2006 Shinjuku JAM by Bloom 01.15.07
Editors note: What happens when you team up 2 members of Les Rallizes De Nudes with noise pioneer Keiji Haino?
...So as we step into another year, let us not forget those things which sent out a vital impact across the universe in recent memory...specifically, there was a mother of a concert last september 1st....
There are some basic images which come to mind when the topic is 'Japanese
rock'- cute girl groups playing with western-derived images and sounds, and long-haired dudes...playing with western-derived images and sounds. To get to the essential point, then, we need to cut to the marrow and clarify where the significant developments occurred, where things moved beyond perpetuating an existing tradition to establishing new archetypes and building blocks, we're talking where people like Van Gogh and Monet started a whole new movement after looking at Japanese prints and Chinese ink paintings (for fans of Monet, check out what people like Mi Fu were doing in the 11th c.; Van Gogh's infatuation with Japanese prints led him to curate exhibitions and make exact copies in his own hand).
1960's Japanese airwaves were awash with groups doing their (corporate) take on the Beatles, Hollies, Herman's Hermits, and by golly, what else could you ask for?, until a group singing about the hollowness of it all had their take on reality (in an era when Japan 'officially' decided to become protected by a foreign power despite massive protests) banned from the radio. The Jacks just weren't doing what all the other kids were- their standout songs on their 1968 debut lp, "Vacant World", tended to be extremely melancholic (the banned single, 'Vacant World'), sung with sensibilities taken from traditional and avante Japanese culture (also note the delay effect on the guitar line), and even abrasive in the now legendary 'Marianne', where primal, cataclysmic drumming replaces the usual bass-snare-bass-snare beat and fuzz guitar howls and screeches to the end to accentuate the anguished cries for redemption from the young leader Hayakawa Yoshio, who breaks it down wearing dark shades and long hair extending well beyond his shoulders, bangs cut straight across. Yeah, there is some filler amongst the middle tracks (to be expected when you're signed to a major), but the first 3 and the second-to-last track heralded a new sound and look which was to provide a foundation map for Japanese underground psychedelic rock.
After this initial record, various member changes (obviously such a recording didn't result in massive sales) and such led to the eventual break-up of the Jacks. However, the initial salvo had been launched, and its explosion felt keenly in the minds of the talented and imaginative. Particularly, the early songs of a certain Mr. Mizutani tended to evince a similar fondnes for darker atmospheres, and not unlike the Jacks' track 'Love', coaxed mildly-hypnotic acid-folky spells from his guitar to accompany forlorn vocals. By the time it became obvious that the Jacks weren't going to deliver any further breakthroughs, Mizutani had by around 1972 put together his vision for the 2nd Coming- Les Rallizes des Nudes had become an all-out psychedelic assault with fully reved-up fuzz guitar completely awash with delay and accompanying feedback, vocals stuttered out in stacatto to accentuate the reverb, everything turned up to 10, reflecting the on-going chaos of the student movement against the puppet government (but hey, major league baseball and Disney have more than made up for it, haven't they?), things getting out of hand as students barricade Kyoto University and the bassist for Les Rallizes joins the Red Army group that hijacks a Japan Airlines jet to North Korea. It's 'Marianne' loaded up on LSD and dope, which is apparently what was regularly smoked before shows, and Mizutani wearing the archetypal shades and long hair, bangs cut straight across.
Well, standing in the wings following these developments was another aspiring musican who wanted nothing to do with the establishment. He had founded a radical free jazz group, but after its dissolution was looking to form a Japanese rock band for the millenium, one that explored and did things that had never been done before. As Les Rallizes were obviously the trippiest thing around, it has been said that this musician attempted to forge links with members of Les Rallizes to form his new group, which led to some conflicts of interest. Eventually he did succeed in securing a guitarist by the name of Miura Maki, and formed a group called Fushitsusha.
The Fushitsusha sound- loud, reved fuzz feedback guitars, anguished screams, stacatto vocals- arranged orchestrally to alternate with poetic passages of calm, eerie falsetoo vocals, whispers, and avante rhythms- was a breakthrough into something not seen or heard before (as with The Jacks, the 1st album is the one to look for). Fronting the group was the guitarist/vocalist Haino Keiji, wearing the shades, the hair cut long, bangs straight across.
So now, then, back to September 1st, 2006. An acquaintance and long-time fan of Haino has the audacity to dream up pairing him with two former Les Rallizes members, Doronco (bass) and Sammi (drums). The setting was set, then, for the hard psyche event of the new century, spanning decades back to the days when the two camps sparred and fought while singing for the activist students who were getting their brains bashed in by gangland goons paid for by Uncle Sam. Yes, it doesn't get any darker, desperate, anguished, or tripped out into trial by fire than what we got here tonight, this all-black stripped-bare live venue (did you say you'd prefer some wood paneling?-that kind of money doesn't see the light of day here in central Tokyo with normal folk), more like a sound-proofed bomb shelter, with all the people that Tokyo (and the Tokyo 'scene') doesn't want, deserters, loners, older guys who are just barely avoiding the park bench at night, they didn't sign up for that Toyota interview then and they're not about to get behind Puffy or any of the underground imposters now. They know where it's been, they know where it has to go, and everyone's clear that it's not earned by the usual routes, certainly not by being clever with your choice of amp or basing decisions on name value. The lights go out, the rhythm section gets set, out strides the shades 'n hair, and it is on, Sammi pounding out the incessant beat, Doronco pounding out the thick notes on his ancient Fender P-bass, Haino absolutely ripping the innards of his Telecastor custom to shreds, pausing to intone a tome wraith-like, suddenly stomping the effects pedals to drill new caverns in our brains...he goes back to the Fender Twin amp and turns it up further, Doronco seizes the chance to parade himself stage center for a few precious moments, then goes back to his amp to turn things up, Sammi just keeps on, a flurry of songs end, Doronco leans against the stage wall, heaving gulps of oxygen, Sammi bent over panting, vegetarian/yoga meister/no-drink/no-dope 53 years young Haino tapping his foot impatiently, finally they're up again, throttling it for all its worth, then in the midst of the hurricane Haino pulls out a flute, things slow down, it gets all bewitching as the flute swirls and floats, pulling the water from the rock, the nectar salves and saves, we know we've made the right choice in life to be here, to be this initiated... they pile-drive into the last song, a Fushitsusha standard, the same one you can see on YouTube, with Haino pounding the same power chord incessantly, who cares that some mohawked jackass got up and positioned himself right in front of Haino so that 70% of the people have their view obstructed, it's beyond that now, it's beyond everything, it's the only place anyone ever wanted to be, free.
So, yes, a lot of stuff being put out now is good, but to really be able to evaluate it we need to familiarize ourselves with the sources, to understand how much represents real work, and how much is restyling. To be honest, there's been more than one occasion when the good ol' boys club politics have taken precedence over substance, and this is exactly what the pioneers of psyche rose up against and abhorred, and it is exactly this spirit which gave rise to the defining moments of Japanese psychedelic rock.