Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Stomu Yamash'ta - 1971 - Red Buddha

Stomu Yamash'ta 
Red Buddha

01. Red Buddha (15:21)
02. As Expanding As (15:52)

- Stomu Yamash'ta / percussion

STOMU YAMASH'TA was born in 1947 in Kyoto Japan, with the name Yamashita Tsutomu.
Since the late 60's he has developed an international reputation as a composer and performer (percussion, keyboards) of serious music, jazz rock fusion, rock, electronica as well as multi-media projects for the theatre, a ballet score ("Shukumei" ) and cinematic soundtracks. He studied jazz. He has toured and played with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the rock group Come to The Edge. YAMASH'TA has recorded not only jazz rock fusion and rock but music by the serious modern composers Maxwell-Davis and Henze.

He came to Europe in the early 70's working briefly in France on theatrical multi-media projects (e.g. the precursor for "Red Buddah Theatre" and "The Man From The East") before moving across the Channel to England. Through the 70's YAMASH'TA recorded the majority of his 70's albums in the UK but alas very few of the Island Records recordings have been issued on CD. He has composed the soundtracks of the David Bowie film "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (which borrowed significantly from earlier recordings), Ken Russell's "The Devils", and race car documentary "One By One".

STOMU YAMASH'TA is probably best known nowadays as the leader of the supergroup GO with STEVIE WINWOOD, AL DIMEOLA, KLAUS SCHULZ and MICHAEL SHRIEVE for three albums and related performances. However, prior to forming GO, YAMASH'TA played not a small part in nurturing musicians who were subsequently better known for playing in important 70's UK jazz rock groups, e.g. BRAND X and ISOTOPE - this is worth expanding since this aspect of his work (relevant to Progarchives) is often neglected on the web. YAMASH'TA attracted musicians such as MORRIS PERT and GARY BOYLE (previous known for working with BRIAN AUGER) to his "Red Buddah Theatre" project/recording (one of the few albums available on CD) and then on several later recordings. MORRIS PERT with that other future BRAND X player PETER ROBINSON recorded first as SUNTREADER. YAMASH'TA recruited ex SOFT MACHINIST HUGH HOPPER to what would become the critically acclaimed 1973 recording "Freedom Is Frightening" - one of those albums that is crying out for CD release, with BOYLE and HOPPER working together for the first time. GARY BOYLE went on to form ISOTOPE, which of course HUGH HOPPER joined for their second recording "Illusion". In 1974 YAMASH'TA formed the band EAST WIND.

After leaving Europe in 1980, STOMU YAMASH'TA retired to a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Such retirement was brief and he then released a number of recordings employing synthesisers, pre-recorded taped sounds, orchestral instruments and percussion. Of these recordings the so-called 'space music' of the 1983 record "Sea and Sky" is available on CD. He continues to occasionally release albums in this electronica/ambient genre.His 'Space Theme' was used by the BBC on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (radio series).

Stomu Yamash'ta hit it big with his project GO that included well renowned musicians such as Mike Shrieve, Klaus Schulze, Steve Winwood and Al di Meola. So much so that the selftitled album from 76 is nigh on omnipresent in every household with folks over a certain age. Never fails.....even my uncle, who is famous for not giving a damn about any form of music besides the one he's dancing to at the annual family get-together - even he's got a copy....and this is a man who refers to Motown tunes as hippie music...

Well as much as I like the GO project, I am much more enthralled by this early offering of his called 'Red Buddha'. Now many of you out there probably know Yamash'ta as a synthesist, but fact of the matter is that he started out as a percussionist, a damn fine one at that!

Red Buddha is actually the name of a theatre in Paris, to which this album was recorded for. Yamash'ta had been studying the jazz traditions of the west, and they had brought him to Europe where a new explorative mindset seemed to adorn every major city's sparkling undergrowth. Paris, in particular, being one of the hot spots.

The music is all instrumental and all about the beat, the drums. There are no synths, no guitars no nothing besides a boot-full of percussion instruments, some more exotic than others. The end result amounts to something like the expression one finds in the electronic quarters with big spacious slabs of sound coming awfully close to the kind you'll find on an early Klaus Schulze record...only it's all accomplished through rhythms - snaking and twirling.

What really sets Red Buddha apart from other such proto stomp records is the way Yamash'ta seems to have fiddled around with sound treatments. Either by tuning a drum a certain way or simply by placing the mic somewhere groovy. It works though, damn how it works! Everything from soft hand drum splashes to strange modal sounding entities that flicker about like lonely candlesticks sitting on a windy field.

The first time you hear this you'll probably write it off as a late hippie project with some longhaired guy banging away on pots and pans. Please try again is all I can say. Contrary to common sense the music is fully orchestrated. The cd comes with the original sheet music. Sheet music?!?!? Oh yes. All of this rhythmic mayhem started out as a wee brainworm inside the enigmatic mind of Yamash'ta...........then again, when you return to this album you pick up new shadings - new splashes.....and woe and behold something akin to melodies. The 10th time you listen the world opens up and every fibre of your body twitches and bobs to the beat and suddenly it seems as if those elusive melodies you'd been sniffing earlier on now are way upfront, in your face and bizarrely beautiful. A vast tapestry of beats - like a thousand hearts beating in tune from obscure angles and different corners of the world.

Think of Red Buddha as one of those tricky 3D pictures you have to be cross-eyed to see: 'OH A DINOSAUR!!!'. You better believe it, and what a dinosaur! This is without a doubt my favourite Yamash'ta record. It eclipses everything that comes after. Why? Ingenuity, imagination and execution. Red Buddha should be mandatory listening to anyone interested in the early progressive scene, and here I'm talking progressive with a huge P - yet without ever becoming tedious academic music that only speaks to mathematicians and Scottish hermits. This one always manages to refuel my senses. Like a fiery phoenix or Buddha doing the jig - you decide.



  2. Thanks!
    I bought this vynil soooooo many years ago...

    Yamashta, the Japanese Schulze?