Sky Station  JA Seazer : Saraba Hakobune (JAP,1984)****'

This is indeed, like the description I have read before a more relaxed approach, with musical composer's maturity and clarity blending with great skills and with an ear for rhythm/sounds ideas from a whole range of ethnical associations (Spanish guitar / Middle Eastern / Peruvian / filmic passages / opera / tango / contemporary classical music), while driven through Japanese folk music ideas and a few pro-Western film music associations, mixed with small connecting parts of tempered avant-garde. 
An album to keep a life time, reissued beautifully with a mini double LP sleeve.

Info :

"Another rarity is this original soundtrack album to Terayama Shuji's last movie with music by JA Seazer (Tenjo Sajiki, JA Caesar). Released in 1984, it was Terayama's last completed movie and Seazer's last contribution to his visionary and reactionary world. Saraba Habobune's soundtrack is just stunningly beautiful, far removed from Seazer's trademark bombastic scores. Instead it ventures into more pastoral and almost meditative psychedelic realms filled with traditional string plucking, eerie flute, shahuhachi flirtations, esoterically floating beneath-the-surface female Orff-like choruses and ethereal shamanistic sense of poetry that create memory flashes towards a forceful nostalgia of a past not directly experienced. The whole is endowed with beauty and an austere intimacy spiced up with occasional echoes of circus side show callers that seem to recall aspirational surges out of a concealed depth of former delinquent activities. A deceptively intense, casual in feel, yet meticulous in its musical detail and lyrical transmigrative eclectic beauty. A true astonishingly beautiful and ear-filling piece of consummate art that is so hard to come to terms with. Housed in eye-popping hard cover mini-LP styled gatefold sleeve art, complete with reproduction of the original inserts." 

Info on JA Caesar :
Info on director Shuji Terayama :
Video fragments of various movies on &

Sky Station    Tenjo Sajiki : Throw Away The Books, Let's Go Out on the Street (JAP,1970)****'

"Typical of the company's early, crazed style is the recently reissued Throw Away The Books, originally released on their own label in 1970. Confusingly, there is a film soundtrack of the same title, but this is the extremely rare original theatrical version and contains entirely different material. Subtitled 'A High-Teen Symphony,' the performance centers around untrained adolescents reading out their own tortured, angry (and in one case, stuttering) texts and poems. Their stories of family disintegration and mother-hate, dreams and hopes for the future, and love songs to teen murderer Norio Nagayama and Mick Jagger are set to an attractively rough and ready pounding psych-rock soundtrack largely composed by organist Kuni Kawachi. Kawachi had been a member of pioneering Prog group Happenings Four and his brooding organ riffs feature throughout. As well as heavy rockers like the great opening 'Lets Go Ornette', with its ripping fuzz lead, Orff-style choral chants and motorbike effects, Kawachi was also capable of delicate, folkish pieces ideally suited for some of the company's outstanding female vocalists, several of whom developed successful singing careers outside of Tenjo Sajiki. Also of note is a track composed by a young design school dropout, Shinjuku street hippy and winner of a nationwide longhair competition, by the unlikely name of JA Caesar (Tenjo Sajiki also had its own Sinatra and Salvador Dali). Set to a simple handclap rhythm, Caesar's tale of the panhandling life possessed a subtle melodic strength and depth that hinted at the minor keys of traditional folk song. Caesar soon came into his own, composing all the music for Terayama's performances and films for the next decade, and finally inheriting the remnants of the troupe after Terayama's death in 1983." -- Alan Cummings, The Wire.

Comparable to the brilliant fave of mine, ‘Den'en Ni Shisu’ (1974), this album dates from four years earlier, and is like a movie picture, as music, on its own. Starting and ending in an operatic and theatrical way, with fuzz guitars and psychedelic organ, this sounds like a collection of stories told and sung by different voices, with backing choruses of another variety of voices, like a crowd where each individual keeps its distinctive voice, even when singing together. This gives a very unique and powerful expression, which has communal as well as individual strength. There are a few folk songs, with delicate guitar, poetic and natural, bar songs with a smooth bar rock band, or outbursts of emotions, with fuzz guitars, drums and organ and backing choir. Each voice has its story, sad and as if having only one time to tell about the deepest cries from the soul, and each character sounds as if they have a real life to tell, whether in nature, on the street, in a bar, or in communal anger and panic. Highly recommended! Amongst the best operatic theatre rock album.

Description here ; Two more Tenjo Sajiki albums further down->

Last Visible DogShuji Inaba : -live- ”The rapture of being destroyed 
     is the flipside of the misery of destruction” (JAP,2003)**°°°

After my last show on “highly emotional moments in progressive Japanese music” (playlist here) it seems I missed the discovery of this highly original acid-folk singer (from Shimane, near Hiroshima). 

First two tracks, coming from the depth of silence, breaking with the aggression of sound creation, with wood-guitar and a fire-with-words, it puts you as listener in an uneasy position of confronting a pure naked truth. After having broken this moment, and the tension becomes complete attention, a poetic fragility finds its place, like leaves on wood, and with fire extinguished by lifeforce.
Although the musical complexity is in a minimal musical form, the emotional intensity gives this a very “complete” & rewarding expression. It does not matter if we don’t understand the words, because here the voice speaks in tongues. For those who wish to follow the content, the poems have been translated in English in the booklet. A release where you have to give yourself time to get into the performance’ scope. 
Extra info : Shuji Inaba has had one previous self-released CD (Innen Kaho) on his own Planktone label two or three years ago. I wish I could hear a composed release of this emotional-expressive voice ! 

Info on Inaba (Japanese) : 
Info on this release : Label contact : Chris Moon
Soundfiles : "Modern Terrorism" ; "Uranium235" ; 
Info on his “Land Of Prayer” release on PFS :
Poseidon Rec.      Ausia : Kasa Kasa (JAP,2003)****°

I like a great deal these few Japanese chamber Folk releases I have (,like Cinnorama, Zypressen -still looking for the second album-, Lacymosa, and a bit different Trembling Strain). When I heard of the existence of this release I immediately went for it, and don't regret it one second ! This is not just classical inspired music. It has the smoothness of jazz, the sweetness and some melodious qualities of folk, with beautiful acoustic guitar, flute virtuosity, and cello-like violin. Many of the violin/guitar foundations with the various flutes on top (recorder, shinobue, dengakubue) reminded me of the best of  Kwartet Jorgi (from Poland). The music could easily be liked by RIO lovers too, although this leans much more to art/chamber folk than any other group. All tracks are melodically very varied instrumental tracks, except "When I was a little tiny boy", which is a kind of folkrock song with a text by W. Shakespeare, and "Mother Goose" (Jethro Tull), in a very good art chamber version. "Short summer in Valhalla" is played with banjo instead of guitar, with duel-like melodical improvisation against the violin, with the flute at first as the accompanying instrument. On "Lost on the way home" it's more the acoustic guitar which is leading. At the last track, "Kasa Kasa", every member displays virtuosity, with improvisations and rhythms like we can notice sometimes in classical Indian music (where even the flute seems to be as rhythmically evolving as a tabla). Fantastic stuff ! Highly recommended !

Extra info : Akihisa Tsuboy on violin plays also with the Japanese progfusion ? groups KBBString Arguments while K. Adachi on guitar, mandolin and vocal has also its group Adachi Kyodai.

Info : ( from webpage of violin player : 
Label info : Distribution : 
With this release : with first weirdest track :  
Other reviews : & &
Belle Antique Zypressen : Zypressen (JAP, 1996)****°

"Very good until outstanding RIO/Chamber Music Rock group. They have a second release which I couldn't trace yet. Any help is apreciated. The group is somewhat related to the Japanese chamber music rock group Lacrymosa. Recommended."

Info :  & 
Sky StationTenjyo Sajiki : Den'en Ni Shisu (JAP,1974)*****

" This is not really like they described this with a kind of "Magma weirdness" etc. The Uniqueness of this item lays in the highly emotional performance, much more than in any other Japanese item I heard before outside the dark song oriented music. This still is close to this song oriented scene, and from there it is highly original in its core. It is the most emotional Japanese item I know myself. 
Track 11 has orgasmic choir and fuzz guitar, drums. The liner notes are completely in Japanese so I don't know the titles. Tenyo Sajiki was the theatre group of the an underground film-maker Shuji Terayama with the picked out of the street hippie J.A. Caesar as its composer. First and 6th track are children choir with drums, piano, electric bass, violin. Highly recommended to the (“naturally”) open minded. It's amongst my favourite Japanese releases. It’s a soundtrack to his 1974 film “Death In The Country”. 
Described as a fictional autobiography, it tells of a sensitive adolescent poet who later becomes a film director, who dreams of running off first with a neighbour's wife and then with a travelling freakshow. The film follows a subtle subconscious logic. And it shows the search for the true self trough underlying emotions and desires of the main character. The performance was done by youngsters who suffered from the state’s pressure, and found herein a refoundation of their true inner nature of self-expression. More than just being reactive the music takes all valuable elements of the past and present and refocuses them into an renewed innocence and emotionally rich level. Because the theatre group had the impression of some kind of reactive refuge against a bourgeoning society in those days members were more than once interrogated. P.S. Folk singer Kan Mikami participated with an emotional singing."

 "The early '70s in Japan are often painted as an era of political and artistic disillusionment. On the one hand, the state rode roughshod over widespread opposition by renewing a mutual security treaty with the US, forcibly purchasing farming land near Tokyo for the construction of a new airport and stamping down hard on student occupations of universities. In the face of the implacability of state power, the protest movements' fluffy dreams of peaceful revolution were viciously scalpel-sculpted into new and violent forms by Red Army hijackings, lynchings and hostage taking. The sense of confusion and lost innocence was further emphasized by teenage thrill killers, coin locker babies and the bizarre coup d'etat-cum-public suicide of novelist Yukio Mishima. Against this background Japanese youth music began to discard the perky Western imitations of the Group Sounds boom and the college folkies, and slide into more appropriately brutal forms of self expression. Folk turned angry and personal, while rock groups like Las Rallizes Denudes, Flower Travellin' Band and Keiji Haino's Lost Aaraaff discovered bad acid, dissonance and heavy electric blues. 
       Some of the most exciting and evocative music of the time, however, was born out of the avant garde theatre groups that had played such a central role in the '60s ferment. One of the most important was the Tenjo Sajiki Company (its name taken from Marcel Carne's wartime occupation fantasy Les Enfants Du Paradis), formed by poet, film maker, boxing fan and all-around agent provocateur, Shuji Terayama. Renowned for Living Theatre-inspired audience participation happenings and extreme street theatre designed to shock the bourgeois, by 1970 the group had already become a haven for runaway teens, and a focus for police investigation. Terayama was canny enough to realize that co-opting their music was an ideal way to hijack adolescent energies, and he consistently used heavy amplified rock to jump-start his chaotic, socially critical acid operas. 
        Heard today, even independent of their lyrical message, they're astonishingly powerful as pieces of music, deploying huge Magma choruses alongside juggernaut organ, guitar, bass, drums and fully out-there vocalizing. The pick of this bunch is the soundtrack to Terayawa's 1974 film Den-en Ni Shisu (Death In The Country). Described as a fictional autobiography, it tells of a sensitive adolescent poet who later becomes a film director, stuck with his neurotic mother in a rural northern backwater, who dreams of running off first with a neighbour's wife and then with a traveling freakshow. The film's fractured narrative of awakening sexuality and severing of parental bonds is captured in hallucinatory imagery and an equally ambitious soundtrack by J.A. Caesar, which binds the whole film together with a subtle, subconscious logic. 
       The deployment of disparate elements in an all-consuming flow, which works even independently of the images, is masterly. The familiar psych guitar, organ and choral chanting are heavy enough in places -- as on the disc's definitive reading of Caesar's massive and haunting 'Wasan' -- to approach Sabbath levels of dense pounding, and there's also a frighteningly visceral vocal turn from folk singer Kan Mikami. But the score also sees Caesar expanding his instrumental palette, scoring some tracks for sideshow brass band or gently plucked guitar, weeping violin and chant. The weird intervals of his sparse, medieval-influenced melodies linger in the memory with the force of nostalgia for a past not directly experienced. It's an amazing performance: from street hippy who'd never picked up an instrument to film soundtrack composer in five years. Caesar's soundtrack for Den-en Ni Shisu lost out by a single vote to Toru Takemitsu for the best film soundtrack of 1974." -- Alan Cummings, The Wire. 

Label : with this item :
Audio here

Belle AntiqueTenjyo Sajiki (J.A.Caesar) : Shintokumaru (JAP,1976?)***°°

"A theatre piece which sounds like a combination of no theatre, orchestrated theatre music, opera and an outsider's rockconcert. Although the voices by actors are not always singing 100 % correct during the complete piece, it is too original to deny. The combination of elements, koto, operatic singing and heavy rock is at the best moments very impressive." 

TzadikAyuo : Izutsu (JAP, 2000)***°°
TzadikAyuo / Ohta Hiromi : Red Moon (JAP,2004)*****

The first Tzadik album, Izutsu has calmly evolving semi-classical eastern music with lots of more exotic instruments, like celtic harp, sitar-guitar,.. and is highly original acoustic music. It has lots of texts by filosophers and great thinkers  from Japan, Middle East, the West. It has a wonderfully balanced sound of instruments and quite atmosphere.  It can be considered as new Japanese music with a global vision, also musically. The main piace is based upon a classic Noh play by Zeami (1363-1443) interpreted into a musical piece in a very individual way (celtic harp, koto, psaltery, voice mostly).
The second release is even more alternated. It subcrosses all genres varying from new music to crossover psychedelica with middle eastern touches. With lots of instruments, also electric, and always with a wonderful combination of sounds. This comes with the beautiful song-oriented voice of the Japanese pop singer Ohta Hiromi. Highly recommended ! A must-have of global world vision psychedelia !

"Izutsu" label-entry :
"Red Moon" label-entry :
Audio of Red Moon : & Izutsu :
RepublicKazue Sawai, koto : Eye to Eye (1987)***°°

Very beautiful playing on the 13-and 17-string koto, with a Kengyo Yatsuhashi track as my favourite ! Two narration songs are with Peter Hamill, Guy Evans. We hear also the beautiful voice of Hiromi Ohta on three Ayuo tracks (she used to be a famous pop voice, but now sings occasionally with Ayuo more often). Last track is by Yuji Takahashi, (famous composer & extraordinary pianist) -which also happens to be Ayuo’s father-.

Ayuo : * "I actually wrote 6 tracks on this CD, and produced it. Robin Williamson (of the Incredible String Band) composed one track. Yuji Takahashi composed one track. It was my idea to ask Kazue Sawai to play Kengyo Yatsuhashi's Midare because I wanted to play around with the effects and reverbs. This track was not well recieved here because if you can imagine something like a well known classical piano piece by Beethoven with a lot of effects and reverbs, you can imagine what many conservative classical listeners would have said. The most well recieved were the two songs in English and Robin Williamson's solo piece, which is now a part of the repartory of traditional koto music.

More on Kazue Sawai : & &
More on Kengyo :
More on Yuji Takahashi  :
A remarkable voice who sung with Peter Hamill was Sarah Jane Morris, a voice somewhat similar in colour with Cathy Alexander (The Morrigan) on this album : & I reviewed two work on the singer-songwriter pages here->

Midi Inc.Ayuo Takahashi : Nova Carmina (1986)***°

There’s a great variety on this disk so I have to listen a few times more before being able to describe it all, going from what sounds like medieval music (one song, sung by Maddy Prior*) over traditional Japanese and other cultures' folk elements over to 70’s progressive pop. Nice! Some arrangements are done more minimal with keyboards compared to the more known later Ayuo pieces.
Other participators : Dave Mattacks *, Peter Knight, Peter Hamill, David Lord, Aideen Mongan, Sanshin.
* Steeleye Span

H²O EarthmanAyuo : Stoned (2002)**°°

This album is made to be performed with a stone-art exhibition held by photographer Ken Awazu. A couple of tracks are more landscape-descriptive with breath as instrument, experimental voices, and poetry like narrations (in English), often like ambient music. At least one (“Devotion”) or a couple of tracks seemed to be influenced by Peter Hamill (sung by Ayuo). Another song “Daybreak”° is somewhat more Middle Eastern styled (voice, guitar, whistle). Then we also have a few more acoustic tracks. One of my favourite of these is “Geronimo”, with thumbpiano and flutes and Japanese female vocals effective in a minimal performance. The last track is a performance with the sounds of stones.

°Ayuo : "This is an improvisation between myself and the Bosnian singer, Jadranka. She was a star in Yugoslavia during the days of President Tito."

CarminaAyuo Trio + : Live bootleg : 
we are the space between the sea and the moon(rec.1994,1997,1998)*°°°

The first part is mainly more heading towards singer-songwriting (like Peter Hamill), sung in English. I first wondered why English, and if Japanese not would have sounded more heartfelt going ? but later I heard English is actually Ayuo's native language.° I really like the guitar playing of Ayuo on the first two tracks. The second part has various middle eastern tracks, played on bouzouki (also sung in English, which fits most perfect with the middle eastern rock feel in them). On “Tao” his improvisation seems to have real appealing effect on the public. Then comes in a second, electric guitar, with its psychedelic wa-wa effect. At “He needs something to believe in” also a clarinet ios added (with the bouzouki, guitar and electric bass). On the last (fantastic) middle eastern track, “The Holy Man and the sinner within” the sound reminded me a bit of the German rocksinger Alex° at his best, or perhaps this might be even much better than what Alex ever tried to acchieve with his music. (-Alex performed Turkish music in a rock way in the late 70's, later on his music sadly became more and more normal rock-). Incredible this comes from an all Japanese band !

“My parents divorced when I was quite young. I grew up with an Iranian-American step-father, who came from a family of court musicians for the Persian Shah. I grew up listening to a lot of Persian traditional music in New York City. I wasn't speaking Japanese at home either. So this is the answer to why there is a lot of Middle Eastern influence in my music, and why a lot of it is in English. I am, however, trying to increase the amount of songs  in Japanese, and there is a lot more in Japanese now, then there was at the time "Live Bootleg" was recorded." Ayuo

°"The strange thing is that most Asians (including Japanese, Chinese, amd Koreans), who've heard some of my music go for the songs I sing in English, rather than anything else, while Europeans and Americans usually prefer the songs sung in Japanese, often by a female singer. Recently a film director in Beijing asked me for permission to use a lot of songs from "Live Bootleg" on the soundtrack of his next film, which for the moment is only distributed in the People's Republic of China. He said he liked the way my voice sounds in English. When my CD "Siongs from a Eurasian Journey" was released in South Korea, they asked me if they could cut out all the songs in Japanese, some which were sung by a famous pop singer here named Epo. When I said this to a buyer at Tower Records, he said that maybe the Japanese and Asian listeners are listening with their bones instead of with their minds. Songs such as Devotion or many of those on this CD are written very quickly from 30 minutes to an hour usually in a flash of intuition. The English is often simple enough for the Japanese audience to know what's going on, but the expressions used are different from what an Englishman or an American would write. This seems to communicate to the Japanese listeners. Often it takes hours of struggling to complete a text in Japanese, and they have to be checked and re-checked to make sure the Japanese isn't strange. I also use a number of professional writers to help me  translate some of my words into Japanese.
When using an ancient text like that in IZUTSU, I have to come to it from the English translation and a pronounciation guide in alphabet. This is in a language that most people in Japan will not understand unless they've studied the ancient language. The music is then checked by some of the best experts in that field to make sure it's accurate. Many of the players on that CD are some of the best known today in traditional instruments. I also composed another piece based on an ancient Noh play called "Aoi no Ue". This was performed by players who really know the ancient language from deep within themselves. This was recrded, but remain unreleased.
I have recieved e-mail from a number of people in Japan, who complain that Ohta Hiromi's sings the traditional song, Takeda no Komoriuta as if she doesn't understand the meaning of what she is singing, and that on other tracks her vocals sound either artificial or contrived. Although it's true that Takeda no Komoriuta is in a old language from a western province that none of us can speak, we felt that she was able to communicate the emotions through her singing. In some of the other songs, the words have a slightly older feel to them than modern Japanese.
As you probaby know, Japanese is not my first language or a language I can speak without an accent. However, the same thing also applies to Kan Mikami or Shuji Terayama, the great poet who wrote many theatre pieces for Tenjo Sajiki. In all of their recordings, they are speaking or singing with a thick northern accent, which they will never be able to take out of their voices. Much of my first recordings were in Japanese, but the record companies told me to use English instead because the Japanese buyers will find them  too strange. I have also had a violently negative reaction during my show, when a woman screamed for me to shut up in Japanese, and use English only. I, however, feel that Japanese with an accent should also have its rightful place here. In some of my recent works, I use some words by Shuji Terayama. My accent seems to remind some listeners of Shuji Terayama's own accent. Doing a live show with Kan Mikami was also a great inspiration. In some of my recent shows, I am also singing songs like "E no Naka no Sugata" from "Red Moon". Someone told me my singing in Japanese sounds like someone who is mentally handicapped. But people will also know it's real and not contrived because this is the way I really speak the language.  I am now trying to use this disadvantage as an advantage, and increasing the amount of material in Japanese." Ayuo

Other releases :"Earth guitar" (in Japanese) :
and "Songs from a Eurasian Journey"(in English) :

Homepage & & on
More info on Ayuo (with soundfiles of other works) :

Last remarks : 

* Ayuo, once called by John Zorn one of the most enigmatic figures from Japan, compared to the individuality of Moondog for instance, surely creates music which succeeds to make its own musical definition with a world vision on music, as a blend of Japanese music with elements of Middle eastern and Western Music essences of characteristics. This "new mucic" stands very much on its own.

radioshow's playlist with many more comments (also from Ayuo)
(broadcast from 2004-06-30) here

New CD for Tzadik was released end 2005-> 
Tzadik  Ayuo : AOI (2005)***°

I liked very much the song “The Stranger” which was to be found for download on the support webpage for Ayou. I thought at first Ayuo was going to build a whole CD around this. The first track of the CD, "The Stranger" is a different version of this track. The main piece however, "AOI no UE" is something different and is based on a medieval Japanese Noh play said to be written by Zeami, based on an episode in "Genji Monogatari" (Romance of Genji"), written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, who finished writing it in 1004 AD. The novel is mostly about the romantic adventures of Prince Genji with Aoi as his first wife, who he married at 12, but he falls in love with Lady Rokujo when he is 16. When both were trying to get to a festival, Aoi found her way blocked by Lady Rokujo's carriage. So she gets her servants to break down throughthe barrier of luggage and goes on her way. Being humiliated and jealous of Lady Aoi's existence, Lady Rokujo's anger develops into an angry spirit that flies out of her body, even though she herself is unaware of it. This is where this play begins. 
The music is based on Sangen, Biwa, Shakuhachi, a lot of medieval -styled Japanese singing and a lot of electronic and glissando guitars. The play is about revenge, but Ayou sees this tale as a metaphor for a lot of things that have happened since the Cold War if we think of modern terrorists, nationalists, religious fanatics, as well as anti-terrorist politicians. “She seeks retribution for the hurt and humiliation with a justification of an act of hatred”, an act which in the end will destroy Lady Rokujo. There is also another piece with a similar instrumentation to "A Stranger", called "Oh Light of My Heart". Originally, Ayuo wanted to put in more world music influenced psychedelic pieces, but John Zorn wanted less of these, and more Avant-garde pieces. As a result there is a number of pieces that unfortunately have become unused out-takes from this album. There are still no other labels interested in Ayuo so he had to make the compromise, which in the end still is succesful.
“The Stranger” used fuzzed bass, sitar-guitar, and has an exotic and psychedelic flavour. “Aoi” is a combination of old Noy theatre music with traditional instruments, mixed with electrified instruments, first used in an experimental, rather avant garde way, fitting with the old way of improvising, then singing mixed with electric improvisation half psych/folk/avant garde, with a weird result in its own harmonic sphere. Thhe improvisations thoroughly begin to make a compromise with the idea of the first track, first bringing in other combinations and improvisations, like folk, classical (piano), middle eastern (saz?), all heading towards a new psychedelic conclusion (guitars, and other instruments). The tracks hold a perfect middle between an improvisational feel with a very structured and thought over arranged evolution, with nice harmonic developments. Another great work from Ayuo. 

Audio : "The Stranger" (or here), "AOI no UE","Ulysses and the City of Dreams - Episode 2" or more at
Info : or & on
Two more albums are listenable and downloadable for a cheap price at
One is a very early recording from 1983, and the other is from 2001. 
(This site was designed by Iwao Yamazaki, ex-drummer for Ghost. The site also has a track by his improvisational group, Out to Lunch, and two ambient guitar tracks by Mandog, the guitarist with Damo Suzuki's Network. Mandog also has a new band with the leader of Acid Mother Temple). 

CarminaAyuo : live October 2001 **’ 

“Instinct” is an unusual track for Ayuo, with trance-rhythms. This is followed by some songs, often accompanied by guitar, one with an avant-psych experimental part. There’s a much more loner feeling in this album compared to the other Ayuo releases I’ve heard.

Carmina    Ayuo : Carmina (1983)**°

This collection of well fitting together songs and instrumentals show glimpses of the original style of Ayuo, in a minimal, and very individual, and often rather improvised way, with use of traditional (both western and eastern) and new, mostly analogue electronic and acoustic instruments and guitars. "Carmina" is a good, cheap starter for Ayuo, but not as compact and composed as the "Red Moon" masterpiece.
Listed on this page :
Shuji InabaAusiaZypressenTenjyo Sajiki (J.A.Caesar; JA Saezar), Kan Mikami
Ayuo (9 releases)Kazue SawaiGhostVajra (with Kan Mikami & Keiji Haino), Geinoh Yamashirogumi
two More Ayuo-related release :

Zipangu Rec.Ayuo  : E no Naka no Sugata / What we look like in the picture (JAP,2006)****
Seoul Rec.Ayuo  : Songs from a Eurasian Journey (JAP,1997)****

two more song-related albums 
are reviewed on
Drag CityGhost  : Overture : Live In Nippon Yusen Soko 2006 -CD+DVD-(JAP,pub.2007)***° 

* Review of the CD :

The group Ghost is/was one of the few new Japanese groups that became known outside Japan which melted acidfolk with psychedelica, but even there they didn’t limit themselves with their expressions. Improvisation always was important for them. This album is a live improvisation recorded in a huge former warehouse for mailboats. 

To increase the attention to the created sounds the players couldn’t see each other on stage, and furthermore were disconnected with a reverberation length of space of 13-15 seconds long before them, the same size of what appears in a limestone cave. This gives a natural, almost spiritual effect to the attention, which giving meaning to communicative spaces between the musicians and the sounds they produce. In that way the music is often somewhat meditative, free and conscious, different from previous Ghost recordings I have heard before, in a convincing way. The concert started in total darkness. Luckily not all instruments are used at once, but are sensitively sparsely touching blindly around themselves, seeking senses with the other, until some free senses and long distance echoing basses and percussion increases their energy to draconic tensions, breathing fire, before calming down again. Beautiful flute improvisations, sax, oscillating and then jazz piano, lots of cymbal tensions in the air, hand percussion produce mostly very acoustic sounds, but sometimes iron-like sounds and the big room gives something of an industrial tension, and of course there are bits of amplified and electric guitar, but not too often. 

Ghost is Junzo Tateiwa : waterphone, tabla-baya, darbuka, frame, drums, cymbals ; Trishitakizawa : saxophones, flute, tin whistler, bells and voice ; Michio Kurihara : electric guitar ; Takuyuki Moriya : contrabass ; Masaki Batoh : tapes, voice, acoustic guitar, cymbal spanking and Kazuo Ogino : lute, piano, kayal, recorders.

* Review of the DVD :

The DVD gives a more complete picture of the concert, which also had a visual aspect. The musicians were hidden behind curtains. 6 people took care of overheads and often computer-controlled lighting visuals projected on the curtains and pillars. The first images build themselves up from darkness and change the room into a temple-like event, with pages from a book, so as if some kind of initiation and event, which seems to make the public at first bewildered, slightly uncomfortable, silent, becoming part of this event which has at first a rather spiritual effect. The images become like wallpaper on the curtains, a bit more colourful, and then start to move with complex forms in different directions simultaneously. The musicians seem to adapt themselves slightly to the visual effects. The piano at times seems to accompany a silent movie for something that becomes also a bit more a linear moving wallpaper. The music at times seems to penetrate further finding the limits of its space, but the images come to have something limited too, with certain patterns of movement, dark tension occurring more often, this stretches many moments, demanding a bit more patience for change, while still minor visual surprises occur much later. It is a great progressive leap to what was possible in earlier days of visual effects on stage, but having moved to a next stage I also expected real interactions to occur while the images remained in all its movement a stagnant content of covering things up with beautiful light, confusing changing shapes, it only changed the environment really and completely at certain points in the concept. In that way I am not sure how much the video recording will surprise people enough for its whole length of time in cinema. I can only say that I wished to have seen this on a bigger screen than I could. 

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Modern Music  Vajra (Mikami Kan, Ishizuka Toshiaki, Haino Kenji) : Mandala / Cat Last (JAP,2002)***°' 

While Kan Mikami’s early work is emotionally as well as rationally structured, as typical for the early 70s, I am a bit careful with later works. But I assumed his band Vajra must have given them some conceptual structure at least more than a voice thrown like a lion in the wilderness/desert. Only later I realized this involved the avant-guitarist Kaiji Heino which was another figure who solo, could be a bare, nightmarish, challenging and also a demanding artist to listen to...

The music has improvisation in sections and with different foundations. The first track, “The Sky Looks Green To Me” is textually & emotionally driven, a rather kind of song-improvisation, while the band plays a guitar-looped psychedelia, with additional wilder “fluting” electric guitars in the background, and rather free jazz-based but correctly stimulating drums. This sounds as if old Japanese opera or folk story singing is combined with a going-weird Richard Pinhas style, but a bit more avant-garde, with convincing emotional expressions leading the story and the tension, and with only briefly a second vocalist coming in, like a confirming second opinion. 

The second track, translated as “Japanese Cola is Sweet!“ is much more avant-garde, with weird guitar contra-composing Fripp-ed flipped additions, and a bit of contra-drumming or regain rhythms, with the attention of an experienced jazz drummer, but a few times against the vocals, which are always great. It finds its space, and spontaneity against the avant-garde. I can only understand the word “coca-cola”. It is a bit on the edge of what I find focused enough because it is on the edge of becoming random, it also has something of Captain Beefheart’s guitarists going more weird here, and it keeps my attention of sympathy only just enough, because it seeks ideas. 

Good to have after this a quieter core with “normal” guitar chords, or a more “normal” song next, ("Monkeys Don't Pray") even when Keiji Haino’s guitar adds weird harsh effects, this keeps itself environmental, so fitting, noisier background descriptions with its own emotional effect of distortion. Somehow it becomes like an inventive industrial skeletal construction, sometimes a bit under construction with industrial noise, around the emotional song of Kan Mikami. 

Track 4 ("Mandala TOOT (H)”) are 3 voices singing a capella in a coldly echoing environment. Track 5, “Sound Deadening” has a core of moody guitar chords which invent a landscape in an experimental way. Kan Mikami’s voice sings over this like just another instrument, very much completing the abstract landscape, very clever. This is so organic and logical 11 minutes are over before one realizes. 

The even calmer closing track "Playing Wounded--For Musashi” contains avant-piano with vocals, bit of drumming, and then contemporary acoustic guitar. 

With all the unusual experimentation, it is in fact on the second track which demands at first a little bit more effort and attention. But in general I must admit the group is extremely gifted in creating new sounds with actually rather strong and convincing ideas. This was Vajra's fifth record.

Label entry :
Listing on Keiji Haino's discography :
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& on Kan Mikami album here->
Prime Direction/Avex io  Kan Mikami Bang! (JAP,197?)****° 

On this third album of his, Kan Mikami sounds as if performing different characters of a comic book. Especially the fourth, title track, makes a clear reference to the front cover, an avant-theatrical piece with sound collage, spoken word and song. Everywhere is an intensity of emotionality, but not always as much ripped off in heart from inside. The styles of the songs can be very different (bluesier on track 1, mellow-kitschier on track 2, weirder on track 3,and so on). The 4th track surprises in a rather jazz style, with an emotionally controlled, different, jazz voice, a brilliant interpretation. The heavier emotional sixth track has sax arrangements, and goes weirder with sax and emotional outbursts near the end. The 7th track sings again more controlled and softer, has another surprise of progressive rock parts with organ, fuzz guitars,..and the last track shows once more another character expressed in Kan Mikami’s typical slightly improvised song style. Another brilliant album with its own kind of deranged normalities.

Accompanying band was the Yamashita Yosuke trio.

Titles (with some audio links): 1) "Please Give Me This Record" 2) "Happy to Meet You" 3) "Great (Magnificent) Depression
4) "Bang!" 5) "Night of Fish Poaching" 6) "What a Terrible Song" 7) "Red Horse" 8) "The Very Last of the Last Samba…" 

Article on Kan Mikami :
Japanese page :
Interview :

Two previous albums shortly reviewed by me  here & here
Sky Station Tenjo Sajiki Barmon (JAP,1972)*°' 

"This is a limited reissue of the ultra rare privately released Tenjo Sajiki record Baramon. This identical reissue dates from 2003 and was released in a tiny edition of 500 copies, which sold out in a matter of weeks. But about the music: 'Some of the most exciting and evocative music of the early '70s in Japan was born out of the avant-garde theatre groups that had played such a central role in the '60s ferment. One of the most important was the Tenjo Sajiki Company formed by poet, film maker, boxing fan and all-around agent provocateur Terayama Shuji. Renowned for Living-Theatre inspired audience participation happenings and extreme street theatre designed to shock the bourgeois; by 1970 the group had already become a haven for runaway teens, and a focus for police investigation. Terayama was canny enough to realize that co-opting their music was an ideal way to hijack adolescent energies and he consistently used heavy amplified rock to jump-start his chaotic, socially critical acid operas. By 1972, Baramon saw J.A. Seazer and Kuni Kawauchi (of the Happenings Four and Kirikyogen) splitting the compositional scores on a bizarre musical manifesto for sexual liberation. So far so Hair, but rather than a tribute to free love, Terayama instead composed an eloquent plea for the liberation of the sexual underclass suffering discrimination, in the form of a 'gay revolution.' It wasn't Terayama's first engagement with the Tokyo queer scene -- one of the earliest plays he wrote for the Tenjo Sajiki was a vehicle for transvestite actress and chanson singer Akihiro Miwa, who was rumored to have had a dalliance with Yukio Mishima. Baramon's opening is a blast -- a densely narrated and impassioned call to arms set to a Nazi military march that links sexual second class citizenship to imperialist social control and warmongering. Featuring the actual voices of numerous smutty, cross-dressing scene queens, the record's content was deemed so subversive that it was only sold under the counter of Tokyo gay bars. Like a biker backstage at the Cage Aux Folles, fuzzed out guitar riffs and heavy swelling organ-based psych rock tracks rub shoulders with the lachrymose ballads and tawdry, mascara smudging chanson still favored in certain Shinjuku nighteries.'" - The Wire, Alan Cummings.

This album for me was a disappointment. Its publication was forbidden at the time of its release, and even when I don’t understand it’s lyrics I can understand why. It starts with a Hitler speech in the background (probable he was telling us that we should get rid of Jews and homosexuals, but I could not really understand it well, during a simultaneous Japanese proclamation). This is with clearly homosexual/trans-sexual-related spoken word all over the place. At some point traditional Japanese music takes the shape of a kitsch brass band. All of this is clearly deliberately shocking while making publicity for a world of fake things associated with transsexuality. Like I have experienced before in music, when such people do make a publicity stunt this is often over the top, making me think that homosexuality at certain stages might be related with a disease of the mind, more than it is just related to a different hormone balance that changes a person’s personal taste and sexual preferences. This is nót my generalised conclusion about homosexuals, but a presentation like this makes its acceptance maybe even worse. The few musical ideas that come across can’t compensate this enough for me. 
I saw a few fragments of movies of the director, and I realise he has tendencies to look for teasing confusing moments on the edge of shocking and acceptance, with some deeper intelligence behind it but also a certain randomness?? It is sure that he more often mobilized street people with little future to do something more creative with a certain communal
Sky Station Tenjo Sajiki Hatsukoi Jigoku Hen -Inferno of the First Love- (JAP,1970)****'

Many parts with contributions of spoken word fragments (mixed sometimes with restrained singing) in this release, but this contributes to the atmosphere and keeps the strong musical understanding and expressiveness of this album, which sounds like an, almost literally, to follow a movie turned into a musical concept (separated from the original movie, it has a life on its own). First released only privately, I think it has all the uniqueness and trademark of the makers (the film maker as well as the composer and vocalists) that makes it worth checking out, to share this experience. Starting and ending with a very beautiful (children based) choir arrangement leading a for the movie important musical theme, most of the album is like the story and vision of two people, first as a male solo voice, then meeting and with interaction (with laughs and all) with the sea environment, then as a female voice led story (spoken word and song related), with its own melancholy, and then again with each person's vision. Elsewhere they sing beautifully and reflect love together with a bit of acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar and mouth harmonica are accompanying more than once. In between you can hear a small classical music fragment (composer??), there's also a bit of harpischord accompaniment (with or without orchestrations) and a few completely other musical styled songs, like a foxtrot and a 60s post-rock'n roller. The second 60s rocker has use of sax, organ and harmony vocals. And there's also a slower smooth melancholic arrangement with flute, vibraphone, double bass and drums and some orchestrations. One of the oddest fragments in between a part where the filmic collage dominates over the song expressions is a very odd vision of a telephone conversation with surreal crazy reactions not really like laughs. I gave it a few listens and list it amongst the classics of Japanese music. Vocals were by Carmen Maki of Blues Creation and of Kuniko Ishii. Remastered mini-LP sized reproduction.

Details of album here ; next album ->
Phoenix Rec. JA Caeser/JA Caesar Jashumon (JAP,1972,re.2012)*****

I need to mention this re-release from one of my favourite Japanese projects. This is comparable to the album of Tajoyo Sajiki’s “Shintokumaru”, which is the same group led by JA Caesar. Also this is another live concert on stage, which can be considered a kind of rock opera, like a modern progressive alternative to the old Japanese opera if you wish. Included are a lot of actors singing, and a rock band. The score must have been written somewhat a day or a night before it was needed, so it also has a consistent musical theme which is spread over a couple of sessions. It is much more like an energy which builds up again and again to Wagnerian proportions with a lot of emotionality as if some people’s lives were at stake not to have expressed this.

The first track starts with a long groovy rock repetition (drums, organ, bass) with operatic singing like a kind of YaHoWha or hippie singing, with half singing but rather aggressive responses or shouting like a storytelling on stage with a few laughs. It creates in fact immediately a kind of unique theatrical atmosphere. This tracks ends with experimenting windy electric guitar distortions filling up spaces on stage echoing deeply into the background. This leads to the second track with a bit of sitar and complaining vocals and a humming choir. These humming voices become like a religious humming. The actor starts to interact and laugh madly. Gongs, deep drum and flute and later organ accompany further emotionally expressed almost filmic conversations in Japanese. Not leading too much in details, I will then say that most of the score then alternates between a couple of tensions. There are tracks with group singing, building up with emotion and then with the rock band with wild electric guitar. Other parts are calmer led by male or sometimes female vocalists, getting into a kind of discussion with responses full of emotionality. And also Kan Mikami sings twice a song with acoustic guitar, an emotional bluesy voice, also responded by the group with shouts and handclaps. Accents of slow progression are expressed with gongs, electric bass and deep drums mostly, the organ builds up the repeated themes to bind/wind the themes and emotions together. Women only sing some group chorus parts first. Shouts and almost aggressive emotions are all part f the play. A very unique experience. I wonder how the movie by the surreal, enfant terrible avant-garde filmmaker fits with this.

1000 numbered copies only. My copy is nr.838.

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Super Fuji DiscsJA Caesar Recital : Jyunreika Kanzen Ban -2CD- (JAP,1975?,re.2013)****'

I am not sure what the relationship is with Kokkyo Jyunreika (1972?), an album from 1972 which I have as well but which I never reviewed as it didn’t surprise me that much compared to all the others. But I will tell you what this is. It is a 2 hours and 20 minute rock opera. The musical themes are kept simple, to allow improvisation, an increased input of power and emotionality. The basic section is bass, drums, electric guitar and organ and either a female or male lead vocalist. Whenever the female vocalist adds power it is through emotionality and through an operatic strength to which the band responds with rock power and somewhat in pushing up the speed and loudness. There are parts left for the organ to moodily improvise or the electric guitar to burst out. At one time it receives a hard rock aggression. Flute and piano parts are there as well. A background choir adds theatrical effect in singing. A Japanese folk tune is used in the themes as well. And somewhere, a children choir replaced the choir. Two parts show English lyrics, like the summing up of countries. Later on a voice shouts “I have no country. But that’s all of a clue in English we get. One must take the time for the album, to be dragged into all its emotion and power. Very good !

Performance group : ; next-> and next->

Columbia Music   JA Caesar : Ship Of Fools (JAP,1977,re.2013)****'

Also this album is a convincing rock opera with quiet and heavier emotions, swelling with themes. It starts, after an elephant’s blow, with timpani, brass and female choir a bt like “Atom Heart Mother”. The conversations of voices start from introductory spoken words to provocative and teasing conversations, aggressive and emotional, while returning themes on drum/electric guitars or organ with heavy rock or in moody sessions alternate such theatrical sense. On one moment we hear the loud snoring of a person, with arpeggio’s of piano, emotional screams, turning to another theatrical heavy rock theme. Further on there’s a more meditative part too on harp and flute with spoken word, later on a piano theme with acoustic guitar. One of the theatre-rockier parts has shouts of voices included. Another convincing musical concept and band with a unique expressive, operatic sound.

Disk UnionJA Caesar : Lemming Sekai no Hate Made Tsuretette (JAP,1982?,re.2013)***

This album for a big part still uses the formula of simple repeated musical themes with nice combinations of instruments, going from nicely rocking to heavier moments, the use of some emotionality in the singing and some theatrical rocking aggression. There are parts with circus-like walzes with trombone and gypsy violin. Different than before is that I keep getting the impression some bigger part of the album is studio works on keyboards, while the band performance is added later. It misses a bit the challenge and the surprise. Some themes are beautiful but still I start to get the impression lot’s of it I have heard somewhere before. The big concept falls a bit apart further on and becomes even a bit chaotic near the end. Still worth hearing but not amongst the most essential works of J.A.Seazer.

Leemoon Rec.      Geinoh Yamashirogumi : Osorezan / Doh No Kembai 1976/2016)***°'

People who read my reviews must know I am very much into tradition mixed modernity or with a modern vision. For this idea, this Japanese concept rules as a master. So it wasn’t just J.A.Caesar who mixed rock with an idea of Japanese folk opera.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi was and still is a Japanese collective founded in 1974 by Tsutomu Ōhashi (aka Shoji Yamashiro). They became most known for their soundtrack of the Akira movie by Katsuhiro Ōtomo. 

This earlier album comes in two parts of which the first part is a bit more avant-garde, more improvised, starting a a women’s scream, slowly improvising and describing a muddy situation mood with an electric bass, whispery voices, screams, electric and acoustic percussion, percussion, building a tension up. Then the group finds a rhythm, a ritual progressive rock mode continues with a solo electric guitar becoming weird, drum and bass, slightly funky second guitar, rocking slowly with the group singing with some screams into it, with weird voices in the background creating an atmosphere like that in a horror movie soundtrack, ending this with another last scream. The second part is different and is more like contemporary music, starting quietly and mystical, with soloists in Japanese traditional singing, in a slow singing mode, half spoken, like a folk opera, with responses of answering voices in Gregorian harmony choir voices. This is contemporary vocal music with Japanese and even Indonesian elements, a well arranged concept. :

“Opening with an ear-piercing scream and devolving deeper and deeper into freaky communal-hippie chanting weirdness during the course of its 40 minutes, Osorezan/Donoukenbai presents a younger and more experimental Yamashirogumi collective. Osorezan can't decide if it's from 1969 or 2069, but I don't think it really matters. And by the time you get to the insane vocal percussion of Dounokenbai, neither will you.”