Album Review

Ongaku 90: Underground Music From Japan [coll] – [Hiruko Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   12-inch, A Library

Holy Tokyo flashback, Batman. “Ongaku” == music in Kanji.
KFJC definitely had a solid connection to the Japanese
underground in the 1990’s, and this impressive collection
shows the breadth of sound going on back then. In part,
this is a holy God Mountain flashback, as E*Trance and
Demi Semi Quaver show up with tracks KFJC has thanks to
fine fancy work of Hoppy Kamiyama ran that label. If you
have never encountered the hi-powered, hijinx of Emi
Eleonola (her vocals can fry you like Magma on meth) have
fun here with the album closer. E*Trance has a killer
operatic collage that works into a driving rock number
(with a kinda 80’s guitar solo). Ghost’s “Moungod Te Deum”
is reprised here as well, organic forest psyche, that
could have gone on longer, deeper, greener. As impressive as
the variety here is, it’s also remarkable (and a little sad)
that we don’t have some of these artists in KFJC’s library
at all. Phew, her gasping punk vocals over a pummelling
beat on “Being.” Jun Miyake has that cool mutated trumpet
kinda reminscent of Toshinori Kondo, but it’s tucked behind
a sort of taiko procession. Idiot O’Clock apparently only
had one full release (on the mighty Alchemy label) the
leadoff track from that is here wth a swinging side to side
rock number that recalls Japan’s Stars and adds in some
hovering organ to the groove. That track “Shinzu” is also
known as “X Runner From the Way.” Idiot O’Clock evolved
(or is it devolved?) into the Japanese skiffle band
Maher Shalal Hash Baz. Takako Minekawa surprised with a
beat bouncer, where despite the “Cloud Ships” title it
feels more grounded in a PacMan DanceOff. Riyuichi Sakamoto
provides a slice of Beauty, Arto Lindsay fans take note.
The Gerogerigegege provide a work in progress, that recalls
a Japanese Kathy McGinty versus a heavy breathing salariman.
Is it a love story? And lastly “Magic V” by a band that
might translate as “Not Lost Person” and thanks to this
comp, that is true. Listen to ’em all to (re)find yer fave!

-Thurston Hunger

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