Photo: Bryony McIntyre

Filament: Sachiko M & Otomo Yoshihide


22 Mar 2009  •  The Arches, Glasgow

Sachiko has a steely concentration on very simple, pure sine tones and structures: really bare and honest. Otomo most often uses empty turntables (no cartridge, no record) and guitar (although not here). Filament's music isn't composed and it isn't improvised: it's a hybrid of the two, more a selection of considered pronouncements. It's hard-boiled, sometimes hardly audible (quiet or beyond human hearing) and at others fearsomely loud.

Filament are two of the most interesting and influential Japanese musicians of the last 10, 20, 30 years.  Otomo has an expansive output: from film soundtracks, free jazz ensembles, solo (empty) turntable and guitar work.  He was a central figure in a rich seam of Japanese music that turned towards a quieter mode of improvising in the mid 90’s.  Sachiko was a member of Ground Zero with Otomo, originally using a sampler. Part of that same minimalist movement, her distinctive turn came when she focused in on the intrinsic sound of the sampler itself; an empty sampler from which she coaxes its test tones. What are they doing? As part of their performance here they’re both going to present solo performances, bracketing a duo performance. Solos: Sachiko will be performing a contact mic solo, winding their cables in her pockets, hitting them together, playing them behind her back. Otomo will be presenting a new performance for piano, using a guitar amp to modulate feedback via the strings, frame and the sustain/ volume pedal of the piano; sort of like a huge guitar feedback solo, but with no guitar.


Duo: Filament is a really, seriously important project. A groundbreaking investigation into the border between composition and improvisation in electronic music; even when much of the scene it inspired now sounds dated, Filament sound totally current.  “Filament was formed in 1997. This unit was a product of the endless and thorough analyses and examinations of listening and pronunciation as a testing ground of post-electronics music. With Sachiko M's original composition method as a core, it brings about sound experience that is totally different from music made by conventional composition or improvisation, going beyond the auditory limits ranging from faint to roaring sound. So far, it has performed in more than ten countries in the world and often stirred argument.”  (Their description, obviously, not ours.)  They work with a turntable with no records, taken apart and put back together again, and an empty sampler.  They create tiny fragments of sound: electronic crackle, hiss, sine waves, feedback.  They explore stasis and the limits of concentration and intensity. Why is it interesting? Here’s a really enigmatic quote to chew over: “to me, Filament's sound is very beautiful. But the experience of beauty is always linked to danger. The danger is the cessation of thought. I really want people to be aware of this.”  The way I understand that is that it alludes to the process of enquiry, to a rejection of Romantic ideas of beauty and of the power of death over life: thought, action, these are meaningful activities, a materialist process to engage in and to be applied to art, aesthetics, music.


So Otomo’s music is a process of thinking and of development in that thinking: particularly around a reflection on the process of making music.  What do you do when making music, and what could you do. But that’s just what I think, and I’m quite possibly wrong.  As a back up statement, I’d say that maybe Otomo is interested in things that he can’t control or which are difficult to master: feedback systems, allowing equipment to become instruments with their own chance sounds; things like this and maybe also in things that are out of register with each other.  Like an acceptance of misunderstanding and a willingness to continue on with that misunderstanding.  In fact misunderstanding is a big part of it as I understand it.


I was chatting to our pal Benedict Drew (Who performed at KYTN 06 & 08 and INSTAL 08 too.) today and he mentioned a few things about Sachiko’s music that I found really helpful, so I’m going to kind of steal and add to them here (Thanks/ sorry Benedict.  The misunderstanding thing mentioned just supra is really Ben’s observation also.).


ONE: She has a very specific and individual idea of composition, sat closely next to improvisation; maybe a framework of timing and actions, but open to chance; in that how things finally are experienced depend on interactions that can’t be predicted, or choices made in the moment. 


TWO: Movement is also very important, in how it relates to the sounds she makes; on a sampler there can be a lot of continuous sound for little movement; on contact mic’s it’s more of a dance where every movement has a connected sound.  But all of her movement is very deliberate.


THREE: She’s developed a very acute investigation into subtraction in music; what are the mechanics of music and performance, and what can be eliminated from them? Together their music shares an interest in: that subtraction and elimination I mentioned just there, in low volume, extreme economies of gesture, simplicity, minimalism, texture, the careful and intricate placement of detailed fragments of sound, very slow development or even stasis. 

  • Sachiko M Solo

  • Otomo Yoshihide Solo

    Credits / license
    • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0