So here is my Christmas present to all of you, and another big 'fuck you' to vinyl-only releases everywhere (especially the ones without download codes). This year may have been another series of victories for you, lots of (probably) great music has been locked away in the dusty grooves of unwieldy, fragile black platters purchased by a few dozen diehards who are probably to enamored of their mint condition fetish object to dare to actually play it anyway (so much beauty basically thrown in the trash!), but in the end you will never win! There will be a CD reissue eventually, or, as in this case, some good soul with the necessary equipment will manage to rescue the music from its vinyl tomb and release it unto the world - even if it is somewhat tainted by the vinyl crackle and occasional hiccup that inevitably comes with it (oh I'm sorry, that is 'warmth', or 'tactile charm', or 'personality and physicality'. Right.). Oh ye fanciers of the rare and pretty artifact over the actual sounds contained therein, what is the purpose of music if not to be heard?
Here some wag actually asserts that 'this music is made to be heard on vinyl', unfortunately without any further explanation. I sure would have liked to know the logic behind such a bizarre claim.
In any case. After months of searching, all of a sudden in some dark recess of the interweb up popped a rip of this solo LP by John Butcher (1 file per side), released early in 2013 on a Greek label called Kukuruku. Thank you, anonymous music liberator! For this momentous occasion I downloaded some special software that allowed me to split up the tracks into separate mp3 files, making me feel like a genuine computer wizard - a rush which lasted several minutes. I'm pretty sure I've found the correct point at which a new track begins, even! And here is the fruit of our joint labour: now we can all have a listen, undistracted by the split seams and bent corners we would have had to pine over if we had bought a physical copy. And this definitely is worth a listen: Butcher already has about 10 solo albums out, but up to now every new one has repaid the attentive listener with some new thrills, and this one is no different. Since I'm still reeling from last night's pre-Christmas dinner and I suck at describing music anyway, I'm just going to leave you with an excerpt from the label blurb:
"The album’s two longer tracks were recorded in December 2011 at St. Anne's & St. Agnes Church in London by Simon Reynell (Another Timbre label) and document his acoustic solo while interacting with the environment’s natural feedback; evolving tonal patterns and harmonics of circular breathing, repetitive musical riffs and silent moments create an atmosphere with a special character. Two shorter tracks in “Winter Gardens” document Butcher’s skills incorporating microphone feedbacks. Recorded in Milwaukee, October 2011, the result is resembling electronically synthesized sounds while resonances of different parts of the saxophone blend with oscillating re-amplified sounds." So there you go. Tell me, what more could you possibly want in your stocking?
Here it is.
320 kbps, but of course that doesn't really mean much in this case.
PS. Sorry about the shitty picture of the cover. I had to make do with what I could find online. And of course 12" covers don't fit in most scanners anyway. Also, in case you hadn't noticed, despite springing from an actual pet peeve of mine, this was mostly written in jest. It is not an insult to your glorious collection of black and swirly colour slabs of wax in their pristine gatefolds, nor an invitation to engage in yet another tiresome 'CD versus vinyl' debate. Comments on that subject will be ignored, possibly deleted. Merry fucking Christmas!
And just like that I'm back to hibernating.
|The front, sporting artwork by Masae Tanabe.|
By popular demand, here is yet more Taku Sugimoto (杉本拓). 'Tori', released as a slimcase CD by the Off Site gallery to coincide with an exhibition ('Birdy Program') of bird* paintings by Masae Tanabe (たなべまさえ), is from the same period as 'Italia', and though I enjoy it less than that one, it's definitely something people need to be able to check out. Therefore, as it has been out of print for over a decade, I feel it is my solemn duty to share it with you, and I do not take this duty lightly. Now could some other people with old and rare electro-acoustic improv recordings in their collection please follow my example?
|The back of the CD. Not much to see, but posted here in the interest of historical research.|
Four longish tracks here find Sugimoto-san performing live at the gallery, first on six-string bass guitar, next on electric guitar, then on contact microphone and his guitar case (!), and finally on acoustic guitar.
Limited to 400 copies, plus 100 additional copies that came with the book Tanabe issued especially for the exhibition.
*Tori (鳥) is the Japanese word for 'bird'. The kanji (character) is based on a drawing of a bird, as can be seen when you compare it to the bird in the artwork.
|The bird is the word.|
Today I present you with one of the countless film soundtracks that Ōtomo Yoshihide (大友良英)* has done over the years, most of which were hardly distributed at all outside Japan. This one is for カナリア ('Canary'), a 2005 film by Akihiko Shiota (塩田明彦) that I haven't seen (I've only seen 'Harmful Insect' (害虫), an earlier film by this same director).
Here's the IMDB synopsis for 'Canary':
Based on the true events of the deadly gas attacks perpetrated by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult on the Tokyo subway system, CANARY tells the moving story of two children, each abandoned by their families, who come together in the wake of the scarring event.
Twelve-year-old Koichi has grown up within the confines of a religious cult whose violently instilled dogma has all but destroyed his sense of identity. After a murderous attack, the cult disbands and Koichi finds himself abandoned by his mother and forcibly separated from his sister. To reunite his broken family, Koichi breaks out of the child welfare system and sets off to Tokyo. While on the run, he meets Yuki, a girl desperate to flee from her abusive father.
Koichi and Yuki travel together in search of his sister, facing the inevitable troubles of children making their way in the world without the guidance or protection of adults. The separate scars of their pasts cause friction between the two, but their struggles develop a familial bond that allows them to confront both their pasts and the future ahead.
Beautiful and poignant, Akihiko Shiota's film illustrates the resiliency of forgotten youth in forging their own destiny from a tragic past.
Here's the tagline on the top of the CD cover:
And my loose translation:
After having been taken, they return.
Ten years later, the children are still standing on the front lines of the world.
The music isn't all by Otomo. This page at japanimprov.com can tell you much more about composer and performer credits. For this rip (which I've found online; for once, I don't own this album myself) I've credited track 11 to jazz singer and pianist 塩田明彦 (Mariko Hamada; she also sings on 2, 5 and 8, but this seems to be the only one she's composed herself), and track 14 to Zazen Boys-frontman 向井秀徳 (Shutoku Mukai; previously of Number Girls fame). The rest I've tagged as Otomo since he either composed or arranged it (I've transliterated his name but not the other 2; if you want full Japanese tags, feel free to change to 大友良英).
No empty turntables or guitar feedback here, of course. This is for the most part very accessible and polite soundtracky stuff, lots of real 'songs' with vocals, piano, synth, sax, etc., and some unexpected hip-hop towards the end. There's also one track that will put a smile on the face of anyone familiar with Ground-Zero's 'Consume Red'.
(Canary (Enrai Mix))
(Kōichi and Yuki 1)
(Canary (Bass Marimba Version)
5. 銀色の道 ＜バラード・ヴァージョン＞
Gin'iro no Michi (Ballad Version)
Sōgen no Onnatachi
Gin'iro no Michi (Jazz Version)
(Kōichi and Yuki 2)
(Kōichi and Yuki 3)
12. 銀色の道 ＜オリジナル・サウンドトラック・ヴァージョン＞
Gin'iro no Michi (Original Soundtrack Version)
Canary (Instrumental Version)
14. 自問自答 ＜カナリアMIX＞
Jimonjitō (Canary Mix)
(Title translations can be found on the same japanimprov page)
The album was released in 2005 on the 美音堂 label (punningly transliterated as Beyondo; it's actually Biondō, which one might render as something like 'hall/temple (堂, dō) of beautiful (美, bi) sounds/voices (音, on)'). No-one outside Japan noticed.
*His first name is Yoshihide by the way, not Otomo - many people seem to think it's the other way around, perhaps because he has adhered to the traditional Japanese order of names (last name first) on almost all his releases, even when other musicians haven't. When transcribing Japanese names on this site I usually put the last name last, western-style (for instance Akihiko Shiota), but for Otomo I make an exception.
One more while I'm at it, and before I go dormant again for God knows how long. Not Taku Sugimoto this time, but not straying too far either, here's another sought-after classic from a Japanese pioneer: Tetuzi Akiyama (秋山徹次; Tetuzi is his idiosyncratic way of spelling Tetsuji, as I may have mentioned before). This is his solo guitar album 'Relator', released in 2001 on Sugimoto's Slubmusic label.
I'm going to make it easy on myself and just quote the ever-reliable Brian Olewnick on this one:
"Akiyama, a guitarist, electronicist, and sometime violist, is most closely associated with the Japanese free improvisation scene centered around Taku Sugimoto. On Relator, a series of improvisations on acoustic guitar, he nestles into a space midway between Sugimoto's ultra-quiet serenity and the more agitated state of players like Derek Bailey. The pieces tend to be sparse and, in a sense, simple with highly abstracted blues motifs recurring irregularly. The guitar often sounds as though strung with extreme looseness, ensuring that a rattling sound will rough things up if they threaten to get too pristine. Akiyama's volume level ranges from nonexistent up to about medium range, never getting very loud. Some of the tracks (such as "Preparation") have a lovely, almost bucolic mood while others fall into random scrape 'n' clunk forays. At his best, he shows a keen sense of aural space and a very calm and relaxed approach to playing, though the listener may have to decide where to draw the line between relaxedness and lassitude. Generally, Relator will appeal to fans of quiet improv and post-Bailey guitar playing. Newcomers to this genre may prefer to begin with the more accessible Sugimoto." (All Music Guide)
Get it now at a fingerlicking 320kbps.
By popular request, I give you... even more Taku Sugimoto (杉本拓)! (For the other ones, check links in the previous post, and let me know if anything needs to be reuploaded.)
Considered by many to be his masterpiece, released on that ephemeral HatHut offshoot Hat Noir, this was a one-time edition of 2000 copies, which you'd think is quite a lot for this artist, but this album has become surprisingly rare over the years. Oh, I just noticed I tagged this as 1997, but it was actually released in 1998; please correct that when you download it, and before you start spreading it on, lest the Schwebeablaut good name of properly tagged files be forever sullied.
Sugimoto's most listenable album, consisting of 25 tracks of meditative solo guitar (some electric, some acoustic), is yours for the taking - don't dawdle!
Hello, and welcome back to the most erratically updated music blog out there!
Did you notice? I just re-upped the first album ever posted here, and probably also the best one! So go there first if you missed out the first time around.
Now, I have awoken from my slumber to bring you yet another old and rare (very rare this time) album by the one and only Taku Sugimoto (杉本拓).
This one is highly sought after in certain circles, but has proved very elusive. It's taken me years to stumble on a physical copy myself! We have brought you Flagments of Paradise (1997), we have brought you Italia (2001), hell we even brought you Mon.goose (1999) – but today we travel back even further in time for Myshkin Musicu, an enigmatic disc released on Sugimoto's own Slub Music, consisting mostly of solo guitar, but also featuring a 10 minute improvisation starring Kevin Drumm, Tetuzi Akiyama, Brent Gutzeit and some other fine folks.
|Excerpt from Sámuel Gyarmathi's perennial classic|
Grammatical Proof of the Affinity of the Hungarian Language With Languages of Fennic Origin.
What's the relation to the town of Мышкин in Russia? Does Sugimoto-san speak Hungarian? Can anyone really claim to be able to decipher the track titles on the insert? Many questions to which you won't find any answers here.