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Ami Yoshida / Christof Kurzmann: ASO

John Eyles By

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Two years in the making, this album arrived at about the same time as First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Quincunx), in which Christof Kurzmann also plays a central role. Comparisons between the two are instructive; both albums feature clarinet, electronics and voice—in the case of the Quincunx album, the recorded voices of Roberta Flack and an (unnamed) Chinese singer, here Ami Yoshida.

The role of the voices is the main (huge!) difference between the two. Unlike the pop vocals, Yoshida's voice is frequently unrecognisable as human, often becoming as one with the instrumental sounds; when her voice is recognisably human, it is often via a high-pitched, near-orgasmic squeal. The clarinet is far from the instrument of Benny Goodman—or even Don Byron. Here, it is largely devoid of their warm, woody tone, instead acquiring a detached, abstracted sound.

A second major difference is that Yoshida (unlike Flack) is live, not pre-recorded, so there is two-way interaction between the two musicians—and what interaction! After a while, it becomes irrelevant who is imitating whom; the clarinet sounds like a wailing banshee, the voice like an overblown reed; the two intertwine in a dialogue that is something beyond vocals or clarinet; the reflection is reflected back repeatedly.

Thoughout, Kurzmann's use of electronics/software has a human face. There is no white noise and there are few sine waves; there is nothing that will make you jump out of your skin or frighten pets and small children (although the latter may giggle at some of the sounds). As if to underscore the human element, on the eighth track (untitled, like all of them) the electronics provide a low frequency pulse reminiscent of, yes, a heartbeat.

Just as the voice and clarinet are often indistinguishable, so too are the electronic sounds; many of the sounds here could come from any of the three sources. The result is endlessly listenable and richly rewarding.


Track Listing: Eight tracks (no titles given).

Personnel: Ami Yoshida: voice, microphone; Christof Kurzmann: lloopp, clarinet.

Title: ASO | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Erstwhile Records


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