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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Aishi Oyauchi -Hikureteyomowakuraku (Armageddon Nova, 2016) ****

By Nicola Negri

Aishi Oyauchi – curved soprano saxophone

In 2013, Deathrash Armageddon, a Japanese label usually devoted to black metal, created the sublabel Armageddon Nova expressly to release the LP Now’s The Time? by saxophonist Aishi Oyauchi and bassist Deku. It was the first studio recording by these musicians, even if they were already in their 60s and with a long experience in free jazz and improvisation, and it presented a beautifully constructed, pensive exploration of minimal improvisational strategies and subtle dynamics. In the following years Oyauchi continued recording for the label, releasing the solo double CD Wrong Exit in 2015, and this Hikureteyomowakuraku, again a solitary endeavor, in 2016.

The title track that opens the album is a disorienting rendition of the traditional hymn “Abide With Me” – an hesitant performance slowly assembling the melody, distilled to its bare essentials with aching intensity. The remainder of the record is a suite of eight tracks that provides a better picture of Oyauchi’s peculiar style, with his passion for folk-like melodies, obsessive repetitions and abrupt diversions. There’s a certain abandon to the proceedings that highlights the spontaneity of the improvisation, and at the same time there’s a clear structural logic at work, with most of the pieces following analogous patterns, each track given a precise identity by focusing on a particular aspect of the performance. “Kaze I” begins with a simple melodic idea that Oyauchi develops through incremental additions and continuous adjustments, using dynamics to give shape and substance to the improvisation; “Kaze IV” is a showcase for the saxophonist’s serpentine phrasing and sharp upper register articulations while “Kaze VII” is at first focused on breathy, relaxed saxophone lines eventually giving space to more complex constructions, constantly growing in intensity and leading to an abrupt ending.

Throughout the album Oyauchi employs small metallic objects or the saxophone keys to create little percussive vignettes, further shaping the tunes with a prominent use of silence and asymmetrical structures. The common thread that connects all together is the thorough exploration of the saxophone’s potential, approached with simplicity and enthusiasm, and even if the instrumental technique is quite refined, there’s an always noticeable sense of discovery and surprise that gives the record a mysterious, sometimes perplexing but ultimately fascinating character.

Listen to “Kaze I”: