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Osamu Kitajima commenced his long career in the late 1960s, as rhythm guitarist for the eleki ensemble the Launchers, led by his first cousin (and national idoru) Yuzo Kayama. Later, he formed the English psyche-styled Justin Heathcliff and recorded on duo LP with future Far East Family Band leader Fumio Miyashita, before settling into a huge and sustained career recording New Age-styled LPs which - from the few that I've heard - would be unlikely to hold the attention of Japrocksampler readers.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Underground legend, performance artist, political activist, editor and instigator of Japanese translations of French books by Artaud, Bataille, Nijinsky, Klossowski, Derrida and Fournier, all round pain-in-the-ass, Hiroshi Kawani was all of these things and a junkie, too. He appeared in several different roles throughout the late 1950s, and then on down the whole of the ‘60s, manifesting at ‘actions’ and other happenings by such radical groups as Hi-Red Center. Kawani set up the Bigakko Art Academy in 1969, and performed with Group Ongaku founder Takehisa Kosugi in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. And yet Kawani’s actual recorded legacy appears to be nothing more than one late CD-R album and the sole PSF Records retrospective of several years back. Put together by longtime devotee and sax player Masayoshi Urabe, the FLASHBACK retrospective mainly features recordings of his daily ablutions, gargling, snot exhalation, and vocal warm ups… perhaps a neat summation of the man after all. Born in Tokyo’s Shinjuku centre in June 1933, Hiroshi Kawani graduated in French at the prestigious Keio University, and became involved with the underground scene, starting the action group Tokyon Kodo Sensen (Tokyo Activist Front), and also helping in the running of Jintsu Gakko (Independent School) and Taisho Kodotai (Taisho Action Group). Kawani was a member of Hi-Red Center during their Yamanote Trainline Agitation event, and later led the support group when Hi-Red Center’s Genpei Akasegawa was sued for printing fake 1000 yen notes. In the mid-60s, Kawani took up a position as chief editor with publishers Gendaishichosha, facilitating many debut publications, including those of Hi-Red Center’s Genpei Akasegawa, and both Juro Kara and Akira Kasai. Kawani continued his activism throughout the 1980s, including a famous collaboration with Takehisa Kosugi, and a duo performnce in 1982 entitled MOUTHPIECE, with the young female Buto dancer Toshi Tanaka, twenty five years his junior. However, Kawani’is long-term heroin addiction slowed him down in the ‘90s and he was eventually confined to a wheelchair. Just before his death in 2003, Kawani was persuaded to record one last time with Shuichi Chino. A CD-R album entitled IKA-DOBUN was released from these sessions and, typically, still found Kawani playing anything from his pockets or his desk top, while Chino accompanied him on ‘household objects’. When Kawani died, a fraction of his ashes were scattered into various world rivers to signify his place as a ‘channeller of the arteries in the irrigation of the greater oceans’.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
I know nothing of this 'loner folk howler' as Alan Cummings has referred to him, so I'll quote him instead:

“This LP was originally released on April 25th, 1972, Yamahira was a loner folk howler who was active in the high northern region of Akita, not so far away from the Aomori region that also sprouted out talents like Tomokawa Kazuki, Mikami Kan and Terayama Shuji. This is excellent rural folk masterpiece is stunningly great, emotionally laden and utterly lyrical but dwells in loneliness and disenchanted feelings, supported by a battered down acoustic guitar and some flute interceptions. Yamahira is more laid back than Mikami and Tomokawa but nevertheless he is still quite a restless loner and soul searching individual, aspects that clearly resurfaces upon listening to this disc. Although this effort was his first full length LP, he had previously already released one 7-inch in 1970 for URC, before shifting towards the Bellwood label. However when this LP was released Yamahira faced a broadcasting ban of his title song due to the name he attached to it that was a tongue in cheek towards the rigid broadcasting policies radio stations were dealing with. Of course his lyrics also contained some elements that enforced a ban on his music being broadcasted. So seen against this background you can understand why this record hardly resurfaces and is utterly rare. Also 7” unknown for URC in 1970.”
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
I've never heard this act but their one known album is said to have been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Kikuchi’s most successful album, both artistically and commercially, was his 1981 Columbia release SUSTO, which was recorded around the same time as his collaboration with his friend Terumasa Hino, on the latter’s groove LP DOUBLE RAINBOW. Similarly, Kikuchi ploughed a single-minded funkathon groove over four long tracks. Taking his lead from Miles Davis’ mid-70s funk band, Kikuchi invited Hino to play trumpet in addition to former Davis sax stars Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman. Kikuchi then reinforced his ensemble with an arsenal of guitarists and percussionists far beyond the point of overkill, but not with the same obliteration of ego that Miles achieved on such albums as GET UP WITH IT and AGARTHA. SUSTO’s high water mark is the fifteen-minute album closer ‘New Native’, which actually features four guitarists – Billy Patterson, Butch Campbell, Ronnie Drayton and producer James Mason – plus two drummers and two percussionists. Ironically, the only track to omit trumpeter Hino is a failure, ‘Gumbo’ being a lame lopsided reggae-disco piece of the style Can were want to lay on us around the time of SAW DELIGHT. However, as SUSTO was dedicated ‘to Alexander Calder, Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Gyorgy Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Toru Takemitsu’, it’s pretty clear where Kikuchi’s pleasure centres truly lay.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
This art director, master improvisational musician and founding member of Takehisa Kosugi’s freeform ensemble Taj Mahal Travellers is nowadays most well known for the three superb and iconically similar LP sleeves that he designed for records by Speed Glue & Shinki, Hiro Yanagida, Foodbrain in the early ‘70. The previous year, he had joined Tokyo’s Taj Mahal Ryokoudan design company, where he had designed the striking album art for Masahiko Satoh’s PALLADIUM, on Bridge Records. Satoh’s association with the guitarist Kimio Mizutani, brought his record sleeve to the attention of Polydor president Ikuzo Orita, who was looking for particularly eye-catching designs. Orita first asked Kimura to design a cover for the impending Foodbrain LP. Kimura blew up a photograph of an African elephant as large as possible for the Foodbrain album art, and everyone was delighted with the results. Next, for Hito Yanagida’s solo LP MILK TIME, the same process was repeated this time with a particularly appealing gorilla. When Ikuzo Orita moved over to Atlantic Records, he took Kimura’s ideas with him, and a huge tiger by Kimura adorned the cover of the legendary second Speed Glue & Shinki double-LP. As a member of Taj Mahal Travellers, Kimura added his voice, percussion and mandolin to their heady sonic underground still, as well as his ‘self-made instrument’ and a tree branch, which he is seen shaking throughout the Taj Mahal Travellers TV documetary that followed the band throughout 1969 across Denmark, Sweden, Britain and Iran. Unfortunately, outside of his work with Taj Mahal Travllers, Kimura’s only other known musical contribution to the Japanese rock scene was the appalling ‘free clarinet’ that assaults the senses throughout side two of the Foodbrain disaster ‘The Hole In A Sausage’.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Karuna Khyal is a highly obscure futen street ensemble who made one outstanding limited edition LP, entitled ALOMONI 1985, which was released in 1974. Karuna Khyal sounds like an exotic union between Exuma the Obeah Man, Faust, the Residents and a Foghorn Leghorn take on STRICTLY PERSONAL-period Captain Beefheart. Their sole album appears at number 19 in the Japrocksampler Top 50.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Beginning his career in the Group Sounds act The Happenings Four, keyboard player Kuni Kawachi will nevertheless probably always be best remembered for his writing contributions to Tokyo Kid Brothers’ version of THROW AWAY THE BOOKS, WE’RE GOING OUT ON THE STREETS, and also for his prescient employment of Flower Travellin’ Band members on his first LP KIRIKYOGEN. Indeed, despite the strung out elegance of that solo record having spanned several genres, the appearance on lead vocals of Akira ‘Joe’ Yamanaka has guaranteed KIRIKYOGEN a rightful place in rock’n’roll history, and a more genuinely listenable Japrock art statement you’d be hard pressed to find. Moreover, Kawachi’s early version of Flower’s ‘Map’ is, to some ears, even better than the later ‘original’. For his second LP, 1972’s LOVE SUKI DAIKIRAI, Kawachi turned to the ubiquitous Jun ‘Kimio’ Mizutani, former teen raver with garage band Out Cast, whose lead guitar had informed such legendary LPs as People’s BUDDHA MEETS ROCK and LOVE WILL MAKE A BETTER YOU by Love Live Life +1. Mizutani’s own highly rated solo album A PATH THROUGH HAZE was co-written by Masahiko Satoh along with Kawachi, whose painting is featured across the gatefold inner. In his later years, Kawachi moved north to become a farmer in Hokkaido, keeping his musical hand in writing TV commercials. A couple of years ago, his old Group Sounds band reformed, and are said to have played Kawachi’s KIRIKYOGEN in its entirety.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
In 1972, the guitarist Jun Kamikubo released one LP, entitled NOTHINGNESS, on the Toshiba Express record label. Contained within its grooves were several extremely average sub-sub-sub- Mountain/Cream blues rock workouts artistically somewhat equivalent to the kind of decrepit hash that the Welsh band Man were serving up throughout the ‘70s, but even less charming and containing none of the stupid Man titles that some say they find appealing. In 2002CE, the NOTHINGNESS LP was re-released by the obscure record specialist label Shadoks in a hefty cardboard sleeve and sold for a large sum of money, thereby giving early buyers a chance to smugly tout it to those who came too late to score their own copy. Me? I send it back to Freak Emporium and demanded (and received) my money back. However, this record is one to avoid, being neither outrageously free-rock and clod-hopping in the Leigh Stephens-period Blue Cheer style nor inept behemothballs-of-fire in the KISS ALIVE-stylee, and we never would have even heard of this moreley achieving Dadrock slush had not several should-know-betters of the underground touted it around and proclaimed it as being in some way relevant and therefore important. Music is not legendary merely because you can’t get hold of a copy. Beware!
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
This so-called ‘happenings group’ was a freak out improvisational ensemble, who played in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, in 1967. Their name means ‘zero dimension’, but it is unknown whether or not they recorded or released records, as the band’s only mention is as a favourite of J.A. Caesar, during his tenure as Longhair Brother Number One in the Go-Go-Café area of Shinjuku.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007