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The Volcanic Guitar of Yasuhiro Usui

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Japanese guitarist Yasuhiro Usui is the man behind the Nagoya Version of the Satoko Fujii Orchestra, the wildest version of this Orchestra. Last year, Usui produced and released, on his own label, the Orchestra's first release (Nagoyanian, Bakamo, 2004), and managed to charge it with tons of eccentric and manic energy. Usui is also a frequent collaborator of highly creative musicians including reed player Ned Rothenberg and vocalist Phil Minton. Now he has released two more discs through his new label, that document his meeting with guitarist Elliot Sharp and the collaborative Nagoya-based trio, Okidoki.

Usui Yasuhiro & Elliot Sharp
Volcanic Island
Bakamo
2005

What a noisy heaven. Usui and Sharp could not find a better title for this documentation of their volcanic meeting that was recorded in New York in July 2003. Sharp, on the right channel, and Usui, on the left channel, create so many stormy noises and seismic eruptions on their electric guitars, grinding the strings, pushing them into feedback cacophony, sliding them with obscene objects, and provoking a lot of mysterious sound terrains; all done so intensely that you need

The six tracks are built in almost organic manner. The two guitarists feel in the dark for similar lines, and than delve head-on into them, daring to experience any avenue and welcome any mysterious sound. The outcome is somewhere between the spontaneous improvisations of Derek Bailey and the free-form metallic wall of sounds of Keiji Haino, with whom Sharp has performed in the past. Their open and swift communication is another reason to enjoy this clamorous summit. This disc is certainly not for the faint of heart, but is very satisfying for the fierce ones.

Okidoki
Don't Walk On The Cat Side
Bakamo
2005

Okidoki features the fragile saxophones and clarinet of Yoko Tade, the solid tuba, recorder and pianica of Takero Sekizima and the unsettling guitar of Usui. Throughout the ten tracks, recorded in the Nagoya live-house Tokuzo — Usui's home base — earlier this year, Tade and Sekizima outline a simple, sometimes even sweet and childish melody, while Usui pushes them to the edge, with his thorny, jagged playing.

The third track imitates a soundtrack to a pre-duel scene in a samurai film. The two reed players produce breathy sounds that are similar to the shakuhachi bamboo flute, already a cliché in such scenes, and Usui references the traditional string instrument, shamisen, as if it were played by a wild slide guitarist. The Tade-penned "Nagi" features her playing a cyclical charming melody, with Sekizima suppling a solid base with his tuba while Usui sends the melody to mysterious terrains with his percussive playing. Usui manages here, as he did on Volcanic Island to create a truly collaborative atmosphere, so tight that if we pull out any of the trio members, the magic might disappear.

Usui is a rare original voice who delivers his highly personal musical vocabulary throughout these two interesting discs.

Visit Yasuhiro Usui and Elliot Sharp on the web.


Volcanic Island

Tracks: Ve; Yusui; Moqsan; Zenso; Mui; Kazanto.

Personnel: Yasuhiro Usui: electric guitar (left channel); Elliot Sharp: electric guitar (right channel).

Don't Walk On The Cat Side:

Tracks: Nekomichi Part 1 (Tada); TKZ050107T1-1; TKZ050107T5-1; TKZ050107T3 -1; TKZ050107T2; Nagi (Tada); TKZ050107T5-2; TKZ050107T1-2; TKZ050107T4; Nekomichi Part 2 (Tada).

Personnel: Yoko Tade: soprano sax; alto sax; clarinet, pianica; Takero Sekizima: tuba, recorder, pianica; tomomin; Yasuhiro Usui: guitar.


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