Avant Art Festival 2019: Otomo Yoshihide solo + Movie “We don’t care about music anyway”

TR Warszawa, Warsaw, 01/10/19

Avant Art Festival is held in Poland annually, in Wrocław since 2008, and also in Warsaw since 2017. The festival presents a range of avant-garde music artists, but also noise and experimental electronic representatives.

I flew from Oslo straight to the concert, to finally meet and hear live one of my favourite Japanese artists, my Dad’s musical guru and friend – Otomo Yoshihide. We caught him before the concert in the restaurant and joined for a long chat. He was really excited to be back in Poland after a while. We remembered legendary concert my Dad organized for Otomo and his band Otomo Yoshihide’s New Jazz Ensemble at Era Nowe Horyzonty Festival in Cieszyn in 2004. It’s a pity that I was only 9 years old back then, unaware and too young to participate. But I’ve heard it was remarkable and I have no doubt about that.

My Dad has the same ringtone and alarmclock since maybe 20 years, and of course those are not one of those standard jingles you find in your phone. He chose tracks from Ground Zero’s (certainly, Otomo’s the founder) album “Plays Standards”. As his alarmclock he set El Derecho De Vivir En Paz / Shinoshin 3/4 (part from 00:20-1:20) – this one is one of my favourites. After telling this to Otomo, My Dad frantically said: “Call me! Call me now!”. Otomo was over the moon to hear that it was actually true. This conversation actually inspired him that night, as he confessed to us after the concert, to use and work some tunes from this album in his performance.

Movie: “We don’t care about music anyway” (directed by Cédric Dupire & Gaspard Kuentz)

Before the concert, there was a screening of a movie “We don’t care about music anyway”. It’s a short story about Tokyo’s avant-garde music scene, featuring eight Japanese artists (including Sakamoto Hiromichi, Otomo Yoshihide, Yamakawa Fuyuki). The movie confronts their music, point of view, and funny histories with an unlikely view of Tokyo, combining sound and picture, reality and fiction, strangeness and truth. I loved the interfluent images and scenes, replenished by the avant-garde and psychedelic sounds. Some scenes especially seared into my memory. Cello player, Hiromichi Sakamoto, was telling in the movie that his instrument is perceived as kind of bourgeois in Japan. The movie began with a scene in an abandoned house, where he “plays” cello and make sounds by using many different objects and inconvenient playing methods. For example he uses a toy ball-gun and shoots into the cello, he drags the cello on the concrete… And then he cuts of the cable and suddenly the picture disappears. In order to make cello less “fancy”, at the end of his performances, he turns it upside down and uses a polisher (!) at the end of the tail spike, so that the actual electric sparks are coming out of it!

Picture: https://www.radioazja.pl/o.do?id=62&mid=148

Concert

Otomo’s performance was divided into two, 20-minute sets each. While everyone was still talking, he quietly got up on stage in his big black hat, so that most of the audience didn’t even noticed him until…

First set was on turntables. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the powerful soundwave and the audience was electrocuted by the pure noise. He didn’t use the covers at all, so it felt like a real hardcore. He was smashing and tossing his instrument, creating a true experimental performance with rattled and twisted sounds. Second set was solo on guitar and this might have been taken as more “gentle” than the previous one, yet still ferocious and structured. Those who listened attentively, might have also heard Otomo’s interpretation of “Song for Che”.

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