OTOROKU

In house label for Cafe OTO which documents the venue's programme of experimental and new music, alongside re-issuing crucial archival releases.

Pat Thomas is one of the most extraordinary pianists of our time. In a first time duo with saxophonist Matana Roberts, the lyricism of his distinctly dexterous and curious approach to the piano paints pathways for Robert’s poignantly vocal saxophone. Together the two speak; locked grooves and neat switchbacks on the keys form dialogue with long deliberate lines on the alto, punctuated by Roberts’ ecstatic vocalisations.  The trio of improvised pieces which make up the record’s first side are rich phrases, pitched at each end of the piano and stretched and pulled by Pat. His simple, repetitive cycles yield space and colour for Robert’s song, then let sounds build to a flourish; an armed run on the keys and some wonderfully soft landings.    The second side, a whole part in itself, goes deeper - hammered armfuls of piano and torn top breath blasting from Roberts fall in a flutter of delicate keystrokes. Call and response halves collide in a wonderful thunder before finding the edge of another line to hang onto. There is a remarkable sense of purpose, precision and restraint at play, as well as a peaceful milieu, which no doubt stems from the two players' fierce individual intelligence, creativity and curiosity.  The record arrives housed in a screen printed Kraftboard sleeve, die cut to reveal photographs taken by Dawid Laskowski and Fabio Luguro. Mastered by Giuessepe Ielesi who also mastered Pat Thomas’ The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari, we pressed this on 180g black vinyl. You can’t press a work called ‘The Truth’ on much less, can you? ---   Pat Thomas / piano   Matana Roberts / saxophone   --- Recorded by James Dunn live at Cafe OTO on the 8th December 2018. Mixed by James Dunn and mastered by Guiseppe Ielasi. Photographs by Dawid Laskowski and Fabio Lugaro. Design and layout by Maja Larrson.     

Matana Roberts & Pat Thomas – The Truth

Tamio Shiraishi is one of the legends of the Japanese underground. For over forty years he has continued to pursue an utterly unique eruptive style of performance interventions into consensus reality. In recent years he has been a resident of New York City, where for the past three decades he has staged a series of performances around the subway system, utilising its unique sonic environment as an unwitting duo partner alongside his ebullient saxophone exhortations. It is in the subway stations of Queens, NY that this exhilarating new release finds him - specifically '67 Avenue' and '63 Drive'. From the get-go, Shiraishi is fully immersed in the subterranean acoustic properties of the space, his trademark high-pitched, trembling saxophone notes cascading down the platform and into the tunnels beyond, acting almost as a summoning call to the train which soon rattles down the tracks towards him. This initial beckoning (saxophone) bell is no aberration. Though Shiraishi takes a deeply reflective and responsive approach to his performances, as the album unfurls you get the uncanny impression that this responsiveness is far from a one-way affair. As the shuddering, sighing tones of the saxophone ring out against the ebbing, flowing screech and rumble of the subway trains it starts to sound as though they are listening back, and answering these calls in turn. In the last three tracks, Shiraishi ratchets up the physicality, embracing the noisier environs of 63 Drive, which stands in contrast to the relative calm of the first half of the album recorded at 67 Drive. Here the trains clatter past in a body-shaking barrage that Shiraishi pitches his saxophone against in beautiful cacophony before letting himself be overwhelmed. But each train must continue on, leaving Shiraishi - and ourselves - left behind once again on the platform. There's a viscerally evocative quality inherent in these recordings that will resonate with anybody who's ever travelled on the NY subway; Shiraishi playing off some kind of subconscious, intangible sonic quality of the spaces to draw you almost bodily back there. But although Shiraishi captures specific moments in space and time, these tracks are anything but parochial. This is a communing with the here and now - of being present - at once specific and universal. Tamio Shiraishi opens us up to it all. -- Master and cover design by Oli Barrett

Tamio Shiraishi – Subway Stations in Queens

Loud Object is the second solo release from artist Billy Steiger, following his self released 'Recordings, drawings and photographs from in and around Fr​î​dd Newydd' in 2016. Both a visual artist and a musician, Steiger’s Loud Object plays as a two sided experiment in markmarking and sound, as a kind of writing by ear - metallic, brushed, wooden - lines imprinted and pressed circular.  The record takes its name from the discarded title of the several-hundred-page draft of Clarice Lispector’s eventual 96-page novel Água Viva. Devoid of characters or plot, Água Viva appears always in suspension between the interior and exterior and impression and expression. Weird and formless (like the jellyfish ‘agua viva’ translates to in Portuguese) Lispector’s text deals less in the cerebral or the knowable realms of words, but more in the unknowable moment of experience. Its joy is found in its looseness, its meaning found in its lack of definition. Loud Object began as six sides of violin improvisations, four of them abandoned and the last of them added to or processed usings samplers in moments Steiger calls ‘wells’ - gaps or dips in the recording which could be filled or poured into. The process of filling up and taking away, of repeating and multiplying, of building tension between the finite and the lost -  all wrestle with actualisation. Which line will be drawn? In the liner notes for the LP, Evie Scarlett Ward writes, “The record holds loss.”Though the lines are fixed, its contents are fluid - forty minutes filled in and manipulated, before time moves on. Steiger’s relentless rearranging of convention means no two of his live shows are the same, and his decade-plus involvement in London’s free improvisation scene constantly surprises. Loud Object is no exception.

Billy Steiger – Loud Object

Promise & Illusion is the first LP from Ecka Mordecai, following the release of her solo Critique + Prosper on Takuroku in 2020. Cello, voice, horsehair harp, violin and field recordings combine to spin narrative melody, rich intimacy and melancholic landscapes. Composed around an exploration of la charnière (from the French ‘hinge’), Promise & Illusion begins with the sound of footsteps and a door opening and closing repeatedly, unsure whether to let us into the mysterious interior beyond. We are reminded of the house of Penny Slinger in An Exorcism, an abandoned mansion of gothic hallways and inky corridors. “woe are we” twists violin and voice together into the sort of tension and high drama heard in “The Executioner” - Henning Christiansen’s soundtracks made for the films of his partner Ursula Reuter Christiansen in the 1970’s. Then things begin to soften, almost despite themselves. Distortion on ‘a unit has no unity’ can’t quite smother a rising tune on warped harp. The cello on ‘indigos’ - its voice pizzicato with a velvety sustain - brings comfort and clarity. Mordecai hums a line, feeling out the edges of a song in an intimate release of tension. We are across the threshold - into a romantic sort of nocturnal gloom that feels somewhat out of place in London’s experimental music scene.  Trained on viola da gamba as part of a renaissance youth group in the historic midland town of Stafford, Mordecai went on to study performance art in Brighton, later graduating in sound art in London. She performed with David Toop and Rie Nakajima as part of Allan Kaprow’s Yard at the Hepworth Gallery, as well as performing scores by Yoko Ono and George Brecht solo at White Cube Gallery as part of Christian Marclay’s Liquids exhibition. Later, various moves across the north of England found her working with Andrew Chalk and Tom James Scott (forming the trio CIRCÆA), Miles Whittaker (of Demdike Stare) and performing alongside free improvisers. A myriad of influences have crossed her path, her work slowly taking shape across music concrète, improvisation and performance art.  A more recent recording with Valerio Tricoli as ‘Mordecoli’ made during the development of Promise & Illusion found its final form as a cassette - a collage of sustained tones, ominous atmospheres and brief 4th wall dissolving vocal interaction. With both CIRCÆA and Mordecoli, Mordecai deals with landscapes - playing with the imaginary over the real and using improvisation as a useful way to dream.  On Promise & Illusion, Mordecai sharpens her focus and pivots toward the interior over the exterior - the landscape becoming a personal, psychological one - both comforting and strange.  --- Tracks 4, 5, 7 & 10 recorded and mixed by Adam Matschulat in December 2020. All others recorded and mixed by Ecka Mordecai. Mastered by Shaun Crook at Lockdown Studios, London. Artwork by Ecka Mordecai. Layout by Zofia Sobota. 

Ecka Mordecai – Promise & Illusion

We're very pleased to announce Pat Thomas's ‘The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari’ on our in-house OTOROKU label. Recorded live at OTO in May 2015 and mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi, the LP comprises four typically genre-defying and sonically dexterous pieces from one of the UK's most extraordinary pianists. In Pat's own words: The title for this album was inspired by the incredible automatic water clock invented by Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari. Al Jazari refers to the fact he was born in Al Jazira which lies between the Tigris and the Euphrates in what is now Northern Iraq. Badi al Zaman means prodigy of the age. He is known by historians of technology as the father of modern robotics. The Elephant Clock at seven metres high is a testament to his engineering genius, it utilizes Greek water raising technology, combined with an Indian elephant, Egyptian phoenix, Arabian figures, Persian carpet and Chinese Dragons celebrating the diversity of cultures in the world. This and other marvels of engineering can be found in his Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices translated by Donald Hill (Pakistan Hijra Council). Over 50 devices are mentioned. Amongst them the first analog computer, his remarkable Castle Clock, however, the debt the world owes this muslim genius is found in his remarkable water raising devices, particularly water raising device number 4 where for the first time a crank connecting rod system is used. The crank is considered to be the most important single mechanical device after the wheel, by 1206 this is found fully developed in Jazari`s machines predating Francesco di Giorgio Martini by 3 centuries. 'For Al Haytham' is dedicated to the great polymath genius who wrote the great book on vision, the first person to give us a true understanding of how we see. 'Lubb' is an Arabic word meaning innermost consciousness whilst to conclude proceedings 'Done' is loosely based on a well known standard. - Pat Thomas 26th May 2017 --- Pat Thomas / piano --- Recorded live at Cafe OTO on the 4th May 2015 by Mark Jasper. Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. Photo by Fabio Lugaro. Design by Maja Larsson. 

Pat Thomas – The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari

gjērhan, (!) From subterranea, sweat, haze and dedication emerging out of intimate and intense weekly meetings begun in 2009 – their first, 2012 public performance, squeezed into a London basement was a sheer, vexed and exhilarating smack of organic, heterodyning ideas, and taut, lowbeating lumps. Reemerge/revanish. With the economy of familiar/traditional raw tools feedback, drumkit, altosaxophone, time, space and emotion lll人 move from molten musical pasts to grow future pleasures in sound. The ingredients are familiar, but the listening is not. At its heart is a still, undecorated concentration fuelling an extreme testing of limbs, language and order. This has no concern with collapsing difference into a vogueish flattened mass froth, but searches – forensically, ceaselessly – for something to chew, in the challenge of discretion and integrity or asylum in the body of its instruments. Akilsakilan learning, Doughnut. Finding, twisting and hammering out an expanding musical universe balanced only by its own logics – lll人 have few obvious comparisons. Their performances are consistent radical negotiations of the emotional, physical and social energies of the environments they sound out. Perfectly Reasonable. [The second side was recorded at a summer fundraiser concert for Project Fukushima (This followed a solo performance by Evan Parker who later joined the group for a quartet) and the first as part of the inaugural INTERSECT festival four months later.] Recorded at Cafe OTO on 28 August 2013 (Fukshima) by Stuart Bannister and 7 December 2013 (Intersect) by Kate Arnold. Mixed by Paul Abbott. Mastered by Andreas [LUPO] Lubich at Calyx, Berlin. Design by Paul Abbott. Inner sleeve by Paul Abbott, Cara Tolmie and Conal Mcstravick

lll人 – gjērhan

Born in 1964, Yukihiro Isso is a Japanese Noh flutist (hayashi-kata fue-kata) from a family that has been playing this instrument since the 16th century. He received his initial instruction in flute playing from his father Yukimasa Isso and performed on the Noh stage for the first time at the age of nine. From his middle school years he began to listen to a variety of different kinds of music and studying new instruments including the recorder, flute and piano. An acclaimed performer of classical Noh repertoire, Isso is also an accomplished improviser and has performed with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Peter Brötzmann and John Zorn.. Born 1946, Roger Turner grew up amongst the Canterbury musical life of the 1960’s with a strong jazz foundation. Since 1974 work has been concentrated on exploring a more personal percussion language through the processes of improvisation. Solo work, collaborations with experimental rock musics & open - form song, extensive work with dance, film and visual art, involvements in numerous jazz-based ensembles, & workshop residencies have formed part of that development. Takanehishigu is the audio documentation of the first time these artists played together. The results are a breathtaking new music which remains respectful to the individual traditions whilst simultaneously subverting them. --- Yukihiro Isso / Nohkan (noh-flute), shinobue, dengakubue, gemshorn and recorder. Roger Turner / percussion --- Takanehishigu was recorded live at Cafe Oto on 23rd Sep 2015 by Shaun Crook Mixed by John Chantler. Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. Artwork by Paul Abbott. Edition of 500 copies.

Roger Turner / Yukihiro Isso – Takanehishigu

Charles Gayle is a saxophonist, pianist, sometimes a clown and radical musical performer wrapped into the body of a humble person living in Downtown Manhattan since the 1960s. As this set attests to, It is sometimes hard to predict what he will do on stage... In all his musical (and personal) life Charles Gayle has remained outside of any form of mainstream, carving his own singular path. There is no player on the scene today with the emotional wallop of Charles Gayle. John Edwards is a true virtuoso whose staggering range of techniques and boundless musical imagination have redefined the possibility of the double bass and dramatically expanded its role, whether playing solo or with others. Perpetually in demand, he has played with  Sunny Murray, Derek Bailey, Joe McPhee, Peter Brötzmann, Mulatu Astatke and many others. Ubiquitous, diverse and constantly creative, drummer Mark Sanders has worked with a host of renowned musicians including Derek Bailey, Henry Grimes, Mathew Shipp, Roswell Rudd, in duo and quartets with Wadada Leo Smith and trios with Sirone and William Parker. Here we present a 2CD set documenting the two very special sets delivered on the 15th of November, 2017 at Cafe Oto, Dalston, London. In classic ecstatic fashion one would expect from these three stalwarts of blazing transcendence these 2 sets swerve from the sublime to the this is an exquisite document of one of the most exciting trios operating today, Limited to 500 copies packaged in mini gatefold sleeve.

Seasons Changing – Charles Gayle / John Edwards / Mark Sanders

This recording from the earlier years of Cafe Oto documents the impossible pairing of four contemporary giants. Its one of those miraculous one off groupings that reminds us why the venue opened in the first place.’ “The magic of the first minutes – an alto solo by Joe McPhee of true purity – soft-spoken, masterful and accomplished – brought back to mind the blissful Coleman/Haden duet last year at the Royal Festival Hall. ‘Ornette gave me freedom to move in a certain way,’ said McPhee. He searched hesitantly and carefully for his words, all the more surprising from such an articulate musical (or, as he might say ‘muse-ical’) practitioner and campaigner. Coleman’s 80th birthday coincided with McPhee’s stint at Cafe Oto. McPhee and his co-musicians delivered an intense performance which was both creative and restrained. With Evan Parker ‘s tenor in tow – a collaboration going back to the late 70s – and Lol Coxhill, sitting with head bowed intently, a soprano master – it could have gone anywhere, yet they worked off each other, often in the higher registers, building up almost bird-call like interactions and trills. Earlier, Chris Corsano‘s drumming presented a dense bedrock for McPhee to play against, and his solo spell was a crisp exercise in sonic curiosity. McPhee picked up his soprano mid-way through the second set, heightening the lyricism of the three saxophones. Then, being a devotee of Don Cherry, he switched to pocket trumpet, allowing him to interject, and punctuate the concentrated sound layers built up by the quartet, and lead the music out through a different door”- Geoff Winston (londonjazznews.com) Recorded 10th March 2010, this is also a document of the only time Lol Coxhill and Joe Mcphee shared the stage. The recording is a little rough, but hey, so was your birth! Limited to 500 copies packaged in mini gatefold sleeve.

Tree Dancing – Lol Coxhill / Joe McPhee / Chris Corsano / Evan Parker

Full recording of one of the most engaging and beguiling Late Junction live sessions we’ve ever heard - the one off first meeting between Korean multi-instrumentalist Park Jiha and writer and performer Roy Claire Potter. Park Jiha plays the saenghwang, a Korean mouth organ which she blows in long multiphonics to set pace for Potter’s words. Together they unfurl a scene slowly in front of you, rich and focused, shifting your field of vision and drawing you in, elsewhere. It’s impossible not to follow, not to look for where they point. When the piri sounds for a flooded town on the B side, the water flows between your own feet; Potter’s words a sometimes frightening hörspiel in scouse.  Though the details are fine, the space each artist gives one another and their instruments, their language, is given to the listener in turn. A careful melody picks out a route for words with no fixed meaning, a body with no fixed direction, and we are invited to listen and see a kind of music made visible in its inference. A truly very special record we are very proud to share. --- Influenced by linguistics and performance theory, Roy Claire Potter makes performance, text, drawing, installation and film, and often collaborates with musicians and sound artists to make audio for music festivals and radio. Across the wide range of their practice, Roy tells stories built from fragmented, intense images that depict moving bodies or domestic scenes and architectural settings. Roy’s interest in subtext and narrative sequencing is felt in the way they use fast-paced talking or reading speeds, and restricted or partial views of space. Complicated social or group dynamics and the aftermath of violent events are common themes in Roy’s work and are usually treated with a dark, sometimes wilful humour. Park Jiha creates exploratory music rooted in traditional Korean instrumental performance. To this session she brings three instruments: a Korean hammered dulcimer called a yanggeum, a saenghwang which is an instrument made of 24 slender bamboo pipes attached to a bowl and played like a harmonica and a double-reed bamboo flute called a piri, which sounds similar to an oboe. --- Park Jiha / yanggeum, saenghwang, piri Roy Claire Potter / voice --- Recorded and mixed on: 30 January 2020 by Rob Winter, Pete Smith and Andy Rushton at Maida Vale Studios, London for “Late Junction - Roy Claire Potter and Park Jiha in session”. Produced by Rebecca Gaskell, Katie Callin and Alannah Chance at Reduced Listening for BBC Radio 3. Originally broadcast on Friday 28th February 2020, apart from Track 4 which aired on Late Junction the 21st February 2020.  Mastered by Katie Tavini. Original artwork: “Three Boys” by Claire Cansick. Liner notes by Frances Morgan.

To Call Out Into The Night – Park Jiha & Roy Claire Potter

Double CD documenting the magic meeting of one of the all-time great rhythm sections in jazz: percussionist Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker, with London’s brilliant Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas) and Elaine Mitchener. Across two sets the quintet are infectiously energetic and inspired, striding from synchronised heavy groove to star bright solos, whilst incorporating dub effects, guimbri and sumptuous blues piano playing.  Formed by Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas but always realised with an ever changing number of invited musicians, Black Top's blend of lo-fi samples, dub effects and experimental electronics has been daring free improvisation since 2011. Their virtuoso performances draw on their Afro-Caribbean roots with delicious spontienty and humour; the histories of Ridley Road Market, the LIO and Islamic West Africa are sounded out side by side on iPad, marimba and vibraphone. Having met in 2006, Black Top played with bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake as part of their residency at Cafe OTO in 2016; forming a quartet grounded in transatlantic kinship but which looked outward to the Carribean, calypso music and Saharan gnawa rhythms. When Parker and Drake returned to OTO in 2019 Black Top reformed again, but this time with the brilliant addition of vocalist Elaine Mitchener.  Over the last few years the clarity with which Mitchener has explored vocal expression in the global Black Avant Garde has been stunning, but here the range in her influences is manifest, moving effortlessly between phonetic and poetic experimentation and spoken word, all the while at ease with soul soaked jazz and dissonant free fall. A hand drum duet with Hamid Drake astonishes before being laced perfectly with cosmic theremin and Parker’s fantastic acid shehnai.  --- Recorded live at Cafe OTO on Sunday 28th July 2019 by Paul Skinner and mixed and mastered by James Dunn. Photos by Dawid Laskowski and artwork by Oliver Pitt. 

Some Good News – Black Top Presents: Hamid Drake / Elaine Mitchener / William Parker / Orphy Robinson / Pat Thomas

This recording gathers all of the music from the final night of Otomo and Sachiko's first residency in 2009 which saw the pair joined by the long running trio of Evan Parker, John Edwards and Tony Marsh and special guest John Butcher. Butcher played duos with both Otomo and Sachiko and joined the quintet for a rousing sextet: stunning twin saxophone interplay, the unparalleled open-ness of the Marsh/Edwards rhythm pairing, Sachiko's deft high frequency interventions and Otomo's guitar at the centre - moving between abrasive textural invention and suggestive single note runs of ever-shifting melody. REVIEWS "As for indicating a place in the curiously sculpted bridges between improvised music and sound art, well, the simple singularity of these daring and committed performances should bear out their significance." Clifford Allen, Tiny Mix Tapes "This Quintet/Sextet album is recorded beautifully and it needed to be to capture all the nuance involved ... These are musicians at the top of their craft." Free Jazz Blog "...fresh and inspired. The recording stands as a finely-honed classic of classically approached free improvisation: the players dance and flow smoothly and effortlessly with and around the sounds of their partners." - Henry Kuntz Point of Departure Review

Quintet / Sextet / Duos – Otomo Yoshihide / Sachiko M / Evan Parker / Tony Marsh / John Edwards / John Butcher