Thursday, November 1, 2018

Kamiya - 1982 - Pharao No Haka Synthesiser Fantasy

Pharao No Haka Synthesiser Fantasy

01. ファラオの墓
02. 砂漠の鷹
03. ナイルキアの夢
04. ムーラの踊り
05. エステーリア戦記
06. 永遠のナイル
07. ギゼーの月
08. ムーラの洞穴
09. 美しきアンケスエン

Kamiya Shigenori, synthesizer master, released one more album of synthy goodness before returning to his career as a jazz guitarist - at least, as far as I've been able to tell, since finding details on him has been very difficult all these years. This one came two years after MU, during which time Kamiya was incredibly busy still doing advertisement soundtracks as well as taking part in Wha-ha-ha - note his picture on the insert! This time around, it's produced for Columbia's "Digital Trip" series, which collected synthesizer-based interpretations of anime and manga, whether arrangements of anime soundtracks on synthesizer, or "image albums" composed to accompany a manga. This album is the latter, meant to evoke the ancient Egyptian landscapes of Keiko Takemiya's manga "Pharaoh's Tomb" 

I do not know if there are any translations of Pharaoh's Tomb that have ever been published, but it seems to have been quite popular in Japan with several editions, the latest tankobon collecting it being published by Square Enix. I have definitely seen a radio play version of it at some point (though I can't find it anymore), and apparently last year, a televised musical adaptation involving Morning Musume was broadcast. Takemiya herself is one of the pillars of shojo manga, creating what is probably one of the very first yaoi manga that was publicly and commercially avaialble, Kaze to Ki no Uta (Poem of the Wind and the Trees), among many other works that I don't really have the expertise nor the space to discuss here; she is now the president of Kyoto Seika University, one of the pre-eminent manga schools. So - this album is released well after both Pharaoh's Tomb (74-76) and in the middle of Kaze to Ki no Uta's run, at the height of her popularity. (There is also a Kaze to Ki no Uta image album for Digital Trip, but I haven't been able to get my hands on that one yet. Future post, maybe!) Given Kamiya's previous work with MU, it was a natural choice for him to do the image album.

The insert contains gorgeous art from Takemiya Keiko

If you liked MU, then you will like this one just as much if not moreso depending on how much you enjoyed the more experimental sections, as this record is far more melodic. Kamiya expertly uses the full range of the ARP 2500 System to produce otherworldly sounds that, nevertheless, fit the Egyptian theme perfectly. This is the type of record where you can just submerge into the atmosphere of the work and be transported to a far-off land. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find even an untranslated copy of the manga as yet, so I can't speak to how well it matches the atmosphere of the work; that said, I'd be surprised if Kamiya didn't nail it on the head given how good he is at creating this sort of sound. The last track on Side A,  ("Muera's Dance", I believe this is the name of a tribe in the manga if I'm parsing this article correctly), is to me the peak of the record, a deep pulsing groove that, despite its high-tech origins, takes you off to ancient lands...

Liner Notes
Below are the full, translated liner notes, which contain both some details on the production of Farao no Haka itself, and a little more detail on Kamiya than was provided in the MU liner notes. Once again, thanks to megchan for the translation!

Long, detailed liner notes in Japanese, flanked by two paintings. On the left, the pharaoh stands in a courtyard flanked by high columns, and a woman also dressed in royal garb sits on the wall above him, which leads to either a palace or a tomb. On the right, a young boy with royal headdress faces off against an older man, with the night sky over the Pyramids behind them; images of their ancestors' sarcophagi floating between them.

Yet more lovely art from Takemiya Keiko flanks the liner notes

Pharaoh no Haka Synthesizer Fantasy

Original Story: Takemiya Keiko
Arrangement/Synthesizer: Kamiya Shigenori

"Getting Out of the Slump" - Takemiya Keiko
The circumstances surrounding the birth of a long-running series are always interesting.

With "Kaze to Ki no Uta", I had the first fity pages or so ready to go when I shopped it around to publishers, but everyone said it was too shocking and I kept getting rejected. Recently one of those publishers told me, "If I hadn't turned you down that time, you'd be running in our magazine right now," and I had no idea how to respond.

With "Chikyuu e...", I started off with a promise of only three chapters. When the announcement was first published, there were objections, things like "Don't run a female author in a shounen magazine." But there were hundreds of positive letters along the lines of "I'm so happy you're writing hard SF" that those silly objections didn't bother me at all. The editorial department was shocked to receive so many letters from an announcement, and just from that the series length was expanded.

Right before I started "Pharaoh no Haka", I found myself in a slump and spent my days fretting over what to write next. One day my editor stopped by and was flipping through my sketchbook when he found a shounen-esque story and said, "This is great. Let's go with this." And so suddenly I found myself serialized again.

It started out as a type of fantasy romance, so the setting was originally an imaginary country and the title was "Koutei no Haka" ("The Emperor's Tomb"). When the setting was changed to Egypt, I was sweating at the thought of all the research I would have to do. I feel a wave of nostalgia at the memory of the editorial department telling me things like "You shouldn't use an ominous word like tomb."

I made up my mind to use this series as a way of getting out of my slump. Determined to make it appealing to both kids and grown-ups, I plunged ahead through trial and error and was extremely pleased with myself when I finally began to see how it would end when I'd reached what I thought was the midpoint of the series.

I was lucky that my editor for "Pharaoh no Haka", M, had just transferred from Shounen Sunday. He was able to look at it with a shounen manga eye and tell me things like "This is a bit hard to follow" and "You're breaking out of the panels too much" (one of the characteristics of shoujo manga is how the drawings extend outside the panels), and it was really refreshing to have that sort of criticism when I was taking my first steps. And it always made me happy to get a "Good job" from him when I managed something shounen-esque.

Having been raised on "Tetsuwan Atom", "Iga no Kagemaru", and "Cyborg 009", I really enjoy this sort of hero's romance. Once I realized that, I was finally able to get out of that slump. Now I feel like I could write a second or even third "Pharaoh no Haka".

"0&1" Regarding Kamiya Shigenori - Takebe Moriaki
His first synthesizer was an ARP2600. It was 1972. He picked it up out of a simple love of mechanics, and after taking it apart in his room and then putting it back together again, he discovered it to be the perfect instrument for him. He said that if his first encounter with a synthesizer had been the Moog III, which Walter Carlos popularized with "Switched-On Bach", he wouldn't have become a synth player. Although he had studied science and engineering, he was a novice when it came to anything electrical, but being able to change things around to produce his own sound must have been what caused him to switch from guitar to soldering irons and keyboards.

His music was fostered through sixteen years of chapel at Aoyama Academy. He still believes that the Hallelujah Chorus is the pinnacle of melody and harmony. It seems that this ancient civilization series, made up of his 1979 solo album "Mu" and now "Pharaoh", is not totally unrelated to the "brush with death" he encountered on the circuit. (After placing 6th in the 1966 Japan Grand Prix, he had a terrible accident while rehearsing.) The fact he got into computer programming after picking up the synth cannot possibly be unrelated either. (He has created over 10,000 programs, for use in console games, for synthesizers, and even for industrial and broadcasting use. This rivals the number of programs a software company would have.) The church music he was surrounded by from a young age, the physical prowess of a racer, and the most complicated mechanism of our time: the computer. Within him, these three things become one to create his music, but it is no coincidence that each of these things can be traced back to the lost civilizations of the past. The ones and zeroes of computer language are like the "existence" and "non-existence" of ancient civilizations, and are expressed in his music as "god and man". From a layman's perspective, his music is cheerful with an undercurrent of sweet sentimentality. In the newly renovated Kamiya Studios, computers and synthesizers share space with the sculptures carved by his grandfather (Yokoe Yoshizumi). One could say that the same multi-dimensional harmony of his studio flows through his music as well.

Kamiya - 1980 - MU


01. First Step
02. MU Cristal
03. Time Trip
04. Appalachian Road
05. Message
06. UFO Dance (Introduction)
07. UFO Dance
08. Concentration
09. Barbarella
10. MU Opacity
11. Day Dream

Composed By, Arranged By, Synthesizer, Vocoder – Shigenori Kamiya
Gear used:
Synthesizers: Roland System 700, Roland system 100, Roland Jupiter 4, Roland SH-1; ARP 2500 System, ARP Omni 2, ARP Odyssey; Sequential Circuits Prophet 5

The lost continent of MU - a myth born of a mistranslation, of an ancient continent from which the people of Atlantis and the Incan Empire all derived, as refugees fleeing from a sinking continent. This theory inspired the publication of "Super Mystery Magazine MU" in 1979, which to this day is Japan's highest-circulation magazine dedicated to "the mysteries and curiosities of the world": UFOs, fairies, and other paranormal occurrences. A rough equivalent, both in terms of content and popularity, would be the "MUY Interesante" magazine for the Spanish-speaking world.

The man himself

Kamiya Shigenori, race driver turned musician and early adopter of synthesizer technology (including the monstrous ARP 2500 System) was, in 1980, a huge fan of MU and this album is essentially a "soundtrack" to the magazine, a collection of musical soundscapes inspired by the tales of UFOs and ancient peoples like the Appalachian Civilization, better known in English sources as the Lost Tribe of Clover Hollow. The album is half experiments in synthesizer sound technology, including a recording of Bible passages coded into binary data which was then processed into sound using an Apple II, and half beautiful electronic melodies with a very unique sound, a product of the rare ARP 2500. Perhaps he was inspired to use the machine by Close Encounters of the Third Kind - and in this album there is also a Message, possibly for the aliens that once populated MU. I have found Kamiya's sound to stand alone in a way that I don't think anyone else has, and with the gear list in the back cover I can tell he brings quite a bit of technology and expertise to the table. Also, if the cover seems familiar to Star Wars fans, that's because it was created by none other than Noriyoshi Ohrai, who shortly after the release of this album was tasked by George Lucas to create the poster for the international release of The Empire Strikes Back - perhaps the "science fiction" magazine Lucas picked up in Japan was none other than "Super Mystery Magazine MU"?

Liner Notes:
Below are the translated liner notes, which I don't believe can be found anywhere else at this time. I have been listening to pieces of this album for many year before snatching up a copy of my own, and the song-by-song breakdowns really enrich the experience. Thanks to megchan for the translation!

Kamiya's Profile
Real Name: Kamiya Shigenori

With his sculptor grandfather and painter father, he was raised in a family of artists. While at Aoyama Academy, he fell in love with the guitar and soon mastered it. In college he worked with Kawasaki Ryo [Editor's note: Ryo Kawasaki is a famous Japanese jazz guitarist and electronic music pioneer, known for his creative chaining of synths before MIDI became widespread and for his guitar-based synthesizers. He still performs today], Masuo Yoshiaki, and others. During that time he also became enamored of racing and was passionate about both hobbies. After improving his driving skills, he entered the Japan Grand Prix (GT class) and even won a prize. However, during practice he lost control of the wheel and was almost fatally injured when he ran into a fence. At that time, he experienced the afterlife.

After that was when he encountered the synthesizer, which was still little known at the time. Intrigued by the unlimited possibilities of the synthesizer, he began to focus on it as well as the guitar. This was when Kamiya the synthesizer player was born. After that, he focused mainly on music for commercials and won the ACC Award (often called the academy awards of commercials) multiple times. Kamiya became a name known to those in the know. At the time he built a home studio and hooked his synthesizer up to a 24 channel tape recorder and a computer in order to explore various possibilities.

In November of 1979 the Super Mystery Magazine Mu debuted, focusing on the mysteries and curiosities of the world. Thanks to its unique editing and content, it immediately became a hit among young people.

It goes without saying that this album's creator, Kamiya, was one of them, but he was not content to be just a fan and believer, and instead determined to make full use of his talents as a "sound creator" to express "Mu" in the form of music.

It feels like you can really see the "vitality and movement of the young" there.

First he began by imagining "Mu" as a movie and then setting out to create his album as the soundtrack to it.

Of course this movie "Mu" was a grand romance and sound spectacular with the magazine Mu itself as the protagonist.

Eschewing the traditional acoustic instruments of the past, this album was made with synthesizers, the sound of the future, creating the modern and psychedelic sound one would expect from the non-traditional youth-aimed Super Mystery Magazine Mu.

In addition to synthesizers, he also made use of the micro computer. Just a few years earlier it was said common for a single record to take about a year to make. That sort of old fashioned technology seemed unsuited to the synthesizer's cosmic sonority and futuristic sound, and "Mu" the soundtrack was available scant months after the publication of "Mu" the magazine. The role of the micro computer in the soundtrack's release cannot be overstated.

The creator of this "Mu" album, Kamiya, is that rare musician whose turbulent life wouldn't seem out of place for a hero found within the pages of "Mu" magazine. Although he is now a jazz guitar player and synthesizer manipulator, he also followed his childhood passion for motorcycle racing to compete in the Suzuka Circuit on a Honda Benly Racing 15CC with a No.0000000007 frame. Next he made the switch to four wheels and planned to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans race as the owner of an S-600, but after being gravely injured during practice, he decided to devote his life to music.

As a guitarist, he played with many artists including Sound Limited [Editor's Note: Better known as "Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited", the band behind the famous Sounds of Sound L.T.D album] and Sharps & Flats [Editor's Note: Better known as "Nobuo Hara and his Sharps & Flats]. During this time he also mastered the skill of arranging through self-study.

Electric guitars require an amp, but those can sometimes break down and leave you in the lurch, so continuing his childhood interest he began to research ways to further link music and electronics.

His encounter with the synthesizer was perhaps the first in Japan. Before Tomita Isao first picked up his Moog III, Kamiya was already pioneering the field as a studio musician from the time JVC introduced the ARP2600. [Editor's Note: Isao Tomita is renowned throughout the world as Japan's synthesizer pioneer with his album Snowflakes are Dancing in 1974, an adaptation of Debussy for Moog. This is quite the claim!]

In the world of music and electronics, he is not just a craftsman, but continues to display the romance and dreams of his boyhood in his work, bringing a breath of fresh air to the world of television commercials. Companies such as Shiseido, Suntory, Toyota, and others have made use of his synth sounds in their commercials, and he says his dream is to develop his studio into one that can offer observation courses. This album is truly filled with his dreams and romance and musicianship.

Song by Song Commentary
A Side

First Step
This is an intro, or maybe the music that plays before the curtains rise. In terms of Mu Magazine, perhaps it's the table of contents? Beginning with something like a space voyage, it flows naturally into an exotic rhythm and melody which draws closer, only to return to the feeling at the beginning and then fade into the void.

Mu Crystal
A psychedelic and gutsy piece that could be nothing else but the very theme of Mu. From the solid sound of a spaceship factory comes a strange sound that brings to mind an alien invasion. It truly sets the mood befitting a "mystery magazine".

Time Trip
A beautiful man and other words, a young couple playing on a field when suddenly a time machine whisks them up and takes them away to a dimension of what this feels like. This song makes full use of the synthesizer's ability to not just replicate the sound of other instruments, but to create sounds that do not otherwise exist. The movement through these sounds is a pleasure.

Appalachian Road
This brings to mind not the real-life American Appalachia of Aaron Copland's ballet, but rather the prosperity of a mythical ancient civilization. Through telepathic communication with the gods, Kamiya-san knows that Appalachian civilization had contact with that of the Incan Empire in South America through caves in the earth!

A message from Earth made by using a micro computer (Apple II) to turn words from the Bible into data. Here on Earth there was a commercial, so it's only natural the call of "Mu" would have such an impact!

UFO Dance (Introduction)
The rhythm of the Morse code distress signal sent out by the passengers of the UFO deepens into a bass line, with a psychedelic cosmic sound in the background that gradually dominates, eventually masking the SOS and making it difficult to hear. And with that thought of "what will happen next?" the first side comes to an end.

B Side

UFO Dance
The gorgeous yet bizarre dance of the aliens aboard the UFO is the climax of the whole album. The sound is psychedelic, yet the melody is also somewhat human, possibly because although the aliens are alien, they are also sapient beings just like us. I think this music could easily be used for some sort of nude dancing. I highly recommend it to anyone in that business! [Editor's note: Yes, it really does say that. Left as-is for historical accuracy.]

The dictionary defines concentration as "exclusive attention to one object; close mental application". In other words, it could mean that the manipulator, Kamiya, has concentrated all his skills as an electronic musician on this part, or it could mean to call to mind the difficulty one would have in communicating with aliens. As for you the listener, will you focus your concentration on what the music is saying or simply be absorbed by the capabilities of your sound system?

This is the theme song for a Mu Magazine it's very romantic. Kamiya-san, you've got a crush on her, haven't you? It's too bad everything just red and green LEDs where it counts, though.

Mu Opacity
To look once again at the dictionary, we find opacity defined as the state of being opaque, and opaque defined as "not transparent or translucent; impenetrable to light; not allowing light to pass through". If Crystal on the A Side is Mu's opening theme, then this is its closing theme, perhaps the table of contents on the back page of the magazine? Despite Kamiya's modesty, this is a lovely and compelling track.

Day Dream
In contrast to A-1, this baroque and polyphonic piece is the music that's played once the curtains go down, letting the audience know it's time to go home. You can imagine Kamiya at the exit wearing a wig and respectfully greeting you the customer as you leave.

MU has for a long time held a special place in my heart due to its strange and unique sounds. I hope it becomes one for you as well!

Sonny Red - 1971 - Sonny Red

Sonny Red
Sonny Red

01. Love Song 5:48
02. Tears 7:19
03. Mustang 5:49
04. And Then Again 4:14
05. My Romance 4:44
06. A Time For Love 5:19
07. Rodan 4:36

Bass, Viola – Herbie Lewis
Drums – Billy Higgins
Piano – Cedar Walton
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Sylvester "Sonny Red" Kyner

If you're unfamiliar with the name, you're not alone. Obviously we're not talkin' 'bout the French metal band nor the thoroughbred nor the Bonanno mob family capo Alphonse Indelicato nor the heavily tattooed rapper nor the country/blues harmonicat. That sentence alone illustrates the point made in more than a few biographical pieces on Sylvester Kyner: struggling to get noticed despite instrumental proficiency, compositional skills and the ability to enlist top-tier talent, his generic name didn't do much to help him stand out from the crowd. In this day and age, when "Sonny" and "sax" are mentioned in the same breath, one is more likely to immediately think of Rollins, Stitt, Criss or maybe even Fortune.

However, Kyner seems to have made a memorable impression on those with whom he worked, especially upon the wife of a fellow alto player from the NYC scene it would seem since Gloria Coleman composed a track called "Hey Sonny Red" for Soul Sisters, her debut on Impulse! records. Sonny had made his way out to the big apple about five years before this was cut and worked with a lot of the same folks. Wonder how her hubby George felt about that? BTW, Coleman also released a cookin' album for Mainstream, Swings and Sings Organ.

Musician and scholar Ivan Svanoe wrote the definitive piece on Red, so the minimal biographical info I could find on him would be a drop in the Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red bucket. The following is taken from the Mississippi Rag's coverage of Annual Review of Jazz Studies #13 published in 2003:
The longest essay is a thorough oral history of the modern alto sax player Sonny Redd (or Red), aka Sylvester Kyner (1932-81), Anders Svanoe's "Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red." Born in rural Mississippi in 1932, Redd grew up in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1957 to enter the burgeoning modern jazz scene there. He played with major musicians, recorded and was generally known as a capable and entertaining musician, but there was by then a glut of post-Parker alto players and Redd never established an identity with the jazz audience. Nevertheless, he persisted stubbornly in the music, becoming "a jazz survivor" in one commentator's words. 

Svanoe's history is very thorough, with many interviews, photographs and other documents, 40 scores of compositions and solos (including scores to several flute quartets) and an annotated discography of Redd's work. The essay runs to 145 pages, virtually a whole monograph and is very well organized and readable. It is an interesting scrutiny of a workaday musician who was not a "jazz giant" or a publicity hound but who made a highly individualistic contribution to modern jazz.

by Scott Yanow
Sonny Red was a good but not great altoist who was somewhat lost in the shuffle in the 1960s and '70s. He worked in Detroit with Barry Harris (1949-1952), in 1954 temporarily switched to tenor while with Frank Rosolino, and later that year joined Art Blakey briefly. In 1957, with his arrival in New York he gained some recognition, recording with Curtis Fuller and Paul Quinichette, in addition to having several dates as a leader (1958-1962) for Savoy, Blue Note, and particularly Jazzland. Despite some freelancing and recording with Clifford Jordan, Pony Poindexter, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham, and Yusef Lateef among others in the 1960s, Red was in obscurity by the 1970s.

To illustrate just how obscure, one of the only reviews conjured up for this particular session (recorded at the East Coast Record Plant in the last week of June '71 and released the first week of September) was found in the April 1972 issue of Black World magazine:
The liner notes indicate that Sonny Red (Mainstream), a.k.a. Sylvester Kyner, is a "Detroiter who has been around for many years, but has been out of the limelight for too many of them," Yes, it would seem so. "Love Song," overdubs Sonny Red on both alto sax and flute, the result a lush, Pharoah Sanders-like quality accented beautifully by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Billy Higgins. "Mustang" should please the foot-tappers, and "A Time For Love" the romantic. In fact, the whole album is a sign: "Quiet. Serious men at work."