Boris with Michio Kurihara is a celestially inspired combination. The greatest modern heavy rock band is hosting a mind-meld with the transcendent axe man of the greatest psych group in Japan. The results speak for themselves.
Gang Gang Dance dropped this slice of fried (and twisted) gold less than a year before their breakthrough masterpiece Saint Dymphna arrived to warp the innocent minds of our youth. (A video project released as a combination dvd/cd, this is the audio portion. You’ll have to buy that dvd yourself to see the insanity.)
In a way, Retina Riddim is even more mindbending – packing in every conceivable rhythmic shift and unexpected sample, every wild percussion tone and dub variation – it’s like a wild roller coaster ride through the band’s collective labyrinthine nightmare, the moment before they awoke and created Saint Dymphna. Stuffed to the gills with middle eastern string sounds, heavy bass thumps, bent and skewed organ swells, and an overwhelming exotic feel, the uninitiated may be forgiven for assuming it’s like any other release from these esoteric primal psych spelunkers. It’s not.
A single uninterrupted 24 minute track, Retina Riddim nearly feels like the band dropped their other albums into a blender and simply poured the resulting fluid into the grooves of an LP as it spun at top volume. Fortunately, repeated listens reveal an intricate structure and flow, a steady build through varying tempos and structures both dizzying and purposeful. Fans of Dymphna in particular will notice several sampledelic building blocks for that masterpiece album embedded throughout this wild ride; some in untreated form, some ready for the spotlight, and some which require a bit of teasing out to reveal their source (or more likely, destination). When the whole package wraps up with an undeniably transcendent part of the later LP (recognizable in the track Vaccuum) confusion is an understandable first thought. Second thought usually goes something like: “I want to hear that again. Now.”
ROVO. Readers of my previous post about this galaxy-shattering band, the gravitationally powerful Mon, know that I’m beyond crazy for them. It’s more of a physical and spiritual impulse at this point.
The “man-drive trance” outfit has evolved from what was (mistakenly) believed to be a side project for Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto into a pre-eminent percussive juggernaut with a genre all its own and a die hard fan base ever eager for further permutations of their uniquely pulsing energy signature.
Pyramid, released in 2000, is a single 43 minute track situated neatly between the more obviously electronically enhanced early sound and the more sophisticated, minimal, and directly hands-on appoach ROVO has flowered into. As expected, the incandescent electric violin of Yuji Katsui rides the tidal groove with astonishingly fluid precision while Yamamoto’s six string mastery prods and propels his bandmates while providing crucial textural detail. It’s uniquely jovial in a gentle free-jazz manner for a good portion of its running time, with meandering horns and keys dancing unfettered until the rhythmic force pulls every building block inevitably toward a torrential avalanche of tribal motorik ecstasy. The arc may be predictable, though never any less than thrilling when the band hits their warp drive lock-groove stride and rides the ensuing momentum into a rapturous eargasm. It’s a space ship jumping to light speed, the stars stretching forward eternally, minute after blissful minute.
Surrender full attention and be rewarded accordingly. And then some. And thank them personally while you’re at it.
[difficult to track down due to its original rarity and out-of-print status, i’ve found this album at jpophelp, or used copies at amazon (for an exhorbitant minimal price of $61) and amazon.jp (for ￥3,730 – under $40)]
Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistently brilliant and longest-running bands in existence today, rivaled only perhaps by Sonic Youth in the longevity-with-strong-artistic-integrity department. They’ve crafted everything from ferocious punk blasts to elegiac orchestral epics, infusing every sound with their signature heartfelt energy.
Ghost are the premier Japanese psych-folk-prog rock group, led by singer Masaki Batoh and brought to ecstatic, piercing life with guitarist Michio Kurihara’s electric wizardry. In 2004 they reached a career apex with the release of Hypnotic Underworld to near-universal acclaim.
Starting with the four part title suite, the album kicks off in true old school progressive style. Building through a darkly ambient jazzy labrynth before upping the ante in part two with flitting woodwinds and jangling percussion, the track explodes with buzzing, agressive guitar work and pounding rhythm until – just when it seems to be running out of steam – Ghost hit the afterburners and take off with the appropriately titled, 22 second, coda: Leave the World! Regrouping with the hypnotically beautiful Hazy Paradise, the album shifts into a more standard structure with tracks exemplefying their uniquely accessible blend of psychedelic otherworldliness. Ganagmanag, an exotically percussive jam at the album’s center is a clear peak after the opening behemoth; expansive and inviting, it’s the sort of song which, when the excitement and focus ramps up well over halfway through, it’s surprising to realize almost 10 minutes have passed – and disappointing that there aren’t 10 more. Ending with an unrecognizable cover of Syd Barrett‘s Dominoes, the band drifts out on a quintessentially classic psychedelic note.
Dreams of Water Themes is the stupendous result of a collaboration between Daedelus and Frosty, who christened themselves Adventure Time and cooked up a nautical stew of jazzy undercurrents, waves of turntablism, sampledelia swells, and clipped vocal crests, cut through with a crackling, frothy breeze.
Check the end of this post for the full album stream.
It’s a unique project in the canon of modern beats, with the title and artwork indicating the type of hefty thematic glue unifying this far-flung enterprise – in other words, it’s one of the more cohesive electronic/hip-hop releases floating around. Fans of Daedelus’ opus Denies the Day’s Demise are in for a real treat; this LP hews closer to that record’s heights than any project he’s been involved in before or since. Loosely roiling keys, dizzy horns, vaguely mideastern strings and incisive, impeccably placed spoken samples drive the narrative thrust, while the constantly evolving yet self-referencing palate keeps two feet planted firmly on the deck through the half-hour-plus of churning beat seas.
There’s a certain whiff of Since I Left You rising off the whole affair, though it’s more respectful nod than straight homage or borrowed nostalgia; the pair acknowledge their forebears in the turntables-set-sail department without constantly reminding us of that towering landmark. Adventure Time created an ambitious – but consciously playful – musical journey which begs to take listeners out on a freewheeling voyage through the high seas of rhythm exploration.
JJ have dropped the newest dose of ecstatic balearic pop bliss from Sweden’s very own Sincerely Yours. This one’s a keeper, and the perfect balm to tide over fans of On Trade Winds and No Way Down until the next seismic event from that beguiling corner of the world.
Fans of Air France, Studio, and (to an extent) The Tough Alliance are well-prepared for this gorgeous dream experience. Everyone else: look at that cover, realize it’s not a hiphop album, and jump right in. Equatorial synth tones, reverbed percussion, hushed acoustics, tropicalia vibes, gently pulsing dub bass, and narcotic siren’s-call vocals all conspire in tugging unresisting listeners into a sweet dream of intimacy and comfort, warmth on the beach with a new lover. This is insanely easy to fall for.