Okura Müller Yoshida

For4Ears CD 1759

Does vocal improvisation have to sound as if it has been created by a homo sapient? The question may seem oxymoronic, yet when applied to this session and the mouth-work of Japanese vocalist Ami Yoshida is become more than academic

For the Tokyo-based vocalist, who has worked with such instrumental sound manipulators as Yoshihide Otomo and Christof Kurzmann comes up with yelps and cries that are not so much non-human as non-descriptive. Here for instance, what appears from her throat, vocal chords, lips, glottis and tongue is effectively indistinguishable from the textures created by Tokyo-based Masahiko Okura’s alto saxophone and hollow tubes, and Swiss resident Günter Müller manipulation of an ipod and electronics,

Whether the result on this four-track CD is the substance of disquiet or equanimity depends on how aurally descriptive the listener demands a session appear. For instance on “Kitashinagawa-Lupsingen 3”, Yoshida’s inchoate glottal cries and burbling pitches could as easily arise from Müller’s buzzing and pitch-modulated motorized textures or Okura’s tongue-stopped yaps and body tube vibrations. With the pitch-sliding expostulations so convergent, the polyphonic result is a fusing of the human and the instrumental.

Luckily, Okura – who has recorded in the past with Tetuzi Akiyama on turntables, radio, air duster and electronics – and Müller – a former percussionist who has concentrated on electronics since the turn of the century and played with nearly every reductionist stylist from French reedist Michel Doneda to Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro – take her verbalizations in stride. If Yoshida’s self-described “howling voice” aims to be barely audible and perceived as pure sound rather than vocalization, so be it, they reason.

The trio stretches sonic interface to its limits on “Shibuya”, the CD’s defining, nearly-27-minute, lead-off track, recorded a year earlier than the other three. Infused with the energy of an initial meeting, but operating within her home-town comfort level, the three are able to quickly internalize one another’s ideas and go on from there. Native soil may make a difference for the vocalist – a recent one-off meeting with Swiss percussionist Fredy Studer in his home town didn’t gel at all.

Before the final dissolve on this CD, however, the bravado improvisation works its way up from near silence to a crescendo of polyphonic tones and trimbral layering. For a start Yoshida’s falsetto vocal shrills contrast with Okura’s lip smacks and tongue slaps, while rumbling beneath this is the grinding of triggered electronic pulses. As the vocalist’s thrush warbling diminishes to cuckoo clock-like shrills and rubato lip bubbles, these tones are positioned within the whistling waves of colored air blown through reedist’s body tube. Meanwhile, the crackle and pops of wiggling, electronic pulsations resound as both horizontal ostinato and pitter-pattering percussion. Before rerouted inside this constant rumble, Yoshida’s vocalization defines itself with a back-of-throat squeal, which is echoed by a single saxophone trill. Eventually intermittent gurgles and mouth-breathed twitters vanish beneath electronic timbres.

Acceptance of three individuals and three instruments as one indivisible entity is necessary to fully appreciate Tanker. If the adventurous listener can do so, he or she will be amply sonically – and audibly – rewarded.

— Ken Waxman


Track Listing: 1. Shibuya 2. Kitashinagawa-Lupsingen 1 3. Kitashinagawa-Lupsingen 2 4. Kitashinagawa-Lupsingen 3

Personnel: Masahiko Okura (alto saxophone and tubes); Günter Müller (ipod and electronics) and Ami Yoshida (voice)