Monday, November 23, 2009

Keiji Haino ( 灰野敬二 ) + Fushitsusha ( 不失者 ) + Lost Aaraaff - Soul's True Love (1995)

| Avant-Garde | Experimental | Noise | Drone | Ambient
| Musique Concrète | Rock | Free-Jazz | Electronic |

This is quite a revelation: a 4-CD box set from 1995 chronicling the first decade of Keiji Haino’s career: from Lost Aaraaff in 1971 on through solo home recordings and eventually to the birth of an early version of Fushitsusha near the end of that decade.

Disc one contains 58 minutes of music featuring two long tracks of live mayhem from Keiji Haino’s very first group, the free-jazz-inspired Lost Aaraaff. The vocals / keyboards / drums approach here is very similar to their lone effort reissued by PSF, just way more lo-fi and obviously recorded live in front of a festival audience, as a few screams, shouts and catcalls are flung back toward the stage by the restless mob. But it’s no match for the hyperactive haunt-screech of Lost Aaraaff, as the trio offer their skittering, drifting, exploding, spontaneous wares to the Gods of cacophony. And the clouds nod in approval—never mind the audience.

Disc two is a solo Haino affair called Suite Reverberation that contains 12 tracks and 55 minutes of very personal, endearing, lo-fidelity bedroom sound. A very short spate of harmonica backed by indeterminate clacking and rustling sounds with mega tape hiss opens the disc; while a solemn organ punctuated by lots of silence and periodically accompanied by unknown high-pitched squeals takes up track two. On three, held horn notes hover with unknown string plucks. Appearing next is 47 seconds of solo, unaccompanied, incredibly high-pitched screams and screeches that could easily disturb, oh, just about anyone. Track five is largely comprised of motor-on-violin screech-torture with a lot of nice, muffled tube-humming. A long patch of mangled, sped-up tape chaos with fuzzy, mumbled vocals and a sheet of trebly noise make up track six. Seven is just a very short electric drone. A melodic recorder pipes a curious little tune on eight, as nine unveils simple, rhythmic plucking on acoustic string instruments. A long piece of improvised cello torture is featured on 10, as track 11 sports a lengthy array of mysterious, springing, tapping, rattling and muffled sounds. The disc is closed out with some dry, muffled knocks with subtle surface hiss. Confounding.

Haino goes it alone again on disc three, which is aptly called Forest Of Spirits and contains four long tracks and 73 minutes of simple, hypnotic music. Fading the disc in is a massive billow of supreme static-wash (that sounds a lot like the “before-the-music-starts” part of a million old, scratchy records playing at the same time) with hordes of distant, whistling ghostvoices—the perfectsoundtrack for your next graveyard camp-out. Track two is a lengthy dose of heavily reverbed violin screech, while three is filled with a similar feel of lonely horn calls ’n’ cries from the edge of a dead continent. Finishing the CD is a bristling, splintered cracker-grate of spackled noise electronics with infinite, chugging, low-end doze—punching the clock at nearly a half-hour-long and predating Merzbow by at least several years. Amazing.

The fourth and final disc documents the birth of Fushitsusha circa 1978, with four tracks and 68 minutes of early efforts. Amid some really prominent tape hiss, a flail of piercing guitar feedback, which is not nearly as dense as modern-day Fushitsusha, opens the disc, followed by a moment of dry strum then another splooge of spastic, rubbing, beating guitar molesting with squealing feedback all over; plus some vague percussion clatter in the background. This all ends abruptly as a more empty area of stomps, knocks and slight percussion takes over with spare, quirky guitar tangles. A momentary baby cry can also be heard way in the background—suggesting this was probably a live performance. On the second track, a skirmish of unknown scraping with rattling percussion precedes a sudden vocal explosion of hyperventillating, monkey-like screams. A very quiet, intense atmosphere is interrupted by a smack, followed by more moaning and screeching, as if Haino were being punished by the gods of eardrums.

Closing out these attacks and retreats are more incredibly hyperventillating screams, which seamlessly meld into an ultra-thick garble-field. Track three is mostly composed of some sort of strange, skittering, electronic sounds with panning noise blasts and soft vocals which segue into a gnarled collection of cries and screams. This then gives way to another helpin’ of electric guitar—first some simple string hits with piercing, squealing feedback, then a long series of held, sour notes interspersed with lots of clangorous mangling that sounds like an early version of a track from Watashi Dake? The electronic swirl reappears intermittently with some rudimentary drumming. Completing the CD is a real surprise treat: a suite of three mild, soothing songs with pleasantly strummed guitar and distant apparition singing, all backed by the most spare, primitive drum-splack you could imagine. This is the differentest Fushitsusha you’ve never heard.

Upon first holding this box in my hands, I was hoping to find a huge booklet of vintage photos and maybe even some English notes inside detailing Keiji Haino’s lost history. But upon opening it, I’m sorry to say, I found nothing of the sort–just four jewel cases, all with a black booklet sporting the same grey circle on the front, but each with a different three-panel fold-out photo of Keiji Haino in recent live performance. The photo inside disc two, Suite Reverberation, is by far the best–a close-up, toe-to-scalp shot of Haino playing guitar, head back, eyes closed in other-universe bliss–and should’ve actually been on the front of the box.

Unfortunately, details on the music in this set are very scant, containing just a blurb from the label explaining that these recordings spanned from Lost Aaraaff in 1971 to just before Haino’s first solo album Watashi Dake? in 1981. Only track titles are featured on these booklets and the only info on the box is all in Japanese printed on a small ribbon.

Catalog: Purple Trap (PT001-004)
Album Overview on Arcane Candy
Keiji Haino on
Fushitsusha on
Lost Aaraaff on

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