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Psychedelic Japan, Part 2

My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music


This podcast is part 2 of Psychedelic Japan, an exploration of Japanese psychedelic and noise music from the past 40 years. The history of electronic music of this sort coming out of Japan is so rich that this series can only admit to sampling the wealth of recordings and artists that exist. I invite you to explore each by following the notes included here.


I continue to share these recordings in the chronological order in which they were created—not necessarily in the order in which they were released. Some of these recordings were privately issued cassettes, many rarely heard.


Whereas part 1 of this series focused mostly on Japanese psychedelic rock bands, this episode introduces many of the influential noise and electronic artists that emerged in the 1980s. Much of this music truly defies categorization.


We’ll begin with the radical song-gestures of a short-lived group called Wha Ha Ha from 1981.

Then we will listen to a cassette from Masami Akita, also known as Merzbow. This one dates from 1984. Masami Akita is one of my long-time favorite Japanese electronic/noise practitioners. He would send me cassettes back in the 1980s and I’ve always tried to keep up with him. He has released over 500 recordings since this recording was made.


We’ll listen to another cassette release, this one from Yoshiaki Kinno, from 1984. In the 1980's he established a cassette label featuring a wide range of improvised music.


We’ll explore two early cassette releases by Yamatsuka Eye of Boredoms, I think this is his first cassette release, going back to 1988. Eye expanded the Boredoms concept into a Japanese experimental/noise/space rock/tribal drumming band known for their extended jams and heavy drumming. We'll listen to some more recent Boredoms tracks in the what I imagine to be part 3 of this series.


We will listen to Japanese experimental musician, turntablist and guitarist, Otomo Yoshihide, from 1992.


Two tracks from the group Omoide Hatoba from 1996.


A terrific example of Yasunao Tone’s glitch work with damaged CDs from 1997.


Japanese DJ and producer Nobukazu Takemura from his work on a CD in 1997.


And two tracks from the eclectic noise band Melt Banana from 1998.


And I promise we will sample the more recent history of Japanese noise and psychedelic music since around 2000 in part 3 of this series.


Episode 82

Psychedelic Japan, Part 2

Playlist

1. Wha Ha Ha, “On the Floor” from Wha Ha Ha (1983 Recommended Records). This group released three records in 1981, all in Japan. Recommended Records, the UK-based record maker, released this compilation of tracks taken from all three of those records. The group Wha Ha Ha ended at that point but its four principle members went on to varied musical careers. Akira Sakata is an alto saxophonist, Kiyohiko Semba is a percussionist, Mishio Ogawa is a vocalist, and Shuichi Chino is a keyboardist and electronic musician. 10:08


2. Merzbow, “Untitled 1” from Material Action for Two Microphone (sp) (2nd version) (1984 artist cassette). Masami Akita is one of my long-time favorite Japanese electronic/noise practitioners. He would send me cassettes back in the 1980s and I’ve always tried to keep up with him. Not strictly a Japanese psychedelic artist, I include him here primarily because, like some of the other artists in this podcast, he has widespread influence on other genres of Japanese electronic music. This prolific Japanese noise artist has released over 500 recordings since 1979. Recorded at Merzbau. Tape, Recorder, Synth, Effects, Kiyoshi Mizutani; Tape, Violin, Electronics, Effects, Masami Akita. Early cassette by Akita. 22:30


3. Yoshiaki Kinno, track 4 from unknown cassette, 1984.Japanese guitar and saxophone improviser. In the 1980's he established a cassette label featuring a wide range of improvised music. 3:32


4. Boredoms, “Boil Out UFO” from Boretronix 88' (1988 Mega Scum Groove Inc.). I think this is their first cassette release, going back to 1988. Boredoms (ボアダムス), alternatively known as V∞redoms, is a Japanese experimental/noise/space rock/tribal drumming band from Osaka, founded in 1986 by Yamatsuka Eye. Known for their extended jams and heavy drumming, it is remarkable that they had some mainstream success in the 1990s. Bass, Hira; Drums, EDA; Drums, Vocals, Yoshimi P-We; Guitar, Yamamotor; Music by, Boredoms; Words By, Vocals, Tibetan Bell, Effects (EQ-phasing), cassette tape manipulation, electronics, Eye. 2:18


5. Boredoms, “Untitled” (excerpt) from Boretronix 3 (1990 Ltd.). Another early cassette release from Yamatsuka Eye on his private label. This cassette consists of remixes of unreleased Boredoms material and fully explores the noise and rhythmic aspects of their work. This is an interesting prelude to their latter, more cohesive works. Bass, Hira; Drums, EDA; Drums, Vocals, Yoshimi P-We; Guitar, Yamamotor; Music by, Boredoms; Words By, Vocals, Effects (EQ-phasing), cassette tape manipulation, electronics, Eye. 12:01


6. Otomo Yoshihide, “We Insist? A) Rinko-Gun; b) x-Day” from We Insist? (1992 Sound Factory). Japanese experimental musician, turntablist and guitarist. Additional musicians on these tracks, Bass, vocals, Numata Jun; Guitar, Saito Ken-ichi; Vocals, performer (Junk), Lim Soowoong. 5:37


7. Omoide Hatoba, “Satellite Groove” from Kinsei (1996 Birdman). Japanese psychedelic, alternative, experimental -rock band. Alto Saxophone Isamu Kawamura, Yoshimi Yamazaki, Bass, Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer, Drum Machine, Atsushi Tsuyama, Drums, Takashi Ogushi; Drums, Computer, Tape, Chew Hasegawa, Guitar, Vocals, Violin, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer, Drum Machine, Seiichi Yamamoto, Tenor Saxophone, Satoshi Kawanishi, Trumpet, Yoshimi, Written by, Omoide-Hatoba. 3:53.


8. Omoide Hatoba, “Alternative Funkaholic” from Kinsei (1996 Birdman). A&R, David Katznelson; Alto Saxophone Isamu Kawamura, Yoshimi Yamazaki, Bass, Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer, Drum Machine, Atsushi Tsuyama, Drums, Takashi Ogushi; Drums, Computer, Tape, Chew Hasegawa, Guitar, Vocals, Violin, Percussion, Piano, Synthesizer, Drum Machine, Seiichi Yamamoto, Tenor Saxophone, Satoshi Kawanishi, Trumpet, Yoshimi, Written by, Omoide-Hatoba. 2:30


9. Yasunao Tone, “Part I” from Solo for Wounded CD (1997 Tzadik). Yasunao Tone was one of the founding members of Japan's Fluxus movement and has also been an organizer and participant in many important music and performance groups such as Group Ongaku, Team Random (the first computer art group organized in Japan). He is a pioneer in the use of prepared CDs of which this work is a prime example. All sounds used were from scratched CD's. 14:28


10.Changing Hands, “Spaced” from Changing Hands (1997 Medium Productions Ltd.). Written, performed, produced by, Nobukazu Takemura, Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen. Takemura is a Japanese electronic DJ, producer, and artist. Richard Barbieri is a keyboardist, engineer (once a member of the group Japan). Steve Jansen is an engineer, drum programmer/percussionist and DJ (and brother of David Sylvian). 6:54


11.Melt Banana, “Section Eight” from Charlie (1998 A-Zap Records). Melt-Banana is a band from Tokyo, Japan. They were formed around 1991/1992 by singer Yasuko Onuki who later recruited guitarist Ichirou Agata and added the bassist Rika. Additional drummer, Natsume. 3:49


12.Melt Banana, “Taen Taen Taen (?)” from Charlie (1998 A-Zap Records). Melt-Banana includes singer Yasuko Onuki, guitarist Ichirou Agata, and bass player Rika. Additional musician, electronics, Oshima. 0:45OOIOO, “1000 Frogs And 3 Sun In A House” from Feather Float (1999 Polystar). Bass, Handclaps, Maki; Drums, Handclaps, Yoshiko; Guitar, Vocals, Djembe, Bongos, Roland Juno and Casiotone synthesizers; Piano, Jew's Harp, Talking Drum, Scratches, Noises (Birds), Yoshimi; Guitar, Vocals, Handclaps, Kyoko; Producer, Yoshimi. 10:28


Opening background music: Junji Hirose + Yoshihide Otomo, “Noise From Far East” and “The Time to Live and the Time to Die” from Silanganan Ingay (1989 Tanga-tanga). Self-Made Instruments, Toy Rhythm Box, Toy (Voice-Changer), Toy Autoharp, Tenor Saxophone, Junji Hirose; Turntables, Cassette Tape, Hand-Made Guitar, Small Instruments, Toys, Otomo Yoshihide.


Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.


Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.


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NOISE AND NOTATIONS

Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.