Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bi Kyo Ran - 1988 - Live Volume 2 - Who Ma

Bi Kyo Ran 
Live Volume 2 - Who Ma

01. Vision of the city (10:53)
02. Psycho (part I) (3:23)
03. Who ma (10:53)
04. Stop breaking sense (9:10)
05. Improvisation (17:31)

- Takuma Amamyia / percussion
- Masaaki Nagasawa / drums
- Masahide Shiratori / bass
- Kunio Suma / guitar, vocals

This is even better than i thought it would be. These guys are great live. My version has a couple of bonus tracks that they have mixed in at songs 2 & 4. The performances on this album were taken from two shows, one in December of 1982, and the other in March of 1983. They usually have a few guests performing with them in studio, but for these live shows they just have a guest percussionist. So no mellotron this time, or horns. What we do get though is angular, Fripp-like lead guitar, along with some fantastic bass and drumming.
"Vision Of The City" is driven by these raw guitar leads throughout. Although there is a calm with some laid back guitar 2 1/2 minutes in. Vocals are present early in the song and towards the end. Some fat bass lines 10 minutes in after those cool angular guitar melodies. "Monologue" features more abrasive guitar and distortion. Vocals play a prominant role in this one though (hence the title). More deep bass lines in this one too. "Psycho (Part 1)" is an instrumental that's not as hard on the ears. The guitar is incredible a minute. Very melodic tune, and one of my favs. "Silent Running" is another great tune. Vocals come in as it settles down. The guitar grinds away 4 1/2 minutes in. Nice. Vocals are back 8 1/2 minutes in as it calms down once again. Love the way they contrast these two sectons. I really like both passages too. "Stop Breaking Sense" has a heavy sound to open with chunky bass and scorching guitar. Vocals join in as the guitar trades off with him. The bass is killer! Awesome sound before 3 minutes and 5 minutes in when the guitar lights it up both times. The bass continues to be huge. Vocals are back 7 1/2 minutes in. A calm 9 minutes in to end it. My favourite track.

"Who Ma" is the title track. It takes a while to get going but when it does the guitar makes all kinds of noise 2 1/2 minutes in. The drums are very random at this point. The guitar is grinding away at will. Once they get going this sounds incredible. Ripping guitar after 7 minutes. The calm sections are contrasted with the full passages a couple of times before it ends. "Improvisation" opens with no real melody just sounds until 2 1/2 minutes in, but even then this isn't melodic. Then the guitar starts to make some noise. This is experimental to say the least. Hey it's an improv ! We get a good melodic soundscape 7 minutes in, and for the next 6 minutes they just play. Nice.Then a calm as they stop the melody and make random sounds. He ends it with an excellent guitar solo.

I know these guys are huge fans of KING CRIMSON but I couldn't help but think of Neil Young and his raw, garage sounding guitar tone. Who needs polish when you can have this ! I should mention that I had this on at work the other day, and this young guy came in and eventually asked who was playing, then asked me to write down the bands name so he could try to find his own copy.

After a three-year period (spent mostly making demos and being discovered by King Records), Suma appeared with a new band behind him. King coaxed him into the studio, and the albums Bi Kyo Ran and Parallax resulted. Which brings us to the next (brief) period of live playing for Bi Kyo Ran: 1982-83, from which came the Who Ma - Live Vol. 2 and Ran - Live Vol. 3 recordings, released in 1988 and 1994 respectively. These spotlight the pinnacle of Bi Kyo Ran's most brutal and experimental period; a mood that is darker than Crimson, more sinister and primitive. Gone are the keys and recorders (and most of the vocals as well). Suma, guitar wailing, unabashedly leads the four-piece band (including a guest percussionist) through raucous instrumental sections in a relentless surge, as on "Stop Breaking Sense," or in impromptu works like "Improvisation" (both from Who Ma). They explore musical structures similar to those on Starless and Bible Black. This album contains all new (at the time) material, barring two bonus tracks on the CD version; while Live Vol. 3 focuses on previously-released songs. Both capture the uncompromising spirit of a band who left no stone unturned. But in 1983, Suma called it quits.

Note : the words "Who Ma" are a phonetic rendering from Japanese characters that are more commonly Romanized as "Fu Ma." They have no relation to the English words "who" or "ma".

1 comment: