Review: Roger Turner + Otomo Yoshihide – The Last Train

Roger Turner + Otomo Yoshihide - The Last TrainGuitar, amplifier, drum kit, percussion. Recorded live, real time. Nowhere to hide, minimal scope for deviation. The Last Train is the sound of two experts treading around the trap that they’ve laid for themselves. The situation tries to tease the duo into an improvisatory rock of wonky fretwork and rhythmically circumferential beats, gratifying and homely. Instead, they swat away the hand of fate and let the music come, patiently, as splinters of resonating wood and the clatter of attic boxes inadvertently stumbled over in the dark. The music is a hesitant interchange of twitchy, intermittent advancement. “You go first”. And while I can’t see the performers, I imagine them to be handling their instruments with innovative caution; guitars flipped upside down and shaken until feedback tumbles out, cymbals worn as hats, percussion strewn across the floor like fallen mantelpiece ornaments. Such is the album’s sporadic and skewed mode of movement.

Because ultimately, the materials that I’m hearing are naked and familiar. The guitar – very mildly distorted, like raw flesh with bits of teeth poking through – still announces itself as excited strings and unruly complaints of feedback. In the drums I hear cymbals jostling for space amidst a single letterbox of high frequencies, or snare drum skins wound tight enough to snap under heavy-handed impact, wryly ensuring Turner’s unconditional concentration and constant self-moderation. Yet the way these two players converse often feels foreign, like someone swapping the phonemes of my native language until I’m left with a clump of sounds I recognise forming words that I don’t. Even as they mutually agree to a rock-out at the end of “Crack”, it’s not like anything I know; it’s gangly and ill-jointed, substituting melody with wailing, scratchy clumps of note that mimic dry paint peeling off of a wall. Even with my pre-existing knowledge of the dastardly minds of Turner and Yoshihide, The Last Train is a stranger and more alarming album than I ever thought it could be.