Sunday, 22 October 2017

Genshu Hanayagi and Mickie Yoshino / Godiego in 1975: Zan Sonezaki Shinju







I thought I would bring this one out after the Lucifer album that was so interesting, as another example of the lost music of Japan but so unexpectedly excellent.  The rarity of this release is quite astonishing (as seen on rym).  And you'll see the situation here is analogous to Yuji Ohno, who made such remarkably beautiful records early on but descended into generic soundtrack and schmaltz later.

Some basic information first derived, as usual, from The Great Google:

From an ebay vinyl description (note price of 180 usd):

GENSHU HANAYAGI is a Japanese female avant-garde dancer/actress/performer/author/feminist.
She has spent her life defying her conservative culture’s contempt for independence and unconventionality.
She denounced Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, and dismissed death threats made against her by right-wing groups.
MUSIC by MICKY YOSHINO GROUP (almost same members as GODIEGO).

With regards to the title of the album, it's clear that it's from a Japanese play (from 1703!) called "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki."  A great title too I'm sure you'll agree, though for a somewhat confused and more than somewhat creepy story.

So because we are concerned here with the music, let's take a closer look at composer Mickie Yoshino.

Japanese popular songwriter, arranger and keyboards player. Born December 13, 1951 in Yokohama. Started playing at US bases in Japan in 1966 with a band called Midnight Express Blues Band. Joined The Golden Cups in 1968 and was a member until 1970 (and also participated in their 2004 reunion).  Studied at Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1974. Following his return to Japan that same year, he formed the Mickie Yoshino Group, which changed its name to Godiego in 1975.  He has also composed music for film, animation, and the stage.

We always recognize Berklee (in Boston) as a fantastic source of good music for those who have studied there.  What a privilege it must be to attend that famous college!  If you follow all the above links you'll see there is tons of material on the part of Mickie and his band Godiego but only one single listed on discogs for singer / talker Genshu Hanayagi.


Now let's turn our attention to the contents of this album.  It's mostly typical soundtrack material (although this is not an OST but rather a spoken play plus music work).  But here and there are stunning flashes of brilliance showing quite clearly how much Mickie learned in his salad days just off Boylston Street.  Considering this is his first LP I would go so far as to say, what I usually do say, which is that some of the compositions sound like they were writing exercises for college, because they are so intricately well thought out.

Today we will consider the tracks 4, 6, & 12, go ahead and fast forward through the Japanese talk (if possible jump to the 3:24 mark):






Clearly this recalls the soundtrack stuff from Ohno but in some ways it's better: being more 70s fusiony and smoothly sexy, which is saying a lot, because Yuji was a formidable and prolific composer as you guys may recall.  Just listen to those synths over electric guitar and rhodes piano creating an indubitably orchestral texture, I mean I just want to die when I hear it on the headphones up loud-- especially, when he changes up the synth settings midway through the track: from super-space-traveller, to intergalactic-heaven...  I just want to die......

I could listen to that track all day, and I have, to the great annoyance of my wife and kids...
And when the headphones are on and the music is turned up, you guys all know there is no wife alive who could penetrate that acoustic wall that shuts out her talking about the million terrible things that happened to her in her day...  Oops shouldn't say those things...  what was that you were saying, hon?

Luckily you don't have to fiddle too much with the fast forward button for track 6:





Again, quite a remarkable electric guitar riff augmented with scales on the synths side by side, pushing the music higher and higher as if in a jagged and rough staircase to upper hell, threatening always to tumble you down, the chromatic dissonances making you feel slightly vertiginous and off--

Track 12 reminds me a bit of our wonderful Masabumi Kikuchi (remember him?) in his beyond brilliant Hairpin Circus, but shockingly, at the 2-minute mark, the song completely changes to a formidably offputting ostinato playing ensemble, which builds in intensity to continue into a mega-crash at the end:






Really really amazing composing.
And it's also amazing how much great music we've found, and it still keeps on coming.
God bless those musical miracle workers...


Friday, 20 October 2017

Unknown Swiss progressive outfit Sisyphos in one of their many albums, Mujokan





Overall, very similar to German Iskander with the advanced, nicely rocking (up the hill and back down again ad infinitum) progressive symphonic, almost always featuring electric instruments, usually two well-tuned and loud el. guitars.  (An update on Iskander, for those who actually read my postings / rantings.  Someone mentioned in comments there exists a CD release of their masterpiece Boheme 2000, and indeed there is.  You can see that here.  This CD has bonus tracks, making up more than half an hour of extra unreleased music that is off the charts excellent progrock, and for this reason I strongly urge you guys to locate a copy and compare with the vinyl rip I (once) put there.  Really, thanks for these suggestions, sometimes, like in this case, they are right on the money!)

It's quite shocking both how prolific and therefore how underheard these guy are, to this day.
First of all look at their discography, beginning 1981, shortly thereafter crossing through into the CD world, 30 years later transitioning into the digital world and ending only a few years back with 2009's Retromania.  In total, 8 albums listed.  There's a couple of caveats here the most important being that they had an unfortunate tendency to recycle certain tracks, admittedly often good ones, and sometime changing their names, which therefore trespasses further onto the territory of annoying, like a friend you like who eats all the leftover meat-lover pizza you wanted for breakfast.  But you couldn't say no when he asked because it's not polite so instead you just complain to your wife who rolls her eyes and walks away.

There is tons of information relating to these guys online, starting with discogs:

Profile:
The band Sisyphos has been playing in the same formation for more than 30 years. Their music is somehow a reminder of the progressive rock sound of the seventies as well as of classical music – spherical music but with a hard rock touch, which is transformed as rough as it is produced. 
Members: René Senn (Guitar), Boris Bühler (Drums, Vocals), Herman Peter (Bass), Peter Scheidegger (Keyboards, Vocals)

Sweet but accurate blurb, gets to the heart of the matter for sure.

On this LP the old almost 19th century style vocal composition The Language Of Acceptance (Martins Garden) is superb:





The first chord, which is added minor 6th on top of the G7 (resolving to the key of Stevie C) with its harmony vocals, just gives me chills, referencing as it does the old pop tunes I heard as a kid blasting out of the cabinet-sized radio/amp/turntables we once had, but this song is so much more than a nostalgia homage ode, as it changes through various keys and sounds, never straying from the darkness and sudden turns down strange alleys.  Keeping it together is a melody that climbs up and down like Sisyphos's rolling rock over a couple of octaves even as the song ostensibly in the genre of pop promiscuously accepts all classical influences in its chords and structures.  To me this is really a masterpiece composition, automatically making it to my top ten list of best progressive songs heard in the last year.  Hopefully you will enjoy it too.  And thank you for that, Sisyphos guys...


Now back to the discography.

I've listened to all their albums by now and can tell you that in the beginning they were almost plain hard rock with some, but few, inventive changes, always eschewing the standard rock progressions of I IV V or its inverted form of V IV I which was clicheified so badly by the Rolling Stones, but nonetheless not much prog.  As far as I remember, most of their songs were even in E or A back then, sometimes G.

But after the 80s period they had a change of heart almost and went the wrong way completely-- the right way for us-- in the direction of more prog, and in 1996, the year alternative ruled the world, they came out with an album called Moments that to me is their masterpiece for all time.   And it's really shockingly good, made more so by the fact I had never heard it, or heard of it, until quite recently.  And I thought I knew all about prog!  What about you Tom? You knew?

Virtually the same album was made into a live release shortly thereafter, and today's LP called Mujokan came next after, in 2002.  Of course it must be that these true heroes suffered from their dedication to the old school vinyl format, since I see from the info there was no CD release of this particular work.  But that doesn't matter to you guys: here it is, digital and easily consumed like baby food but with all the flavours of adult mature mastery...

Mention should also be made about the album called Exit, by 7Pines which is Sisyphos keyboardist Peter Scheidegger in a trio with even more classic progressive rock nitrogycerine blasting out all the hallmarks of the genre: odd time signatures, original chord progressions often in minor seconds, crazy unison arpeggios in fourths, fast runs of atonal 'melodies', prolifically tossed minor seconds and tritones in every song-- etc., etc.



We all need the language of acceptance, the language of our hearts...


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lucifer's Marginia, recorded 1989-1993: Another Lost Progressive Classic from Japan








Will the proggy wonders never cease?

Not if I maintain my wonderful contacts and the friends who discover these past masterpieces...  (oh how I revere and respect you...  don't ever stop the flow of musical honey... )  And I thought we had plumbed the depths of Japanese music from this era!  It seems no...  Still no end in sight to the discoveries.  We are only half way around the circumference of the world here and this ship is still rocking the waves...  and I hope I die on this exploratory voyage with no harbour ever in view...

Obviously this is similar to Mr. Sirius, Providence, and all the other symphonic-styled Japanese bands, with a bit more Renaissance-style folk thrown in.  But just listen to the endlessly gorgeous digital sound achieved in the brightly coloured Endless Green:




If there is a sight for sore eyes, then this is a hear for sore ears-- at least this fan's ears.  Unfortunately I can't say the rest of the album holds up to the standards of this song, clearly the most progressive one on the CD.

Turning our attention now to a search for more information I saw from The Great Google that oddly enough the band is not on discogs yet, and rare even on rateyourmusic (something I am always quite proud to see), but from proggnosis comes this write-up:

Lucifer is most likely unknown outside Japan however they were mostly unknown inside Japan as well. [haha! --editor] The band played between 1983 to 1994 releasing 6 albums - the first 5 as Cassettes and the last one as a CD.
All the six albums were only distributed in friends though the 6th one, Marginia was released by Marquee in 1997.

From the band's web site:

LUCIFER started as an project to create original music in August 1983. Recording was the main activity instead of forming a band to play live. Over 36 persons joined the project for 10 years from various music backgrounds such as progressive rock, classic, choral music, folk and pops. Each song as an project include several members finally created 4 cassette albums and 2 CD albums, totally 6 album with 62 songs. In the latter years, the project tend to a permanent band and the 2 CDs are with the band. Also 4 live concerts and 6 small stages such as weddings were done in that years, too.
The main concept of the band was to "Be away from stereotype thinking and genre". In that sense, a song is not a song, vocal part is not a main melody even if they were sang with lyrics. In some songs, lyrics have less meanings just to put a good sound in an vocal part as instrument combinating consonant sounds and vowel sounds to create a coined word. Latter years the songs came more un-experimental but still the lyrics remain as series of keywords to enhance the image of the sound. Thus the violin usually is the main meledy singing the songs instead of the vocals. In this reason, some songs are basically instrumental with a few vocal solo part appearing like a guitar solo.

The band aimed to express the possibility and interest of music and also to tell that technique is not indispensable if you love music and want to create something. Since the project started, some members were very good with their instruments but some were not. But still they joined and create the music together. The latter years the band had the permanent members with high technique and good sense. After 10 years, LUCIFER disbanded in 19 February, 1994 to find out another way of music. The main members of the band are now creating music as a band called KHAREZ.



More information:

Reviewed by Hideki on 09 Feb 2005

Lucifer left 6 albums however almost of them are hardly to find. Their last album, Marginia, which is considered their best work is the only work easily to obtain for reasons of circulation.
In celebrattion of the wedding between band members Yamashita Chiako and Shinyashiki Noboru, Marginia was released in 1993. The band at that time consisting of 12 performers, 7 males (Kataoka Hideo,Tachibana,Ishikawa Shinichiro,Shinyashiki,Kooriyama,Nanjo,Furukawa) and 5 women (Furudate ,Ishikawa Yumi,Kataoka Itsuko,Imai ,Yamashita) but there is no single song played by all 12 persons on a track.

If you can imagine Renaissance, Mike Oldfield and Malicorne, you are choosing music that is close in many ways to Lucifer who had a musical style thaty is hardly to be found in Japan. Lucifer play progressive folk rock which is sometimes produced in Western Europe and they add a little of Japanese flavor.

I cannot say that any other bands fit with this one like two peas in a pod. You can feel some flavor of referencial groups (such as Renaissance) in Marginia, but please don't expect an intense resemblance between them. Being formed by hobby rather than as a job, Lucifer are fertile in originality. Though they elaborately produced Marginia, I sense amateurishness in some parts for example when compared to major label albums, you can detect a weakness for arrangement. This quality is in fact a strength - not a weakness and I don't mind it, I love it. If Marginia were released from major label, I don't think it would not maintain this freshness or naivety. Whereas they may gain stability on the surface and in the details - with a major label treatment they would probably lose heartwarming handmade creativity that make this album stand out.  Tracks 5, 6, 12, 13 and 14 are sung in Japanese. The remaining songs are sung in English. Although tracks 12, 13, and 14 are bonus,they are one of noticeable points in this CD.


A band worth pursuing further, given the above.
Did I say we plumbed the depths of Japanese music?  Not when there are 6 more releases from these guys to be archaeologically unearthed and brought back into the light...







Monday, 16 October 2017

Heinz Sauer Quartet's Isolation Row from 1978





Another wishlist rarity bites the dust...  although not all that expensive, unlike for example German Nimbus.

Those were the days when they cared about cover art, what is usually treated as a joke or afterthought today.  The photo is not so much to speak of but really drags my eyes back over and again due to its unusual but pleasantly mysterious composition. Information on this album which is your basic avant-garde acoustic/slightly electrified jazz-fusion quartet jazz along the lines of Herbert Joos (but not as good, mind you) or his band Part of Art that I loved so much, is in the database here.

The quartet comprises:

Bob Degen: piano
Joe Nay: drums
Adelhard Roidinger: bass
Heinz Sauer: tenor sax

Remember Roidinger? He was in Austria Drei here before and the ECM Schattseite, but clearly his most successful achievement is the computer jazz project (posted in the former's comments section).

Here's a track with the highly ECMish title called "Phrenie's Window Dance:"





I suppose the next album, Metal Blossoms, by Sauer from 1984 looks interesting, anyone know anything?


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Here it is: Peabody College Part Two, 1970-- the "Waxidermy Record"




Peabody College and Vanderbilt University – The Contemporary College Wind Ensemble
Added November 2, 2008 by cracker.

This was one of the first school band records I ever bought. I’d heard *of* Vanderbilt University, but never realized it was in Nashville. Hmm, Nashville… strange then to find this tantalizing blurb on the back:

“This album is a new departure in wind ensemble programming. Leading Nashville composers and arrangers have bridged many musical styles and periods to produce a kaleidoscopic survey of the possibilities of wind instrumentation. From Carmina Burana to MacArthur Park, from conventional sounds to the complex multi-ensemble (with moog synthesizer) of Irving Kane’s Fourth Stream, this performance demonstrates the expressive possibilities inherent in the wind ensemble. The instrumentation of the group featured on this recording is that of the traditional wind, jazz and rock ensembles together with harpsichord and electronic tape.”

Tucked inside the sleeve there was a program for “CENTURIES of SOUND from BACH to ROCK” dated Tuesday, April 28, 1970, and this record contains excerpts from the night’s performances. I was kinda bummed that some of the titles listed on the program didn’t make it onto the record… namely an electronic work from Gilbert Trythall, and a BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS cover!

Fortunately the other interesting sounding piece made it onto the record, FOURTH STREAM by Irving Kane. As it turns out, Irving Kane was a local Nashville studio musician and composer. He describes the piece in the program, “Pop music, “serious music, (quotes indicate dissatisfaction with terminology)– the dichotomy preoccupies me; how to love and do both. This piece seems to be an attempt to explicate a dilemma.”

Fourth Stream takes up most of one side of the LP, so I’ve included two 5 minute excerpts of the entire 15 minute performance. Enjoy!


Enjoy Indeed!  For today you can listen to the entire record...

I won't bother to analyze the famous Fourth Stream track, suffice it to say it's really a remarkably adept composition mixing classical and jazz, absolutely stuffed full with great ideas in both genres.



A1 Carmina Burana by Carl Orff but arranged by--?
O Fortune, Variable as the World
Fortune, Empress of the World
A2 Fourth Stream by Irving Kane
B1 Jim Webb Songs for Instruments by Jay Dawson
B2 This is All I Ask by Gordon Jenkins, arranged by Ned Battista.

Incidentally George Benson did an inimitable, unforgettably amazing version of that last song (as he did with so many others), and you can hear it here (youtube).  Pay attention to the lyrics-- the old man is leering at a young female, after playing in a park with a stranger's children, and today, of course, we get arrested if we foolishly attempt such things...
oh the innocence of bygone days! the wisdom of ours!

It ends:

But let the music play, for as long as there's a song to sing, 
I will stay younger than spring...

And that just about says it all for us here doesn't it?


Again form the back blurb:

“Pop music, 'serious music,' (quotes indicate dissatisfaction with terminology)– the dichotomy preoccupies me; how to love and do both. This piece seems to be an attempt to explicate a dilemma.”

How to love and do both...



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

David Tate's lovely Love Will Have Its Way from 1981





Wow! look at those great pants on the back!!  Let's hope they never return to the fashion world... and hopefully neither does the gay pose...

Always unusual to find a record not even entered into discogs yet.  In fact, a google search only turns up the popsike entry for a shockingly low-priced LP of 27 USD.  There, the (promotional) note says the following:

Private press from 1981 on Lion Records out of Santa Barbara. Gorgeous, dreamy production with some subtle, Xian-themed lyrics. Certainly a candidate for the "Wall of Soft". The epic 14 minute "Lion" is well worth sitting through... etc.

For sure the leonine track is the best one here, with the remainder actually falling a little short of our very high standards in these pages.  It reminds me of such acoustic ssw stuff with value-added strings as Roberto Picchi, Robert Genco, the recent Ullu my friend discovered to my delight and hopefully others, Olivier Bloch-Laine, the wonderful first LP of Colin Blunstone, etc., etc.






And note the 1980s smoothness to it all.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Rhythmus Arp Ensemble, from 1983 (composed in 1975-6)




The first track gives you a nice taste of this undeservedly unknown gem:





Check out the terrifyingly chromatic dissonant atmosphere we get here, so much more adventurous than typical minimal music which is sometimes an ejecta of notes in the key of C (hey composer don't bother using up too much music notation paper here, you're just re-using the same 5 stupid notes bro), the most ludicrous key to compose in, equally accessible in fact to my 8 year old son in his pianistic explorations.  Note how later in the piece the percussive pounding leads to sustained operatically sung notes without leaving the minor seconds behind, and therefore interest, thankfully.  In fact the inappropriateness of the notes she is singing on top of what sounds to me like an E minor chord is remarkable. But it works, as usual when we are dealing with genius-level composition.  Even as classical music this achieves a very high satisfaction level for me because of the addition of the electric keyboard which provides that fireside-like warmth always lacking in the genre.

Because of the name one might conclude that there are Arps as artists here.  You can see on discogs the information relating to this.  In fact there are two: Professor Jochen Arp plays saxes, flute and clarinet normally, on this record only credited with the latter 2 of 3.  On the other hand, compositions and keyboards both are handled by presumed younger brother (born 1950) Klaus Arp, who was also conductor and professor.  What a shame they didn't make more records as their dynamic here is just exceptional.  It's obvious from the first listen (and to the last one too) that we are dealing with a Terry Riley influence hybridized with more electric keyboard fusion like recent Dane Finn Savery.  Or, taking away the guitar and more fusionary outpourings, you could say this sounds like Soft Machine 3's Out-Bloody-Rageous by Ratledge, of course, while strolling down Terry Riley Avenue.  With the addition of chamber instrumentation.  And let's not forget the wiener schniztel.  And potato salad, luckily this time with mayo.

Notice that the compositions are from the period 1975-1976, which explains a lot.  How I wish they had made more, these 2 Arps...  Anyways, it's fantastic music, and there's not much more to add to that.