Tag Archives: High Rise

A Brief Survey of Experimental Psych in Japan

Koenji Hyakkei

Koenji Hyakkei

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, Japan was home to a host of experimental psych bands. And while Les Rallizes Dénudés, Flower Travellin’ Band, Far East Family Band, and Taj Mahal Travellers didn’t sound the same, they all shared a love for lengthy improvisation and owed a debt to the avant-garde. They weren’t afraid to get weird, they were sometimes political, and they sometimes rode their motorcycles around naked (at least, that’s the way Flower Travellin’ Band is portrayed on the cover of their 1970 release, Anywhere).

But the real fun started in the ’80s, when the freaks discovered punk. Bands like High Rise and Fushitsusha played louder and faster than their predecessors. They made more noise and oozed attitude. But unlike traditional punk, they also continued to improvise and jam. Those trends continued into the ‘90s—and continues into the present—with the emergence of bands like Boredoms, Ruins, Acid Mothers Temple, and their assorted side projects, splinter groups, and others.

But whether the country has an actual experimental psychedelic scene is up for debate. “Is there even a scene in Japan?” Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Makoto Kawabata told Pitchfork in 2002. “Are there actually musicians who see themselves as part of a scene? Of course the members of our group are Japanese, but the idea of a specifically ‘Japanese’ rock is pointless. Rock can only ever be rock, no matter where it exists in the world. So, rather than being the Japanese AMT, we’d like to be seen as the People’s AMT.”

Those sentiments notwithstanding, many of the current musicians are interconnected enough to suggest the existence of a scene, however loose. Some, like drummer Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), bassist Asahito Nanjo (High Rise), and guitarists Mitsuru Tabata—and even Makoto—have performed, at some point, with just about everyone else in this list. The artists making experimental psych in Japan are propelled by one another’s energy. They influence one another and, inevitably, inspire one another as well.

What follows is a deep dive into Bandcamp’s storehouse of Japanese experimental psych. It is adventurous, exploratory, and weird in the best possible way, whether you’re listening in your car fully clothed or on your motorcycle in the nude.

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The Best Psych-Rock “Nuggets” on Bandcamp

deliveryband-1244-1

Delivery Band

Digging up psych-rock obscurities is a time-honored tradition, dating back to the genre’s original run. The 1972 anthology Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era was an essential compilation, pulling together some truly great singles from bands that never made much of a splash on a mass scale. It helped cement the genre’s legacy beyond just obvious bands, like Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd. Of course, vinyl compilations like that could only cover individual songs, not albums, and although there’s been a flood of reissues from the late ’60s and early ’70s, many of them went out of print almost as quickly as the original pressings. It can be intimidating to sift through the remainder, and it would be impossible to include every worthy obscurity. So here’s a sampling of unearthed classics and anthologies to get you started on your journey to the center of the mind.

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The Best Reissues on Bandcamp: February/March 2018

best reissue

Every two months, we pick out some of the most crucial reissues and retrospectives dropped recently on Bandcamp, and look at the historic tales behind them. Whether it’s West African highlife, German post-punk, golden age hip-hop, California neo-psychedelia, or whatever—we’re here to lay out the best new oldies.

View the Best Reissues on Bandcamp archives.

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Black Editions Keeps P.S.F. Records’ Experimental Spirit Alive

Black Editions

Center: Keiji Haino photographed by Gin Satoh

The story of the Black Editions label begins with P.S.F. Records—and thus, with Tokyo native Hideo Ikeezumi. He owned the city’s revered Modern Music shop, which opened in the late 1970s. By 1984, he released the first album on his P.S.F. Records—a vinyl edition of High Rise’s legendary live album Psychedelic Speed Freaks, limited to 300 copies. In the label’s ensuing 33 years, up until Ikeezumi’s death in 2017, he released more than 240 albums—mostly CDs—from underground luminaries like White Heaven, Ghost, Ché-Shizu, Fushitsusha, Acid Mothers Temple, and Gaseneta. Through eight volumes of a comp called Tokyo Flashback, Ikeezumi also introduced scores of people to the city’s experimental scene.

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