1. Bloody Imagination
CATALOG: mikroton cd 12
RELEASE: November 2012
Tetuzi Akiyama high frequency, resonator guitar with samurai sword
Naoaki Miyamoto mid-high frequency, electric guitar
Utah Kawasaki mid-low frequency, analog synthesizer
Atsuhiro Ito low frequency, optron
Ten years ago, a week before Christmas in 2002, Teruto Soejima, a Japanese experimental/avant-garde music critic, organized a festival at a small live venue called Knuttel House, located in the east side of Tokyo. Named as “Independent Underground Music Festival”, it was held with the following message by Mr. Soejima:
“Today in the advanced improvised music scene, new artists keep coming up one after another. In there, free jazz, contemporary music, techno, prog, traditional music, experimental J-pop etc, are jumbled and sometimes mixed, so that we are in a chaos state where a variety of musicality is overviewed, from an explosive sonic attack against bodies to infinitesimal sounds permeating brains. However, I believe that chaos is a hotbed to form tomorrow. It is the aim of this festival to give an opportunity all together to the music that has little chance to be evaluated because of its novelty. I would like you to thoroughly enjoy the resplendence of all sorts of flowers full of wild vitality.”
I myself, as a longtime acquaintance of Soejima, was invited there along with Cosmos (Sachiko M and Ami Yoshida), Ko Ishikawa who plays sho, pianist Takuji Kawai, etc. Since I did not want to perform as a solo, I wanted to present a new ensemble with a certain concept, instead. I wanted to gather musicians who have their own temporal axis unlike those found in the established free music or drone, and set the biological clocks of the listeners out of order.
What happens if frequency bands that each player in a string quartet is in charge of, are translated more violently into the modern electric/electronic instruments? And what if one divided the whole audible range into four bands, and let the four musicians perform to show their own time senses fully in each band?
There was no struggle for me to select the right members. Atsuhiro Ito, in charge of the low frequency, already had found a way of his own beyond the realm of a visual artist in the music of synchronized light and sound, with the self-made instrument called Optron which was basically a customized fluorescent light. For the low-mid, no other than Utah Kawasaki who boasted one and only rare de-musical sense. And we had Naoaki Miyamoto for the mid-high, who had been playing single-note drone solos on his guitar around that time, which I had found was delicate, elegant, then mysterious and precise while having an unshakable rock spirit at the same time. I was concentrating on the high frequencies with the technique which I presented on my solo album “résophonie”, rubbing six same gauged strings on the brass bodied guitar with the blade-less side of a Japanese sword with contact microphones attached on the top and end.
Partly because we were well received by the audience at the festival, I was waiting for an opportunity to make some recording with the band. About 18 months later, I heard that a friend of mine, Yosio Ootani, a rising critic and also a saxophonist himself by then, was producing a compilation CD album called “Le Son Sauvage : Tokyo Next Texture”, aiming to introduce new jazz-based groups at the time in Tokyo area. And he invited us to participate in that project, although we were not playing “jazz” at all. The ten-minute track we recorded for the compilation was mostly an improvisation, but the fifty-two minute track on this album was also recorded in the same session, and was composed beforehand contrary to the track for the compilation.
On the one long track throughout this album, each musician devoted himself to a very simple performance that rather exuded the beauty and complexity of the intertwined individuals. As a result, it has turned out to be something like an organic monster as a whole. This was what had been plotted as a concept of the band from the beginning, which was also the destination it should have ended up at. In other words, while the time axis was even twisted, the end led to the beginning like a Mobius strip.
In the noise music scene, there are destructive ones like so-called harsh noise which would tear your eardrums, and in the clubs, the sound systems which focus on super heavy bass would directly shake the lower half of your bodies. However, there is an aspect that it is very hard to realize such an extreme idea that is aimed to destroy all the cells of the listeners’ bodies, due to the limitation in the sound equipment. Although the real value of this band would be maximized at live concerts and unfortunately we can present only superficial elements of us on the
CD, I am sure you will hear the essence of the music here. We did not dare to indicate “enjoy at full volume as much as possible on your stereo system” anywhere on the cover, but an eager listener like you will surely find yourself turning up the volume knob of your stereo set as you go on listening. Because the nature of rock music is nothing more than “Play It Loud!” and in this sense, this music is persistently a development of rock & roll as the band name suggests.
Tetuzi Akiyama, December 2012
Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society – pretty powerful name for a band eh readers! It’s up there with the Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, although that Fuji bunch can’t quite live up to that name, bluster as they may with their powerful slow drones and collective long hair. Us black-hearted types have more confidence in a name like Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society, although to their discredit they don’t reproduce it in full on the front cover, instead opting for an obscure acronym which indicates the typographical designer for this release is preening his own sense of cleverness instead of (to my mind) representing the music properly. Mater of fact this whole album needs to be redesigned from the ground up, starting with strong shades of primary red and black instead of these sickly grey and maroon hues. And we need at least one pentagram or other magical symbol on the cover instead of these vague rotating hexagons. Come to think of it, these visual ideas of mine are pretty trite and have already been done to death by a million no-hoper Heavy Metal bands. No wonder I never get any LP design work! My idea of a record cover for The Cramps would be a skull wearing a top hat and framed by two dice…
However spin the disc of Bloody Imagination (MIKROTON RECORDINGS mikroton cd 12) and we’re certainly not disappointed by the dense and thuddy drone-o feedback noise produced by four mighty “shoguns” of Japanese music, namely Tetuzi Akiyama, Naoaki Miyamoto, Utah Kawasaki and Atsuhiro Ito. Any listening infantryman worth their salt knows the name of Akiyama, the guitarist who dresses like a 1970s New York street dude and plays in numerous rock and improv inflected styles, and might as well carry his electric guitar in a machine gun case. Utah’s name first reached my ears when Otomo Yoshihide was getting all excited about this new “Onkyo” style in the 1990s and reported that Kawasaki played a broken synth. How better to align oneself with those two Swiss noise pioneers Voice Crack than to use malfunctioning equipment. Atsuhiro Ito is a member of Intonarumori Orchestra and Optrum. If you ever Google for a picture of this fellow you’ll notice that he’s never in public without his hat (like the guitar player Taku Sugimoto, another credited with developing the slow and near-silent performing style that was later dubbed “onkyo”), and also that he appears to be gifted in playing the fluorescent lighting tube (actually it’s his “optron” – see below). Now I want to revisit his contributions to the Improvised Music From Japan box set from 2001. Lastly we have the second guitarist Naoaki Miyamoto whose name is new to me but whose career also dates from this millennial “tabula rasa” point of 2000-2001 when the music was taken for a long walk in the snowdrifts around Mount Aino, and lost its memory.
The groovy thing about this 52-minute mo-fo (continuous playing, no edits) is that the musicians characterise their work primarily in terms of the frequencies they generate – e.g., Tetuzi dominates the high frequencies, Atsuhiro occupies the lower depths. Then there’s the instrumentation itself, the “optron” played by Ito 1 and Tetuzi’s resonator (all-steel body) guitar played with a samurai sword, to get that doubled-up effect of metal on metal. This is not “minimal” music as regards the volume or the presence, which is full-on and extremely “solid”, producing a goodly chunk of impenetrable smoke in the listening parlour. But it is also extremely disciplined, the four musicians locking into a tight unit and keeping the intensity on an even keel, without wavering for a second. What great sailors they would make, pilots of an old-fashioned tea-clipper. There are no excessive gestures or unnecessary sounds, and the musical bundle is as watertight as a full-body protective suit made of epoxy resin. As far as Rock & Roll Societies go, this is one “smart set” where you’ll be glad you signed the membership papers and paid your monthly dues. As far as “satanic” goes, this record may not exhibit the same brand of theatrical horror that we get from Sunn O))) or Black Metal records, but it is still extremely – erm – affecting, both for the bodily and mental cavities. If we regard a satanic rite as something which requires intense concentration and never admits the possibility of a mistake in the procedure 2, then this record is a masterclass in the “dark arts”. Would ya believe this uncanny production, composed and produced by Tetuzi Akiyama, been boiling in the vaults since 2004? What hath befallen the world in the eight year interval leading up to its release?
One pundit on YouTube has dubbed it “Merzlight”.
This line of thought isn’t too far-fetched if you’re of the school of thought that ascribes the “Black Mass” to the perverted invention of late 19th-century decadents, who simply created an intellectual inversion of the Catholic liturgy.
And then we arrive at the oldest release of this trio by a horrible band name, but no doubt this is all intended to be funny. This was recorded already in 2004! A quartet of Japanese musicians: Tetuzi Akiyama (high frequency: resonator guitar with samurai sword), Naoaki Miyamoto (mid-high frequency: electric guitar), Utah Kawasaki (mid-low frequency: analog synthesizer) and Atsuhiro Ito (low frequency: optron). Some of these names may call for some expectations, I’d say, but these expectations might be all wrong. We have a single fifty two minute piece that gradually over the course of the piece goes down and down. But then it starts out quite loud and stays there for some time. No careful improvising here. This is all about making up a large wall of sound and then gradually breaking that sound down, tear it up, apart and all of that while trying to maintain that harsh level, and each player trying to stay within the given frequency range. It’s both an exercise in longitude as well as a demand to execute a certain piece of music through a handful of instructions. As said, this is something you wouldn’t hear that often from a player like Akiyama, as it’s loud and without the trademark acoustic guitar, but a very consistent disc it is.
Mafketelmuziek. Het Japanse viertal Tetuzi Akiyama (‘resonator guitar with samurai sword’), Naoaki Miyamoto (elektrische gitaar), Utah Kawasaki (analoge synthesizer) en Atsuhiro Ito (optron) maakt niet de patserige hardrockpastiche die je van zo’n naam verwacht, maar het sluit ook niet aan bij eerdere ervaringen met deze muzikanten, iets dat misschien te maken heeft met het feit dat deze opnames al dateren van 2004. Vooral gitarist Akiyama past in een traditie van Japanse gitaarmeesters als Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, Michio Kurihara en Makoto Kawabata. Je vindt op het net allerhande releases en clipjes van de man, gaande van John Fahey-achtige folkstukken voor akoestische gitaar, tot kromme bluesrock en vrije improvisatie. Deze ondoordringbare drone van vijftig minuten is echter nog heel andere koek. Van ritmisch gebeuk, massief gezeur en dof gebrom tot irritant gekraak: het is slechts bij momenten dat je een gitaar kan ontwaren in deze kolossale geluidsmuur, die bitter weinig licht toelaat en de luisteraar vooral wil versmachten. Best intrigerend, maar dit is spul dat je, net als de Moogsymfonie die Sunn O))) ooit speelde, eigenlijk live moet ondergaan, dat je ingewanden van plaats doet veranderen, bij de lurven grijpt en voor de volledige duur tegen de muur plamuurt. Zelfs met een koptelefoon op heb je voortdurend het gevoel dat je iets essentieels ontglipt.
One of the most fascinating turns of events in avant metal in recent years is the push towards ambiance. A circle has been drawn (perhaps not by any one person) from the 1960s of AMM and Black Sabbath and meeting again at the other end of the orbit with a wave of experimental metal bands (typified most exemplarily by the Spanish band Like Drone Razors Through Flesh Sphere) who retain the darkness and electric energy of metal while shedding the trappings of rock.
This may not have much to do with the Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society, a new sound art outfit comprised of Tetuzi Akiyama (resonator guitar with samauri sword), Naoki Miyamoto (electric guitar), Utah Kawasaki (analog synthesizer) and Atsuhiro Ito (optron). But it might, which is what makes it so interesting. If metal has been stripped of its blues-based foundations, leaving only energy and darkness, then we are left either trusting band names and logos to tell us what’s metal, or in the highly subjective position of trying to decide what makes music “black” (not the race, of course, but the perspective — cue Killswitch Engage track here).
Or it might be all be a joke, in which case none of this has much to do again with the Satanic Rock & Roll Society, who’s first album — Bloody Imagination — is 52 minutes of slowly undulating, mid- to high-range drone. All of the players save Akiyama are assigned frequency ranges with Ito’s optron (which uses fluorescent lights to source sounds) given the low end. It is, perhaps, almost tautological to say that it’s the guy playing light bulbs who keeps the music from being dark. His frequency rumbles dominate the disc with more a deus ex machina than a Deicide feel. It’s a disappointment if the title is merely ironic (as it seems to be), because these guys could have done some all-out outré blistering. Akiyama made tsunami waves several years back with his solo rhythm guitar excursions and Kawasaki could probably play some screaming slowed synth leads. That is all projection, of course, wishful thinking. They didn’t make that record, they made this one. But they made that record cover, so buyer beware.
What Bloody Imagination is is a dense piece of improvised sound with earsplitting highs and eardrum pounding lows that exists mostly in a single slab with variations primarily happening under the surface. While there are two guitars present (one electric, one acoustic), there is never a recognizable instrument sound; Akiyama and Miyamoto seem primarily to be playing feedback or using e-bows. There are prominent events (just before the halfway mark is something that sounds like the Psycho shower theme played on a weed-whacker), but for the most part the sound is too big to move and too thick to move through. At the same time and rather surprisingly, the disc easily stands up to three or four listens in a row. It’s a bit like an obelisk, unmissable, yet not asking for attention.
Pendant pas mal de temps, j’ai été très attiré par la japanoise et les musiques extrêmes japonaises. Depuis quelques années, je ne me suis concentré plus que sur ce qui s’y opposait, c’est-à-dire la scène onkyo. Je n’en pouvais plus des murs de sons et des performances basées uniquement sur le choc physique ou la provocation, il y a eu un moment où tout devenait gratuit et perdait du sens. Puis m’est arrivé ce disque, surprenant et nostalgique. Nostalgique car il me rappelait cette scène noise qui fut quand même foisonnante, et déterminante pour moi. Satanic Abandoned Rock&Roll, un quartet noise/drone fondé par le guitariste Tetuzi Akiyama, un quartet excellent, extrême, mais avec un sens de la musicalité et de la structure surprenant.
Quatre hommes, quatre instruments, quatre sortes de fréquence et quatre durées différentes. Le quartet est effectivement fondé avant tout sur quatre couche différentes, délimitées par la hauteur des fréquences. Tetuzi Akiyama aux fréquences extrêmes aiguës avec une guitare frottée par un sabre (“de samouraï”…), Naoki Miyamoto aux fréquences médiums aiguës avec une guitare électrique, Utah Kawasaki aux fréquences médiums basses avec un synthétiseur analogique, et Atsuhiro Ito aux fréquences extrêmes basses avec un “optron” (instrument de sa fabrication principalement composé d’un néon…).
En une longue plage de cinquante minutes, on n’entend que rarement les quatre musiciens jouer simultanément puisqu’ils s’octroient chacun une durée déterminée qui n’occupera toute la pièce pour personne. C’est seulement vers le milieu de la pièce que l’on a le plus de chance d’entendre un maximum de fréquences et de percevoir un mur d’une densité époustouflante. Ceci-dit, il ne s’agit pas non plus d’un climax, toute la pièce est jouée avec la même intensité hormis les premières (extrêmement graves) et les dernières minutes (extrêmement aiguës). Chaque seconde de cette longue plage linéaire -et ce malgré les ruptures individuelles – est jouée avec la même intensité que si le monde allait s’écrouler dans les minutes qui suivent. Un drone proche de la noise apocalyptique, solennel, et grave. Un drone où le temps semble s’écrouler au profit d’une durée psychologique interindividuelle, comme si plusieurs temps cohabitaient en un seul espace.
Bloody Imagination forme une lente plongée d’une intensité exceptionnelle dans les confins d’un marécage ensanglanté, une vision extatique d’un futur promis à la ruine et au massacre, un appel au secours désespéré. Satanic Abandoned Rock&Roll nous aura prévenu, il nous abandonne à une durée hors du temps, à une atemporalité qui baigne dans la saturation et la distorsion, mais sans être jamais chaotique. Car les fréquences se superposent de manière “claire et distincte” sans jamais s’entremêler, le mur de son est, de par sa clarté, sans appel. Le message est lancé. Attention.
C’est bon, vous pouvez maintenant oublier Les Rallizes Dénudés et autres Acid Mothers Temple, car voici le Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society. Guitares, synthés et processeurs, se livrent une bataille dérangée qu’a allumée une Bloody Imagination.
Les belligérants ont pour noms Tetuzi Akiyama (qui joue en plus de sa guitare de… l’épée de samouraï), Naoaki Miyamoto, Utah Kawasaki et Atsuhiro Ito. On ignore ce qui a mis le feu aux poudres mais après quelques coups de mitraillette, l’électricité claque et toute l’atmosphère tremble. Bienvenue dans un délire cosmique transcendantal où tous les sons sont permis (larsens, bruits de moteurs, sifflements, interjections, cris de douleurs, crachotteries en tous genres) et qui demande bientôt du renfort : vous, en l’occurrence, vous qui n’avez pas peur de grincer des dents ni des oreilles, lisez la vidéo de propagande ci-dessous (bien qu’elle mente un peu par sa douceur), et engagez-vous pour défendre une belle et noble cause, celle du satanic bordello!
Said Society consisting of Tetuzi Akiyama (high-frequecy-resonator guitar with samurai sword. heh), Naoaki Miyamoto (mid-high frequency-electric guitar), Utah Kawasaki (mid-low frequency-analog synth) and Atsuhiro Ito (low frequency-optron). One track, 52 1/2 minutes. It’s pretty much a layered hum. As indicated by the frequency distribution, it’s separated into four, fairly clear strata, high to low. some ways in, a two note bass figure appears, which is about as close to anything rock and roll that happens. If you can imagine the closing hum of a vigorous track by some particularly noisy band stretched out to this length, you wouldn’t be far off. It’s the kind of piece that doubtless would be far better served in a live setting, amidst the swirl of tones, where the listener is able to move at least his head, if not walk around. As is, it’s a fine slab of sound but one that I have trouble really plunging into. Not satanic enough, perhaps.
Det är en sort vi hört mycket av. Tetuzi Akiyama spelar gitarr – med samurajsvärd, vilket är ovanligt – Naoki Miyamoto spelar också gitarr, Utah Kawasaki lågfrekvent synt och Atsuhiro Ito lågfrekvent optron. Det är en märklig blandning av ohyvlade ljud och högteknologisk utrustning.
Musiken rullas fram, full av kvisthål, stickor och hål. Det gör ont överallt. Inte för att de väsnas för mycket, men de vrider och skaver, kommer av sig, väntar för länge, och låter sina instrument gå ut i ytterligheter. Störningar, oljud, misstag fogar sig samman till just den där svarta strömmen av ljud, som de flesta noisemusiker vill ha. Men här håller musikerna ljudnivån på låg- och mellan.
Den stora formen bryts av då och då. I de där brottytorna händer mycket intressant. De två gitarrerna skär, gnider och vrider musiken, ibland plågsamt. Plågsamma musikförsök är nog minnet av den här skivan.Samtidigt kan jag inte låta bli att känna en varm våg av skönhetslängtan skölja över mig. Det känns också oändligt mörkt, dystopiskt och dystert.
Så sataniskt djävulska är de väl inte, mer då ungefär som en fullfjädrad rockare som med ens tappar tron på sig själv och vill göra något annat. Kanske borde jag kalla den här musiken dekadent, nergången, sliten. Men om jag säger sliten måste jag reservera mig med att den spelades in 2004 och den där slitenheten i så fall lagt sig som en filt över musiken genom att så många andra uppträtt slitet i denna högteknologiska men reducerade musikstil.
Det finns flöde, det finns sammanhang och det är pepprat med konstnärligt intressanta tveksamheter för att den här skivan ska stå sig länge. Kom bara över det initiala motståndet. Och vi har en japansk minor classic. Fast det där samurajsvärdet fattade jag aldrig riktigt vad det hade med saken att göra. Måste varit något symboliskt jag inte hörde.
If Stanley Kubrick had known “Bloody Imagination” in 1968 he might have used it as a leitmotif for the appearances of the monolith in “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. And if we follow one of Margaret Stackhouse’s interpretations according to its meaning it could stand for the “incomprehensible, — man, with his limited senses, cannot comprehend the absence (perfect black) of color or light”.
“Bloody imagination” tries to transform this idea into music with this 52-minute sonic sculpture in which the four musicians (resonator guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama already produced this album in 2004, with Naoaki Miyamoto on mid-high frequency electric guitar, Utah Kawasaki on mid-low frequency analog synth, and Atsuhiro Ito on low frequency optron) put up layer after layer of extended frequencies with crass overtones and gloomy, penetrating sounds. It is an unsettling piece of work, pitch-black and mesmerizing, especially towards the end it is even hard to bear. The track starts with a deep buzzing which reminds you of a sputtering motor before high pitched whining, buzzing or hissing noise is added. There is something absolutely brutal in this strange beauty, in its bareness, in its naked sounds, like listening to a constant uproar in your guts and a tinnitus simultaneously. What makes it even more mysterious is the fact that there is no rhythm although there is a certain structure discernable.
But is this even a guitar album? Of course, since the day Keith Rowe has laid his guitar flat, decided to abandon traditional guitar techniques and prepared his instrument manipulating strings, pick-ups, toggle switches and volume/tone knobs turning it into a huge sound processor (according to the liner notes Akiyama uses a samurai sword with his guitar and I don’t want to know what he does with it). Or since SunnO))) have concentrated on pure atmosphere building up huge doom drones instead of using conventional forms.
This is definitely not for the faint of heart. But maybe for you, Paolo.
Dealing with varieties of sound arising from electronic interface poses aural challenges, especially when traditional instruments are also part of the mix. Brushing aside the need for familiar textures from, say, the violin and guitars used on these two discs, one can still appreciate the extended techniques finessed to blend with – or against – the massed electronics. Yet when the multiplied processing reaches its zenith – as it does several times on both CD – the welcome disintegration of the opaque sound mass may appear to be musical development.
The situation is somewhat easier to decipher on Bloody Imagination since the four Japanese players – who recorded this disc in 2004 – have chosen an ostensibly sardonic name for their quartet. The Satanic Abandoned Rock’n’Roll Society is the sort of name a band of ex-Teddy Boys who have recently converted to Black Metal would adopt. Tying all the sonic excesses of Metal, Industrial Rock and a soupçon of musique concrète together in one package the exposition of the single track appears as obdurate as a pyramid; a concrete-like sonic block that only occasionally let processed wave forms enter the picture. Considering the band is careful to assign frequencies from high to mid-high (sic) to low to each player, and in view of the fact that the sound-makers used are Tetuzi Akiyama’s resonator guitar with samurai sword; Naoaki Miyamoto’s electric guitar; Utah Kawasaki’s analog synthesizer and Atsuhiro Ito’s optron or piano hammer, the (joking?) idea may be to create a Hard Rock sound to end all Hard Rock sounds.
But here’s where the situation become complicated. Following this introduction, the quartet members, all of whom would end up being part of the almost noiseless, Tokyo-based On-kyo movement, begin varying their output with a reasonable facsimile of call-and-response. Besides textures that could have been sourced from the sputtering of an ancient automotive engine plus carburetor thumps, vibrating string slices – perhaps literally done with Akiyama’s sword – and replication of bass drum-like banging enter the mix, sharing space with swathes of pulsating drone – both higher and lower-pitched. Following the extended buzz of what in other circumstances would be a bass guitar note, jagged lead guitar-like flanges mark the climax of the upfront section as crunching reverberations continue sounding then blur and finally fade.