Recorded at a variety of stops on the tour — Musica Japonica and Always Osaka in Osaka, Tokuzo in Nogoya, Helluva Lounge in Kobe — Japanese New Music Festival Japan Tour 2022 captures the trio of Atsushi Tsuyama (bass, guitar, piano), Tatsuya Yoshida (drums, synth, vocals) and Kawabata Makoto (guitar, synth, vocals) in various configurations as they dive into compositions from their collective projects together: Acid Mothers Temple SWR (all three), Ruins (here, Yoshida solo), Shlimp Warc (Yoshida-Kawabata), Zoffy (Tsuyama-Kawabata), Seikazoku (all three), Zubi Zuva X (all three) and Akaten (Tsuyama-Yoshida). (NB: That may not be a complete listing, but it is close.)
The result is spasmodically and beautifully energetic. It is a kaleidoscope of psychedelic noise and Hadron-synth collisions and sweet off-kilter love songs. It runs the gamut from 70's-inflected free rock to Middle Eastern-inspired jams to silly little ditties such as Wine, which might actually be a legit on-stage toast refracted through some processing. It is a smorgasbord, a little taste of everything, though what is included in everything are the choice cuts that Tsuyama, Yoshida and Kawabata have plumbed and perfected over the years.
Amidist the wide-ranging hypnotic loops, experiments in frayed phasing, ruffled folk ballads and all out freak-outs are a few standouts. The second track, "Kansaidenkihoannkyoukai", for instance, hits me viscerally and nostalgically, bringing to mind a Locust/Boredoms mix-tape I had in high school that blew my pubescent mind. Although it would be impossible to capture the wide-eyed excitement of blasting that out of my third-hand mid-1990s Ford Taurus tape deck, this one still sends my heart racing. A later track, "Parallel Action", revisits some of this territory, with a little less hardcore and more squally digressions. "I'm Not Sooooh! Baaad!" is an earworm and sounds surprisingly unaffected, given the embellishments that categorize much of the album. "Let's Zeppelin' 2022" is a riotous romp through Robert Plant-styled shrieks that is as much genuine homage as it is a gruff but electric deconstruction. Much of the rest of the album vacillates similarly between rock-forward pieces (think Ruins), frayed phasing motifs, horror movie electronics, offset Japanesque (to use a title) ballads and spacey AMT-styled breakdowns.
Many bands seem to wear their disparate stylistic influences as a badge of honor, maybe a signal that they are open-minded or doing something new. Too often, however, these projects sound like sonic mishmash for its own sake. Tsuyama, Yoshida and Kawabata, however, have been around for a while, now, pioneering what superficially seems a kitchen-sink approach but in reality is quite cleverly curated. As Japanese New Music Festival shows, these artists pull the right sounds at the right times, still retaining some of that shock-value but never leaving the listener to question the utility of a given piece or melody or digression. In the hands of these pioneers of Japanese free-psychedelia and avant-rock, it just works.
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