February 6, 2003

Test Spin: Otomo Yoshihido's New Jazz

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Otomo Yoshihide is one of the most varied and ingenious innovators of our time. His restlessly experimental spirit has taken him from one genre to the next, and he has explored virtually every known and many unknown corners of improv, noise, and fringe music. His latest project approaches traditional jazz, warping its conventions while staying true to the genre’s intentions.

Dreams features Japanese pop singers Phew and Togawa Jun accompanying a tight jazz outfit on a set of unusual covers. The highlight is a sprawling 16-minute version of Jim O’Rourke’s “Eureka,” which slows down the lovely source melody and undergirds it with Sachiko M’s flow of warm, vibrating sine waves.

The entire album is characterized by intricate, beautiful arrangements. The two vocalists sing elegantly (apparently, in Japan, “pop” is not synonymous with “suck”), their impassioned performances adding to the album’s best moments. Subtle, creative, and full of life, Dreams is a vital recording, an unlikely fusion of jazz with pop and the avant-garde that makes the combination seem as natural as breathing.

Archived article by Ed Howard