Psychedelic Japan, Part 1
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
As I put together the previous episode, Electronic Music for Astral Tripping, I realized that a worthy offshoot would be a program or two devoted to Japanese psychedelic music and noise music. So, I bring to you Psychedelic Japan, part 1. This episode will be more about the roots of Japanese psychedelic music, mostly performed by rock ensembles with a heavy leaning toward electric guitars, feedback, and electronic strangeness, later evolving into music with synthesizers. Part 2 will feature Japanese noise bands and artists who, frankly, defy categorization other than being called experimental—Merzbow, the Boredoms, Omoide Hatoba, and others.
The recordings I’ve collected for this episode will be presented in the chronological order of the original recordings. Several were released later and are unofficial, but in the spirit of following the evolution of this music, you’ll get a better sense for what it sounded like. Mostly, it was guitar and feedback based early on and changed to incorporate other electronics such as synthesizers over time.
First, we will listen to a track from the Flower Travellin’ Band from 1971. This was a Japanese rock band that formed in 1970, broke-up in 1973 and reformed in 2008. Guitarist Hideki Ishima is a founding member and is known for inventing the sitarla, a cross between an electric guitar and a sitar.
Next is The Taj-Mahal Travelers and a live recording from 1972 . the group was formed in 1969 and made entirely improvised music with a remarkably celestial sound. The ensemble regularly played throughout Japan. In 1971, on the way back from touring Europe, they financed a trip to India to see the Taj-Mahal. Upon returning to Japan, they played a benefit concert in 1972 to help pay for their trip. The track heard here was part of that live performance. Note that the ensemble included one Takehisa Kosugi on violin and radio oscillators. The name may be familiar to followers of John Cage and David Tudor because Kosugi also performed with them for most of his latter career following this period with The Taj-Mahal Travelers.
Then we have the Far East Family Band and a recording from 1976. They were a Japanese Psychedelic-Progressive-Rock band, founded ion 1975. This was psychedelia with synths. The album was recorded by Klaus Schulze. The band included keyboardist Kitaro until this, their third album, at which point Kitaro was inspired to venture out into his solo electronic work.
Up next is the Japanese band with the French name: Les Rallizes Denudes. This Japanese experimental rock band formed in November 1967 and this track was recorded live in 1977 and is from an unofficial release of that performance.
Next, we have Fushitsusha, and a track recorded in 1978. Guitarist Keiji Haino founded Fushitsusha in 1978. This track was part of a double album of live performances spanning the previous ten years that he released in 1989.
The next track is another unofficial release, this one by the group High Rise made in 1984. This Japanese psychedelic rock band, formed in 1982, was originally called Psychedelic Speed Freaks. They changed their name to High Rise in 1984.
Then, we come to an unusual track that I think most of you have never heard. It is by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., and is a rendition of “In C”, the landmark Terry Riley work of minimalism composed in 1968. This version from 2001 is full of the psychedelic nuances that you would expect of Acid Mothers and somewhat follows the original score, though much of the scored piece serves as a bed for the other wonderful sounds that swirl about. Acid Mothers is a Japanese psychedelic rock band founded in 1995 and which exists as a kind of collective with many guests.
The next two tracks are by Ghost, a Japanese experimental rock and improvisation group formed in Tokyo in 1984 and disbanded in 2014.Their gradual evolution from a guitar-based band with assorted acoustic instruments (e.g., oboe, cello, recorder) and atmosphere (e.g., water, wind) to the inclusion of electronics began in the early 2000s. I think this album from 2004 is their first to credit synthesizers and other electronics.
We’ll finish with a relative recent track by Kikagaku Moyo, “Kodama“ from 2014. Kikagaku Moyo is a Japanese psychedelic rock band formed by Tomo Katsurada and Go Kurosawa in 2012. This is another one of the acclaimed bands in the Japanese progressive psych genre. The word is they are breaking up and play their last show in Tokyo in December 2022.
Psychedelic Japan, Part 1
1. Flower Travellin’ Band, “Satori Part 2” from Satori (1971 Atlantic). Japanese rock band formed in 1970 which broke up in 1973 and reformed in 2008. Guitarist Hideki Ishima is a founding member. Moving from Sapporo to Tokyo in the mid-sixties, he played with the Group Sounds band The Outlaws from 1966 to 1969. Following that he joined The Flowers, who later became Flower Travellin' Band. He is also known for inventing the sitarla, a cross between an electric guitar and a sitar. 7:04 English translation of the lyrics:
There is no up or down
Your truth is the only master
Death is made by the living
Pain is only intense to you
The sun shines every day
The sun shines every day
2. The Taj-Mahal Travelers “Between 7:03~7:15P.M.” from July 15, 1972 (1972 CBS/sony). This album was recorded live at Sohgetsu Hall, Tokyo, Japan, July, 1972. Formed in 1969 this group produced entirely improvised music with a remarkably celestial sound. The ensemble regularly played throughout Japan. In 1971, on the way back from touring Europe, they financed a trip to India to see the Taj-Mahal. Upon returning, they played a benefit concert on July 15, 1972 to help pay for their return to U.K. The track heard hear was part of that live performance. Electronic Contrabass, Santoor (Suntool), Harmonica, Sheet Iron, Ryo Koike; Guitar, Percussion, Michihiro Kimura; Electronic Trumpet, Harmonica, Castanets, Seiji Nagai; Vibraphone, Santoor (Suntool), Yukio Tsuchiya; Electronic Violin, Radio Oscillators, Voice, Takehisa Kosugi; Vocals, Tokio Hasegawa. 11:17
3. Far East Family Band, “Entering/Times” from Parallel World (1976 Mu Land). Far East Family Band was a Japanese Psychedelic-Progressive-Rock band, founded 1975. Psychedelia with synths. Recorded November 15th to December 5th 1976 at the Manor Studio, UK. Music By, Arranged By, Far East Family Band; Music producer, Fumio Miyashita; Recording producer, Recorded and computer mix by, Klaus Schulze. Band included keyboardist Kitaro until this, their third album produced by Schulze. Kitaro was inspired to venture out into solo electronic work after this album. 15:26
4. Les Rallizes Denudes (Lay RAL-lees DEN-yoo-day) “Strung Out Deeper Than The Night,” recorded live in 1977. From a bootleg recording of “Heavier Than a Death in the Family” (2002 Not on Label). This Japanese experimental rock band formed in November 1967 at Doshisha University in Kyoto, moved to Tokyo, and was led by Takashi Mizutani (1948-2019). Performed their last gig in October 1996. 15:28 English translation of the lyrics for this song:
Deeper than the night, darker than the darkness
You woke up with blood and madness
Spread your black wings under the burning sky
You are what I want After the black sun rises
I'll meet you every time I go in the flames of ice
midnight white venom
A white horse runs through my body
The hungry beast that died in the rain
fly out the window
you shatter the mirror
you shatter the night
A whispering angel surrounds you
I send my blue breath to your center
You're what I want After the black sun rises
Enveloping you, your breath
send to your center
Deeper than night and darker than darkness
When you woke up, you took death and madness
5. Fushitsusha, “3. すきにやればいい” (“Do It When You Want”) from Invincible (First Live)/不失者 (1989 P.S.F. Records). Guitarist Keiji Haino founded Fushitsusha in 1978. This undated track is probably from 1978 and is part of a double album of live performances spanning the previous ten years that he released in 1989. Guitar, harmonica, Keiji Haino; drums, Seijiro Muryama; drums, Akui; bass, Yasushi Ozawa; guitar, Maki Miura. 11:36
6. High Rise “Induced Depression” from Psychedelic Speed Freaks (1984 P.S.F. Records). First recording, bootleg album. Japanese psychedelic rock band. Formed in 1982 by Asahito Nanjo and Munehiro Narita under the name Psychedelic Speed Freaks. They changed their name to High Rise when the group released their debut album in 1984. Bass, Vocals, Asahito Nanjo; Guitar (Motorcycle Fuzztone), Munehiro Narita. 3:13
7. Ghost, “Escaped And Lost Down In Medina” from Hypnotic Underworld (2004 Drag City). Japanese experimental rock and improvisation group formed in Tokyo in 1984 and disbanded in 2014.Their gradual evolution from a guitar-based band with assorted acoustic instruments (e.g., oboe, cello, recorder) and atmosphere (e.g., water, wind) to the inclusion of electronics began in the early 2000s. I think this is their first album that actually credits synthesizers and other electronics. Acoustic Guitar (6- and 12-String), Vocals, Masaki Batoh; Drums, Tabla, Percussion, Junzo Tateiwa; Electric Bass, Contrabass, Cello, Takuyuki Moriya; Electric Guitar, Michio Kurihara; Piano, Mellotron, Korg MS-20 Synthesizer, Organ, Lute, Recorder, Celtic Harp, Kazuo Ogino; Theremin, Flute, Saxophone, Tin Whistle, Bouzouki, Other, Producer, Taishi Takizawa; Written by Ghost. 7:10
8. Ghost, “Aramaic Barbarous Dawn” from Hypnotic Underworld (2004 Drag City). 3:15
9. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., “In C” from In C (2001 Eclipse Records). Japanese psychedelic rock band founded in 1995 and which exists as a kind of collective with many guests. This unique entry in the Acid Mothers catalog feature an interpretation of the famous Terry Riley minimalist landmark “In C” (1968 Columbia). This version is full of the psychedelic appurtenances you would expect of Acid Mothers and somewhat follows the original score, though much of the scored piece serves as a bed for the other wonderful sounds that swirl about. Bass (Monster), Tsuyama Atsushi; Drums, Ichiraku Yoshimitsu; Electric Guitar, Synthesizer, Higashi Hiroshi; Electric Guitar, Violin, Zuruna, Synthesizer, Kawabata Makoto; Producer, Engineer, Kawabata Makoto; Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, Terukina Noriko; Voice, Cotton Casino. 20:28
10.Kikagaku Moyo, “Kodama“ from Forest Of Lost Children (2014 Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records). Japanese psychedelic rock band formed by Tomo Katsurada and Go Kurosawa in 2012. Bass, Kotsuguy; Drums, Vocals, Go Kurosawa; Engineer, Yui Kimijima; Guitar, Daoud Popal; Sitar, Ryu Kurosawa; Theremin, Voice, Angie Gotopo; Vocals, Guitar, Tomo Katsurada; Written-By Go Kurosawa. Another one of the acclaimed bands in the Japanese progressive psych genre, the word is they are breaking up and play their last show in Tokyo in December 2022. 4:21
Opening background music: Les Rallizes Denudes, “Oz Days (1:33)” and “Wilderness of False Flowers”(7:36) from The Oz Tapes (1973 OZ Records). Recorded at OZ, Kichijoji, Tokyo 1973. Bass, Makoto Kubota; Drums, Shunichiro Shoda; Guitar, Takeshi Nakamura; Vocals, Guitar, Takashi Mizutani.
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.