Sunday, February 14, 2016

Taj Mahal Travellers - 1998 - Live Stokholm July, 1971

Taj Mahal Travellers
Live Stokholm July, 1971

101. Live '71, Part One (58:36)

201. Live '71, Part Two (50:43)

- Ryo Loike / electronic contrabass, suntool, harmonia & sheet iron
- Yukio Tsuchiya / vibraphone, suntool
- Michihiro Kimura / electronic guitar & percussion

Recorded on July 1 and 9, 1971 in the geodesic dome at the Utopia & Visions 1871-1981 exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Takehisa Kosugi's Taj Mahal Travellers were the premiere Japanese experimental rock band of the 1970s. The band, heavily influenced by Fluxus, used electronic effects and a host of unusual instruments to create a series of improvised drones. Kosugi went on to become the music director for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company

This album is a discorporated, cerebral dance whose rhythm sounds like six weather Gods emulating the cover of Deep Purple's Fireball by zooming around Silverstone circuit just inches above the track, each urging himself on by making engine noises: 'Eee-oww-urghh-ow!!!!!!!' Opening with Ryo Koike's horizontally played bowed double bass, it's my fave of Taj Mahal Travellers' three releases, better even than the obstinate medication of the first official LP July 15, 1972, because there's twice as much of it.

Meditatively, it's extremely useful too: at the entrance portals of this live record, Ryo Koike uses his bass to invoke phlegm phantoms and cranny demons from the butt walls of Cronosian caverns; conjuring a sound as Biblical as Conrad Schnitzler's bizarre bowed cello on T. Dream's Electronic Meditation. Gradually, hesitatingly, almost imperceptibly, a violin theme installs itself, establishing over the next quarter of an hour clop-clopping hooves of hollow rhythm that conjure up the image of frustrated pastoralists driving their reluctant donkeys around the highest and most precipitous cliff edges, as their valuable cargoes sway and shudder and threaten to come untied at any moment.

Recorded a full year before their first official LP, I think this in concert album is a far better and more confident shamanic statement, for this Stockholm recording melded together all six group members in such a way that no single musician rises from the primal soup long enough to establish his singular muse. The vocal effects are truly stunning, evoking everything from comb-and-paper voices playing Zeus in the sixty-metre deep Dhikhtean Antron to braying cartoon coyotes laughing to their deaths.

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