Sunday, October 14, 2007

JAPANORAMA!

Although I certainly have other recently-received fish to fry of both the analog and digital species (including the reissue of the first two Moby Grape elpees on Sundazed...y'see, after listening to the first 'un in its classic vinyl format I decided to step up in the world, do a little upgradin' in my collection and actually dished out for the first two and first two ONLY because I'm still afraid to give a listen to GRAPE JAM lest it ruin my opinion of the band for good and as far as I know MOBY GRAPE '69 ain't been reished or at least in this new Cee-Dee config) I thought I'd devote this particular post to the recent batch of Nipponese-oriented (hah!) underground rock & roll plats that have been headin' my way as of late. And as faithful readers of this blog probably already know by heart in their sleep frontwards and sideways, Japan is a pretty good hotbed of great underground rockism that even surprises a seen-it-all-before fogey like myself, with a whole slew of groups comin' outta the place highly reminiscent of none other than Les Rallizes Denudes, the band that pretty much started the whole Japan rock balla wax rollin' way back in 1967 when they, like Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano and Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show elsewhere on this sphere, decided to do the Velvet Underground thing in their own backyard thus setting the stage for the big upheaval in Third Generation Rock that would transpire throughout the seventies only to get milked to death later but let's not waste our time on musical abortions the likes of X-tal, today we be talkin' JAPAN!!!

If the Denudes gang are the ones who pretty much created the Japanese avant-punk scene back during the musical kerfuffle of the late-sixties it was bands like Up-Tight, Doodles and LSD March that took the ball into the endzone a good twenty-plus years after Mizutani Takashi and gang decided to give the Fugs and Country Joe the one-up on the politico front. Up-Tight as you know are honest-to-goodniz "acolytes" of the Denudes (with a Japanese-language Velvet Underground site to their name as well!) and their stripped-down power-trio sound lends credence to this fact even though their more recent outing left me so unimpressed that I haven't had the gumption to play it in the three years since it first graced my laser launching pad. And I'm afraid I'll have to say the same thing about LSD March as well...while their earlier endeavors from the turn of the piscean age continue to strike fear into psyched-out hearts world-wide (I still have a strong affinity for their live bootleg CD which, besides having a great audience-quality sound reminiscent of the best seventies tapes still floating around consists of nothing but the smashbang openings of what promise to be extraordinaire numbers that get cut off before they can develop into their full potential) their latest CONSTELLATION OF TRAGEDY (Alchemy, available through the regular sources) is rather subdued on both the energy and content fronts. From what I can tell head Marcher Shinsuke Michishita's ever-changing backing group has dwindled to drummer Ikuro Takahashi with Michishita handling not only his guitar but bass, theremin, musical box and harmonium giving this 'un a comparatively extreme introspective sound that, true, reminds one of the softer Denudes tracks that can be heard on a variety of releases both legit and not but at least those "ballads" were surrounded by some might potent fire music. Only one track approximating the classic hard Japanese psychedelic sound emerges (track four) and that one's a pretty good killer with its "Pablo Picasso" done John Cale-style beat, but the rest is kinda, er, effete to the point that it will surprise longtime Japan rock watchers expecting the second coming of heavy metal CREEM-style. Not the best place to start if you're new in the game, but lest you think this a total wipeout lemme say that if you squint your ears a bit this may sound something like a Japanese version of Skip Spence's OAR.

(And, although I usually don't complain in typical Robert Christgoo fashion, this disque only clocks in at 27 minutes and 22 whopping seconds which should qualify as a ripoff esp. in this age of the hour-long album, but considering how non-plussed I was with this particular side let's just consider it a blessing.)

With a name like Tsumentaikinomama it has to be good, right? Well, that's exactly what I was hoping after reading the hype accompanying the sale of this group's two platters which (once again) dribbed out the Velvet Underground/Les Rallizes Denudes comparisons. Well, unfortunately very little of both appear on their two platters that came out once again via Alchemy... frankly both of 'em sound way too clean and professional to come anywhere near the lofty standards of either group. If any comparisons are to be made let it be David Gilmour-period Pink Floyd somewhere near the time of those weird multi-colored kaleidoscope covers I used to look at with awe until I finally paid cash to hear 'em and was particularly underwhelmed. Miminokoto, who impressed me on the original NIGHT GALLERY sampler, also tended to weave into a Floydian groove that really irked me and it turns out that this bunch come way close to the same taproot of progressive nada. File under footnote.

Finally on today's rockalogue's Overhang Party, yet another group that gets the hefty Velvets/Rallizes comparisons and falls short, but at least these guys do a much better job at the invigorating noise than their other compats have. An apt description of this act would be the late Velvet Underground when these innovates were digging up the early roots on LOADED and thereabouts with interesting sidesteps into La Dusseldorf, John Cale (as solo star circa PARIS 1919) and Phil Specter even. Within the sixties-pop and avant garde fun and games are some interesting asides like a string quartet accompanying a particularly early-Velvets pouncer that after it's all over comes off someting like the Time CD that I reviewed sometime back complete with all of that avant garde noise that was part and parcel of every album to come out of the late-sixties! If David Keenan told me this was some lost 1967 album made by a buncha guys at some Nipponese university who wanted to do the new music/rock thing on their own terms I might just dish out the big buckskins to give the thing a whirl! A nice little outta-the-way surprise even if it was recorded over a decade ago but it sure tops the other Far Eastern freakouts that preceded it on today's journey into the Japanese mind.

More Asian astounders to follow hopefully soon, but until then here's one of those self-gratifying BLOG TO COMM playlists not only to pad this post out but to lord all over you peons in a "Ha, this is what I'm listening to dontcha wish you had alla these recordings in YOUR collection you effete little polyp you..." sorta way! Feel honored for once:

NOISETET OBSCURE CD-One of the things I really liked about tuning into those old CBGB cybercasts back inna maybe not-so-good-ol'-days was catching not the bigname acts that would traipse across the now-caved in stage but the up-and-comers and nobodies and general flybynights that would take their chance not only in the main dining area but on the stages of the smaller gallery and lounge areas convieniantly located next door. True there were a lotta duff acts and general nadas playing at the place (I remember once tuning into the gallery and coming across some solo gal singer who, although not offensive or especially irritating in a musical sense, had the unmitigated audacity to tell her gathered curiousity-seekers about the greatness of one Joni Mitchell!) but amidst the non-starters and what-was-that??? sorta acts to get booked at the place there were some gems, and Noisetet were but one. Playing mostly at the CBGB Lounge during the Sunday night Dee Pop-curated avant jazz series, Noisetet came off like an early-seventies jazz/fusion band with a load of mad electronic wizardry and a style that was all its own owing very little if anything to the Mahavishnu Orchestra/Return to Forever jumble that was putting jazz in the rock bins back in the day. (An aside: can anybody out there with a decent background on the subject tell me whether that first Return to Forever album with Dave Liebman on soprano sax is any good??? I've read reports of how it was nothing like the latterday band etc. and so forth, but before I dish out the hard-earned for a copy I'd like to hear from someone with some sturdy background knowledge if possible!) Noisetet's only CD isn't quite as good as the sounds this group unleashed at those CB Lounge gigs (complete with the "Sculpturemotion Project" doing what looked like the Grateful Dead dance o' ecstacy!) but it makes a fine sub for the live-in-the-air thing material that seems to have vanished into the ether! Hey Misters Silverman and Sebastian, how about releasing some of those shows on disc, just for li'l ol' me??? I sure could use some more resensifiers in my life, if you know wadda mean!

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Sonny Sharrock-MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO CD (Sunspots Italy)-
I remember way back inna mid-eighties when Bill Shute was telling me about this very album by then-obscure avant jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock and extolling its greatness to li'l ol' me and to the point where I just hadda hear the thing after Bill's exaulted discription which made it sound like the best thing to come out of the even-newer jazz scene of the late-sixties that was already over-the-top to begin with. Well, he being strapped for cash at the time said that he just might part with his very own copy of MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO if I presented him with a price copasetic with what he was willing to part with the exaulted gem for. Anyway, I believe I offered Bill like fifteen bucks max for the thing which turned out to be way off the reservation with regards to what Bill was thinking, which I guess was OK since not too soon after I found out that Wayside Music was selling the Affinity reissue (with the same white-on-black block lettering as the other Affinity reissues presented via my recent posts!) at only a few bucks per, so not only did I get hold of multiple copies to keep on hand it being so good, but I also saved myself a huge wad of money had I only accepted Bill's offer to pay thirtysome if not more for this class piece of avant rock that I'm positive Sharrock got nada for considering just how sheister the guys at Actuel could be!

Since those not-quite-halcyon days I managed to latch onto an official BYG-ish of this side as well as this very Cee-Dee that the Eyetalian Sunspots label put out during the great BYG reissue rush of the late '90s/early '00s complete with a shrunken-down mini-elpee sleeve reproducing the original in tinkertoy format. Naturally the three tracks enclosed remain what Paul McGarry's son called "music from purgatory"...heavy-duty guitar-led free jazz/rock that not only has that great turn-of-the-decade French jazz recording feel but leads the way for a lotta great seventies excursions on both the jazz and rock fronts. Sharrock has never been more wild or better, and although I like his other recordings from BLACK WOMAN and PARADISE to Material and Last Exit onanon, I find MONKEY-POCKIE-BOO the last word in what Sonny Sharrock was all about and will be remembered for in a hundred years long after all this blogosphere praise of him has been long forgotten and exiled into the general rot where it deserves to spend all of eternity!
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Can-MONSTER MOVIE CD (Spoon)-If I had only picked this up in the import bin at Musicland 'stead of Triumvrat way back in '75 my musical heritage would have been honed a lot more earlier...
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Jackalope-SALTIER THAN EVER (Challenge)-Another oft-mentioned fave from John Abercrombie and crew, this sounds a lot better'n the ECM-related records I've heard by this jazz-guitar figure and continues to make fine backdrop for my evening pre-beddy-bye hours. Kinda makes me wish I had the technical know-how to preserve those CBGB Lounge cybercasts I miss oh so dearly (how precious of moi!).

1 comment:

matt said...

hi from matt.

- gee i probably should try and get ahold of that art ensemble record you say is such essential listening. i think my copy of Third Decade on ECM (have you heard this one?), must be one of if not THE most frequently played discs ever at MY place.

- did you know that Rallizes in japanese is HADAKA NO RARIZUS? just thought i/d tell you.

- re: Can/s Monster Movie. i have been wearing out the razer (i mean laser) from my cd player as i have been playing this disc so much recently....but my wife (who/s japanese) always laughs at and mimics their funny accents, especially on Yo Do Right.

thats all i think for now.
cheers