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Ami Yoshida / Toshimaru Nakamura: Soba to Bara

John Eyles By

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Over the past decade Japanese Onkyo musicians such as vocalist Ami Yoshida, no-input mixing board player Toshimaru Nakamura, Sachiko M, Taku Unami and Otomo Yoshihide have had a profound effect on improvisers outside Japan, as far away as London, Berlin and USA. Albums by such musicians and their collaborators have been common among the releases from Erstwhile, so it is hardly surprising that the label's latest offering has a distinctly Japanese look to it, including sleeve notes in Japanese by both players (fear not, translations are available on the Erstwhile blog).

Nakamura and Yoshida have been two of the more prominent and influential musicians of the group, so it is somewhat surprising to discover this is their first recording together. Unusually, when asked to make this CD they decided to record their contributions separately without reference to each other and then to combine them into one piece. Remarkably, given the circumstances, the contributions complement each other well and sound like coordinated, debunking notions of improvisers listening and reacting to each other.

Unlike some recordings from Erstwhile and its group of improvisers, which are often near the threshold of inaudibility, the music here is very outgoing by comparison. Yoshida's vocals have long had a pure quality to them. Here they are less pure and some may find them disquieting as the sounds conjure up images of violence, sexual abuse, and mental or physical illness. At other times, parallels with bestial noises seem most appropriate. In their ability to disturb the listener, Yeshiva's closest vocal rivals are currently Sankho Namchylak and Phil Minton.

A decade on from his initial ground-breaking work on no-input mixing board, Nakamura here demonstrates how he has grown and developed, employing multiple voices and over-layering to produce unexpectedly complex and satisfying soundscapes.

The album's single forty-eight minute track is ample to engage the listener and to provide a richly rewarding listening experience.


Track Listing: Soba to Bara.

Personnel: Ami Yoshida: voice; Toshimara Nakamura: no-input mixing board.

Title: Soba to Bara | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Erstwhile Records


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