Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band Perform On The View This Wed Sept. 30th, 11 AM
Release Two 2009 Meltdown UK LIVE Videos On Pitchfork Featuring Antony
Between My Head And The Sky Out NOW On Chimera Music
Rolling Stone 4 stars: ” Her music remains truly vital: unsettling, touching, funny, undeniable.”
SPIN: “Fractured funk, serene balladry, and those infamous bird calls flatter and balance each other, as if by nature.”
NME 8/10: “The best work of her musical career.”
The Telegraph*****5 Stars: “Fantastically cool”
The Onion: “A striking album”
Uncut 5 Stars : “An Excellent Album”
Mojo 4 Stars ” “Crackling With Excitement”
Q Magazine 4 Stars : “Art-Works-As-Song With Vigour
Pitchfork Review 7.3: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13460-between-my-head-and-the-sky/
Pitchfork News : http://pitchfork.com/news/35449-new-yoko-ono-ep-announced/
Pitchfork Premieres “The Sun Is Down” (Cornelius Remix): http://pitchfork.com/forkcast/12974-the-sun-is-down-cornelius-mix/
From Fluxus and performance-art pioneer and Two Virgins to chart-topping dance-music heroine (inspiring punk rock along the way!), Yoko Ono has been an innovative and influential force on music and art, while simultaneously campaigning for peace on the world’s stage. At 76 years young, Yoko continues to kick ass — and is preparing to release BETWEEN MY HEAD AND THE SKY,a career-defining album made with her new Plastic Ono Band. The record is a gorgeous, mind-melting blend of styles, restating and sharpening themes while plunging into the always-mysterious future.
The sessions happened at NYC’s Sear Sound, the same studio that used to house the old Hit Factory, where Double Fantasy was recorded. Sean Lennon both produced with Yoko and acted as musical leader for a group evenly divided between Japanese avant pop musicians, and downtown Manhattan improvisers. In the Japanese contingent is Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, plus the current group led by Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada, which includes Yuko Araki and Hirotaka Shimmy Shimizu. Cornelius and Ms. Ono performed together in Tokyo in January, and Yoko was so happy with the result she invited them over to record. In the Manhattan improv camp we find Shahzad Ismaily (guitar, bass, percussion), Erik Friedlander(cello), Michael Leonhart (trumpet, vibes), Daniel Carter (reeds) and Indigo Street (guitar) — a singularly gifted group of instrumentalists.
As Sean says, “Yoko unleashed a deluge of new songs, writing about 16 songs in six days. The most prolific day peaking out at six songs written and tracked in an afternoon. The recording session was like a tornado of inspiration. Some of the best lyrics on the record Yoko actually ‘freestyled’ as if she were a lyrical divining rod.”
The results are amazing. The opening track, “Waiting for the D Train” is a raw, gorgeous rocker in the classic Plastic Ono Band style, with orgone guitar bursts opening the way for a wild cascade of vocals. The following track, “The Sun Is Down!” is a softly charming cord of electronic pulse-glimmers intertwined with casually ecstatic vocal inventions. The third track, “Ask the Elephant!” has the feel of a dark, smoky room, late at night, with the musicians holding the edges of an avant groove while Yoko improvises over them. BETWEEN MY HEAD AND THE SKY fluctuates between these styes, and variations thereon, in a very organic way, adding pieces and removing them with a master artist’s logic.
The lyrically elegiac feel suffusing this album is especially evident on the last three songs – “Unun. To,” “I’m Going Away Smiling” and “Higa Noboru” – two of which are sung partly in Japanese. But Ms. Ono takes a variety of textual approaches, and they are brilliantly matched by the ensemble. While each of Yoko’s individual stylestreams will have its proponents, it’s hard to imagine a more beautifully balanced collection of work by one of contemporary culture’s reigning geniuses.
Yoko Ono. BETWEEN MY HEAD AND THE SKY. Hold that thought.
YOKO ONO is a force of nature. She is also one of the most important and enduring artists of the last half-century. Her physical trajectory took her from Japan in the 1940s to America in the ‘50s and ‘60s. There was a momentary return to her homeland in the early ‘60s, then back to America (specifically New York City). After that, there’s her mid ‘60s visit to London, where she met John Lennon, and all that transpired henceforth — famous and infamous. Hers is a spectacular timeline through the counterculture of the late 20th century.
The celebrated flash notes of her life with Lennon have been obsessively documented and analyzed. Yoko’s own, autonomous history as an academic, musician, artist, filmmaker and a radical innovator in all of these fields has been perennially overshadowed in mainstream journals. It has only been within the last decade that serious consideration of Yoko’s work by above-ground culturistas has even been considered. But it remains a subject that most media-types approach with mincing trepidation and uncomfortable jokes.
When the fantastic Yes Yoko Ono exhibition (and its amazing catalogue, published by Harry N. Abrams) was realized at Japan Society in New York in 2000, art critic Michael Kimmelman reviewed it succinctly in the New York Times (October 27, 2000), detailing Yoko’s rich art lineage. He noted how Yoko established, alongside La Monte Young, the first real artist’s loft, where music and performance were united with the shock of art-as-action. This was where Yokocreated works such as “Smoke Piece,” where the audience was asked to burn the art and the self-explanatory “Painting To Be Stepped On.”
Yoko’s loft is where the iconoclast George Maciunas — a formidable outsider force in his own right, who ran the AG Gallery uptown -– first became entranced by Buddhist positivity with its smiling, gentle nature. This was an element Maciunas immediately grabbed and threw into the berserk counterculture soupcon he christened, Fluxus. If there’s anything that prefigures punk rock it’s Maciunas, Yoko and the Fluxus movement.
Interestingly, Kimmelman blows his cover as one art critic who might fully grasp Yoko’s genius, by denouncing her musical activities. He proclaims her visual art, in retrospect, to be underappreciated. He posits her marriage to Lennon was a leap into celebrity, but one to which she absolutely brought an awareness of celebrity-as-performance. He even opines that her films are her greatest achievements (alongside her brilliant, pre-feminist performance masterwork, “Cut Piece”). But he negates these opinions by tossing out a dismissive kneejerk comment about her music, one whose idiocy is not mitigated by its wide currency. “The music is unbearable,” he writes. “And let’s leave it at that”.
An art critic without the ability to assess musical art with the same aesthetic consciousness he applies to visual art is, to some degree, crippled. But Kimmelman’s myopia is not confined to the compartmentalized world of conventional art critics. There has been a general idea bruited about that Yoko Ono’s art, particularly in its musical form, is not worth much or is some kind of cruel joke being played on the public. This idea is so foreign to our ears that it’s almost ungraspable.
Yoko’s music and her visuals have always been stunning, and not easily separable. Yoko Ono asmusician, as composer, inhabits personae explicitly integral to her life and career as an artist. The ideas and sounds that run throughout her compositions are as filled with wonder and humor and ingenuity as her most engaging work in film, object art, et al. Indeed, her vocal concepts, inside the context of Beatles recordings — the highest profile pop music recordings in history — are astounding, not only for their organic thought-tongue individuality, but also for their ability to deliver genuinely avant-garde statements to a mainstream world.
The fact that this person is female, Japanese, an artist, and was married to John Lennon is something people are still trying to figure out. For many, it’s just a weird bit of proof that there’s a world out there (somewhere) far more fascinating than Main Street. But Yoko’s music is still regarded by the straight press and the bulk of its adherents as an anomaly, some sort of eccentric affectation. The truth is that Yoko studied and practiced traditional composition in the 1950s, while simultaneously exploring ideas of alternative notational theory. This places her right in the same class as such acknowledged transitional thinkers as John Cage, Henry Cowell, and David Tudor. Yoko’s compositional work, perhaps especially the “instruction pieces,” and her sharp-edged performances, were profound by any measure. When you factor in her ethnicity and gender, it’s easy to believe her efforts were more functionally radical than those of any contemporaries. In the context of her partnership with John Lennon, we got to experience a premier avant garde artist’s attempt to unify her own process with a rock n’ roll dynamic. Which, alongside the art/music relationship of Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground and the influence these mutually beneficial connectives have had on the modern state of art/rock, is pretty goddamn revolutionary.
Since her first commercially released recording – Two Virgins – created in partnership with John Lennon, Yoko has breathed life into a brilliant body of musical work. Initially, this fact was only grasped by listeners at the fringes – proto-punks, improvisers and experiementalists of various stripes – but the last decade has finally seen the beginnings of a serious re-evaluation of heroeuvre. And whilst the wilder parts of her whole seem to still be beyond the grasp of squares, her 2007 album, Yes, I’m a Witch, on which she was joined by a who’s who of the international rock underground, show that many people have figured out the secret beauty of her moves. This graceful arc continues with Between Her Head and the Sky.
– Byron Coley, June, 2009
Words and Music By Yoko Ono, © Ono Music (BMI), 2009
Produced by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon
Assistant Producer: Yuka Honda
Mixed by Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda
Except Watching the Rain and The Sun Is Down! mixed by Cornelius, with Toyoaki Mishima and Toru Takayama
And Ask The Elephant! mixed by Scott Hollingsworth
Yoko Ono: vocals
Sean Lennon: acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion
Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada: guitars, bass, Tenorion, programming, percussion
Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu: guitars, percussion
Yuko “mi-gu” Araki: drums, percussion
Shahzad Ismaily: guitars, bass, drums, percussion
Yuka Honda: Pro-tools editing, sampler, e. piano, organ, percussion
Michael Leonhart: trumpet, vibraphone, percussion
Erik Friedlander: cello
Daniel Carter: tenor saxophone, flute
Indigo Street: guitar
Chief Engineer: Christopher Allen
Assistant Engineer: Dave Schoenwetter
Recorded & Mixed at Sear Sound
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound
Cover and booklet design: Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl
Photographs: Greg Kadel
Special thanks to All Nippon Airways (ANA)
For Press Inquiries Please Contact Kip Kouri: http://Kip@tellallyourfriendspr.com