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Sotto Voce - s/t
CD-R (Morioka, Japan)



-sep. 24, '00. persona, morioka
-jul. 17, '99. theater 'poo', shinjuku, tokyo
-oct. 6, '01. johnny, morioka




Sotto Voce: Yoko, Onnyk, Noizu, Akira Obara

Reviews:
(AmbiEntrance 5/2003)Spaciously-applied whacks to the keyboard open 65 minutes of perplexing Japanese jazz explorations, beginning on sep. 24, '00; in a live (apparently improvisational) performance, piano and sax wind around each other in intricately-twisted contusions which may or may not sound like "music" to your ears... randomish drumbeats, crazy squawk-flurries and forceful crescendos are somewhat balanced against lighter, less-assaultive meanderings. A tortured guitar yelps and and skitters as wildly-flailed ivories spark in varying intensities, captured jul. 17, '99 (29:47) at theater 'poo', shinjuku, tokyo. Again, everyday instruments are put through periods of exasperating abuse in which freeform jazz/rock/noise techniques are taken to frenetic, ear-poking extremes, including astounding, screaming buzzsaw attacks... yikes!! oct. 6, '01 (7:57) begins more mildly, though gradually its upscale piano moods and wandering sax licks are battered by more-aggravated thumps and crashes from the drumkit, setting off a series of combo-skirmishes, which peter out into a sprawling wind-down. While it take alot of technical skill for Sotto Voce (Yoko, Onnyk, Noizu and Akira Obara) to pull off these spectacular stunts, it takes alot of aural fortitude to listen... more than I have anyway! Electronic-noise-heads might be interested in hearing just how obnoxious "plain-old" instruments can be! - David J. Opdyke

(All Music Guide) This album culls three live improvisations recorded between July 1999 and October 2001 in Morioka and Tokyo, Japan. It yields two surprises. The first one is a brand of improvisation that steers away from what has become the embodiment of the so-called Japanese paradox: the violent onslaught of noise and the ascetic silence of the onkyo scene. Sotto Voce's music comes closer to the European conception of free improvisation, closer to the London-Berlin axis (especially the artists revolving around the FMP label). But it is hardly derivative, it has its own identity and its own quirks. The second surprise is to find Onnyk playing saxophone in this group -- the man's previous release on Public Eyesore consisted of guitar solos. The three pieces take different directions. The first one could be called 'standard' European Free Improv, as piano, sax, electric guitar and drums follow individual discourses of an atonal and a-rhythmical kind, discourses that interlace in a dual process of listening and communication. Track two, 30 minutes long, leaves the cerebral cortex behind to find a comfortable place in a more atavistic part of the brain. The playing is gutsier, aiming more at creating confrontation than finding its place within a bigger whole. A percussion break halfway through leads to an interlude by guitarist Noizu who develops a relaxed space that will gradually get invaded, first by Onnyk's Ayler-esque screams and then Yoko's insistent piano motif. Noizu 'steps on it' and lets his playing escalate to a noise furry that finds its resolution in drummer Akira Obara's decision to stop with a bang and let piano trickles seep through the resonating cymbals. Track three adopts a jazzier attitude introduced by Yoko¹s phrasing, only to branch out into free improv. With better sound quality (instead of a one-microphone recording), this album could have a lot of impact, but as it is it still makes a fine document from musicians who hardly get the same treatment as Tokyo-based avant-garde artists like Toshimaru Nakamura or Otomo Yoshihide. - François Couture

(Indieville 7/21/2003) Sotto Voce collects three live Japanese free jazz improvisations that will appeal most to improv fans. Although Japan is not necessarily known as the epicentre of free jazz, this is a very solid release, featuring solid improvised performances on the piano, saxophone, percussion, electric guitar, and more. Right from the first track, an often times sparse, yet still energetic performance, recorded September 24 2000, the listener will be pleased by the talent displayed here. Accessibility is out the door, and chaos in the vein of Brotzmann and perhaps even Coleman is what we're treated to. The performance's "climax" occurs with about ten minutes to go in the piece, when the electric guitar and drum combo gets real vicious, smashing about like a free jazz drill. Things cool down with a short piano and sax bit, but not for long as all the instruments join efforts in the last five minutes, creating a cataclysmic cacophony of noise to finish the performance off. The second performance, at Theatre "Poo" in Tokyo is a similar thirty improv performance of the same quality as the first. The dribbling guitarwork is of special significance, although the other instruments are also used with fantastic fluency. Demented slurs characterize the saxophone, whereas the drum stutters madly and the piano rolls along with ease. Track number three, aka the finale, is only eight minutes long. It's a warmer, gentler piece until the final three minutes, when things become explosive; the drums fire away like a machine gun until the last bit, when everything calms down for the end. Sotto Voce is not going to appeal to most audiences. That's not the idea. This is a free jazz album for free jazz fans. The Japanese improv scene is quickly emerging to international significance, and this underground artifact gives you three reasons not to miss out. - Matt Shimmer

(Touching Extremes) Japanese improvising group consisting of piano, sax, guitar and drums, Sotto Voce deepen their sparse ortography with character and mastery of tension accumulation/release. Playing self-possessed they elucubrate through peaceful transitions to arrive straight to a noisier core, like they had to undergo any grade before blasting out full power. Their music make-up is valid and lasting, due to a pretty balanced use of never overcharged techniques; the general context privileges the group's collective effort as opposed to spotting over single parts. This is a quartet tending to an outward projection and certainly an interesting ensemble to keep an eye on. - Massimo Ricci

(Ampersand Etcetera 7/2005) A quartet of piano, sax, guitar and drums the three tracks were recorded in 99, 00 and 01. Two long tracks - nearly 30 minutes - of shifting improvisation. The piano provides the stable foundation which the rest of the instruments play over/with. There are solos, duos, trios and the whole foursome at various times, squonking and riffing and noising. The guitar gets some electronica and feedback going: these two are fast rides of building tension and release. And through it all the piano keeps offering a tuneful core that the other instruments either accept or ignore. The short final track is more coherent and focussed, but still energetic. An exciting album of edgy stuff. - Jeremy Keens


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