Osorezan Do No Kenbai
02. 銅之剣舞 (Doh no Kembai) [Copper Sword Dance] (18:47)
- Takanori Sasaki/ bass
- Jiro Suzuki / drums
- Seiji Hayamizu / guitar
- Takayuki Inoue / guitar
- Katsuo Ohno / keyboards
- Ohashi Tsutomu / conductor
- Hiroyuki Iwata / director
- Toyo Nakamura / producer
"Osorezan" was recorded at Victor No. 1 Studio on January 20th, 1976.
"Doh No Kembai" (or "Dou no Kenbai") was recorded on December 2, 1975.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi (Japanese: 芸能山城組, Geinō Yamashirogumi) is a Japanese musical collective founded on January 19, 1974 by Tsutomu Ōhashi, consisting of hundreds of people from all walks of life: journalists, doctors, engineers, students, businessmen, etc.
They are known for both their faithful re-creations of folk music from around the world, as well as their fusion of various traditional musical styles with modern instrumentation and synthesizers. For example, in the 1980s, MIDI digital synthesizers could not handle the tuning systems of traditional gamelan music, so the group had to teach themselves how to program in order to modify their equipment. The album that followed, Ecophony Rinne (1986) was a new direction for the group: they had not previously incorporated computer-generated sounds into their work. The success of this album brought them to the attention of Katsuhiro Ōtomo, who commissioned them to create the soundtrack of Akira. The soundtrack is built on the concept of recurrent themes or "modules". Texturally, the soundtrack is a mix of digital synthesizers (Roland D-50 and Yamaha DX7-II, both of which could, by then, be tuned to the Pure-Minor, slendro, and pelog tuning scales), Indonesian chromatic percussion (jegog, etc.), traditional Japanese theatrical and spiritual music (Noh), European classical, and progressive rock.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi has reproduced over eighty different styles of traditional music and performances from around the world, but despite having performed internationally to a high degree of critical acclaim, they remain relatively unknown.
"Osorezan (Mountain of Fear)" is not an easy song. It opens with a scream like Eugene was really hitting Waters with an axe, then after a drums interlude we find a long chord full of harmonics, then bass and voices like in Vangelis' Heaven and Hell introduce a Jap folk vocalist. Without all the background noises it would have been evocative. Then stop. Then noises sustained by an open chord. It's like a fusion of psychedelia and krautrock with something that doesn't have equivalents in the western music. Chaotic and unstructured, it seems to represent spirits and elementals. The alternance of chaos and silence tells a story. Distorted vocals and screams while the chaos incerases, it's not totally scaring. The concept behind spirits and elementals in Japan is not the same as in the west.
Around minute 9 we have the first touch of what we are used to call music, with a choir singing over a base of bass and drums, quite jazzy, then a very good guitar solo. From here it proceeds in an easier way.
I have read that this is about a volcano on the island of Honshu on which some priestesses are a contact point between our world and the realm of deads, a sort of Japanese version of the Delphi oracles. This explains the first part of the track, when the priestesses get into a trance status and at the end of the jazzy section when the chaos is in crescendo and is closed by another female scream.
Finally it seems that we have reached the contact. In the last minutes the music is calm and low-volume with soft vocals and bells. This part reminds me to the Tibetan Suite of Lucia Hwong (who I have suggested for inclusion on PA....). At the end the voice of the priestess, I imagine, resurrects us like she's bringing us out from the realm of death to the top of the mountain.
The B side is "Dou No Kembai" (Copper Sword Dance). It starts as the male counterpoint to the first female song. A male ritual choir which alternates to a soloist occupy the first minutes. Not particularily appealing for western tastes, specially if one, like me, doesn't understand the Japanese. This track is based on rhythm produced by choirs instead of percussions. It is more challenging than the previous. It's tribal. I don't know if a copper sword dance really exists, but this B side can probably have a sense for Japaneses only. I can listen to it as I do to some unstructured Krautrock, with the difference that this is structured instead, but on a basis that's too far from what I'm used to.
For anyone who wants a unique, challenging album, I definitely recommend checking this out. It may be uneasy listening for some, but it's worth the effort of getting to know it.