Since the disbanding of his 1990s group, Ground Zero, Otomo Yoshihide has made it a life philosophy to keep his fans in a constant state of surprise. After his conversion to ultra-minimalist electronics and his return to jazz (but still a very warped form) with his New Jazz Quintet, he offers Dreams, billed to Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Ensemble. Even though the membership is similar, the difference between the quintet and the ensemble (the quintet plus Sachiko M on sine waves and Masuko Tatsuki on electronics) is night and day. Dreams is a set of soft, adult jazz-pop songs -- or at least they would be if the bandleader was anyone but Yoshihide. Phew lends her sensual voice to six of the seven pieces. In "Eureka" she duets with Togawa Jun, who in turn performs solo in "Preach." Jun is a high-pitched, broken, off-key singer, absolutely irritating. She makes Phew's presence all the more delectable. Only one of the songs is a Yoshihide composition. The others are taken from the repertoire of Eto Naoko, Yamamoto Seiichi, and, surprisingly or not, Jim O'Rourke. Dreams is a beautiful album filled with fragile melodies and odd arrangements, but it is so different from what one can expect, you will have to come to terms with it and shed your expectations before you can freely appreciate it. "Yume" and "Toi Hibiki" are touching pieces. Yoshigaki Yasuhiro's hesitating trumpet solo in "Eureka" recalls Mel Collins' sax solo in King Crimson's underappreciated "Islands." The chaos crescendo that follows it for the next seven minutes and the unchained maelstrom of noise that is "Hahen Fukei" save the project from sticking like bubblegum -- although that last-minute wake-up call sounds just a bit gratuitous. Another stroke of genius. ~ Fran‡ois Couture
The Wire (06/02, p.55) - "...The record capture's Otomo's exuberant, open hearted love of music....Such a quality is restorative, optimistic, the stuff of dreams..."