Let’s be honest, duos mining the so-called experimental music field are not new. But then again, can you really call the turntable a “new” instrument? People have “played” the turntable, on it, beside and inside it, for years now. Luckily for us (partially due to the popularity of rap) over the last two decades, there has been a resurgence of this neglected instrument. These three discs document the 2003 collaboration of two of the most innovative turntablists around: Quebec-based Martin Tétreault and Japanese Otomo Yoshihide. Together they create a maelstrom of turntable fury.
1. Grrr was meant to document the noisiest moments from the duo’s 2003 European tour. To be fair, it’s not the chaotic and obscenely ferocious acts of turntable mutilation that I take pleasure in on this CD. What excites me most are those quiet and pensive moments (such as on Nijmegen no 4b / Extrapool 25.04.03) that turn the preconceived sound of the turntable upside down. There is a definite pulsing beat to this piece. You hear a warm, glowing core here, not a human machine used to play LPs. This is one of the signs of a great duo, of a duo that is more than happy to experiment to get fresh results and unfamiliar sounds deep from their instruments. How many other turntable duos do you know that can make their instruments mimic a duo of a (high-pitched) alto player and a bassist? Final word of warning – 1. Grrr is not for the faint of heart. It is for those that need a huge jolt with their usual dose of mundane music.
I think 2. Tok was meant to showcase the more cut’n’paste approach to both musicians’ work. The album alternates between the obscure and the bizarre in a matter of a minute and the listener gets taken for a wild ride. The effect is quite spectacular. Tiny shifts in timbre, pitch and essence, this time around the music is about the texture rather than pure shock value. Pieces are dense but palatable to the ear. There’s more crackle than pop as the sounds are strangely pasted and layered in a fashion one could not imagine. This isn’t necessarily a sign of maturity (their work stands fine on its own merit – age has nothing to do with it). Simply put, both men needed to outline a part of their working relationship that didn’t get much exposure in the past. Abrasive to some, while welcoming to others, it’s best to let the sounds take their own course and declare a verdict afterwards. 2. Tok then is not about style, it is about the means in which an idea gets put across.
Finally, to close off this trilogy we get 3. Ahhh. Whether you’d like to take this literally or not (“Ahhh” could be a sign of relief as much as it is a declaration of restful state), the record is the most quiet one of the bunch. Now, the duo concentrates exclusively on the art of silence. It’s the state of the unheard, the art of the less explored that the duo are mining. Sure, you need patience for this record as the individual pieces develop slowly, often times leaving us without a resolution or a climax of sorts. Rather, it’s the journey that excites the two. Sound is suggested and implied. There is no direct over-the-top delivery here. You really have to listen to hear – to truly HEAR this record. Subtle pulsing heartbeats, huge machines revving up but never starting and that warmth are all here for the taking. In fact, the entire record proves that turntables can be very human, very organic and most obviously very lovable instruments.
If I had to pick a personal favourite, from a conceptual standpoint, 3. Ahhh turns out to be the highlight of the trilogy. Kudos go to the record label [Ambiances Magnétiques, distributed by DAME] that decided to push the entire trilogy as stand-alone releases to the market.