Roger Turner & Otomo Yoshihide: The Last Train

Fataka CD and download

Now I know what Icarus must have felt like. At times listening to this elemental meeting feels like facing the boiling heat of the midday sun. We the listeners are wax, melting in the face of Yoshihide and Turner’s scorching combustion, a slow-moving explosion that seems to generate enough energy to power a small city. That they create this mighty and elemental sound with only the barest of materials is even more admirable.

The duo mostly eschews freak-out wiggery for sparse, restrained playing, an approach that only strengthens the album’s intensity. Turner focuses on cymbals, chimes and percussion for much of the 40-minute set, with rustling, pattering grooves that generate an almost unbearable tension, only occasionally bursting forth in thundering fills.

After an initial burst of dissonance and feedback – kind of like a free improv version of a power chord – Yoshihide, too, keeps things pared back. On The Wait, his interventions are almost painfully restrained at first, coaxing out a hollow minimal whine as Turner skitters aggressively around, before plucking out a series of unbalanced, broken figures. Towards the end of that 16-minute piece, and following an extended section of almost silence, he conjures up some unsettling high frequency whistles that turn into almost electronic oscillations, like some deranged computerised birdsong.

Another long piece, the 11-minute Crack at the end of the album, extends that stifling, desert-like atmosphere, with Turner’s gongs and chimes again establishing boiling tension, through which Yoshihide’s guitar squeals and squeaks like iron debris, before the two lock together in a cymbal and plucked harmonic frenzy, Yoshihide’s notes swirling like spores through Turner’s increasingly unhinged clattering.

Sitting between these two scorching pieces are a couple of shorter, more percussive tracks. The Sign nods towards more typical stop-start improv, with Turner getting busy on the snares and toms and Yoshihide opening up with feedback blasts and volume-pedal controlled squawks for a bruising, boulder-strewn knockabout.

This all continues in the much shorter Run, with Yoshihide’s guitar seeming to take greater prominence, yowling and shimmering in jagged shards. His use of the volume pedal gives his playing an unnerving and mesmerising quality, taking the attack off the distorted notes and letting the thick, gluey fuzz wrap itself around Turner’s smashed rhythms, a cobra among ruins, swaying, about to strike.

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