Jazz / Free Jazz
Drone / Ambient
Outsider / Art Brut
Sound Art / Spoken Word
Indie / Rock
Folk / Song
In house label for Cafe OTO which documents the venue's programme of experimental and new music, alongside re-issuing crucial archival releases.
2023 repress of the OTOROKU re-issue of the legendary English free improvisation LP 'The Topography of The Lungs' by Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Han Bennink. This was Evan Parker’s first recording as a "leader" and was the first release on Incus, the label Parker founded with guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer Tony Oxley.
This re-issue has been produced from an original vinyl pressing from Evan's archives - carefully transcribed and restored by Andreas [LUPO] Lubich at Calyx in Berlin and features the original liner notes from Parker along with updated notes penned in 2014.
"To talk further of the music we play is difficult. It’s criteria for success exist, but are elusive and indefinable beyond the intuitive level. We operate without rules (pre-composed material) or well-defined code of behaviour (fixed tempi, tonalities, serial structures etc.), and yet are able to distinguish success from failure." - From Evan Parker’s original liner notes (1970)
This pressing of The Topography of The Lungs comes in a limited edition of 500 copies.
The Topography of the Lungs – Evan Parker / Derek Bailey / Han Bennink
Delighted to present a series of solo double bass improvisations and compositions from London-based musician, Caius Williams, recorded in March 2023.
Across Gwannach's eight tracks Williams' playing spans a wide range of texture and tactility, that at times seems to conjure forth every bit of weight and heft of the instrument’s body and at other times barely seems to graze the strings.
Williams gives the impression of being fully present in every aspect of the performance, with the recordings capturing each hiss and rasp of bow on string, each shift and knock of palm on (wooden) body; embracing all of these aspects as being just as much of the whole as the resultant vibration of the strings.
There’s an undeniable abundance of technical prowess on display here, but this is no dry academic exercise, and the medium is never the totality of the message. Each of these tracks encompasses a broad swathe of approaches, from gritty fuzz and burr to harmonic-inflected lyricism, and an almost playful curiosity in approach that never feels forced. Above all you get the sense of a fully embodied performance, with each track being given just the right amount of space and depth that it requires.
The 'weakness' of the album's title can, at times, stand in stark contrast to the physicality of the performances, but perhaps we shouldn't take this too literally. After all, the relative strength of a single strand of horsehair may not withstand much, but it can still bring forth as much beauty as can be found here.
All music by Caius WilliamsSession engineered by William LydonMixed by Caius WilliamsMastered by Oli BarrettArtwork by Kit Derbyshire
Thanks to Theo, Tara, and Noah for their advice, to Kit for the artwork, and a huge thanks to Abby Thomas, Oli Barrett, and OTOROKU. Special thanks to Tom Challenger for the support.
Caius Williams – Gwannach
A collection of beautifully realised pieces from Tokyo-based sonic artist, Akhira Sano, whose work focuses on the imperfections and irregularities of form and sound.
Across the album's eight tracks, clusters of notes gradually emerge and unfold in a way that appears minimal at first but soon becomes totally enveloping - it quickly becomes clear that the space left between the notes is perfectly shaped for the listener themself. It could be the time of year in which this album is being released, but there's a cozy glow to in front of's sound world that almost requires you to stop what you're doing and curl up inside it.
This is a not an album which calls attention to itself, rather it draws the listener in through the understated intimacy of each composition - there’s a power in a fragility which is offered up so unselfconsciously. Nothing is hurried here, Sano gives each note its own time and space in which to emerge and the result is a soft, crepuscular, sonic blanket in which to wrap yourself in completely.
All tracks written and recorded by Akhira SanoMastered by Oli BarrettCover design by Oli Barrett
in front of – Akhira Sano
First vinyl re-issue of Evan Parker’s duo with George Lewis. Transferred from the original masters, we discovered that the original Incus LP was cut at the wrong speed - and so, we present the first vinyl issue of the correct masters, or ‘mastas’ as Adam Skeaping, legendary engineer who is also responsible for Six of One and Compatibles, fondly calls them.
Skeaping, always working with the latest in recording technology for the time, has a knack for gaining access to remarkable spaces. Good spaces that were cheap because no one else had discovered them. The Art Workers Guild is a Georgian Hall in Bloomsbury, London, with lofty ceilings and hard wooden floors. It’s the perfect room to exercise an instrument to its full length, to ‘run the full length of the staircase’ in Parker's words. Two bells to ring off the floor and remain in dextrous, airy resonance. Recorded at 30ips on enormous reels, the recording captures all the fine filigree detail so celebrated on Parker’s later ‘Six of One’, though here we are treated to tenor as well as soprano, plus, of course, George Lewis’ trombone.
Parker and Lewis first met at Moers festival, Lewis having just played excerpts of Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ with Anthony Braxton. Living in Paris, it wasn’t so hard for a young Parker to invite him for a session on his new imprint, Incus. Though having been part of the AACM, toured with Count Basie and made records for Black Saint, this would be Lewis’ first foray into British improv, excited by the idea the Bailey and Parker were attempting to open up the notion of improvisation to include “the freshness of the immediate encounter”.
Lewis had not long recorded his solo LP, which mixes lively hints of Ellington and tender lyricism with total experimentation in three part overdubbed trombone. From Saxophone to Trombone veers towards his wilder end of technicality, and features some of Lewis’ rarer, starker improv - all avant garde burbles and bubbles, breath control and scalar flights. It’s a recording of two young masters, documented beautifully, and released for the first time on vinyl at its intended speed.
Evan Parker and George Lewis – From Saxophone and Trombone
LP reissue of Collective Calls, the first duo LP from Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lytton. Mythically alluded to as ‘An Improvised Urban Psychodrama In Eight Parts”, Collective Calls utilises electronics, pre-records and homemade instruments to wryly in/act self investigation. Having just recorded the cliff jumping Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey, Christine Jeffrey, Hugh Davies and Jamie Muir, Parker was at the point where [he] was thinking, ‘what’s the next thing?’ On Collective Calls, only the 5th release to appear on the newly minted Incus label, percussionist Paul Lytton arrives with an arsenal of sound making sources to push Parker into ever new territory.
Recorded in the loft of The Standard Essenco Co on Southwark Street by Bob Woolford (Topography of the Lungs, AMM The Crypt), Collective Calls has more in common with noise or music concrete than with jazz; sitting comfortably alongside Italian messrs Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza or the husband-wife duo of Anima Sound. According to Martin Davidson, it was a Folkways record called Sounds of the Junkyard that Lytton was obsessed with around the time of this release - its track titles like “Steel Saw Cutting Channel Iron in Two Places” working to give you a good idea of the atmosphere of Collective Calls.
Paul Lytton had encountered the use of electronics in music in 1968 when he was invited to play drums on the recording of An Electric Storm by White Noise (along with David Vorhaus, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson). He had seen Hugh Davies using contact mics in the Music Improvisation Company, and soon set about assembling a Dexion frame akin to drummer John Stevens’, except that his own was armed with several single-coil electric guitar pickups, long wires and strings with connected foot-pedals to modulate pitch. Influenced as much by Stockhausen, Cage and David Tudor as he was by Max Roach and Milford Graves, Lytton’s percussion is abstract, expressionist and at times totally mutant.
Sometimes rolling extremely fast, then screeching almost backwards over feedback, Lytton gives Parker room to play some of his weirdest work. Parker is listed as performing both saxophones, his own homemade contraptions, and cassette recorder - regularly thickening the already murky brew by playing back previous recordings of the duo.
Imagining their set up in a 70s loft, it’s an assemblage more akin to what today's free ears might see at a Sholto Dobie show, spread out on the floor of the Hundred Years Gallery, the shadow of Penultimate Press lurking in a corner. It’s a testament to Parker’s shape shifting sound - the ever present link to birdsong being at its most warped here - terrifically free and unfussy, wild and loose from any of the dogma that might come in later Brit-prov years.
Evan Parker and Paul Lytton – Collective Calls (Urban) (Two Microphones)
OTOROKU is proud to reissue Evan Parker's first solo LP "Saxophone Solos". Recorded by Martin Davidson in 1975 at the Unity Theatre in London, at that time the preferred concert venue of the Musicians' Co-operative, Parker's densely woven and often cyclical style has yet to form; instead throaty murmurs appear under rough hewn whistles and calls - the wildly energetic beginnings of an extraordinary career.
Reissued with liner notes from Seymour Wright in an edition of 500.
"The four pieces across the two sides of Saxophone Solos – Aerobatics 1 to 4 – are testing, pressured, bronchial spectaculars of innovation and invention and determination. Evan tells four stories of exploration and imagination without much obvious precedent. Abstract Beckettian cliff-hanging detection/logic/magic/mystery. The conic vessel of the soprano saxophone here recorded contains the ur-protagonists: seeds, characters, settings, forces, conflicts, motions, for new ideas, to delve, to tap and to draw from it story after story as he has on solo record after record for 45 years. ‘Aerobatics 1-3’ were recorded on 17 June 1975, by Martin Davidson at Parker’s first solo performance. This took place at London’s Unity Theatre in Camden. ‘Aerobatics 4’ was recorded on 9 September the same year, by Jost Gebers in the then FMP studio in Charlottenburg, Berlin. Music of balance and gravity, fulcra, effort, poise and enquiry. Sounds thrown and shaken into and out of air, metal and wood. It is – as the titles suggest – spectacular." - Seymour Wright, 2020.
Evan Parker – Saxophone Solos
Recording of the stunning first set performed by the trio of Peter Brötzmann, Steve Noble and John Edwards at Cafe OTO in January 2010 during Brotzmann's first residency at the venue. This was also the first time the trio had played together.
Recorded at Cafe OTO by Shane Browne, mixed by John Edwards and Mastered by Andres [LUPO] Lupich at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
"On an east London side street, Café Oto hosts a programme of international experimental sounds to shame subsidised arts temples, drawing demographic-defying crowds of all ages through its doors. The first release on Oto's own label, available as an authentic vinyl slab or a slippery download, is a 40-minute splurge of sax, drums and bass skronk, live at the venue in 2010, from the German free-jazz giant Brötzmann and two stars of the London improv scene. Unrepeatable moments of collective inspiration and sudden sunlit shafts of modal near melody punctuate the continuing energy blur. Business as usual down Dalston Junction." Stewart Lee, The Sunday Times "Since it opened in Dalston in April 2008, Café OTO has become London's new music venue of choice for the likes of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Joe McPhee, Mats Gustafsson – and Peter Brötzmann, whose first residency at the club in January 2010 yielded this inaugural release on OtoRoku, Café OTO’s new in-house label. The night in question was the first time Brötzmann had played with bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble, and the decision to team them up was inspired. With Alan Wilkinson, or in Decoy with Alex Hawkins and NEW with Alex Ward, Edwards and Noble have a deserved reputation as a thrilling high-energy rhythm section. And as Brötzmann is no slouch when it comes to high-energy playing, the combination is explosive. Right from the start of the set – the first that evening – it's obvious why this was selected to christen the label. All three players jump straight into top gear, with Brötzmann setting a cracking pace, his torrent of sound characterised by that hard-edged tone which makes him such compelling listening. ...the worse the better sets a high standard for subsequent releases to match. But, as every night at Café OTO is recorded and there's a wealth of fine music waiting in the wings, including quality recordings from Otomo Yoshihide and Wadada Leo Smith, OtoRoku looks like a label to watch." John Eyles, Paris Transatlantic
"These two extended improvisations, recorded in January 2010 during Brötzmann’s first residency at OTO, finds the group attaining near-telepathic modes of interconnectedness, despite this being the trio’s first outing together. From the off, Brötzmann’s gills are gurning, throwing up torrents of molten roar, while Noble’s mule-kicking at the traps reels out ride hits like a baby sporting a bonnet of bees." - Spencer Grady, BBC Music
"Does the world need another Brötzmann album? Probably not, but as the inaugural release on Cafe OTO's in-house high quality vinyl-only label, this one is cause for celebration. Recorded there - superbly well, too - during Brötzmann's residency in January 2012, this is no frills straight-up free jazz, solos and all, pitting the Firebreather of Wuppertal against the might local rhythm team (yes, they can and do swing hard) of John Edwards and Steve Noble. All three are on outstanding form, from the opening yelp - when it comes to Big Bang beginning, nobody does it better than Brötzmann - to Edwards's snarling drone 38 minutes later. Shame engineer Shane Browne slammed thos faders down so brutally: for once, you feel like joining in with the whoops and hollers of the punters." - Dan Warburton, The WIRE
THE WORSE THE BETTER – BROETZMANN / EDWARDS / NOBLE
Born in Tbilisi, Nargilə Mehtiyeva aka Aşıq Nargilə has been playing saz (long-neck lute) and singing since the age of 15. Fluent in Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Russian, Nargilə represents the cosmopolitan heritage of old Tbilisi, a city once known as a meeting point for multilingual aşıq bards who would travel through the region serving as conduits for news, ideas, music and culture. Nargilə is currently the only female aşıq living and performing in the ethnic Azeri region of Georgia, and has been teaching the art to new generations.
This is a recording of Aşıq Nargilə's first concert in the UK. Recorded live at Cafe OTO on the 18th October 2014 by James Dunn. The pieces performed are named after the traditional saz aşıq havası (melodies) they are based on. Lyrics are taken from destan epics, regional poetry and Nargile’s own lyrics to match the rhyming patterns of these melodies. Yanıq Kerem (1) and Ruhani (7) are both instrumental pieces which depict their own stories without words. Ay Ceyranım (5) is a popular song performed at weddings across Azerbaijan.
Aşıq Nargilə Mehtiyeva: Saz (long-necked lute) and Söz (vocals)
1. Yaniq Keremi
2. Yurt Yeri
5. Ay Ceyrani
6. Bas Saritel
8. Orta Saritel
Yurt Yeri – Asiq Nargile
Captivating and deeply felt new audio work by Blanc Sceol, aka the duo of Stephen Shiell and Hannah White. Originally commissioned for broadcast on the deep sea 'Radio Amnion' sound project, the piece is written for and performed on the bespoke, one-of-a-kind Orbit instrument, designed and made by Stephen and Hannah in collaboration with master luthier Kai Tönjes. Over the course of thirty minutes the piece drifts and unfurls in an entrancing, enveloping flow, utilising the instrument's unique sonic qualities to create something truly special.
This recording is Blanc Sceol's response to a commission from Jol Thoms to create a new audio work for the June edition of his deep sea sound project 'Radio Amnion', where, each month at the time of the full moon, the abyssal waters of Cascadia Basin resonate with the deep frequencies and voices of invited artists, relayed in the sea through a submerged neutrino telescope experiment’s calibration system.
Through the duo's sound and ecology work with Surge Cooperative on the Channelsea river they have found connection to Abbey Mills pumping station, Joseph Bazalgette’s Victorian ‘cathedral of sewage’, his overground homage to the underground network of pipes, an operational site that still moves water and humanure beneath the city today.
This audio work captures the spinning frequencies of the Orbit, recorded in the chambers of the sewer substation, to be played out to the depths of the deep sea, creating a poetic resonance between these sounds and spaces, a spell of connection between the clear, linear, progressive features of our engineered water networks and the dark, wet, yielding, cyclical unknowns of the deep sea, where the sub station searches for neutrinos and on the full moon translates human-made frequencies into light and vibration for the seafloor.
The words in the piece are a series of ‘one word poems’ created by participants from Blanc Sceol's ‘Sonic Meditations with the Full Moon’ sessions over the last year. Working with moon time through our deep listening practice, and the tidal phases of the Channelsea river, Orbit coordinates these cyclical flows in celebration of the fullness of the cosmic body that holds the tension between the earth and its inhabitants, and gives us all rhythm.
Orbit the instrument:The Orbit consists of a red cedar decagon body, the resonating chamber, which is spun by one set of hands, bringing rhythm and flow with the changing pace of the orbit, as the other hands hold a bow to the ten strings, seeking out the varying chords and harmonic frequencies. As the two work together so the orbit begins to sing and soar, a myriad of changing, whirling pitch shifting drones.
In 2017 Stephen created a prototype instrument, inspired by Uakti’s ‘torre’ and Walter Smetak’s ‘Ronda’, a plastic barrel strung with ten strings and played by two people - one who turns the barrel, and one who holds a bow to the strings. Many years and many tweaks later, in early 2023 we finally collaborated with master luthier Kai Tönjes to create an upgraded version, and ‘Orbit’ was born.
Mixed and mastered by Ian ThompsonCover design by Oli Barrett from photos by Joe Thoms
Originally commissioned by and broadcast on Radio Anion: https://radioamnion.net/
Orbit – Blanc Sceol
Musician, writer and filmmaker, Sunik Kim follows up ‘The Bent Bow Must Wait to Be Released’ (Takuroku 2021) with their second LP - a deadly serious dismantling of the limits of contemporary computer music, delivered with playful dexterity and a touch of slapstick humour, a la Henry Cow.
Enlisting General MIDI to create frenetic, vital patterns of dis-organisation made up of gleeful synthetic trumpets, wry orchestral sweeps and brutal key clusters, Sunik Kim explodes a kind of simplistic sound into complex, beautifully uncertain structures. Rather than attempting to overwhelm or stun the listener into subjectivity, ‘Potential’ is ever shifting; regularly breaking form and unfolding, discreetly nibbling at the concept of the Spectacle and un-doing fatally closed systems of cyclic music.
On first listens we recalled Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, Stockhausen’s Gruppen, and even those weirdo attempts at making music from inside the world of Animal Crossing, Lil Jürg Frey. The overflowing ideas of Henry Cow (to which Kim dedicated a fantastically blended mix for the Wire in 2021) never drift too far from view, but contemporary counterparts lay few except for Yorkshire's most eminent polyceleratrix, Gretchen Aury, who we asked to write the liners. Gretchen’s words are unsurprisingly as extraordinary as the record itself, so we’ll close out the call to elicit a Media response to possibly the wildest OTOROKU yet with their words:
“Potential reads as a rare honest response to the disaster capitalist era of the apparent nearing end of the anthropocene, a cyborg music which is not hopelessly psychotic like so much contemporary and especially computer-requiring music, but lucidly possessed with rapture, pain, madness, empathy, ecstasy, torment, fragility; all those vital feelings and incentives which our atrociously depressing times seem engineered to quash and bleed out of us. This sound is a blistering Electro Magnetic Pulse wave of revolutionary hope, exclaiming defiantly that History is not over, that the future is not ‘history,’ that there is still a vast multitude of ideas and identities burning brightly and resiliently, despite the fact that they are inconceivable to the tyrannical Hegemonic axis of global capitalist tech-culture. I ask of you, listener, if you truly wish to plunge beyond The Known, give yourself over in full to this record.”
Artwork by Sunik Kim
Layout and design by Jeroen Wille
Liner notes by Vymethoxy Redspiders
Mastered by Anotine Nouel at Sound Love Studios
Track 1 edited by John Wall
Sunik Kim – Potential
“Two Duos” is pressed from cellist Okkyung Lee’s most recent OTO Residency; the first side a duo with Jérôme Noetinger on Revox B77 and the second with Nadia Ratsimandresy on ondes Martenot. Cut together, the two meetings seem to raise three cellos in the search for expressive voice: the cello, it’s magnetic reproduction, and the dual controls of the machine invented to expand on its musical qualities.
On the A side Noetinger’s opening tape hiss establishes a current; an electrical partner who gives Lee room to slide across and stretch out. Progressively the cello is returned, duplicated and manipulated with increased velocity and distortion. Noetinger draws out the full extent of Lee’s extended technique; rewinding strands of Lee's horse hair and transmuting her percussive attacks into shuddering echos, before letting his own concrete interjections spin the duo's sonic tussle into an almost romantic daydream.
On side B the ondes (invented by French cellist and wartime radio operator Maurice Eugene Louis Martenot and so loved by Bernard Parmegiani, Varese and Messiaen) seems shaken from classical tradition and those long, drawn out horrorscapes it has come to be associated with. In a duel with Lee, Ratsimandresy grasps the ondes’ extraordinary capacity for dexterity, nuance and speed, hounding Lee’s cello in a bid to drive her instrument out of the past and into the future.
Two fantastic pairings and a testament to the freshness with which Lee and her collaborators continue to work with their instruments.
Okkyung Lee / cello
Jérôme Noetinger / revox b77
Nadia Ratsimandresy / ondes martenot
Recorded live at Cafe OTO on Thursday 28th March & Friday 29th March by Paul Skinner and Shaun Crook. Mixed and mastered by Lasse Marhaug. Designed by Maja Larrson. ROKU027.
Two Duos – Okkyung Lee / Jérôme Noetinger / Nadia Ratsimandresy
First physical solo release from legendary vocal improvisor, dancer, and performer Maggie Nicols, and the follow up to Creative Contradiction (Takuroku 2020).
"This is music as social commentary, memoir, love letter, confessional. It’s Nicols doing what comes naturally, on a basis of practice and trust." Julian Cowley, The Wire
While she might be best known as an improviser (most notably in Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Feminist Improvising Group and more recently with the likes of Les Diaboliques), Maggie Nicols’ talents stretch into song, dance, poetry, performance and composition. When Cafe OTO was shut over lockdown we invited her to follow up the wonderful solo ‘Creative Contradiction’ with some time spent singing alone at the piano. ‘Are You Ready?’ comprises an LP of songs and a 2CD edition which includes a companion disk of freely improvised meditations entitled, ‘Whatever Arises’.
Songs - seemingly contradictory to the practices of free improvisation - have been a vital part in Nicols’ relationship to music. It was singing bebop with pianist Dennis Rose which nurtured and challenged Nicols, allowing her to develop her own skills and sound amongst a repertoire of standards sung in clubs and pubs. Vocalising alongside Julie Tippetts in Centipede showed her how heady experimentation could be woven into composition, and more recently a gig with pianist Steve Lodder played out ‘The Maggie Nicols Songbook.’
'Are You Ready?' recalls Nicols’ own compositions from memory, working out tunes and turning them over. New routes down old paths form in moments of improvisation and all wrong turns are played out with joyous discovery. What John Stevens dubbed Maggie's “ability to find the ‘rhythmelodic’” meets a willingness to be understood and to understand. Solo at the piano, Nicols is still firmly rooted in the collective however - “Sans Papiers” sets the words of poet Vicky Scrivener to tune; a story of migration and struggle which is as important to Nicols as the songs her mother wrote.
Such an intimate recording of her own compositions came with a certain amount of reflection and anxiety - best confronted with time spent freely improvising. ‘Whatever Arises’ - a companion disk to ‘Songs’ - is a meditation of sorts, a process of ‘following the energy’ which has its roots in John Stevens’ work. “Improvisation gives the confidence to compose,” Nicols told us in an interview about some of her archival tapes, and here the two are as important as each other. Beginning with breath and repetition, ‘Whatever Arises’ allows Nicols’ to find new voices, accompanied by the piano and over dubbings of her tap shoes on the concrete floor. Brilliantly she is able to share her moments of discovery with the listener, finding comfort in vulnerability. Whilst rooted in Stevens’ work, Nicols’ improvisational techniques also remind us of Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations. They are what has allowed Nicols to find her own sound, to ‘teach herself to fly.’ They have allowed Nicols to grow and share and to be able to keep close the songs that mean so much to her, now shared with us.
Please note - the LP and 2CD contain different material. If you'd like to order both at once, please select LP/CD.
Recorded at Cafe OTO on July 15th, 16th and 17th 2021 by Shaun Crook. Mixed by Shaun Crook. Mastered by Sean McCann. Artwork by Annalisa Colombara. Lettering by Rosella Garavaglia. Layout by Maja Larrson. ‘Slow Within The Urgency’ inspired by mindfulness teacher Jeff Warren. Original poem ‘Sans Papiers’ by Vicky Scrivener. Original poem ‘You Darkness’ by Rainer Maria Rilke. Music and lyrics to ‘Music Is The Healing Force of The Universe’ by Mary Maria Parks. LP printed on 100% recycled black vinyl.
Maggie Nicols – Are You Ready?
أحمد [Ahmed] – the quartet of Pat Thomas, Antonin Gerbal, Joel Grip and Seymour Wright – make music of heavy rhythm, repetition and syncopation set deep into an understanding of jazz and the obscure depths of its history. Across the 2 LPs which make up ‘Super Majnoon [East Meets West] ’the group work and rework the music of the late musician Ahmed Abdul-Malik to create a stamping, swinging, relentlessly propulsive record where profundity and physicality root right back to ecstatic feeling.
Abdul-Malik was a NYC bassist, oudist, composer, educator and philosopher who fused aspects of American, Arabic and East African thought, ethics, meanings and beliefs in open and experimental ways to make vital, forward leaning jazz. [Ahmed] reimagine the notes of Malik as they push for new ground. Melodies respirate, swell, escalate and combust in a driving jazz which yes is technical, yes is accomplished, but ultimately just foot-to-the-floor swings.
‘Super Majnoon [East Meets West]’ is a title fused from the leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka Bechir Attar’s description of [Ahmed] after hearing them in Switzerland last year (Majnoon is the arabic slang for ‘crazy’), and Abdul-Malik’s 1959 album East Meets West. Arriving as a double LP, the first comprises studio recordings of [Ahmed] at Hong Kong’s Empty Gallery in 2018 and the second a scorched live recording at OTO from August 2018. The record features photos by Bert Glinnand Taku Unamiand ‘in and out’ liner notes by James G. Spady – historian and journalist from Philadelphia, the author of books on Marcus Garvey and the trilogy of groundbreaking books on hip hop (Nation Conscious Rap, Street Conscious Rap, The Global Cypha).
PAT THOMAS / piano
ANTONIN GERBAL / drums
JOEL GRIP / bass
SEYMOUR WRIGHT / alto saxophone
LP 1 recorded by David Sum at Empty Gallery Hong, March 31, 2018. LP 2 recorded by Paul Skinner at Café OTO London, August 25, 2018. LP1 mixed by David Sum. LP 2 mixed by Pat Thomas. Mastered by James Dunn. Liner notes © James G. Spady. Cover photo © Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos. Design by Maja Larsson. Produced by John Hawthorn, Jens Löwius and Seymour Wright.
Ahmed – Super Majnoon [East Meets West]
Our tenth OTOROKU release sees a return to the group that kick-started the label - the veteran German reedsman and free jazz pioneer Peter Broetzmann with the long-running London bass/drums partnership of John Edwards and Steve Noble. After the release of '…The Worse The Better' that group went on to play a series of devastating shows in Europe and to emerge as one of Broetzmann's finest working groups. Over the same period Peter was developing a deep rapport with Jason Adasiewicz, the upstart vibraphone player from Chicago. What seems on paper like an awkward pairing reveals itself on stage and on record as a symbiotic revelation. Adasiewicz's physical attack matching Broetzmann for impact whilst the extended sustain of the vibes opens up an eerie space for some of Broetzmann's most fertile lyricism.
The recording is from the last set of a two-day residency at Cafe OTO that brought these two groups together for an astonishing quartet. Adasiewicz and Noble struck up an immense partnership in rhythm. Edwards wrestled with a broken house bass and failing amplifier and still managed new levels of invention - stoking the others onwards. Broetzmann was clearly energised - I swear I saw him dancing at the side of the stage whilst exchanging a shattered reed. And for all the usual rhetoric of Free Jazz bluster and machismo, this is a meeting characterised by the joy of communal creation that makes you want to dance - even if only in your head.
MENTAL SHAKE – Broetzmann / Adasiewicz / Edwards / Noble
“[This] collection of 14 live improvisations is a masterpiece in spontaneous strangeness… Time Trout’s album is a product of incredible musical intelligence.” – Louise Gray, The WIRE
OTOroku is thrilled to present the debut album from Time Trout, comprising fourteen tracks improvised in real time. Seemingly summoned out of the ether, these songs arrive fully-formed, with an awkward, jagged personality that moves, all knees and elbows, with a bristling, roiling, unstoppable momentum. It’s a constant high-wire performance, with all four participants looking relentlessly forward lest a glimpse below causes the whole thing to drop. Thankfully, the balance is never in doubt.
From the off, drummer Stephen Moses and bass guitarist Dave Mandl create a series of hypnotic locked grooves, that simultaneously draw you in and subtly pull the rug out from underneath you all at once; like repeatedly stumbling down the last couple of steps to the dance floor. Over this hypnotic ouroboros of a rhythm section, Marcus Cummins’ saxophone deftly feints and weaves between the cracks, running the gamut from tentative, staccato stabs to giddily whirling lyricism.
The three instrumentalists constantly trade emphases in such an assured way that you quickly stop trying to focus in on one part and give yourself over to the single, intricate whole; running through which, like a bright red thread through the labyrinth, is Viv Corringham’s astonishing spoken word vocal performance. A restless stream of consciousness that seems to have the primal urgency of a message delivered in a dream, Corringham mixes Delphic abstractions with bracingly lucid implorations, the whole performance delivered with such seamlessness that it’s hard to tell whether the lyrics are channeling the music or vice versa. The answer, of course, is both.
- Viv Corringham / voice- Marcus Cummins / soprano and alto saxophones, ocarina, bells, shruti box- Dave Mandl / bass guitar- Stephen Moses / drums, percussion
Recorded by George Taylor at Collect Pond Studio, New YorkMixed by Mario Viele at Excello Recording, BrooklynMastered by Oli Barrett in The Shrubbery, Somerset
Thanks to: Aaron Moore, Michael Evans, George Taylor, Dann Baker / Hugh Pool / Mario Viele (Excello), David Watson, Ed Baxter.
Time Trout – Stuck Like Jane Austen
Danielle Price is a tuba player whose work explores the range of creative possibilities of the instrument, both in her own compositions as well as her extensive list of collaborations ranging from artists as diverse as Ashley Paul, Bill Wells, Oxbow, Ntshuks Bonga and Mats Gustafsson. After the Allotments sees this expansive approach in full flow, blending improvised and structured forms in delightfully unexpected ways. Across the five tracks, Price crafts an enviable parallel universe where singer-songwriters have traded their ubiquitous acoustic guitars for tubas.
Opener, Seeking, sees Price’s breath gradually expanding into soft evocations under which a tentative tuba line deliberately draws out resonances both wistful and reflective, before Room In a Shared Apartment Looking For a Soul snaps back into focus, building a sparse, propulsive rhythm where utterances from both voice and tuba blend and unfurl in one fluid line that contorts and loops back on itself. Price’s brass melodies extend further on each new time around before splitting off from its rhythmic underpinnings and soaring upwards and outwards.
Square Peg takes a sudden about turn, dialling the smokey jazz atmosphere up to 11 as a playful tuba walks the bass and almost audibly clicks its fingers along to Price’s yearning, soulful vocal, evoking Sofia Jernberg’s stellar work with Fire! Orchestra. Track four, I’ll Tell You That, pushes this interplay further, as voice and tuba exhort each other into ever more untethered contortions in an increasingly raucous call and response.
After the minimalist palette of the first four tracks, the plaintive opening piano notes of the titular closing piece ring out like a bell. Price deftly glides across the keys, weaving a tremendous sense of calm like the freshness following a downpour, as her understated spoken vocal conjures up a deceptively everyday yet far-reaching scene that in a few short sentences seemingly captures a life.
After the Allotments – Danielle Price
Originally from Inner Mongolia, Deng Boyu has been active in the Chinese music underground since the late 1990s. His work spans numerous genres, as a drummer, solo electronics artist, improviser and collaborator to many musicians both in and out of China, including Mamer, Lao Dan, Lee Ranaldo, Marc Ribot, Akira Sakata, Theresa Wong and Federico Casagrande. Having hosted two of his releases on our site through the Old Heaven and Dusty Ballz labels, we're delighted to present《Inertion》on our in-house OTOroku imprint.
Opening with the thrumming, pulsing hum of ‘Her Eyes Lost Their Luster’, Boyu hints at reverie but wastes no time in pulling the rug out, the lulling bass drone being intermittently disrupted with static bursts and fragmentary synth stabs before the two sonic factions coalesce in an increasingly dizzying scree of chirping electronics. Just as you think the palette has settled, Boyu abruptly changes tack once again, laying down a sparsely propulsive rhythm over which a stadium-sized guitar suddenly erupts, whose initial incongruity is instantly washed away in a surge of giddy euphoria; Boyu not so much setting fire to his guitar as the whole damn stage.
Second track, ‘Like Blade of Grass’ doesn’t let up, with fuzz-drenched tones dancing around each other in percussive patterns that skitter and churn in a freewheeling clatter that constantly threatens to unravel whilst always keeping just ahead of itself. The titular closer, ‘Inertion’, piles on the Industrial Lynchian dread, beginning with a funereal march over which a digital analogue appears to be arguing with itself. All is resolved, however, as Boyu’s layered guitars unashamedly crash back in, releasing all the built-up tension in an all-too-brief rush of power-chord endorphins.
There is an almost dizzying restlessness here, covering more ground in 20 minutes than most would manage in a triple LP. The result is anything but scattershot, however. Instead, Boyu crafts a collagic density consisting of myriad reference points all competing for space.
There can be no neat outcome - these are not clues to decipher. Instead, Boyu builds around these competing approaches; tongue-in-cheek modern jesterisms versus considered sincerity; minimalist arrangements brushing up against maximalist sound; structured craft and tonal dissonance - not coming down on one side or the other but revelling in the clash. You might not have time to get comfortable but it’s a compelling and compulsive place to be.
Deng Boyu – 《Inertion》
We're thrilled to present two longform pieces from Yorkshire-based sound artist, Sophie Cooper. Composed during a week-long residency in the OTO Project Space in February 2022, Lean In was originally written for an 8-speaker surround set-up, here distilled into an equally expansive stereo version. Over 25 minutes, Cooper weaves fragments of on-site found radio sounds, processed trombone, electronics and voice to explore themes of broken family structures and the unspoken estrangement issue.
We release this alongside the newly remastered companion piece, Intact, commissioned by hcmf// in 2019 and for which Cooper was nominated for an Ivor Novello Composer Award in 2020. Together, the pieces build upon each other in a way that uncovers new insights with each listen, revealing a multi-faceted work at once intimate and far-reaching in its emotional and sonic impact.
"This release is a double A side of accompanying pieces both written during residencies for spatial audio systems namely the HISS (Huddersfield Immersive Sound System) for hcmf// and the set up at Café Oto project space. These versions have been designed to be listened to on stereo set ups.
Both of the pieces deal with the topic of family estrangement using verbatim sourced with permission and support from a UK based charity called Stand Alone who support adults in this situation. Intact was the first piece made of the two in 2019 and Lean In was written in early 2022 so you’ll hear references to how people’s lock down experiences impacted on their estrangements in the second piece. It was really interesting to come back to this topic after a break and reflect on changes between the texts in both years." – Sophie Cooper, February 2023
Enormous thanks to:
Everyone involved with the HISS, hcmf//, Cafe Oto, Arts Council England, Kathy Hinde and Matthew Olden for the support with these pieces.
Cover photography by Maryanne RoyleMastered by Oli Barrett
Sophie Cooper – Lean In / Intact