AGENCEMENT Boxe Consonantique ( Pico) cd 17.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Squeaking, scraping scraps of violin improv turned into musique concrete via magnetic tape and razorblade -- that's the specialty of Japan's Hideaki Shimada, aka Agencement. This disc contains two long, low-key, slowly unravelling tracks, one from '93 and the other from '99. Imagine the abstract avant-classical violin of someone like Malcolm Goldstein fractured further via tape splicing. This is apparently Agencement's fourth full-length release, although we've only ever seen his 1991 disc "Viosphere" (an old "Japanoise" favorite of ours, in fact). "Boxe Consonatique" may be considerably less dense and noisy than we remember "Viosphere" being, but is no less lovely.
AGENCEMENT Early Works 1983-1986 (Edition Omega Point) cd 27.00
AHOUSEN s/t (PSF) cd 17.98
"Lunatic avant-free-rock, honed in guerrilla street performance" we're told. Hmm, we know the streets of Tokyo are crowded, but we bet Ahousen cleared the block they were rockin'. Of course, had we been there to see 'em, we'd have stayed put in the street, digging Ahousen big time. This is some serious psychedelic guitar grit, drum tumble, distorto-bass trudge, avant-sax blat, and angsty-screamy vocal burble, from a Japanese band we first heard on PSF's Tokyo Flashback vol. 6 comp. The guitarist, Katsu, played in a band called Lizard back in the '70s, the drummer is Tail from Suishou No Fune. The quartet is rounded out by Suu on sax and vocals, and Akira on bass. Dunno what other bands they may be from, but being part of Ahousen seems cool enuff! Wild and wooly but also sometimes achingly melodic and melancholic, Ahousen (aka Ship Of Fools in English) is part free jazz, part psych rock, and part Japanese folk. It's like Albert Ayler meets Blue Cheer. Or Musica Transonic with sax and a hint of Enka. Beginning auspiciously enough with the energetic onslaught of "All Creatures", Ahousen's self-titled debut consists of four tracks in total, ranging in length from 7 minutes to an epic 28 ("Ophelia", which occupies the 2nd half of the album, certainly is a dramatic performance, compelling throughout, moving from moments of delicate frolic to heavy duty freakdom). Speaking of drama, even in the album's less fierce, more folky moments (like on the relatively lovely "A Leaf"), Suu's nervous breakdown, primal scream vocals up the emotional ante on everything else, his extreme outbursts being a major element of Ahousen's sound, and impact. Compared to other Tokyo Flashback style acts we like from the Tokyo psych scene, such as LSD-march and Up-Tight, these guys somehow sound more '70s underground, and more OUT there - in part due to the free jazz factor, in part due to those vocals... Radical. Fans of Fushitsusha and Kaoru Abe now have a dream date. And let's not limit ourselves merely to Japanese references, anyone into intense underground noisemaking from like likes of, I dunno, Raccoo-oo-oon, might want to sail into the maelstrom with this Ship Of Fools too. Pretty fantastic.
"All Creatures" MPEG Stream:
AI ASO Chamomile Pool (Pedal) cd 19.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. A couple of years ago Japan's Ai Aso served up an absolute dreamcake of an album titled Lavender, then last month she teamed up with Wata of Boris for an amazing book and 7" set. Ai's delights keep on coming with this, her latest full length. Her cooing Japanese waif vocals float like fallen blossoms atop a blurred watercolor stream of effected guitar and steady programmed Casio-esque rhythms. Taking a dip in this Chamomile Pool will surely have the same calming effect as the tea of the same name. We imagine it'd even make a great substitution for traditional baby lullaby fare. This will definitely soothe children of all ages, but the overall serenely elegant tone ensures its adult appeal too. Not an abrasive tone in sight, everything is smooth, soft and so very enchanting. Recommended.
"Date" MPEG Stream:
AI ASO Lavender (Pedal Records) cd 19.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. The gentlest Japanese folktronica imaginable. The album's title pretty much sums it up perfectly -- the faintest purple hue, the soft yet bright fragrance of the plant!
AIHIYO Live (PSF) cd 22.00
This is the second and possibly last document of Keiji Haino's cover band, which mutates Japanese rock classics (as well as the Ronettes' "Be My Baby", and "Satisfaction" by the Stones) into free-floating garage. This Haino record is certainly the worst of his career... It's so bad that you might be seeing my large collection of Fushitshusha / Haino records showing up in the used bin here at Aquarius really soon. Okay, I know that it's live and there is some "improvisation" that is going on here, but these are simplest blues based chords to ever be written, and Haino's band can't even figure out when to change chords. It's not hard to figure it out; the shittiest fraternity cover band could figure how to play a garage song - even after a few beers. And furthermore, Haino's voice is meant for the caterwaul and siren scream to accompany a furious guitar solo, not to limpwristedly sputter monosyllabic grunting over a blues band that would get booed off the stage anywhere else in America, but in San Francisco or New York, where a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals will be scratching their chins, chain-smoking Bebes, and sipping sludgy double espressos that have been cold for well over an hour and lost any flavor what-so-ever. When you listen to rock'n'roll, you should drink beer. Preferably, Pabst Blue Ribbon, but Schlitz or Olympia will do. Where was I... yeah this record sucks. I'm mad and Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska! [Note: Jim wrote this, not Allan or Jeff, who actually have big Keiji Haino collections, and beg to differ with Jim -- far from being the worst record of Haino's career, this in fact one of his best!! The cover of "Satisfaction" alone makes this worth the 21 bucks. Totally amazing, awesome album. Really. Or so WE think. And we drink PBR.]
AINOTAMENISHIS Live '418 (Holy Mountain) lp 14.98
You heard 'em on the recent Tokyo Flashback comp number six, now here's a full length document from this Japanese psych/punk combo. Do the math: out of print cd-r release x now on vinyl x on the ever-reliable Holy Mountain label = come 'n get it, Japanese psych fiends! Holy Mountain name drops Gaseneta and Velvet Underground as comparisons/influences. Somewhere in there for sure is the soul of the Ainotamenishis' rock abandon, like so many other heavy-duty Flashbackers we've been lucky to hear.
AKIO SUZUKI Odds & Ends (Horen) 2cd 26.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Legendary Japanese musician / inventor / instrument builder / visionary Akio Suzuki is most likely unknown to most of you. But the more we discover, and the more of his music we hear, the more it seems like everyone needs to hear / experience his genius. Those of you who bought the recently re-listed Kogezan Koukiji double cd, a gorgeous ambient happening in a temple, surrounded by rain, have heard Suzuki performing on an ancient stone flute. And while the sound and spirit of the performance captured the tone and purpose of Suzuki's life and work, he is much more than just a stone flautist. Suzuki has been performing and building and teaching for 30+ years, exploring nature and how natural sounds can be captured and then set free, how one can get lost in the sounds all around us, and how music and creation and beauty exist always and everywhere. These tracks, as the titles suggests, are bits and pieces culled from the last 3 decades and reveal a spiritual pre-cursor to the Jewelled Antler collective, modern sound art and sound art exploration. Home made echo machines create throbbing, hypnotic voicescapes, warm and soft and naturally unique. Dancers' movements are translated into hand positions on a piano creating wild and unpredictable jumbles of notes. Hand made brick walls interact with wind and weather and expose their hidden emotions as haunting tones and subtle drones. Sounds are shuffled between multiple cassette decks creating insext symphonies of high end whir and distant chirps. Long glass tubes are struck and rubbed and bowed mimicking the sound of bird calls. Multiple turntables are used as the 'plates' in a musical game of plate juggling. Microphones are placed in rolled up tubes of paper, recording the phase shifts of people moving around the room and the sounds of the papers shifting. Roughly cut bamboo flutes accompanying the sound of a distant waterfall and the songs of birds. Suzuki's music is pure and zen, dreamy and uncluttered by the rules and worries of most modern music making. The liner notes are littered with effusive adulation from folks like Jim O'rourke ("All you have to do is listen"), David Toop ("I think of Akio Suzuki as a kind of magician") Yamatsuka Eye ("Hearing this music, I remember many things, including playing in a puddle as a tiny kid") and more. Suzuki reflects fondly on the recordings and offers us a glimpse into the soul of a shaman, truly in touch with himself and the sounds the earth has to offer. If we only know how, and where, to look.
"Analapos '70" MPEG Stream:
"Als-Ob" MPEG Stream:
"Ta Yu Ta I #2"
AKIYAMA, TETUZI Pre-Existence (Locust) cd 14.98
In 2003, Locust released the mighty fine Wooden Guitar compilation, featuring a tracks by some of the most interesting of the current crop of Fahey-inspired practicioners of folk-improv acoustic guitar: Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Tetuzi Akiyama, and Richard Bishop. They've since followed up that release with solo discs by Bishop and, now, Akiyama. Akiyama, who hails from Tokyo, was responsible for the longest and perhaps most avant-garde track on the original compilation, as his guitar playing incorporates the silence and abstraction of the "onkyo" electronic improv scene happening in his hometown. Yet the dusty, folky old timeyness key to the "Wooden Guitar" concept is much in evidence as well. So, listen to Pre-Existence and let Akiyama slowly wrap his sprongy steel guitar strings 'round your head, as he plucks and strums what almost sounds like a blues for the guitar itself. There's a lot of knock knock percussive playing and lonesome sustained tones. It's maybe what John Fahey would sound like if totally slow-mo stoned on cough syrup. Of course that sounds good to us. Can't wait for more in this series!
"Atheist" MPEG Stream:
AKIYAMA, TETUZI Pre-Existence ( Bo'Weavil) lp 28.00
Now on vinyl! In 2003, Locust released the mighty fine Wooden Guitar compilation, featuring a tracks by some of the most interesting of the current crop of Fahey-inspired practitioners of folk-improv acoustic guitar: Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Tetuzi Akiyama, and Richard Bishop. They've since followed up that release with solo discs by Bishop and, now, Akiyama. Akiyama, who hails from Tokyo, was responsible for the longest and perhaps most avant-garde track on the original compilation, as his guitar playing incorporates the silence and abstraction of the "onkyo" electronic improv scene happening in his hometown. Yet the dusty, folky old timeyness key to the "Wooden Guitar" concept is much in evidence as well. So, listen to Pre-Existence and let Akiyama slowly wrap his sprongy steel guitar strings 'round your head, as he plucks and strums what almost sounds like a blues for the guitar itself. There's a lot of knock knock percussive playing and lonesome sustained tones. It's maybe what John Fahey would sound like if totally slow-mo stoned on cough syrup. Of course that sounds good to us. Can't wait for more in this series!
"Atheist" MPEG Stream:
AKIYAMA, TETUZI Resophonie (A Bruit Secret) cd 16.98
AKIYAMA, TETUZI The Ancient Balance To Control Death (Western Vinyl) cd 11.98
Tetuzi Akiyama has always been one of the weirdest of the whole "Wooden Guitar" bunch, doing the lovely steel-string, neo-Appalachian folk thing a la Jack Rose and James Blackshaw in the John Fahey tradition sometimes, yeah, but often bringing to it the fractured logic and significant silences of the experimental "onkyo" improv scene he's a part of in Japan. Then there's his whole, under-documented uber-repetitive, electrified avant-garde "boogie" side. And, when he was here earlier this year and did an instore at Aquarius, he held us spellbound with slow-motion string pluckings that we could barely hear. So it's something of a surprise to find that this new seven-song, 15 and a half minute ep from Akiyama is entirely song-based, and not only that, he SINGS. There's lyrics printed on the cd sleeve, cryptic poetry suggestive of Biblical commands. Vocally, he sounds something like Devendra Banhart, believe it or not! But his nasal vocals are stereo-effected (double tracked), and maybe a bit off-key... so imagine The Shaggs doing a Devendra impression. The music fits with that to, as of course being Akiyama his compositions aren't gonna be easily grokked by your typical folk-fan. There's a definite Jandek-ishness to this, but by way of Takoma, an alienated, atonal quality that (for us) feeds perfectly into the strange dismal blues mood he's trying to conjure. With wheezing harmonica drones, rattling maracas, Akiyama's delta-delic acoustic guitar, and some dabbling in electronics, he has us spellbound again with these atypical Akiyama-ized death chants.
"Close The Door" MPEG Stream:
"I Will Be With You"
AKIYAMA, TETUZI & JASON KAHN Till We Meet Again (For 4 Ears) cd 14.98
AKIYAMA, TETUZI & JOZEF VAN WISSEM Proletarian Drift (BVHaast) cd 16.98
Japanese 'onkyo' (and sometimes minimalist electric boogie!) guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama is always up to something interesting. Here he engages in live improvisation with Dutch avant-garde lute player Jozef van Wissem, who plays some sort of Renaissance lute while Akiyama chimes in on a nylon string resonator guitar that has been tuned to Renaissance lute tuning. The two long tracks here are both gentle, yet sorta jarring... a bit like some traditional Chinese music in that way (to our ears). There's lots of near-silent, pregnant space betwixt the quavering string plucks and resonating notes, as you might expect from any recording featuring Akiyama. Quite nice if you're up for this sort of thing -- a fan of the more abstract "wooden guitar", "deltadelica" stuff on Locust, for instance.
"The Golden Mass"
AKIYAMA, TETUZI & TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA Meeting At Off Site Vol 2 (Improvised Music From Japan) cd 17.98
AKIYAMA, TETUZI / OREN AMBARCHI / ALAN LICHT Willow Weep And Moan For Me (Antiopic) 3" cd 10.98
Ladies and gentlemen, The Blues Deceivers! Huh? Yes that's what this trio is calling themselves, says so right on the back of this spooky lil' 3". These three guitarists (representing Japan, Australia, and the USA respectively, all well known in underground music circles) agree that the tradition of 'the blues' should or could be (or already was) an aspect of their approach to experimental improvised guitar, and so teamed up for this live recording at the 2004 Bomb the Space Festival in Wellington, New Zealand to let their guitars gently weep and moan (like the willow of the title) in desolate and dismal blues style... avant "blues" that is, droning and eerie and abstract and evocative. The Blues Deceivers are definitely not the sort of blues band you'd find booked at the Boom Boom Room fer instance. No vocals, no drums... the only voices those of their guitars and the ghosts they conjure. For fans of Loren Connors, for sure, and also all three of these players, who have explored such old timey territory in their work to some degree or other before. It's 18 minutes, 47 seconds long in case you're wondering about how much music they fit on the 3" format, in this case.
"Willow Weep and Moan for Me (excerpt)"
AKIYAMA, TETUZI / TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA / OTOMO YOSHIHIDE / TAKU UNAMI Compositions for Guitar Vol. 2 (A Bruit Secret) cd 17.98
This might be the first we've heard of Taku Unami, but the other three Japanese guitarists here, Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura, and Otomo Yoshihide are all usual suspects from the "onkyo" scene of minimalist, fragmentary sound-making. So, perhaps we already know the unknown Unami by the company he keeps. As expected, this disc is a compendium of extreme guitar strategies, running the gamut from pedal steel string-slides amidst silence (Unami's "The Whisperer In Darkness") to similarly barely-there acoustic string-pluck that in its stark simplicity is quite beautiful (Akiyama's "Moebius Rings") to haunting feedback tones that some will find slightly preferable to a dog-whistle (Nakamura's "gt flo #2"), to an exuberant feedback/distortion fest (Otomo's "Plastics Pick & Mini-Motor"). All should provide ample satisfaction to fans of idiosyncratic avant-guitar play! (In case you're wondering, Compositions For Guitar Vol. 1, unlisted by us, featured the work of Brett Larner, Burkhard Stangl and Taku Sugimoto, whereas this is an all-Japanese affair).
TETUZI AKIYAMA "Mobeius Rings (for two guitars)" MPEG Stream:
OTOMO YOSHIHIDE "Plastics Pick & Mini-Motor"
AKIYAMA, TETUZI / TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA / TAKU SUGIMOTO / MARK WASTELL Foldings (Confront) cd 15.98
Very Special Nothing Music. Well, that's what Ed Pinsent at The Sound Projector calls the stuff found here. Recorded live at the Offsite space in Tokyo when London's uber-minimalist Mark Wastell was touring Japan in early 2002, this quartet revolves around the principles of very spare gestures for improvising. So quiet are these sounds that if someone were to wander into the performance off the street unawares, they might think that they found an audience staring at four men sitting quietly on a stage. But in fact, Wastell was working with three heavyweights of the Japanese improv community: Tetuzi Akiyama, who splits his time between the 'onkyo' aesthetics for generated silences and his avant-boogie rock explosions; Taku Sugimoto with his own take on minimalist compositions for numerous instruments and electronics; and Toshimaru Nakamura, whose no-input mixing board can emanate blistering feedback loops and systems of rarefied drone. Put these four artists on stage and their respectful hush only intensifies with subtle smears, acoustic scrabblings, a tiny arc of sinewaves, and pointillist plucks becoming a punctuation marks across vast silences. This is one of those records that is not served very well by the street noise bleeding through from outside. Headphones are recommended, if not required, and in doing so, you will most definitely be rewarded.
"Part 1" MPEG Stream:
ALTERED STATES 6 (Zenbei) cd 19.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. New album from the fab Tokyo jazz/prog/rock trio lead by Uchihashi Kazuhisa (recently profiled in Guitar Player magazine as part of a feature on Japanese avant-guitar). He and the drummer are also members of Otomo Yoshihide's Ground Zero. Weird and wiggly.
ANDROMELOS s/t (Ektro) cd 14.98
*Acid Mothers Temple Alert!* *Acid Mothers Temple Alert!* *Acid Mothers Temple Alert!* Also... it's a *Space Machine Alert!* as well. Andromelos is a new Japanese psychedelic "supergroup" making their debut on the Ektro records label run by Jussi from Circle. It consists of guitarist Kawabata Makoto, drummer Okano Futoshi, and electronics wizard Yamazaki Maso. Kawabata is best known as the bearded high priest of the Acid Mothers Temple (and other bands like Mainliner, Musica Transonic, Nishinihon, Toho Sara, Seikazoku, etc. etc.). Sticksman Okano is/was a member of Nishinihon, Ghost, and Subvert Blaze. And in addition to being none other than notorious noisician Masonna, Yamazaki is also a member of Christine 23 Onna -- but more pertinent to his contribution to Andromelos, though, is his project Space Machine, which takes its inspiration from '70s cosmic analog synth masters like Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. Early TD could certainly be a model for Andromelos, indeed. Freaky, waaay out spacey kosmiche kraut-lovin' soundscapes with percussive drive, gobs of electronic FX, ambient drift, and some wonderfully fried guitar fuzz. But if you're familiar with Acid Mothers Temple or Space Machine we probably could omit that description and you'd guess as much anyway! It sounds like just what you'd think, just like what you'd want. If we add that there's just two looooong tracks, totaling 72 minutes, you'll be even more in the ballpark with your imaginings of Andromelos' blasted and blissed out charms. The tracks are titled "Tea Breaks Are Under Attack From 2300000 Light Years" parts 1 and 2, and we've got to say, for once a title on a Kawabata album that really makes sense!! That totally IS what this sounds like. Well, give it a listen n' see if you agree...
"Tea Breaks Are Under Attack From 2300000 Light Years Part.1" MPEG Stream:
"Tea Breaks Are Under Attack From 2300000 Light Years Part.2"
ANGEL 'IN HEAVY SYRUP IV (Monotremata Records) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Yay! The welcome return of this great all-girl Japanese psych band. Now a power trio, Angel 'In Heavy Syrup still produce the beautiful, trippy sounds that made their previous three discs AQ-faves. Guitar-heavy psych rock, often evoking triumphant, epic soundtrack themes to Western movies, but with delicate, lovely vocals drifting into the mix. Hopefully this release means that the band will be coming to the States to play some shows again, sometime soon. Recommended.
ANGEL 'IN HEAVY SYRUP s/t (Subterranean Records) cd 12.98
Angel 'In Heavy Syrup were an all female Japanese psychedelic rock trio who flourished in the '90s, as you may know. We were always big fans, and a bunch of us here still consider ourselves lucky to have seen these girls live at the Kilowatt in SF, when they came over to play in the US one time in the mid '90s - an amazing show. The group released 4 albums, plus a "best of" compilation, but we had only ever reviewed their last one, IV, 'cause their other three albums proper pretty much predated our aQ list. And we thought they were all out of print, most of 'em having been released by the now sadly defunct Japanese label Alchemy. But, recently we discovered that one our suppliers still has copies - while they last - of the 1992 domestic US edition of Angel 'In Heavy Syrup's self-titled debut!!! Good news for any fan of the band who's been looking for it for years, but also good news for ANYONE who would enjoy some absolutely gorgeous, melodic and moody tripped out psych rock. It's a mix of dreamy balladry and all-out storms of distortodelic heaviness, breathy female vocals and swirling psych-guitar solos. The Angel 'In Heavy Syrup girls had their melancholic, timeless sound dialed in from the get-go, and there are two (uncredited) covers on here that help illuminate some of their vintage influences - the first a pretty one called "Why Don't You Take A Sight-Seeing Bus With Me?" written by Japanese folk chanteuse Morita Doji (familiar to fans of Angel 'In Heavy Syrup / Hijokaidan / Subvert Blaze side project Slap Happy Humphrey), the other being "Underground Railroad" by great US sixties garage psych act The Lollipop Shoppe (aka Fred Cole's band long before Dead Moon!). This US version of Angel 'In Heavy Syrup's debut also comes with a lengthy bonus track not found on the original 1991 Japanese Alchemy edition, the nearly 12 minute epic "Crazy Blues", taken from Taste Of Wild West 3, an incredibly rare 1990 compilation that also featured the Boredoms, Omoide Hatoba, Solmania, Hijokaidan, Incapacitants, and UFO Or Die. A highly recommended find, for sure! (Also - interesting to note how much more seemingly solid and sturdy both jewel cases and compact discs themselves were made 20 years ago, compared to nowadays.)
"S.G.E (Space Giant Eye)" MPEG Stream:
"Why Don't You Take A Sight-Seeing Bus With Me?" MPEG Stream:
ANGEL 'IN HEAVY SYRUP The Very Best Of... (Alchemy) cd 21.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
AQUARIUS BUTTONS 2 x 1" buttons 1.00
Hey, we just got another batch of AQ buttons made up... Spread the word! Show the world your true aQ colors! COOL COOL COOL aQ buttons, now in 6 different vibrant color combinations. 5 new color combos (blue on pink, red on dark grey, dark blue on blue, orange on black, and yellowish green on dark green) and a popular one we had previously (brown on yellow). TWO FOR $1!!! Colors are random, but buy enough and you'll be guaranteed to get 'em all! And of course all feature our spiffy James Gang style logo!! So stylish!
ASANO, KOJI A Secret Path Of Rain (Solstice) cd 14.98
Two 20+ minute tracks of solo computer noise music from the prolific 26 year-old Japanese composer Koji Asano (now based in Barcelona). Although a computer is involved, this ain't glitchy laptop techno! This material isn't that far removed from the electroacoustic drone/static of his excellent previous album "Momentum". Lovely cover photo by Asano as usual, not indicative of the difficult sounds inside. Asano says: "At this stage, powerful but sensitive music constructed by strong high frequencies and the space. Sometimes sounds are like small steps of insects or huge movements of the ground."
ASANO, KOJI Absurd Summer (Solstice) cd 13.98
ASANO, KOJI Autumn Meadow (Solstice) cd 14.98
By now most readers of the AQ New Arrivals list should be familiar with the work of Koji Asano, the uber-prolific Barcelona-based Japanese experimental composer who has long been a big favorite here at Aquarius. We didn't have to wait long for this, the 21st-or-so release by Koji on his own label Solstice, and it's another of his more abstract/ambient electro-acoustic pieces (his varied ouevre also includes guitar improv, piano meditations, computer noise, chamber music, etc.). "Autumn Meadow" is a long (68 minute) single track of whistling, droning feedback-derived (?) hiss. We're not entirely joking when we say it kinda sounds like Koji recorded and processed the sounds made by his hot water radiator -- though it quickly grows louder and scarier than that -- maybe a poltergeist-possessed radiator? But whatever the source, appreciators of lengthy, creepy, distorted drone-works will find this to be a satisfying listen.
"Autumn Meadow (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI Crevasses (Solstice) cd 14.98
Disc number 25 (!) from one of our favorite Japanese experimental composers, the ever prolific Koji Asano. With his album-a-month schedule, we've been worried about quality control, but he rarely disappoints, although it's been tough for us to keep up -- we're still digesting his lovely four volume "The Last Shade of Evening Falls" drone-work. But for those of you ready for another dose of Koji, here's "Crevasses", a disc on which Koji generates (using a computer? we're not sure) over seventy minutes of intense, subtly-shifting, multi-tracked, various-pitched drone. It's not 'Japanese noise' in its harshest sense, but it's not about beats and melodies either. Rather, you get abstract bell-like electronics, buried bass burbling, extended sonar bleeps and strangely soothing siren sounds. Students of such 'dronology' should investigate! "Crevasses" is never *too* shrill, but there is more treble than bass in this example of alien, not-so-ambient electronics. As the disc develops, it gets dirtier and denser, and the 'buzz' factor builds until it's eventually like you've stuck your head into some sort of spaceship slash wasp's nest. After 73 minutes, you'd think you'd be ready for some silence, but the album's abrupt end just leaves you wanting more.
ASANO, KOJI Final Insurance: Collection Vol. 2, 1992-1994 (Solstice) cd 5.00
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. **SALE **SALE* *SALE** **LAST COPIES**Koji's thirty eighth career disc, Final Insurance, isn't actually a brand new recording, it is (as the full title suggests) a collection of previously unreleased tracks from the period directly prior the release of Asano's first actual album, Solstice, in 1995. Wow, that was a while ago now, but I remember when we first got that disc -- who would have guessed that ten years later we'd have reviewed dozens more cds by him? There's twelve tracks here, varied in approach from squeaky, sci-fi electronic noise (a la Ryoji Ikeda) to gentle field recordings (kinda like something Toshiya Tsunoda might do). There's improvs on guitar and piano as well... everything here is interesting, some of it harsh, some of it beautiful. He carefully selected these tracks from a vast amount of material recorded in this youthful period of sonic activity and discovery, and it's all good stuff that deserves to be heard!
"Lettuce No. 2" MPEG Stream:
ASANO, KOJI Gondola Odyssey (Solstice) cd 14.98
ASANO, KOJI January Rainbow (Solstice) cd 14.98
Koji Asano, the AQ-beloved Barcelona-based Japanese sound artist, is back at last with a new cd (the twenty-seventh release on his own label Solstice). This new one, "January Rainbow", consists of a 64 minute long track that successfully combines two of our favorite Koji Asano compositional styles: his abstract but lovely piano improv, and electro-acoustic noise-drone! Asano's flowing piano explorations of almost romantic, fractured melodies are heard through a more-than-ambient fluctuating field of thick static, hum, and crackle. If you play this at a low volume, it's like listening to a mellow and pretty avantgarde piano recital over a messed-up shortwave radio signal. But turn it up, and the physical presence of the rumbling electronic noise really takes over! Your choice, both are nice. Those familar with Koji's back catalog need only imagine a DJ mix of his solo piano discs "You Can't Open The Door Because It's Already Open" or "Monsoon" (which already had their a background-ambient-noise element to 'em) with one of his noise-drone oriented discs like "Momentum" or "The Last Shade of Evening Falls". A truly mesmerizing, beautiful balance of melody and drone is the result. So, not only are we glad to hear from Koji again, but we think this is one of our favorite entries in his vast catalog so far!
"January Rainbow (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI Momentum (Solstice) cd 14.98
Here's another great release from one of our favorite sound artists, Japanese twenty-something Koji Asano, a fellow who really ought to be on the cover of The Wire sometime, in a just world. He is more deserving of that sort of coverage than, say, last issue's cover star Pole. Not that we don't like Pole, but c'mon, that guy has made more-or-less the same record three times in a row, and his work is not based on that original of an idea in the first place. However, Koji Asano has produced over a dozen creative albums, all of them excellent and inventive, in a variety of experimental subgenres, from piano-ambient to electro-noise to skronky guitar rock... but no hip hype for him. Anyway, this newest effort from Asano deviates from his recent discs of piano improvisations and chamber music compositions with a collection of recordings that we've been told have been "created by two loudspeaker's woofers and the air pressure from the movement of them. Two microphones put inside of the speakers and directly touched on the woofers to make a sound of moving. Those movements were amplified again and again by controlling the mixer and changing the position of microphones." The result is a wash of crunchy, squealing and pulsing drones not all that far from some of Maurizio Bianchi's early power electronics, but without any of the doom 'n' gloom industrial-horror imagery. To go into more detail: the first of the three unamed tracks, is 10 and a half minutes based on a rhythmic helicoptering sound, a clipping rotor-like "whack whack whack" that modulates in tone, tempo, and volume over the length of the track. Also occuring is additional, carefully sculpted feedback noise. Very nice, really, sounding somewhat like a more "live air", electro-acoustic version of the sort of "clicks & cuts" music made by the likes of Noto, but more driving and organic and less sterile. The second, much longer (42'33") track has bursts of scratchy electronic hum forming interwoven patterns of drone. Static never sounded so good. Eventually the "feedback" comes to the fore, rather like some impossibly precise, persistent, obsessive, repetitive guitar / amplifier battle session. Piercing sounds mix with deeper, hesitant drone-segments, eventually mutating into insect realms of buzzing whine. That segues into the final track, seventeen minutes that morph the insect-like sounds into something resembling some solo saxophone free improv I've heard, rather quiet and sparse, but with a bit of lawnmower-sounding blurt as well. The whole disc is always changing, always alive, and thus full of interest for the adventurous listener. Check out Koji's website at http://personal4.iddeo.es/koji for more info and sound samples of his stuff, most of which we have available at Aquarius.
ASANO, KOJI Octopus Balloons (Solstice) cd 14.98
Koji's back (again)! The very prolific Barcelona-based Japanese composer -- who just returned from the Instal 2002 festival in Glasgow, where he appeared alongside the likes of Mirror, Ryoji Ikeda, Alva.Noto and Phill Niblock -- follows up his recent, wonderful "January Rainbow" release with this new disc (#28!) of experimental electronics. No pretty piano this time, rather you get a dreamlike, if ominous, background hum out of which glitchy bursts of chirping, grinding electronic noise emerge. These interruptions build in intensity and density, first establishing some kind of abstract rhythm, then coalescing into a loud, layered, rumbling drone. Eventually Koji brings the piece back into a zone of bleep-punctuated silence. These could be the voices in the head of an unstable antagonist in an imaginary techno-psycho-horror film...to our ears, quite nice! If you like the, shall we say "abrasively listenable" side of Koji's eclectic sound explorations, the stuff that aligns him with Merzbow and Aube, "Octopus Balloons" should interest you indeed. And as with all of Koji's recent releases on his label Solstice, this disc comes packaged in a slim cardboard sleeve, featuring another of Koji's beautiful urban landscape photos on the cover.
"Octopus Balloons (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI Piano Suite Vol. 1: Fitness Club No. 1-20 (Solstice) cd 14.98
ASANO, KOJI Quoted Landscape (Solstice) cd 14.98
Japanese sound artist Koji Asano recently (last weekend!) graced AQ with an instore performance, and it's a shame if you missed it 'cause what we'll call his "laptop Merzbow" style electronics were intense and mesmerizing indeed. He brought along copies of this new cd (his 20th! I asked him why he only ever releases stuff on his own label Solstice and he said it's so he can control when his music comes out, and in what order -- he's got another 5 releases planned for this year, I believe!). It's one long 73 minute track of crackle and hum, a lot of which sounds like wind-on-microphone recordings and very glitchy electrical connections. Needless to say, it's one of his most abstract and difficult compositions. While Koji's instore, and especially his other Bay Area performances, were high-volume computer-noise-drone juggernauts that satisfied on a visceral level (some of the audience were almost headbanging at his Sunday night show), this disc is much more subtle and non-digital and ambient. Not the Koji Asano album for newcomers to start with, but fans should investigate.
ASANO, KOJI Sanctuary On Reclaimed Land (Solstice) cd 16.98
Man, we've got some catching up to do. Since we last listed anything from prolific AQ-fave Koji Asano (that'd be 2002's Octopus Balloons), the Japanese avant-composer has moved from Barcelona back to Japan, gotten married, had a baby, and somehow managed to record and release another NINE albums. He's up to his thirty-seventh release now!! Dunno if we're gonna manage to retrospectively, individually review all of 'em but we'll at least try to get back with the program by presenting to you now numbers 36 (Sanctuary On Reclaimed Land) and 37 (Takoyakikun). We do, however, also have a couple copies each of The Giant Squid, Gondola Odyssey, Piano Suite Vol. 1: Fitness Club No. 1-20, Absurd Summer, Suite For Organ And Recorders No. 1: The Alien Power Plant, Zoo Telepathy, and Wind Gauge in stock for any fellow Asano enthusiasts that need to complete their collections right now. Anyway, Sanctuary On Reclaimed Land is definitely still the Koji Asano music we know and love. Recorded as part of an installation in an empty warehouse on the Osaka waterfront, literally a "sanctuary on reclaimed land", this 51 minute piece is the sound of the interaction of a grand piano with a computerized sound system inside the echoing interior space of the warehouse. Notes played on the piano were amplified, reflected, and reproduced via computer processing and multiple microphones and speakers. Asano says he "received the inspiration of moisture and the sea breeze, while vibrating the Osaka harbor warehouse by a large volume and ... completed a large integrated work of the grand piano and computer sound". The results are a gorgeous ambient drone piece, that sounds not unlike Wolfgang Voigt's work as Gas. We've always enjoyed Koji's various piano-based projects (discs like Preparing For April, The End Of August, You Cannot Open The Door Because It Is Already Open, and January Rainbow) and this one belongs in that bunch, but at the end of a continuum where the piano as an identifiable sound source is almost entirely abstracted. Very nice. Instead of the cardboard sleeves of most of his recent releases, this (and Takoyakikun too) comes housed in Asano's newest style of cd packaging, a plastic, sort of cd-sized dvd case.
"Sanctuary On Reclaimed Land (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI Spirit Of The Wardrobe (Solstice) cd 14.98
AQ-fave Japanese sound experimentalist Asano is putting us to the test with another of his monthy (!) releases, another one on the "difficult" (for him) side of things. Maybe the monthly schedule is getting the better of him, too, 'cause here he kinda takes a breather with what's really a very conceptual album. He recorded some sounds in his backyard in Barcelona, then processed them into brief bursts of audible activity spaced between long stretches of pure silence, these placements in time being his main compositional task. The disc is nearly an hour long, but there may be less than a minute of actual sound on it! Yep, we said it was conceptual! (A term which, depending on your viewpoint, can equal stupid.) It's not meant for "normal" music listening usage at all, like when you put a cd in the player and think "ok, I'm listening to some music/sound now" (whether you pay attention to it or not). Instead, this idea here is to play this when perhaps you weren't intending to really listen to anything. 'Cause the cd isn't really "playing" in a normal sense. It's more like by putting it in your cd player you're "activating" this disc, which will occasionally make itself known in sudden, startling fashion. If you don't pay attention, it's background noise -- but background noise that can be confusing or shocking depending on at what volume you've set your stereo. If it's low, you'll think you're hearing things, if it's high, it can be, well, startling. If you *do* pay attention, you'll allow yourself the tense experience of waiting and anticipating the appearance of Koji's next sound-segment, which themselves are mysterious fragments to puzzle over (wondering about their sources and so forth). In a word: interesting...hmm...well, it can make you think about the recreational role of sound-use in your life, what "listening" means to you.
"Spirit Of The Wardrobe (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI Spring Estuary (Solstice) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Ok, it's that time again. We've got two new ones here from AQ fave Koji Asano, the eclectic and very prolific Japanese experimental composer. These are numbers 38 and 39 in his steadily growing cd catalog!! Number 39 is his very latest recording, Spring Estuary. The vague information we have seems to indicate that Asano used water as a sound source for this disc. But it sure doesn't sound like him splashing about in the bath! It's really shimmery and sort of churchy -- we would have guessed that he was manipulating recordings of pipe organ and/or bells, though the third track sounds like more like wheezing horns, all distorted and billowy. There's a total of four tracks here, the final one taking up the majority of the disc at almost 34 minutes in length. Imagine that the children's carousel in the park is somehow also one of Philip Jeck's turntables -- a giant Jeck turntable/carousel, turning and turning, its pretty music blurred and warped and utterly overwhelming and enveloping all around it. Very nice!
"Spring Estuary II" MPEG Stream:
"Spring Estuary III"
ASANO, KOJI Suite For Organ And Recorders No. 1 - "The Alien Power Plant" (Solstice) cd 16.98
ASANO, KOJI Takoyakikun (Solstice) cd 14.98
Man, we've got some catching up to do. Since we last listed anything from prolific AQ-fave Koji Asano (that'd be 2002's Octopus Balloons), the Japanese avant-composer has moved from Barcelona back to Japan, gotten married, had a baby, and somehow managed to record and release another NINE albums. He's up to his thirty-seventh release now!! Dunno if we're gonna manage to retrospectively, individually review all of 'em but we'll at least try to get back with the program by presenting to you now numbers 36 (Sanctuary On Reclaimed Land) and 37 (Takoyakikun). We do, however, also have a couple copies each of The Giant Squid, Gondola Odyssey, Piano Suite Vol. 1: Fitness Club No. 1-20, Absurd Summer, Suite For Organ And Recorders No. 1: The Alien Power Plant, Zoo Telepathy, and Wind Gauge in stock for any fellow Asano enthusiasts that need to complete their collections right now. Takoyakikun is a bit of a departure for Asano, or maybe a return to his roots. For one thing, it's not one long, cd-length track, but several different, individual songs. Songs? Well, instrumental rock numbers anyway. Yes, rock. Or avant-rock, or prog-rock, or something. And, unlike most of his releases which are solo recordings (or sometimes string ensembles), this is a band project -- the very same band with which he made one of his first discs, Gravity. Maddeningly convoluted and repetitive at times, this is choppy, angular, occasionally melodic, no-wave instrumental improv prog from a trio of guitar, keyboards and drums (Asano being the guitarist). We think folks into other skronky underground Japanese prog-core acts like Ruins and Korekyojinn would find this of interest... The keys definitely give it a "classic" prog vibe, and there's even a drum solo in track five! Recorded in 1997 (and released as a cd-r only at the time) now Asano has remastered and repackaged Takoyakikun for a proper cd release on his Solstice label.
"Takoyakikun track 1" MPEG Stream:
"Takoyakikun track 2" MPEG Stream:
"Takoyakikun track 3"
ASANO, KOJI The End Of August (Solstice) cd 16.98
Beautiful! This new release from prolific Barcelona-based Japanese experimental composer Koji Asano, number 22 (!) in his ongoing series of fascinating self-released recordings, is described by Asano as "a long lost memory of a once heard piano." Now, he has released several other gorgeous discs of ambient piano improv, but this one augments his melodic piano abstractions with what sounds like a layered, electronic collage of church bells ringing, backed with a mesmerizing insect buzz, capturing the humid, humming ambience of a late summer afternoon... Unlike some of Koji's other recent releases which were on the creepier, darker, noisier side of things, this is simply gorgeous. Melancholic, yes, but lovely too. Recommended. (Asano disc #23, "A Second Dam", is on the way, by the way.)
"The End of August (excerpt)"
ASANO, KOJI The Giant Squid: A Collection Of Short Pieces Vol. 1 - Works From 1997-1998 (Solstice) cd 14.98
ASANO, KOJI The Last Shade of Evening Falls 2/4 (Solstice) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Briefly, part two rachets the tension up even further with some insectoid drones, lonely and menacing.
ASANO, KOJI The Last Shade of Evening Falls 3/4 (Solstice) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Part three seems to have the most dynamism, with Asano's gurgling late-evening drones meeting with sudden, eerie, shudder-inducing stabs in the growing darkness.
ASANO, KOJI The Last Shade of Evening Falls 4/4 (Solstice) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. ...And the fourth and final installment of Asano's "Last Shade" wavers and keens like the mad monstrous pipers of Azathoth's court in the center of the universe trying to play a Tony Conrad composition!
ASANO, KOJI Vacant Land (Solstice) cd 16.98
A noisy/ambient one, in a digipak.
ASANO, KOJI Wind Gauge (Solstice) cd 14.98
ASANO, KOJI Zoo Telepathy (Solstice) cd 14.98
ASANO. KOJI The Last Shade of Evening Falls 1/4 (Solstice) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Japanese composer/experimentalist (and AQ fave sound artist) Koji Asano is known not only for the quality of his work (almost always quite excellent) but for the sheer quantity of his releases over the last few years -- sixteen of 'em as of today, more if you count limited edition cd-rs -- which run the creative gamut from gorgeous piano meditiations, to computer noise, to chamber music, to rock guitar improv. Also unique about Koji is that ALL his music has been released on his own label, Solstice (now based, as he is, in Spain). And as if to cement Koji's reputation as a prolific composer, now Solstice presents the simutanous release of four new cds, comprising one extensive composition of abstract electro-acoustic drone, entitled "The Last Shade of Evening Falls". Now if there's one thing that drone-lovers can agree on, is that you never want 'em to end -- so what could be better than the over four and a half hours of this piece? Each disc is over an hour long, one track. Now it's not at all pure drone all the way through, that's but a part of the equation. Over the course of these four cds, Koji utilizes all sorts of slow groaning burbling tones, higher-pitched distortion, moaning echoes. His sounds are derived from violin and contrabass -- not that you'd guess, although you can tell they're from something "organic". Koji wrote music for those instruments that was recorded in Japan by his Koji Asano Ensemble, and then he spent the long dusks of a week in Barceleona near the time of the summer solstice to reconstruct and recompose the piece in his computer, processing and manipulating the original recording. Overall, "Last Shade" is dark, textural work that's going to take us longer than the running time to come to fully digest -- but what we've heard so far has been lovely. We're selling the cds seperately but obviously you need to get all four! However, a capsule review of "1/4" is that it's relatively more "melodic" than the other discs, and establishes a murder-mystery sense of tension as well.
ASOBI SEKSU / BORIS split (Sargent House) 7" 12.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. As some of you probably realized, this Friday (today) was a Black Friday 'Record Store Day', which is a sort of mini-RSD, to hold everybody over until the real deal actual RSD in the Spring. A much smaller batch of special releases on BFRSD, but a few things we were pretty excited about, and some of those, we even managed to get a bunch of, so our faithful mailorder customers without a local record store to call their own, could still nab a copy, like this one, a limited split 7" between Japanese heavy rockers & longtime aQ faves Boris, and US shoegaze blisspoppers Asobi Seksu, each band covering the other. The A side finds Asobi Seksu taking on Boris' "Farewell" from their record Pink. And in the hands of AS, it's transformed into an ethereal swirl of soft focus electro-pop shimmer, soaring and sweetly melodic, female vocals drifting over a lush layered backdrop, all anchored by some stuttery glitchy beats, the sounds building slowly to a full on MBV worthy psychedelic shoegace coda, before slipping back into a hazy vocal/synth dreamlike drift. On the flipside, Boris take Asobi Seksu's "New Years", retitle it "Neu Years", and proceed to unfurl a heady sprawl of modern electronic flecked indie pop crunch, the sound super polished and sounding like something you might even hear on the radio, with Wata's angelic voice floating atop big booming drums, and soft streaks of choral shimmer, the whole thing rife with strange effects and studio production weirdness, culminating in a cool backwards psychedelic breakdown, before a final burst of exuberant electro indie pop bombast. Both bands masterfully re-imagine the music of the other, and is revealing that for two bands with dramatically divergent fanbases, and very distinctive singular sounds, they they aren't so different after all!