Ambient Music

Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide – Perpetual Motion (2023; Ayler Records) – Avant Music News

Perpetual Motion begins with a quiet passage of Satoko Fujii seemingly playing the inside of her piano along with guitarist Otomo Yoshihide providing controlled feedback, scrapes, and abstract chording. This slowly builds in intensity with pointed soloing from Yoshihide and staccato pounding from Fujii.

This album, recorded live in Tokyo during January 2022, is the first pairing of these two veterans of experimental music. It is easy to become overwhelmed by Fujii’s prolific output (now more than 100 albums), with the vast majority being quite good. But occasionally she contributes to an effort that is different from her usual avant-jazz fare, and this is one of those excursions. Otomo Yoshihide has a similarly lengthy discography, though his output is quite varied. Best known for work with Ground Zero, he has also composed contemporary classical as well as for television and film.

Perpetual Motion lands squarely in the free improvisational camp with both musicians employing extended techniques to extract unconventional sounds from their instruments. They are not in a rush to get anywhere in particular, and their joint explorations leave plenty of space in between more assertive passages. Fujii’s percussiveness coupled with Yoshihide’s bending of distorted notes is as strangely compelling as it is just…strange. Another aspect is how Fujii adopts classical stylings over which Yoshihide provides jagged and abrupt riffs and speed picking.

All is not quiet nor peaceful on this musical front. Yoshihide is apt to head off in angular directions, twisting his strings into unusual chords and outright noise while Fujii layers this with sweeping clusters of notes. The dynamism at play on this album is exquisite and exhibits a “both sides of the coin” nature – aggressive and pastoral, loud and soft, familiar and puzzling.

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