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S. Fujii & Otomo Y. - Perpetual Motion

Ken Shimamoto, The Stash Dauber


Funny that having ended 2022 with a review of the formidable avant-garde pianist-composer Satoko Fujii's 100th (!) album, I'm starting 2023 with a review of her latest release.

Beginning in 1996, Fujii's worked in a wide variety of contexts with top-flight improvisers from around the world, but this is her first recorded encounter with guitarist-turntablist-electronic musician Otomo Yoshihide, a similarly prolific creative spirit who's been active since the late '80s. Historically, the Japanese avant-garde has made less distinction between rock, jazz, and classical streams than their Western counterparts. This new release on Stephane Berland's estimable French indie Ayler Records blends all of these elements into a unity that recalls the collaboration between jazzers Yells At Eels and rockers Pinkish Black that the label released in 2020.

Perpetual Motion is a continuous 48-minute improvisation; its division on the CD into four segments reflects the music's ebb and flow, with dynamic shifts that are indicative of the closeness with which these veteran improvisers were listening to each other as they played together. At times, the music occupies a quiet and reflective space. Elsewhere, Otomo churns up welters of abrasive noise and feedback that Satoko answers with thundering dissonance. 

Satoko's ability to match the amplified guitar's metallic clangor with pianistic power is as impressive as Otomo's ability to make his instrument sing expressively at the piano's lowest volume. Both musicians employ extended techniques (guitar bowing, small objects placed inside the piano) to expand their sonic palette. Together, they use rhythm and repetition to build to peaks of excitement that resolve to ruminative valleys before setting off again. A deeply satisfying collaboration between two adepts of spontaneous composition.