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In 1971, the festival band M was everywhere, playing alongside such luminaries as Creation, Too Much, Murahatchibu and Miki Curtis’ newly heavy version of Samurai. In early April 1971, M performed at the celebrated ‘Rock Invitation Number One’, at Hibiya Outdoor Hall, thereafter being asked back for ‘Rock Invitation Number Two’, on June 26th. Later the same year, M recorded a self-titled LP for RCA Records said to have contained several cover versions. Thereafter, the band split. In 2002CE, the re-issue label Hagakure released one of their festival shows under the name 1971 LIVE.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
This self-styled visionary and musical hermit has been releasing albums since the mid-70s. But the variety and here-there-and-everywhere approach of his attitude to record releases makes it difficult to grasp just who Magical Power Mako is, and what he does best. Mako’s career began auspiciously enough with thunderous applause for his first three LPs, but the slow nature of his recording techniques soon contributed to record company impatience with this often brilliant artist. Viewed by many as a legend and by others as a chancer, there’s no doubt that the extraordinarily varied quality of Magical Power Mako’s during the ‘90s contributed dramatically to compromising the public’s long-term perception of this charming artist.
Born Makoto Kurita around 1955, Mako grew up in the seaside resort of Izu Shuzenji, a sea coastal town similar to Brighton or Torquay. Throughout his childhood, he was an outsider who wrote much music and played piano and guitar while still in primary school. At junior high school, he decided to make a more concerted effort to realise his musical vision, and would return home after school to write songs every day. His house was situated in the mountains and looked down at the town’s hot springs. Mako became fascinated then obsessed by an octagonal hotel built near the hot springs. Visible from his bedroom, Mako believed that someone was observing him from the hotel’s 3rd floor. This sense of being observed spurred him further into musical activities and, at age fourteen, he began to record with a reel-to-reel, ping ponging the tracks back and forth in order to build up sound. The summer holidays of 1970 were spent in long recording sessions making his own LP. When it was finished, Mako wrote on the reel-to-reel tape box: ‘Summer 1970, things a 14-year-old boy thinks about’. The tape commenced with a song (‘I Bought An Extraordinarily Big Eye In The Town One Day For A Good Bargain Price’).

“One day, I bought an extremely big eye in the town, very cheaply,
When I saw the world through the eye,
Extremely small people were making noise,
Making a fuss about winning or losing,
What pathetic people who only have small eyes,
And they think the universe is the end of this world,
Not knowing that there is another world,
One Day I bought an extraordinarily big eye for a cheap bargain price.”

The tape contained the song ‘Open The Morning Window’ from the first LP. In this track, the lyric is about a human with a switch device for changing ways of thinking. He recorded enough songs for two LPs whilst still at junior high school. Then, Mako decided school was a dead end, and moved to Tokyo in the spring of 1971. While working in a steel factory and/or at the local pub, he formed a band named Genge with his brother. From September ’71, the band played at a mini-theatre Jan Jan, in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. His name began to count for something by April 1972, when he played his first major appearance at JIYU KUKAN(‘Freedom Space’). This so-called ‘modern music’ event took place at Nigata, in the north of Honshu. This event saw the flowering of a friendship with Keiji Heino (Two songs on the first LP (‘Restraint, Freedom’ and his high school song ‘Look Up The Sky’) featured his friend Keiji Haino.). From May 1972, Mako began to broadcast music for documentaries and radio dramas for NHK. In February 1973, Mako and Keiji Haino played live on a daytime chat TV programme entitled HIRU NO PUREZENTO (‘Lunchtime present’), and many viewers complained. In March 1973, Mako appeared on the NHK TV programme ONGAKU TO WATASHI (‘Music & I’), where he met composer Toru Takemitsu (b. 1930), then already in his mid-forties. Mako later took part in the recording of the music for Takemitsu’s THE FOREST OF FOSSILS. Mako’s relationship with Takemitsu blossomed, and in 1974, Mako took part in the music production for Takemitsu’s HIMIKO, a musical piece named after the first queen of Japan. His friendship with Takemitsu also saw him invited to participate in NHK-TV’s HERITAGE FOR THE FUTURE. It seems that Takemitsu’s recommendation to Polydor secured Mako’s first LP release. From the summer of 1973, he took up residence in a house belonging to the US Army, located in Fussa, Greater Tokyo. Mako began to record in this house, multi-tracking instrumental tracks endlessly. So many tapes were recorded that would not see the light of day for over twenty years, allowing new listeners to discover his old music. Even before the first LP, Mako recorded with Keiji Haino at the Fussa house.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
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