Vajra - Mandala Cat Last [PSF - 2002]I thought I could never get around reviewing this album. A bit as if it was beyond my reach... But a couple of hours ago, I really don’t know why, I felt I had to do it. It was just something that had to be done. For this album shouldn’t be left to the sole appreciation of Keiji Haino or Kan Mikami’s fans. It deserves to be exposed to a much wider crowd.
Vajra is the project that unites Keiji Haino, the legendary Japanese guitarist, Kan Mikami, the not less legendary Japanese folk singer, and drummer Toshiaki Ishizuka (Zuno Keisatsu). Together, they play improv music of the most powerful and enthralling kind.
What is really remarkable is that the three musicians seem to play whatever they want, without caring about what the other’s are playing. A bit like tying up three lizards together and watching them try to run away in different direction, without, of course, being able to go far. Well, actually Vajra do go very far... Like the lizards, they are tied together, but it doesn’t seem to prevent them from reaching the best hidden parts of their own subconscious. And after a few moments of bedazzlement, you understand... well, understand is the not the word... it’s more like seeing what surrounds you after having been kept under a blanket... yes, you see that it all fits, it all makes sense. The sort of conflict between the noisy and harsh and discordant and eerie and and and and and and sounds of Haino’s guitar and Mikami’s rhythm guitar trying to create some sort of sense of direction and Ishizuka’s drums trying to shatter everything into pieces by taking some dangerous routes. This conflict is actually not a conflict, it is some sort of greater love, of greater achievement, somewhere where the hearts wander on very special occasions. Somewhere very mysterious, mystique, cryptic... Somewhere beautiful, so beautiful that it makes you want to cry. “You wanted to see beauty, eh? Well, here is beauty... But better be warned: it isn’t pretty”. And what would be the music, what would be that place without Kan Mikami’s voice? Probably nothing... The most passionate voice I’ve ever heard, ardent, soulful oh so soulful, mysterious once more... It is almost as if it had been there forever. A voice that is millions and millions of years old. And when Haino sings with Mikami it is almost as if the world was crumbling under your feet. A feeling of timelessness, not as in “it will be as good in 20 years” but as if the time stopped and there was nothing but you and the music and Kan and Keiji and Toshiaki. This is particularly true on Mandala TOOT(H), a cappella mantra from the sounds made by Minami and Haino’s throats and the strange devices that make of the vibrations in there such fascinating voices. Playing wounded – for Musashi is the last track and you can hear it: a couple of sentences sung by Mikami, a few piano notes, a little bit of acoustic guitars, sparse drums sounds and a lot of place left for silence. It’s the sounds of a surreal experience coming to an end. And then no more sounds and then you’re speechless and then you cry and you cry and you cry and you cry and you cry because the few seconds that it takes to press play once more seems like eternity. François Monti