This was a random purchase from Tokyo’s Big Love Records. I’ve noted before that I’m a sucker for the 10″ format for reasons that remain a mystery even to me, so unexpectedly finding a Finnish 10″ (actually a 10″ by a Finnish label… turns out only one of the three performers is from Finland) in a record store in Tokyo for something like $5 seemed too good to pass up.
I put this three song record on and then went about the process of getting together a load of laundry. That is until about 10 seconds into Tuomo Ilmari Puranen’s “Dica Dab,” (having inadvertently started the record on side B) which literally stopped me in my tracks in the hallway for about 30 seconds while I absorbed it’s low frills, Casio keyboard sound. Not at all what I was expecting. And I liked it. A lot. Hell, I wasn’t even planning on writing about this thing until I heard that song. And the thing is, it got even better! It turns out I may have seen Puranen perform live once – he’s part of the band K-X-P, and we saw them live at an off-venue show during Iceland Airwaves 2011. Small world!
So… there are three performers on this 10″. The previously mentioned Puranen with his basic, electronic instrumental is followed on side B by Kings Have Long Arms performing “Recycle/Rewind.” Which I swear sounds like it’s being sung by David Bowie. I suspect it’s not, but it could be samples of him… I don’t know. Kings Have Long Arms are from the UK, so a Bowie influence isn’t out of the question at all. This too is a solid electronic number, though with some sampled vocals and is pretty cool.
The real winner here, though, is the cover of James Brown’s “Sex Machine” by The Flying Lizards. Holy hell! Basically this is a purely electro version, with a female vocalist speaking Brown’s parts, and a male voice that comes in from time to time to take the place of Brown’s backing band. The woman’s delivery reminds me a bit of Debby Harry in the rap parts of Blondie’s “Rapture,” though on this song the parts are always spoken. Fantastic!
I didn’t even bother with a picture of this, since it’s in a plain white jacket. There are a couple of copies of this for sale on Discogs right now, including one for about $2.49. If you can find this somewhere for $5 or less, and you like electronic stuff, you HAVE to get it. You can thank me later.
I’m not sure what the story with this record is. Sōgo Ishii is a Japanese director known for having done some sort of punk rock/cyberpunk films, but I’m not sure how he was involved in 1983s The Strike Back of Asia, or who the Bacillus Army Project are. I won’t lie – the cover drew me to this record when I saw it at one of Tokyo’s Disk Union stores, and initially I thought the word “Strike” was “Shrike”, which combined with the trippy cover image made me think of Dan Simmons’ sci-fi Hyperion novels… and it wasn’t too expensive so I just bought it.
I guessed this would either be heavy metal or some type of electronica, but I was totally wrong on both accounts. The Strike Back of Asia is pure post-punk, with perhaps the exception of “Backstreet Gangstars,” which is a more or less straight forward rock ‘n’ roll song, complete with the kind of guitar solo you’d expect to see from any bar band. Much of the rest is defined by repetitive beats and strained vocals, which reminds me of a number of European punk/post-punk bands from the same period. In fact many of the songs, including the rock ‘n’ rollish “Backstreet Gangstars” mentioned previously, seem to have this repetitive nature, though at times the pace intensifies which makes it sound even more incessant.
I feel like I should have more to say about this record since it’s pretty cool and I’m sure I’ll be listening to it again… but I don’t know anything about it and it’s in Japanese, so I guess the best I can do is tell you that it’s good.
Oh, hell yeah!
Seems like some of my recent punk purchases have left me a little flat – a bit too crusty, and with crappy recording quality. So what to do? Spin something from Scandinavia, where dudes know how to play some legit punk rock. Play some Totalitär.
I actually bought this record at a Disk Union store in Tokyo. Stashed in the middle of the last aisle, off in the corner, were a couple of folding tables with three cardboard boxes full of vinyl on them. I’m not sure why these records were here as opposed to in their appropriate sections, but it seemed like something I needed to investigate. The boxes ran the gamut from classic rock to what looked like easy listening, but with a couple of small clusters of punk, one of which had some non-Japanese stuff. That’s where I found Sweden’s Totalitär, a white vinyl limited edition re-release of their 1994 full length debut Sin Egen Motståndare (along with Finland’s Kansan Uutiset and Brazil’s Cólera).
Normally I’m pretty fastidious about cleaning my vinyl purchases, especially used records. But I got lazy with some of the stuff I brought back from Japan – there were just so many records that instead of cleaning everything I focused on the roughly 15 or so records that obviously were most in need. The white vinyl of Sin Egen Motståndare looked fine. Then I played it. And about half way through side A the sound sort of started cutting in and out, all of sudden dropping in volume and sounding static-y for a while before getting back to normal. After this happened a few times I started to kind of freak out and wonder if either my turntable or tuner was jacked. Then I looked, and saw the hugest piece of lint and dust connected on my needle I’ve ever seen. I literally had to run a brush over each side five times to get it all. But with everything clean, it sure sounds a lot better.
Released in 1994, Sin Egen Motståndare is some quality Swedish hardcore. Eighteen bursts of speed, power, and frustration coming right at you, hitting you right between the eyes. The music is tight as hell, and Poffen’s vocals are aggressive and in your face, lightning fast bursts that seem to be punctuated every other syllable. There’s something here that reminds me just a bit of LAMA’s self-titled 1982 debut… something I can’t put my finger on… something in the musical structure of the song, most noticeably on “Skallra För Döden.” The Scandinavian style just seems to appeal to me for some visceral reason. It just feels right. It feels punk rock.
Two thumbs up for Totalitär! I’m not sure how this copy found its way into a random cardboard box in a record store in Tokyo, but I’m glad it did.
For a guy who isn’t into crust punk, I sure seem to end up with quite a few crust punk albums.
I found this one of the Disk Union stores in Tokyo, and while I’m not sure I would have bought it had I realized it was crust, I was still pleasantly surprised by the heavyweight vinyl picture disc enclosed, which is pretty cool. Noise Attack Devastating Tokyo City is actually a live concert album recorded in 2000, and while Gloom’s noise doesn’t appear to be enough to devastate Tokyo like Godzilla, it does sound like it was enough to devastate their amps. Probably destroyed the machine this was recorded on as well.
Overall this is a pretty short album. I didn’t time it, but I’m guessing we’re probably talking around 20 minutes or so. It’s more noise than songs, and that’s not me trying to be judgmental, I just don’t hear a ton of structure. It’s more like there are a couple of different songs being played at the same time. But then again, crust isn’t my thing and my experience with it is limited. I do, however, find this more approachable than some of the other crusty stuff I’ve heard – Gloom seems to lean a bit more towards traditional hardcore, even if in a seemingly disorganized way. Interesting, but probably won’t be in regular rotation at my house.
The first time I’d ever heard of Les Rallizes Denudés was when I read Julian Cope’s 2007 book about Japanese music, Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock ‘N’ Roll, the same book that turned me on to previous blog subjects Flower Travellin’ Band. Cope devoted a chapter to Les Rallizes and reviewed some of their albums, putting four of them in his personal Japanese rock Top 50 list, which included this record in the #12 spot. I can’t possibly tell you anything about the band that Cope hasn’t already extensively documented, so I’d refer you to his work. That being said, here are a few bullet points about Les Rallizes Denudés:
- The band came together in the late 1960s
- The band itself never released any of its own material – basically everything is a bootleg
- In 1970 bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi was part of a group that hijacked a JAL flight and took it to North Korea, where he still lives to this day. Which is kind of a big deal.
- Founder Takeshi Mizutani has been a sort of recluse since the 1970s
Despite all of this, or possibly because of it, the cult following of Les Rallizes Denudés continues to grow.
I found Blind Baby Has Its Mother’s Eyes at Kyoto’s Jet Set Records, the only Les Rallizes I ran across on my trip to Japan. At four songs I assumed it was an EP, but it turns out I was wrong – I didn’t anticipate just how long these “songs” would be, with the album running around 53 minutes. According to Cope, versions of these songs were being performed in the 1980s, and he believes the tracks included on this record probably date from around 1986. If I were going to put a genre on it, I’d probably go with psych post-punk, which I may have just completely made up. There’s a relentless repetition to much of the groove, overlaid with screeching guitars and feedback, occasionally punctuated by some otherworldly, echoey vocals. Basically, this is a trip. If you played it really loud outside your front door on Halloween you wouldn’t need to buy any candy, because all the kids would be afraid to ring your doorbell.
Les Rallizes Denudés is that special kind of weird that doesn’t feel contrived, like someone is putting on some fake “hey, look how crazy I am” persona. It seems more like a look into the deep recesses of someone’s brain, the scary places that most of us try to ignore or pretend don’t exist. It’s intense. It’s driven. If you look at it long enough, you’ll either come away a better person or a nutball. I’m glad I pulled the trigger on Blind Baby Has Its Mother’s Eyes – it’s something pretty special.