July 2000: “Narcotic Psychedelia” Playlist and Notes by Hideo Ikeezumi
Studio Voice Vol. 295, Issue 7

Artist Playlist 1 – Hideo Ikeezumi (Modern Music)
Japan was a third-world country in terms of rock music – there weren’t any bands here that truly captured the essence of psychedelic music in the late 60s while seemingly the whole outside world was engaged in the experimentation. We had a few bands that scratched the surface of psychedelia – Mops and Dynamites come to my mind – but they really didn’t explore the depths. A quarter of a century has passed since the heyday of psychedelic music, and miraculously, the precious few genuine psychedelic rock bands that are worthy of the attention from us who love this genre exist(ed) only in Japan. Here, I would like to talk about the albums that are not hard to find.

Fushitsusha – Fushitsusha (1989)
Fushitsusha was the first rock band in Japan that understood and expressed the crux of psychedelic music, but I recommend experiencing their live shows first rather than listening to this CD. I feel sorry for younger music listeners, as most of the so-called rock music that is being released by major record labels in Japan is…

White Heaven – Out (PSF, 1991)
Regrettably, White Heaven broke up in 1997, but their popularity outside of Japan soared as opposed to the lack of support the band received in Japan. I am especially fond of the vocals by You Ishihara and the guitar playing of Michio Kurihara. I believe they are some of the very few musicians that are both psychedelic and iconoclastic at the same time, and together, they started a new band called ‘Stars’ with a couple of other guys last year. I am excited to find out what they’ll do next.

High Rise – Live (PSF, 1995)
They are known for their ferocious live shows like Fushitsusha, but unfortunately they stopped playing shows in Japan and shifted their attention to outside of the country. In live performance, their “tone and velocity” (two aspects I consider imperative for any psychedelic rock band) are bar none. The steely strength of the guitar sound from Munehiro Narita is truly one and only.

Kousokuya & Masayoshi Urabe – The Dark Spot (PSF, 1997)
This LP contains live recordings from a joint concert by Kousokuya – formed by Jutok Kaneko – and alto-saxophonist extraordinaire Masayoshi Urabe.   This is a very peculiar recording, and it captures the free psychedelic improvisation scene that was unique to the Tokyo underground of the 90’s. I’m keeping my eye on those two iconoclastic musicians and where their profound investigations will take them.

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Return Visit to Rock Mass (Org Record, 1996)
I find it very difficult to explain what Maher sounds like. I can’t find anyone who sounds like them, and like the Kousokuya+Urabe combo, they don’t aspire to promote themselves and their leader Tori Kudo rarely agrees to talk to music magazines. If this dull explanation piques the interests of the eccentric few, this music must be for you. 

Gaseneta – Sooner or Later (PSF, 1993)
They are a pretty well known band among people in the know, but only Harumi Yamazaki still plays music (albeit seldom) among their members. It saddens me that Jun Hamano, who played truly fierce guitar for them, stopped playing music. This album captures a garage psychedelic punk experimentation from 1978, even though it was a blossom that bore no fruit.

Michio Kadotani – Rotten Telepathies (PSF, 1991)
Not many people know about Michio Kadotani, but some people consider this album an acid psychedelic masterpiece (though it will trigger allergic reactions to common music listeners). Michio passed away about ten years ago, but he still lives in these sessions and home recordings… 

Keiji Haino – Affection (PSF, 1992)
Sometimes, I sense joy and sadness simultaneously in the singing of Keiji Haino. This album expresses the type of stoicism that reminds me of Keiji, it’s as if he condensed his own life into these songs. The recording for this CD comes from his solo concert at the now defunct Gospel, and I can still remember the vibe of the space after this show, it felt like a completely different space. 

You Ishihara – Passivité (Creativeman Disc, 1997)
A first solo outing by White Heaven leader You Ishihara, it’s not flashy, but he presents a vocal oriented psychedelic album with a tremendous depth. I experience something new each time I listen to it, but the album received awful reviews from music magazines. I don’t understand why Japanese music journalism has difficulty understanding the brilliant vocal work of You Ishihara. 

Auschwitz – Songs (Alchemy Records, 1991)
If the best vocalist from the East is You Ishihara, Naoto Hayashi has to be the best of the West. He looks like Hulk Hogan in his prime, and you expect nothing but solid rock ‘n’ roll from a guy with such an appearance, and he delivers. He was marching down that path straight on, but he had gotten sick and hasn’t been performing for a long time. I heard he is feeling better and will start working soon, everybody is waiting for you! 

Musica Transonic – Swing Strong Mod (PSF, 1991)
It’s the fifth album from a band with an astonishing core – Asahito Nanjo (High Rise), Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), and Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple). It feels more improvisational, or free jazz-ish in a psychedelic sort of way, than their previous offerings. It’s kind of mangled, but their performance is on point and full of vigor. 

Reiko Kudo – Fire Inside My Hat (Org Records, 1997) I rarely see a female singer who sings without any ornamentation, and the songs in this album are not the type of songs that will gain the attention of a mass audience. The songs here are very simple, yet delightfully singular and special at the same time.   I heard they recorded these songs at home very quickly, the immediacy comes through in the recording and there’s no way to fabricate that. The piano playing by Tori Kudo is superb here as well.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO – S/T (PSF, 1997)
The band name is really long, impossible to memorize and borderline joke-y, but they encompassed a wide array of music in this release – from psychedelic rock, hard rock, cosmic prog rock, to acid folk with female vocals. The band is comprised of Makoto Kawabata, Atsushi Tsuyama and a commune of more than 10 people. The Wire raved about them.

Masayuki Takayanagi, New Direction – Call in Question (PSF, 1994)
It was recorded in 1970! It’s hard to believe music of this caliber existed 30 years ago, and it’s a testament to the excellence of the Japanese free jazz scene of the time, unlike that of rock music. In the center of the free jazz scene was the late Masayuki Takayanagi and his band New Direction, and this album contains their historical live show at the Shibuya Station ’70. This is where it all began.

V/A – Tokyo Flashback 1 (PSF, 1991)
It’s been ten years since we released this CD but the oversea ordersnever stop, it’s kind of like an invisible best selling compilation CD that no one knows about. Led by Marble Sheep, the album is full of unreleased tracks by White Heaven, High Rise, Ghost, Kousokuya, Fushitsusha etc. It’s a great introduction to psychedelic music from Tokyo.