Norwegian free-improv saxophonist and Japanese noise legend in 'listenable' album, shock!
John Eyles 2007-06-14
In most improvising collaborations, it is not difficult to predict how the music will sound, based on the players’ histories and the common ground between them. But when hard-blowing, free-improvising saxophonist Mats Gustafsson teamed up with Yoshimi, vocalist with Japanese prog-rockers The Boredoms, it was harder to see their common ground.
The duo were recorded when they performed at Malmo Konserthuis in 2005, seemingly at Gustafsson’s behest as he is a long-time fan of Yoshimi’s work. Gustafsson plays tenor sax, baritone sax, fluteophone and slide sax to accompany her voice… and both employ electronics. An initial three-minute piece, “Soundless Cries With Their Arms In The Air”, functions as a warm-up and getting-to-know-you session. The distinctive modulated drone of the slide sax is a key contributor to its soundscape.
The two then launch into an extended improvisation, “And The Children Play Quietly With Words On The Floor”, which occupies the rest of the album. It consists of a series of contrasting episodic pieces. Each lasts long enough to be coherent, with seamless transitions between them. In many of the episodes the sax and vocals are sustained, sometimes electronically, to produce a satisfying dialogue of drones. Other notable episodes feature jungle-like sounds of roaring sax and chattering vocals, bouts of call & response between voice and sax, and a unison duet that slowly builds, giving it obvious sexual overtones.
Gustafsson and Yoshimi have a well developed sense of music as drama and make good use of dynamics; each knows when to let rip and when to hold back to increase tension and prolong a mood. The album’s closing section is dominated by Yoshimi’s voice with a very spare sax accompaniment allowing it plenty of room, before sax and voice both employ full power in a final climax.
The pair establish their common ground because Gustafsson’s playing is restrained compared to some of his more full-on blowing performances, and Yoshimi is prepared to take risks, using her voice as an improvising instrument. The result is a sympathetic meeting of equals, producing music that is exploratory but also highly listenable.