Sunday, May 31, 2015

Geinoh Yamashirogumi - 1977 - Yamato Genjoh

Geinoh Yamashirogumi 
Yamato Genjoh

01. Gassho Kariboshi-Kiriuta (4:00)
02. Warabauta-Sho (2:16)
03. Shudarahigyo (15:54)
04. Yamashiro-Bushi: Yanagi No Ame (3:53)
05. Yamashiro-Bushi: Tanuki (16:31)

I'm starting to be more used with Geinoh Yamashiroguni. This choral ensemble seems to demonstrate that the vocal harmonies are similar in each part of the world and this makes this music very approachable if you have the patience to listen to choirs only.
The first track is sad and the oriental flavor seems so relevant mainly because of the lyrics and the tonality of the lead singer. I think that traditional music of a lot of places from Mediterranean Sea to Japan passing by Arabia and India have similar harmonies.
"Warabauta.-Sho" has a strange sound. The Japanese lyrics and the backgroud voice are very Japanese but the chords sung by the two have some of Irish. Try to believe. This is an excellent vocal duo on which the second voice sometimes speaks as in a sort of far-eastern rap adding rhythm to the song.
The first percussion (woods) comes only with the third track, a long one of more than 15 minutes. Male voices coming from "far and below", with a strong reverb effect are introduced by a gong. It seems really to be a hidden religious anthem. An instrument with a sound similar to a didgeridoo leads the first part of a track on which the choral element is less relevant than on the first two tracks and the gong interludes come only when they are effectively needed. the singular thing is that there's less rhythm on this track which has percussions than in the two previous "choir only" tracks. Hypnotic as an early Tangerine Dream album. The second half of the track, after a short pause is mainly vocals and percussion, exactly the opposite of the first half. Here the compulsive rhythm is the basis of all the variations. The choir, too, is rhythmic and a sort of trumpet or a string instrument (I'm not expert in japanese folk) is the variation element. A sort of Japanese Krautrock...
Traditional string instrument and female vocals. This is what "Yanagi No Ame"is made of. Watch a picture of mount Fuji while listening.
The closer starts with a male choir very similar to alpines. This is something that I have already written about other albums. The vocal harmonies are so similar and based of major chords as well as to Christmas carols, but it's interrupted by the string instrument of the previous track (that's supposed to be an intro to this) and by a teathrical speech. At minute 4 the big surprise.....Drums and Bass, then keyboard and electric guitar. If it wasn't for the choir it could be one of the funky-jazz excursions of Klaus Shulze with Stomu Yamash'ta. Very 70s funk totally unexpected and very enjoyable. The choir element acquires almost an African atmosphere so that the first band that comes to my mind as a reference is Osibisa. Just 2:30 minutes, the we are back to Japanese folk. At minute 9:30 another funky-folk section stars. What's the sense of it all? I think you need to know the Japanese to understand it, however it's ver pleasant. At about minute 11 a solo of shakuyaki or how that instrument is called creates an exciting contaminated crescendo as it's backed by bass and drums. A track like this deserve the band's inclusion in the avant subgenre. The alternance of folk and funk continues with different sections until the end when the track has its most avantgarde moments.

Geinoh Yamashirogumi - 1976 - Chi no Hibiki Higashi Yuroppo Wo Utau

Geinoh Yamashirogumi 
Chi no Hibiki Higashi Yuroppo Wo Utau

01. You wa Shizumu (3:29)
02. Karai Mo-me (4:20)
03. Suriko (1:47)
04. Zamraknala Moma Yana (4:18)
05. Kotoshi Okotta Koto (2:02)
06. Hate mo Naki Kouya Hara (4:01)
07. Watashi No Ama Hatake (2:44)
08. Sosori Tatsu Iwa (3:09)
09. Omae wa Nan no Hana (3:19)
10. Odori Jouzu na Petorunko (1:17)
11. Hassanbeda no Uta (2:20)
12. Todora wa dYume Miru (2:45)

With their album "Chi no Hibiki Higashi Yuroppo Wo Utau", roughly translated to "Reverberation of Earth" for the CD release from 1994, this magical collective, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, presents listeners with an incredibly beautiful, all vocal album of Eastern European singing styles. At times, we're presented with large choirs singing, sometimes with solo/featured voices, but never at any point is there anything which could be labeled as progressive rock, rock, or indeed even progressive here (for that, look to their stunning "Osorezan" album).
That's not to say the music presented here isn't masterfully crafted, beautiful, and a great listening experience every time I decide to put this album on. It's incredibly peaceful and full of emotion, and definitely recommended to fans of choral music.

Geinoh Yamashirogumi - 1976 - Osorezan Do No Kenbai

Geinoh Yamashirogumi
Osorezan  Do No Kenbai  

01. 恐山 (Osorezan) [Mountain of Fear] (19:55)
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

Additional Personnel:

- 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.

Datetenryu - 1971 - Datetenryu


01. Mizutamari
02. Nada's jam
03. Tears for life
04. Old sun
05. Happy stone

Hiroshi Nar - vocals, bass
Masao Tonari - organ
Kei Yamashita - guitar
Shogo Ueda - drums

Included here as representatives of the early ’70s festival scene, Datetenryu was an obscure cousin to Communist agitator bands Zuno Keisatsu (Brain Police), Yellow, Les Rallizes Denud?s and Murahatchibu. Led by organist Masao Tonari, the band on UNTO[album] played a frantic hogwash of soul-based progressive space rock that inhabited the same territory as The the Soft Machine’s debut- LP period (imagine ‘Why Are We Sleeping?’ or ‘Hope For for Happiness’ by way of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’). Mainly instrumental, their music is a space trek through endless R&B riffs and classic soul moments, like some ever- unfolding medley. UNTO purports to be what the band members would have chosen had they had the opportunity to release an official debut album at the time, ie: a total barrage of lo-fi progressive garage rock. The 20-minute epic ‘Doromamire (Covered All Over In in Mud)’ is the killer, but really it’s all one insane 47-minute-long rush. Formed in May 1971, at Kyoto Sangyo (‘Industrial’) University, Datetenryu was a right bunch of refusenik longhairs. Masao Tonari set up sideways on to the rest of the band, while drummer Shogo Ueda played, head down, facing away from the stage pointing towards Tonari’s Yamaha organ. Indeed, guitarist Kei Yamashita appears to have been permanently out of proceedings in the same way that Yes’s Pete Banks and the Nice’s Davy O’List were forever being sidelined. Datetenryu’s biggest claim to fame, however, was the presence of bassist/singer Hiroshi Narazaki, who later became Hiroshi Nar and joined Les Rallizes Denud?s, thereafter forming his own very excellent band the Niplets, who continue to perform right up to the present time.

Akiko Yano - 1976 - Japanese Girl

Akiko Yano 
Japanese Girl

01. 気球にのって [Kikyu ni notte]
02. クマ [Kuma]
03. 電話線 [Denwa-sen]
04. 津軽ツアー [Tsugaru tour]
05. ふなまち唄PartII [Funamachi uta Part II]
06. 大いなる椎の木 [Ooinaru Shii no ki]
07. へこりぷたぁ [Helicopter]
08. 風太 [Futa]
09. 丘を越えて [Oka wo koete]
10. ふなまち唄PartI [Funamachi uta Part I]

Congas – Sam Clayton
Drums – Richie Hayward
Electric Bass – Kenny Gradney
Electric Guitar – Lowell George, Paul Barrere
Percussion – Richie Hayward, Sam Clayton
Piano – Akiko YanoSynthesizer – Akiko Yano
Pedal Steel Guitar – Hiroki Komazawa
Acoustic Guitar – Chuei Yoshikawa
Congas – Tetsuro Kashibuchi
Percussion – Kisaku Katada
Piano – Akiko YanoS
trings – Ohno Ensemble
Backing Vocals – Morio Agata
Drums – Tetsuro Kashibuchi
Electric Bass – Hirobumi Suzuki
Electric Piano – Akiko Yano
Guiro – Akiko Yano
Mandolin – Masahiro Takekawa
Pedal Steel Guitar – Hiroki Komazawa
Piano – Akiko Yano
Pipa – Masahiro Takekawa
Taiko – Keiichi Suzuki, Tetsuro Kashibuchi

Akiko Yano was born in Tokyo and raised in Aomori, Japan. She began playing piano at the young age of three and demonstrated promising talent. When she was only fifteen, Akiko moved to Tokyo on her own and entered into Aoyama Gakuin High School where she pursued her musical career. She later began performing in jazz clubs where her masterful skill at the piano brought her popularity among other musicians. Akiko joined a band with roots in Tin Pan Alley.
Akiko recorded her debut album, Japanese Girl, primarily in Los Angeles with Lowell George and Little Feat. She began collaborating with Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). They continued to play on her next recording projects and invited Akiko to join them on two of their worldwide tours. Akiko expanded her musical collaborations with YMO on her subsequent CD releases. Akiko continued to release CDs joined by JAPAN and Pat Metheny and has performed on albums by Thomas Dolby and other artists. In 1990 Akiko relocated to New York where she collaborated and toured with some of the world's most renowned musicians including The Chieftains, Toninho Horta and Jeff Bova on his project THE HAMMONDS.

26th Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time according to Rolling Stone Japan.