Signal to Noise
Despite the hi-tech concept of the "laser-koto" (Miya Masaoka takes the venerable Japanese instrument into the 21st century via MIDI), the traditional 21-string instrument and its tuning system is also happily still in evidence, sounding at times like a viol consort ("A Wing") or a harp ("Glyph"), and providing saxophonist John Butcher with plenty of opportunities to show us that he's still got a fabulous ear for pitch (especially on "Cae"), even though he's perhaps best known for pushing his instrument into areas of extended technique. The range of sonorities these three musicians manage to come up with is extraordinary - Gino Robair's extended kit includes a "faux dax" and various bowed and motorized contraptions, and his quietly shimmering cymbals and Butcher's hazy multiphonics fuse perfectly on "Covert" to create an exquisite textural backdrop for Masaoka's gentle high register plucking to dance in front of. Weird and wonderful sounds for their own sake don't guarantee great improvisation, though - what makes these twelve pieces so convincing is not their diversity of timbre, but rather the satisfying and strong sense of structure that comes from a shared commitment to virtuoso playing and listening.
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