90s. But pianist Fujii and guitarist Otomo had never actually performed together. Until now.

Perpetual Motion is a capture of their first musical encounter, a live performance from January, 2022 at Tokyo’s famed Pit Inn jazz club. Otomo joined in at Fujii’s invitation during an annual music marathon put on by Fujii and Natsuki Tamura. They proceeded to make music on the spot, relying strictly on instincts and virtuosity. Luckily, Fujii and Otomo have loads of both.

Though each excel at their respective instruments, the thing that truly sets them apart are their mastery of creating imaginative sound sculptures from them, and being able to tell a story with these sculptures because their music is always in transit. Little wonder this album is called “Perpetual Motion.”

“Perpetual Motion I” is mostly gentle, but nonetheless the two had completely figured out how to meld together into a singular sonic progression. On the tense moments instigated by Fujii, Otomo’s reactions are perfectly complementary, whether it’s judicious use of the volume pedal to Fujii’s thunderclaps or caustic commotion when the piano puts down hard clusters.

Arpeggiated chords from both set the initial, apprehensive mood of “Perpetual Motion II” and together they embark on a journey that will inevitably lead to a release, but non-linearly, so you’re not prepared when the sonic bombs start dropping. Otomo’s morse code feedback pivots into metallic tornadic activity as Fujii is getting inside her piano at times to help build up the cavalcade of noise.

Otomo’s guitar squalls aren’t like others as he makes clear during “Perpetual Motion III,” he makes his guitar mimic the scraping of strings of a double bass. Fujii builds a percussive riff and the guitarist fashions a groove from that and stimulates the pulse started by Fujii. “Perpetual Motion IV” follows along a bell curve of cadence and drama, peaking in the middle in a performance of intensive integration and contemplation. Nothing is contemplated, but nothing is played without purpose.