Posts Tagged ‘Japanese Folk’

Tetuzi Akiyama

Guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama serves up a patient, contemplative album on his entry into the catalog of L.A.’s Besom Presse. While I’d normally associate Akiyama with raw sounds and the tattered remnants of boogie scattered around the sound field, here he’s jettisoned both the tube-fried effects and electric instrumentation altogether. The record, pieced together over a decade, lets the air still around the listener. Each note is purposeful and hangs – sanguine or sour — in the air for a moment before disputing into vaporous space. Its odd to hear an artist so based in the rhythmic thrum letting the whims of the wind push a song. There’s a real feeling that these compositions were tuned out of the ether, caught in mind and captured to tape so that they might not escape further contemplation.

There’s no ramble, no rollick. Like Loren Connors the songs paint a stark image, but one that digs its nails deep into the soul. Akiyama’s catalog runs deep, and it’s a dense run to get through, but here he proves that there’s still plenty of intrigue to be hand in following the tangents he winds down. Repeated listens pose this as an album of still water resolve, an anchor point in the chaos that surrounds us. The songs here are not pushy, not showy, but they let the mind wander in all directions. The wind in the trees, water on the wind, Akiyama in the headphones. This is the way of the fall.



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VA – Even A Tree Can Shed Tears

Light in the Attic, like Numero, has never gone in for half measures. When a release is compiled, they’re throrough, swaddling it in impeccable design and restoring lost music to its rightful place on your speakers. So, with this in mind it was an exciting announcement that the label would be starting a new Japanese archival series looking at different scenes and subgenres throughout the region. Their first take puts the focus on the ’60s and the folk movement that grew out of student protests, “authentic folk” leanings and the beginnings of psychedelic folk. Much of this came under the banner of “New Music” which tied together the Eastern and Western regional strains.

The collection is stitched with a wonderful slide in and out of the more authentic, stripped-down artists, many of whom find a plaintive beauty in their compositions. The songs are clearly leaning away from what would have been traditional Japanese folk, but also working in the same way that their British and American counterparts had contrasted the more pop sounding beat groups. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for more Japanese traditional influence to rear its head, this collection stands as an interesting argument for the West’s pervasiveness on young people at the time.

Light in the Attic has shone a light over many voices that seem left out of the current conversation in Japanese music. It’s easy to connect the dots between Takashi Nishioka’s subtle boil of fuzz and later works by Masaki Batoh. For me, personally, so much of my contact with Japanese music is rooted in the noisier ends of psych, the discordant ends of rock and, when scrubbed up, the more beat-leaning ’60s groups like Jacks or Apryl Fool. It’s great to have a collection that brings the underground beauty of these artists to the foreground. Can’t wait to see what LIA digs into in this series next, but for now, this one’s a keeper.

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Light In The Attic: Japan Archival Series

Light In The Attic are absolute masters at digging up the past and their latest series fills an essential hole in the cataloging of Japanese music. They’re beginning the series with three compilations – Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973; Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1985; and Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. Presumably they’ll spread to some singular artist focused releases from there as they tease a release from “one of the most respected and influential artists in Japan.”

The first release on the docket is Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973 and it catalogs the post-war folk wellspring that became known as angura among students and fans at the time. The folk movement prized an authenticity over recreating Western sounds and as a result this lays the groundwork for many of the modern folk and psych-folk artists from the country we’ve come to love. The first installment is out in October and available on limited “Weeping Sakura” colored wax. Check out a cut from Kazuhiko Kato below.

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