Kazuki Tomokawa - Sakura no kuni no chiru naka o (1980)

While I still can't quite figure out the title to Kazuki Tomokawa (友川かずき)'s fifth studio album, 'Sakura no kuni no chiru naka o' (桜の国の散る中を) must mean something like 'Within the Country of Falling Cherry Blossoms'. Wouldn't 桜の散る国の中を make more sense though? Just goes to show how hard it is (for me at least?) to get a good grip on this devilish language. So anyone with more insight, please help an otōto out.
Anyway, this album was released in October 1980 on Bellwood, and reissued in 1992 and again in 1995 on King. The studio album that preceded this one was 1978's 俺の裡で鳴り止まない詩 ('Ore no uchi de nariyamanai mono'), which was posted here earlier; but in the meantime Tomokawa had released his first live album, 犬~友川かずき秋田コンサートライブ ('Inu - Tomokawa Kazuki Akita Konsāto Raibu', or in translation: 'Dog - Tomokawa Kazuki Akita Concert Live'), which I may get around to some other time (it's essential if only for that exclusive song 寂滅 ('Jakumetsu', which means 'Nirvana')).

The tracklist on this one is as follows (Japanese / rōmaji / translation); the translations are the ones given on the official website.

1. 犬  /  Inu  /  A Dog
2. 闇  /  Yami  /  Darkness
3. 点  /  Ten  /  Point
4. 問うなれば  /  Tou nareba  /  Must Start Questioning
5. 赤子の限界  /  Akago no genkai  /  The Limits Within an Infant
6. おどの独白  /  Odo no dokuhaku  /  Odo's Soliloquy
7. 口から木綿  /  Kuchi kara momen  /  Cotton From the Mouth
8. 因われのうた  /  Toraware no uta  /  A Song of Captivity
9. 桜の国の散る中を  /  Sakura no kuni no chiru naka o  /  Within the Country of Falling Cherry Blossoms

The last one, the epic title track (dig that choir!), is subtitled (会田哲士君の霊に捧ぐ)in the booklet: 'Aida Tetsushi-kun no rei ni sasagu', 'Dedicated to the Soul of Mr. Tetsushi Aida'. I don't know who this is, but the 'kun'-suffix would seem to indicate that it's a younger friend of Tomokawa's.
There does not seem to be any link between the Odo in the spoken sixth track and the eponymous killer from Kan Mikami (三上寛)'s song on his first album, 三上寛の世界 ('Mikami Kan no sekai', 1971).

In the booklet (scans included), we find the following credits:
友川かずき (Kazuki Tomokawa): singing, guitar
ピップエレキバンド (Pippu Ereki Bando = Pip Electric Band; as far as I can recall the only other album this band is mentioned on is 'Inu'):
石塚俊明 (Toshiaki Ishizuka, yes, the guy from Vajra): drums, percussion
古家恭子 (Kyōko Furuya, who was already there from the first album): piano, keyboard
山脇クマ (Kuma Yamawaki): bass
菊池雅志 (Masashi Kikuchi): shakuhachi, yokobue (two types of Japanese flutes)
牧良介 (Ryōsuke Maki): narration on track 6
There are a bunch of other musicians in minor roles, but let's not go crazy.
By the way, last year's live DVD has been reuploaded here.


Kaneko Jutok & Kikukawa Takahisa - Wedged Night (2005)

While I would like to try to use this blog primarily for my own rips, rather than just leeching off the hard work of others (and having a blog that's interchangeable with all the other ones out there), I will also post some mp3s I picked up myself on some other blog from time to time, especially if the sounds in question are not available on 27 other sites, or if for whatever reason I think they deserve more attention. So here goes: a vinyl rip (I don't do those myself) of a great Japanese 'free rock' LP recorded in 2002, and released in 2005 by bijou label Siwa (but, like almost all of their releases, long out of print). And while I think of it: is anyone ever going to rip that Kan Mikami LP they did in 2009??

Listen up: my personal habit is, when romanizing Japanese names, to put the first name first, rather than the surname first, as is the habit in Japan. That's the way I have always done it on this blog as well. So I will speak of Kazuki Tomokawa, Kan Mikami, Keiji Haino, Toshimaru Nakamura, and not the other way around - unless the person in question systematically sticks to the traditional order himself (for instance: Yoshihide Ōtomo looks weird, and countless people on the interwebs in fact seem convinced that Ōtomo (oh yeah, I also like to mark long vowels with a macron) is his first name. It's not.).
Jutoku Kaneko (金子寿徳: Kane-ko Ju-toku), legendary guitarist behind Kousokuya (光束夜; -ou- is another way to transliterate -ō-, so pronounce it Kō-soku-ya, 'night of luminous flux') who sadly died at the age of 49 in 2007, preferred the transliteration Kaneko Jutok, so let's grant him that.
I don't know what Takahisa Kikukawa (菊川貴央), the drummer in 水晶の舟 (usually written Suishou no Fune, 'crystal boat', but the same thing goes for the -ou- in 'Suishou'), prefers, but for the sake of symmetry I'll put his last name first as well.

Two more remarks about Jutoku's name, for those who are interested in that kind of thing.
First off, what happened to the -u at the end of 'Jutoku'? You can read a very academic explanation on wiki, but long story short: i and u are hardly pronounced at all in certain word environments, so occasionally you'll see this reflected in the way people spell their names in rōmaji. Extreme example: Stomu Yamashta, actually Tsutomu Yamashita (山下勉, but more often in katakana: ツトム ヤマシタ).
Secondly: occasionally you'll find 寿得 instead of 寿徳 for 'Jutoku' (not on this album cover though, as you can see, nor on the flyer). Strange, because the dictionary I'm checking at the moment lists the pronunciation Jutoku for 寿徳 (along with 5 other possibilities, try it!), but only 'Toshie' for 寿得. So I don't know why the latter is used, since apparently it can't be read as 'Jutoku'. End of second remark.
One remark about the album title: the cover gives the Japanese title 楔夜, the characters for 'wedge' and 'night'. If you have paid attention very well, you will recognize the latter as the -ya in Kousokuya. I'm assuming this title is pronounced 'Kusabi Yoru', but have no clue what it's supposed to mean.
And finally, one remark about the track title 'Kirin'. It means 'giraffe' in Japanese (but I think it can also simply be a personal name, so I'm not sure what's intended here). They'll usually spell it キリン, in katakana, first of all because that's normal practice for animals, but also because the kanji are way too difficult: 麒麟. Just look at those babies.

Konnichi wa. Watashi wa kirin desu.

Do you see how I managed to write an entire post without saying anything about the music? There's other things in life, kids. Language, for instance, is also interesting. Have you looked up the name of this blog yet? I like to imagine the troops of Indoeuropeanists stranding on this blog and blinking in incomprehension. Makes me chuckle, don't know about you. To tell you the truth, the kind of ramblings I post here (like the above), are the sort of information I always wished I'd find online when looking up my favourite music. So I guess I'm hoping there are other kids out there who will be pleased to be thus enlightened. But for the ungrateful rest of you I'll just quote the blurb in full:
'Jutok Kaneko should be familiar to some as the man behind the long running deep psychedelic 'rock' outfit Kousokuya. Takahisa Kikukawa spent some time with Ché-Shizu, UZU and has recently been performing with Suishou no Fune. Both in Kousokuya and in Kaneko's solo work the line between composition and improvisation is a very blurry one so it's only in the loosest of terms that we say side one of this album is an "improvisation" and side two consists of a couple of "songs". The LP is issued in a one off limited run of 500 and comes in an appropriately black and black on black silkscreened cover with two screened inserts.'
Or in other words: if you liked the Vajra (and I'm hoping at least some of the 600+ of you who downloaded it did - and maybe even went ahead and actually bought it?), you'll probably like this.
So there.

Susan Alcorn - And I Await the Resurrection of the Pedal Steel Guitar (2007)

Original CD-R cover art.

I'm pretty tired and lazy at the moment, but I promised myself I would try not to let this blog gather cobwebs again (at least not too soon), so if you don't mind I'm going to go with this promo text I found on Boomkat. It pretty much says what I was going to write anyway (except for the odd ellipsis and the very frequently found typo 'Messaien' for [Olivier] Messiaen, weird right?):
'Susan Alcorn is already up to her fifth album of solo pedal steel explorations, and this latest on Olde English Spelling Bee sounds every bit as beautiful as it looks. Proving that the instrument can easily out manoeuvre any Nashville stranglehold, Alcorn's music is as far removed from country as you could imagine. Making fine use of the volume pedal, Alcorn creates stately swells of electric string warmth, rising up and disappearing in mists of echo, or sliding and detuning into a discordant abyss. There are so many more textures at play in Alcorn's work: at times you'll [hear?] something encroaching upon Loren Connors' haunted blues, at others she'll drop in some angular, fractured riffs on Messaien-influenced harmony. This feels like a really special release, a modern exploration of [an?] instrument that's seldom given the opportunity to break free of its supporting-cast shackles. Highly recommended.'

Cover of the LP reissue. I know, it's prettier.

I will just add two things, quickly:
1. Prior to the LP on Olde English Spelling Bee, this was actually released on CD-R by miss Alcorn herself, probably in a pretty limited run.
2. This CD-R version contains an unlisted bonus track not on the vinyl: a moody cover version of Domenico Modugno's Emmy-Award-winning song 'Nel blu dipinto di blu' (1958), popularly known far and wide as 'Volare'.

That quaint cottage industry feel again.


PS: to make up for my laziness I will add (but just this once all right? Don't expect me to make a habit of it), a very nice video: Susan Alcorn performing Messiaen's 'O Sacrum Convivium' (1937), usually for a cappella choir.


Richard Youngs - Live In Salford (2008)

This may be upside down, who knows.

Richard Youngs is one of my favourite artists when it comes to that whole folk-with-a-twist scene, but he's also one of those artists who will release just about anything they record (I've lost track of what he's released this year alone) - and if no label will have it, he'll just do it himself on his own No Fans imprint.

The 17th (!) of these home-made CDR releases is 'Live in Salford', a whopping 50 of which were released in 2008 and available exclusively through that ecstatic channel of cosmic hype surrounding anything that is cottage-produced and purposely made to sell out in less than a week and become sought-after by collectors, thus lending an aura of CULT upon the creator, and if possible, also a bit upon the seller - yes, I'm talking about Volcanic Tongue, and yes - I'm taking the piss of course (but there's something to it, admit it...). This one shows all the usual trappings: unique packaging for every single copy, hand-stamped and written wax paper wrapper, white stamped CDR carrying a 28 minute live recording, 25 minutes of which consists of ecstatic flute playing, followed by a coda of Youngs' trademark singing, equal parts folky and psychedelic. While this is in no way an essential Youngs release (try 'Sapphie' or 'River Through a Howling Sky' or 'Under Stellar Stream', to name just a few classics - or this year's 'Amplifying Host'), this is definitely a charming by-product of a relentless artist whose heart overfloweth with a goodly matter. Not a good starting point, but a nice addition to the more easily available recordings for the - oops, I almost said fans.

Mon.goose - At Penguin House (1999)

There was a request for more Sugimoto, so here is Mon.goose;. If that punctuation is part of the band name is a matter of debate - considering that they don't use it on the inside of the wrapper thingy around the piece of paper that serves as packaging here, nor on this here website, I'm starting to think it's just an annoying one-off piece of tomfoolery on the cover. I'm also starting to regret that I tagged the files with the period between the syllables (but without the semicolon!), but there's nothing I can do about that now is there? I mean: there's nothing I am willing to do about it. Anyway........... What is this Mongoose?
Why, Wikipedia teaches us it's a weasel-like carnivore that lives in Africa and Asia, and whose name, from the Marāṭhī mangus (मंगूस), is a prime example of folk etymology (the plural mongeese is attested, even).

I have non-retractile claws and a large anal scent gland.

We are primarily concerned here with the 'band' (group? ensemble? crew?) though, at least for the time being. So, Mon(.)goose(;) (on the other hand, you wouldn't want to have them confused with some Hungarian glitch-hop producer, would you?) was the short-lived trio of Tetuzi Akiyama (秋山徹次, guitar, electronics), Utah Kawasaki (ユタカワサキ, synthesizer) and Taku Sugimoto (杉本拓, guitar), active around the turn of the millennium when the scene in Tokyo was pretty exciting (ok, sure, it still is, but I'm getting pretty fed up with that whole concept-over-actual-sound and why-make-any-sound-at-all?-craze).

Mongoose, the group (Akiyama, Sugimoto, Kawasaki)

On their website they speak of 'minimal noise music', but honestly that's not at all what I hear in it. There's some electric guitar feedbacking and some bloopy synth here, but only your granny would label it noise. It's just to slow and deliberate and spacious and balanced and... dare I say it, relaxing. Sugimoto is to blame for that, I guess; it's just impossible to think of 'noise' when you hear his delicate guitar notes (remember, this is only a short while after his zen - but don't call it that! - masterpiece, 'Opposite'). On the second of two untitled live tracks his notes are initially gathered into dense flurries, but soft, soft... while delicate crackles and hums fill out the palette. Gradually they gain presence, but there's always a stately grace about the entire sound. Whitehouse this isn't. I guess it's an early form of what we call eai nowadays (for lack of a better word... Onkyo seemed promising for a moment, but then that turned out to be a brand of surround sound speakers). A very interesting release if you are familiar with the later work of the artists involved, especially as far as Sugimoto's concerned. Recorded in February and released in September 1999 on Sugimoto's own Slub Music, this hardly ever shows up these days, so...
New link!


Toshiya Tsunoda - Extract From Field Recording Archive #3 (2001)

The last part of this trilogy carries the additional title 'Solid Vibration', and was a joint release by Howard Stelzer's Intransitive Recordings and the now defunct Fringes, run by Giuseppe Ielasi (for the occasion, they merged into 'Infringitive'). Like its companions, this one went out of print a long time ago. Enjoy!
New link!

Toshiya Tsunoda - Extract From Field Recording Archive #2 (1999)

Subtitled 'The Air Vibration Inside a Hollow', the second volume in Tsunoda's extracts series was the first  recording ever on Häpna, but hasn't been in print for many years. This time around Tsunoda focuses on 'changes in a hollow space that were influenced by outside phenomena'. Comes in one of those nice cardboard wraparounds like all Häpna releases, with notes on each recording on the inside (scans included).
New link!

Toshiya Tsunoda - Extract From Field Recording Archive #1

Toshiya Tsunoda (角田俊也) specializes in field recordings. His mid-noughties releases focused on capturing the entire soundworld at a specific moment and place, but earlier releases were all about vibrations of objects in their surroundings, or the sound of air in different containers.
Tsunoda's work is well documented. In the last 10 years there have been CDs on Lucky Kitchen, Sirr, Naturestrip, Häpna, Hibari, and most recently his own label, edition.t. Several of these are still available from good distros such as Erstwhile in the US and Metamkine in Europe (if you're only going to get one, make it 'Scenery of Decalcomania'). Between 1997 and 2001 however a series of 3 discs was released under the name 'Extract From Field Recording Archive'. They are all three on different labels, but all of them are long out of print. I will post them here in quick succession. If you want to know more about the how & what of these recordings, I can recommend reading Tsunoda's own essay on this Erstwhile-related blog.
The first of these was released in 1997 on WrK, a label run by Tsunoda back in the day, along with Minoru Sato (佐藤実), perhaps better known as m/s. On this disc, Tsunoda focuses on 'standing waves as a state of the place'. The packaging was rather neat: a series of cards, one per track, with pictures of the locations of the recordings and some explanations on the back (in Japanese and English). The first track, for instance, was recorded at Misaki Bay (Miura City), pictured above, and is entitled 'Solid Vibration of the Surface of a Concreted Wharf Where a Marine Products Market Used to Be' (recorded on May 5th, 1996). Not as dry and scientific as you'd think, these are really engrossing sound worlds. Check 'em out.
Scans and txt-file with Japanese titles (for those of you who are into that kind of thing) are included.
New link!


Kinshi Tsuruta - Biwa, the World of Tsuruta Kinshi (1995)

Followers of this blog who have been craving more biwa madness ever since that Junko Ueda post can finally relax. Kinshi Tsuruta (鶴田錦史, 1911-1995) is something of the grandma of the genre (doesn't have that ring to it that I was going for, but anyway), going as far as to create her own adapted version of the traditional lute-like instrument. Ueda was in fact one of her many female pupils. Admirers of Japanese cinema may have heard Tsuruta perform during the Hōichi segment of Masaki Kobayashi (小林正樹)'s classic movie 'Kaidan' (怪談, also transliterated 'Kwaidan', 1964). It was composer Tōru Takemitsu (武満徹) who got her to perform on that soundtrack, when in fact at the time she hadn't played for years. The thing is, she had decided in her twenties to go into business and make some money, so that by the time she was 50 or so she could play her instrument as she pleased for the rest of her life. And as it turned out she was 54 by the time 'Kaidan' needed soundtracking, so Takemitsu's invitation was just the spur she needed to get her back into the studio. Years later she worked together again with Takemitsu (who got over his distaste for traditional music thanks to her) on some of his compositions, the most famous one being 'November Steps'. Her playing shows some radical departures from classical practice; she rubs the strings and slaps the body of the instrument. Her voice is pretty awe-inspiring as well. I'm telling you, this old lady was not to be messed with.

Dig those specs.

This album (琵琶劇唱〜鶴田錦史の世界 or 'Biwa Gekishō - Tsuruta Kinshi no Sekai') presents three traditional pieces performed in the studio in October 1993, at the age of 82. There is 俊寛 ('Shunkan'), a prelude to the downfall of the Heike clan; 壇の浦 ('Dan no Ura'), which tells of the tragic final battle and the emptiness of the glory vanished in the sea; and 義経 ('Yoshitsune'), which describes three episodes in the life of the hero of Genji, rival clan to the Heike. These tales have been told many times before in various forms (noh, kabuki, bunraku, biwa music), but these readings breathe new life into them.
Original cover (1995); the white one is the 2005 reissue.

Tsuruta-san performed one more concert after this recording, but less than a week later suffered a cerebral infarction which left her bound to a wheelchair. She died two years later, when these recordings were released on King Records (benchmark of quality traditional music, unfortunately also synonymous with ridiculously high prices and scarce availability outside of Japan).
There is another late recording of Tsuruta on Ocora, but it has been out of print for years. If you see it in the second-hand bins, definitely pick it up. For now, enjoy this nice King release. Files tagged in Japanese. Scans included (half of the liner notes are even in English!). You're welcome.