Photo: Bryony McIntyre

Junko & Masayoshi Urabe


13 May 2007  •  The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead

This collaboration with Junko and Masayoshi Urabe is just stunning; as beautifully controlled mercury tones arc across space, Junko’s screams just utterly under control. If you didn’t know what you were listening to was sung, it would be even more inscrutable than it already is.  Saxophone and voice seem inseparable, indistinguishable - way more than complimentary they seem locked into each other, or maybe even the same thing, the same breathe filling four lungs. This is their first performance together outside of Japan.

Maybe Junko is the demure face of extreme noise, in whose male dominated scene (which at it’s best is a liberating force within experimental music, with a crushing intensity that can bore like granite into granite, but at it’s worst can be surrounded by all kinds of generic and sub-moronic posturing), she is pretty unique; unshackled by dunderheaded male tropes, but also immersed in all the possibilities of noise. Delivered stock still, her screaming vocal style is a nuanced version of all holy hell; piercing, controlled alien shrieks emanate from deep within her scarcely moving throat; not really the result of any kind of physical exertion, it feels more like the exertion of a supreme emotional will.


Urabe is lightning rod, a pent up, fuming and convulsive saxophonist.  Far removed from the codes of musical traditions and techniques, his performances seem to be more about an unveiling; unveiling of the inner life, of deeply felt emotion, of a desire to channel the energy of a space, or the people in it, of that day into expression. Urabe’s sax playing (as well as occasionally harmonica, bass blockfloten, accordion, piccolo, sometimes chains) places desperate and emotional cries into drawn out and black expanses of silence, his body contorted and flailing, wringing notes from his lungs.  He’s one of the great performers I’ve seen live. 

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    • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0