Posts Tagged ‘Japanese Psych’

Masaki Batoh

With his return to the fold of psychedelic folk (with a turnoff into blues last year) Ghost’s Masaki Batoh has reestablished himself as a master of the craft. Not that I’d ever had any doubts about Masaki’s prowess, but its nice to hear him embracing the delicate vibrations that result in melancholy bouts of rarefied air once again. While his work with The Silence has seen him reconnect with legendary psych drummer Okano Futoshi (Acid Mothers Temple, Cosmic Invention) he shifts to yet another high profile name for this record, letting Hiroyuki Usui (Ghost, Fushitsusha) create a lilting, skittering backdrop to his verdant vignettes. Often Usui holds back, framing Batoh’s work in shifting winds of sound, but there are moments when the percussionist acts as a perfect foil for the songwriter, as on “Speculum” in which the two artists play off of one another with graceful elegance.

Largely Batoh has shirked the lonesomeness of Nowhere, at least in the studio, inviting other members of Ghost and The Silence into the sessions. Though, musically, this record still leans into the solitary winds that he explored on his last LP. Likewise there’s an embrace of fluidity in language, with not only English seeping into his repertoire, but Spanish and Latin this time as well. Batoh doesn’t cobble his influences haphazardly, though, and the language shifts and instrumentation (which ropes in flute, piano, lap steel, saxophone, contra bass) gives the album a tapestry quality that’s meditative, if not also rustic. With the exception of a dip into heavier pscyh on the closer, Smile Jesus Loves You feels like the hermetic album he’s been longing to make, even if there are friends nestled in his cave this time. The mountain winds, and sunrise hues are rampant, and ultimately quite welcome. If Nowhere whet your appetite for more haunted folk from the master, then this will help quench the ache.



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Kikagaku Moyo – “Ouchi Time”

Another sublime cut from this new Looking Glass series though MexSum and its from longtime faves Kikagaku Moyo. The band’s been working outside the album boundaries all year with a solid entry to the Sub Pop Singles Club and now this gem that’s playing to their psych-folk strengths, but bringing in the bob of rhythm that keeps this track bubbling right on into German Progressive waters. As the build crests, the band lets a the chug of drums get doused in stringwork, echo, and a disorienting cascade of ecstasy. Hoping that this track hints at the direction they might be headed, but the tracks included in this series seem to be particularly singular offerings, letting band’s play around with sounds, while all adhering to a sort of humid, earthen psychedelia and folk focus. Can’t wait to see what’s next.


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White Heaven – Out

I wrote about this one a little while back, but it bears another mention since this is the first time that this essential LP has been readily available. White Heaven’s proper debut may stand as one of the greatest psychedelic records of the ‘90s and argument goes to push it well up the all time list as well. The record brought together a formidable collection of musicians, lead by the talents of You Ishihara and Michio Kurihara. The former would go on to form The Stars and the latter would helm Ghost, but while they were together for a short time, they stood at the epicenter of a Japanese psychedelic bloom that can still be fell flowering today. Later, the band would bring Shimura Koji (Mainliner, Acid Mothers Temple) into the fold, but here, even though they were just beginning, their sound had already begun to form the exploratory blues pyrotechnics that cemented them as a primordial force in Japanese rock.

Prior to this album, the band released a live tape that documented their early shows, but the studio lit the light of some fertile collaborations. Kurihara’s guitars singe and demur over the course of the album, especially the epic centerpiece “Mandrax Town.” Following this album both Michio and drummer Ken Ishihara exited, but this was a document of the band at their most vital and elemental. The band would finally call it quits around the release of 1997’s Levitation and Kurihara would take Ghost on to be one of the premiere exports from the scene, but this moment of inception and incubation proves where much of his sound got its start. Black Editions has restored this LP to its proper position as a centerpiece in any psychedelic bin. Necessary by all measures.



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Sub Pop Singles: Kikagaku Moyo & Terry

The ranks of the Sub Pop Singles Club are always a good place to keep an eye, and usually a good bet to go in blind when they announce. The label embraces the edges of what they’d normally consider for full releases (through sometimes I wish this embrace would extend beyond just a one-shot 7”) and they shine a light on some of the more deserving artists in their sphere. Last year’s series is now getting out in to the physical world, but that also means those who didn’t go all in can still grab the digital delights as they come piecemeal. Yesterday saw the release of two RSTB regulars and both are in fine form.

First up is a new single from longtime faves Kikagaku Moyo. The band lights into a searing cover of “Gypsy Davey,” and English folk traditional that’s been most often associated with Sandy Denny’s version. The band, rounded out with vocals from Kandice Holms (Bells), gives the cover a good nod, mixing the earthen smolder of the original with a bit of their own psychedelic smoke. On the flip they enter the folk-tinged whisper of “Mushi No Uta,” which laps at the listener with a gorgeous simplicity and tender soul.

The label sweetens the release day with a new single from Aussie’s Terry as well. The band has been pretty low key since their 2018 full length I’m Terry only releasing a short and sweet EP last year. “Take The Cellphone” hits all the right sweet spots for Terry – as post-punk throbber that’s tinged with a squeamish pop sense and winking all the way. The b-side’s an instrumental with a laconic feel, despite its rather political title, “Debt and Deficit Disaster.” The song’s a slow creeper, but as with anything from the band, its no throwaway. Both singles are great shots for the series, though I’d think that along with the earlier inclusion of Minneapolis’ Uranium Club, all of these could welcome full lengths from these bands into the Sub Pop roster.




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Masaki Batoh – “In The Hour of Serpent”

Nice surprise today to have a new track from Masaki Batoh. With a solo release just last year, I’d not have expected more from the ex-Ghost frontman, but he’s sprung out of the fertile ground that brought forth Nowhere for a less solitary follow-up. Where that record was huddled around Batoh’s isolated reflections, Smile Jesus Loves YOU is more about reaching out in collaboration. Featuring members of Ghost (including percussionist Hiroyuki Usui) and The Silence, the record aims for communal transcendence and seems to be nailing it quite completely. Opener, “In The Hour of Serpent” is a lilting cut, buoyed by sweet flute curls and bittersweet plucks. The new LP is out May 8th fro Drag City. Dig deep on that cut below. If the rest of the record is half as good as this, its gonna be another stunner.



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White Heaven Out Reissued by Black Editions Group

More great news from the Black Editions Group. As they work through the PSF catalog, they continue to put great records back in their proper place among the stacks. This time the label has a reissue of White Heaven’s scorching 1991 LP Out. The record features guitar from Michio Kurihara (Ghost, Cosmic Invention) and it marks a high watermark of ’90s psychedelic Japan. Originals of the LP will set you back upwards of $300 so its an amazing piece to have back in circulation. The album is a feedback chomping monster of riff and riot that cannot be denied. Check out the slow-burn freakout of “Mandrax Town” and get over to the site, where they have a mailorder-only gold edition of the LP.


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OOIOO

As with her time in The Boredoms, YoshimiO’s own outlet OOIOO takes rock as a suggestion, moving instruments through clouds of noise in chaotic bursts. The sounds on nijimusi swarm from seething, stuttering percussive brambles through synth ether leaks and into angular guitars gutters choked by the angles and barbs. Entering into an OOIOO album comes with an understanding that, like surrealism or psychedelics, the world will shift and you’re likely not the one in control of when and how. Sounds penetrate from all directions. The listener must be ever vigilant or ever pliable, whichever suits your sway. YoshimiO is a master of mayhem, but she makes it seem like a sensible scramble once the gears start clanking into the second or third track.

OOIOO is like an auditory toss into the woodchipper, floating among the debris the patterns begin to emerge and the seemingly unhinged becomes a mechanism for rhythm and movement. The record enters itself high among the band’s ever-expanding catalog. Seemingly its no quiet coincidence that one of their best, Gold & Green was just given a new life by the label. The two pair well as poles of pulse in Yoshimi’s universe. Goes without saying, if you’re already plugged and pulsating on the OOIOO wavelength that this will continue to crinkle your soul. If this is the first time, quite honestly, nijimusi is a nice entry point as well, classic as ever but overwhelming just the same.

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Dhidalah

Back in 2017 Tokyo power trio Dhidalah signed up with GuruGuru Brain and cut a crusher of an EP. Two sides, one song per side and each one a heavy amalgam of space rock and psych with some German Progressive overtones. It was a perfect little pocket universe that dangled the promise of more to come. The band and label seemed a perfect fit and it lit the fuse of expectation. Two years later, seemingly out of thin air the band touches down their debut LP with a whiff of ozone and engine oil. The record, like that EP is packed with lengthy cuts, fleshing this out to four heatseekers, besting the EP’s pervious two side-long kickers. The feelings remain the same from those early days with the air around the record is dense and acrid, swirling with noxious gases like something out of a mockup from ‘70s sci-fi pulp covers. The band eases into the scene with the cosmic creep of “Neuer Typ” before kicking the afterburners into high through the scorch-skidded “Adamski.”

They toggle back and forth between the creosote char of amplifier fry and the Zen of sensory deprivation hallucinations. While the heady excursions into the ether bring solace, their sunburn blasts are lethal and might just take the edge for the band’s more welcome face forward. Sons of Hawkwind that they are, though, there’s no constant crush. The band explodes into atomic particles and bounces signals between them in cooling winds before amazing strength once again. They’ve cracked the code on earthquake DNA and brought seismic rumble to each new terra firma they touch down upon. This kind of release snagging a late-November slot is exactly why the rush to year-end judgment should be avoided. You never know when an album’s going to shake the moorings this hard, and when it does, reverence is owed.




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Dhidalah – “Jovian Sky”

Some late-year treasures have been floating out of the Guru Guru Brain house at the tail end of 2019 and I’d advise you not to sleep on them. Following up on their stunning debut EP, power trio Dhidalah is back with a new album of face-ripped space rock that pulls from the Ashra and AMT ends of the spectrum in equal doses. Tuck into the winding and thunder-scratched “Jovian Sky” for a taste of the band’s heft. The song rumbles and ravages, brings the low-end and then dips into the quasar-quench for a cool down that’s necessary before your speakers start to singe. If you missed out on their last platter, the GGB logo on the cover should be more than enough to sway ya, but let this crusher be the cincher. The record is releasing next week on a short-warning schedule. Highly Recommended!

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The Apryl Fool – S/T

Seems like over the past couple of years, the house of (Haruomi) Hosono has been rebuilt reissue by reissue. His solo records have been getting a good shout, Happy End got some (far too limited) reissues in the last couple of years and even some tangential works that he was involved in like Minami Masato’s The Tropics have found their way back to the table. This, however, is where it all started. The Apryl Fool were more straightforward than any of his works, but Hosono’s bass anchors their simmering vision of blues rock in 1969 and gives it some great dimension. The band only really laid down one album, their eponymous debut, though a collaboration with Japanese musical theater group Tokyo Kid Brothers exists in a scant pressing around the same time as well. That single isn’t as indicative of their style, though and this LP remains the most complete overview of The Apryl Fool at the time.

Aside from Honso, other members would spread through the burgeoning Japanese psychedelic channels with members popping up in Shinki Chen & His Friends, Food Brain, The Floral, and Happy End. The record is rooted in the kind of British Blues that were dominant around the time, but occasionally also skews towards the psychedelic, especially on the more outre “The Lost Mother Land (Part 1) which came to the attention of many Western fans through the compilation Love, Peace & Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music at the crack of the Aughts. This album proves that, while that track is an excellent example of effects-indulgent psych, the band had way more to offer. The band quit the day the record was released, and even while it was issued on a Japanese subsidiary of Columbia at the time, that spelled disaster for this music reaching enough ears. Survival Research ensures that this gem doesn’t get lost to the winds forever.


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