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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Various Artists - Hear Japanese, See Japanese, Say Japanese [Dotsmark - 2007]

The last time I came across a collection of this caliber, it was the Susan Lawly compilation Extreme Music from Japan, which (along with the amazing Dry Lungs albums) introduced me to pretty much every major Japanese noise artist of note: Merzbow, Masonna, Hanatarash, Gerogerigegege, Incapacitants, Government Alpha, Hijokaidan  none of whom, I should add, are on this disc.

And for good reason. It’s been fifteen years or more since those collections were curated, and so a collection like this does an excellent job of filling us in on what’s been going on in the far corners of Japan’s experimental music scene. The short answer: a lot. For every imitation of the old blow-the-P.A. total-noise style, there’s at least one other step in a more creative direction. And if you like just having your hearing blown, well, knock yourself out, good sir.

The appropriately-named Destructionisties open up with a live assault on what sounds like an audience of three a thoroughly ruinous and shearing attack that sounds like Hijokaidan in their prime. From there Groyxo smack us twice with a cut-up splatter that reminds me of the stupefying Hantarash / Evil Moisture collaboration Fatanarchy on Airtube. In a similarly cut-up vein, but far more sedate, Variations of Sex mix a bunch of plundered recordings (including, incredibly, The Doors Break On Through To The Other Side ) into a reverberated morass of incomprehensibility. The weakest track on the disc, and it’s still interesting.

The two tracks from Masked Diode are remarkably dissimilar. The first (Footsteps of Misfortune) overlays samples (sirens, and in what I take to be a referential gag the same rocket launch countdown that opened the Gerogerigegege’s Violence Onanie) on top of a bed of slow electronic pulses and roaring, Dissecting Table-like screams. The second (Lying in a Rice Field) swaps out the samples for roaring noise and feedback, but keeps the raging voicebox. Another interesting voice experiment, Shikaku’s Yugure begins with a murmuring narration and then segues into a furious spectrum of feedback and roaring-wind noises.

Eros Plus Massacre (so named for one of Japan’s rarest and most controversial movies) veer closer to space music than almost anything else, but this isn’t Windham Hill; it’s closer to the kind of foreboding stuff you’d hear on the old Sound of Pig label. Pezika just go for the old overloaded-microphone technique and produce something that sounds like an early draft of Masonna’s records minus the slam-bang editing. Suspect’s Damage Is Done (allegedly a meditation on Marc Dutroux and his crimes) sounds like the intro to a grindcore album, with pitch-shifted vocals somewhere in the mix under a bed of grumbling, guitar-like noises and a buncha whoopin ‘n’ hollering stuff on top. The Cookie Monster vocals make an encore on Amnesia-Channel’s Disappearance Operation, and make you wonder if people really do have that much air in their lungs or if you’re hearing something that only sounds like a severely deranged human voice, or whether or not such questions are entirely academic when you’re getting your skin torn off.

Paipan Angel contribute easily the strangest track of the bunch, a mix of TV and radio tapes, burbles, screams, feedback, whispers processed through a guitar pedal, and what sounds like swear to god  a snippet from Legend of the Overfiend. Bloody Letter’s Reminiscence sounds at first like it wandered in from the wrong record a beautiful ambient synth meandering but then we’re ambushed outta nowhere in the best Excrete Music-era Violent Onsen Geisha tradition, and soon the track turns into a vicious tug-of-war between the two extremes. And to cap the whole thing off, Direct Lightning Stroke contribute a short video stuffed onto a data partition of the CD that collages together a bunch of race car crashes on top of a bed of squalling noise. Prank: give this disc to some poor schlub who has an older CD player that doesn’t know the DATA from the AUDIO tracks and watch his speakers catch fire.

To borrow a punchline from an episode of Animaniacs: The Audience Is Now Deaf. And sporting broad grins that show all their smashed teeth.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Serdar Yegulalp
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