Hijokaidan - Emergency Stairway to Heaven [Cold Spring Records - 2015]
Legendary Japanese noise outfit, Hijokaidan, brings their brash, jazzy sound to Cold Spring for the first time to close out 2015. JOJO, Junko, Mikawa, and Futoshi Okano are all in top form on this 4 track, limited 12" studio release. Along side of this onslaught are two, long CD live tracks. Put on your dancin' shoes and groove, but be forewarned, this isn't your grandfather's jazz! On the whole, it may seem ill advised to call Hijokaidan's brand of noisy improv, "jazz." However, when examined from a further distance, the moniker is quite apt. Raucous drums, out there electric guitars, ecstatic electronics, and Junko's torturous, distressed horn-like vocals fall into place and establish a solid slab of harsh free jazz. Being one of the originators of the Japanese noise scene allows Hijokaidan to create whatever type of noise they want without being pigeonholed as many of the newer acts have been. This freedom allows them to pursue creatively the avenues desired, and a more compelling recording comes out of this. The four studio tracks on Emergency Stairway to Heaven run the gamut from spacy and distant, to noisy and frenetic. Whether it's a battle of noisy guitars and chaotic drumming over a low, crunchy electronic growl or blasted out, delayed guitars, shooting star drums, and high pitched squeaks and vocal wails, Hijokaidan feel very comfortable. A lot of times, instrumental improv feels awkward and forced into a "weird for the sake of weird" state. The ability of the members keeps Emergency Stairway to Heaven grounded, and the freeness played feels very natural and organic. Most tracks are slow to start, but reach their fevered pitch with ease, so there's a little something for almost all noise fans on this release.
If four raucous noisy jazz tracks weren't enough, the bonus CD has two long (27 and 40 mins) live recordings from 2014. Louder, and more boisterous than the studio tracks, the live assaults capture a performance group firing on all cylinders and bringing an awesomely vicious show to the audience. Mikawa's electronics seem to be more a part of the live action, and I feel their recordings benefit greatly from this.
Cold Spring's release of Hijokaidan's Emergency Stairway to Heaven captures almost two hours of one of Japan's oldest noise performance groups. Shifting from noisy jazz to jazzy noise may not seem too wild on paper, but the audio makes it very clear. While I doubt this is what Gene Simmons was talking about when he sang, "I Love It Loud," it's definitely what I have in mind. This is a fantastic release, and it's limited, so snap it up while you can.Paul Casey