The Wire, Alan Cummings
Ever since Otomo got into his minimal misuse of stereo equipment phase, a collaboration with Swiss toaster torturers Voice Crack was on the cards. Although Otomo's refraction of high end sinewaves around cranial interiors may not seem like an ideal partner for Norbert Mslang and Andy Guhl's usual industrial clang, attempts have obviously been made to find a common ground. There's an intense focus upon the fine detail of the unfolding electronic fields, with the Swiss duo providing a constantly shifting foreground of spontaneous events to Otomo's sparer high frequency backgrounds. The melding of the two provides an extraordinary expansiveness to the sound, rich in imagistic associations. Particularly impressive is the fourth track, which conjures up visions of being inside an anthill on a tropical night, hearing the shrill whine of cicadas outside. The variety of Voice Crack's multiple, jerry-rigged devices needs little mention, but Otomo's sheer inventiveness with his frequencies, from electronic chatter to tones that pierce and waver like Keiji Haino's tuned metal bars, deserves praise. This is a fine piece of work by any standard, and ample proof that Otomo's prodigious workrate has done little to dull the quality of his output.
Time Out New York, Mike Wolf
Gauging the intent of artists on their releases can be a difficult thing, especially when dealing with experimental electronic music. those tones and waves might be an attempt to prove some arcane Pythagorean principle, or rail against the inhumanity of man or the humanity of machines, or achieve some such indeterminable goal. Whether or not Otomo Yoshihide, Japan's multitalented sonic explorer, and the long-running Swiss duo Voice Crack (Norbert Mslang and Andy Guhl) had anything specific in mind with this, their first-ever collaborative effort, is a mystery. But the record doesn't require any intellectual explanation to enhance its sound: It's a pure, delirious listening experience.
Each of the five long tracks, which are numbered but unnamed, seems to bring an undefinable scenario to life. The first (and longest) takes nearly 17 minutes to create a sprawling tapestry of living sound. As hazy clouds of bristling whines, clicks and rumbles slowly materialize and coexist, unearthly panoramas are born in the mind's eye-and suddenly, it's the sound of a Martian jungle, at night, teeming with life. Cascading magnetic waves arc across the sky as three-headed critters race and rummage through alien flora...or at least that's what it sounds like. And the other tracks give a similar sound-impression: foreign entities hard at work with futuristic tools, busying themselves with tasks we wouldn't understand, making sounds that couldn't possibly occur naturally on earth.
That improvised music like this can retain its openness yet feel so composed is a tribute to the chemistry between the artists. But like the individual tracks, the entire record itself feels like a living thing, existing for no other reason than because it does.
All Music Guide, François Couture
It's hard to believe one had to wait until 2000 for Otomo Yoshihide and the Swiss duo Voice Crack (Norbert Möslang and Andy Guhl), two influential artists in the field of free electronic improvisation, to first meet on stage. It happened on March 27, 2000 in St. Gallen (Switzerland) and Erstwhile released the document under the title Bits, Bots and Signs. Since Ground Zero's conclusion, Yoshihide has continued to develop his very personal musical language made of low-fi electronics and sampler treatments. The duo Voice Crack has been cracking everyday household machines in order to extract unusual noises out of them since the early 1980s. Their music was compatible from the start and the result is a mind-boggling soundscape, a rough terrain with burbling low frequencies, ethereal sustained tones, piercing high-pitched electronic screams and haunting noises. These five improvisations stay clear of monotony: they gradually but quickly change form, always on the verge of redefining themselves. Both entertaining and ear-opening, Bits, Bots and Signs is more convincing than Yoshihide's CDs with I.S.O. and Filament and somehow less aggressive than Voice Crack's poire z project with Erik M. and Günter Müller. Fans of free electronic improv have no reason to pass on this one. Strongly recommended.