Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rising Sons 2

Masayuki Takayanagi & Kaoru Abe - Mass Projection [DIW, 1970]
If there ever was one record that drew me over the difficult edge that is Japanese free music, then it is this one. I first experienced this duo-onslaught on a sunday morning, barely awake when I dove into it, never wanting to go to sleep again when the experience was over. 1970 this was! I can still hardly believe that. Kaoru Abe was, apart from a legendary consumer of booze and pills, a notoriously difficult and egocentric character. One of those boys who knows he is a genius and lets everyone around him feel that he, and only he, is the man from which the essence emanates. He was also one of the greatest fire music players that ever walked the face of this earth. John Coltrane would probably have had an heart-attack if he would have listened to this musical tabula rasa.

One day, as he frequently did, Abe was practicing his sax delivery next to the river in Tokyo, just to test if he could over-blow the wind and other city and river noises. A skipper that passed on a boat called the police because he was thoroughly convinced that someone was being murdered on the riverbank. Milford Graves, the American free jazz drummer, invited to play with Abe's jazz group over in Japan, refused to play with him any longer after a few nights, because during concerts Abe always came and stood before his drum kit and taunted him with his noisy sax, finding that Graves thought too much of himself.

Masayuki Takayanagi, iconoclastic free guitar player and way too long around to be intimidated by this cheeky youngster, took on the challenge and they produced this duo set. I do not know if you can seriously mention the word jazz when speaking about this record. This is pure musical freedom, but I would be inclined to understand the jazz lovers who would not want to call this jazz.

Takayanagi tortures his guitar into an orgy of feedback like even Wolf Eyes would find difficult to match today and Abe, well I guess, that is Abe for you, pushes his sax to limits that were never even attempted later on. Only for the headstrong but also one of the most incredible musical adventures ever recorded on tape. They are the true brainwashers. Borbetomagus probably played this record until it no longer had any grooves, before they took their own act to the stage.

Masayuki Takayanagi - Action Direct [Kojima, 1985]
Abe died in 1979 of a ruptured stomach but Takayanagi continued to break boundaries until his death in 1991, although at times he also returned to his jazz roots with more conventional recordings (e.g. Lonely Woman, from 1982). I do not know whether he was privy to the fact that around the same time as this record was released, there was a terrorist group in France with the same name, though knowing his penchant for burning bridges and deliberately provoking the mainstream jazz world, I would be inclined to think he did. Anyway, this live recording was another one of his acts of pure sonic terrorism.

Improvised on table-top guitar this has seemingly more in common with the darkest horrors of Throbbing Gristle than it has any longer something to do with jazz at all. Consisting of three long pieces and employing, next to guitar, tapes and various electronics, it is at times a particularly creepy record. Death bells come resounding through the industrial debris and once you can hear a short voice sample that sounds a lot like one Adolf H., though it could
as easily be another authority figure of similar unpleasant beliefs. And exactly how he does it, I do not know, but there are moments on this record that he manages to make his guitar sound like a percussion instrument.

Again no easy listening at all, but who needs easy listening anyway?

[Note: If you want to find out more about Japanese free music and its socio-cultural context, try to get hold of The Wire issue 261, in which you can find an article by Alan Cummings ('Once upon a Time in Shinjuku') that was an immense inspiration for me to begin this series. Where would we be without The Wire?]

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