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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yoshitaka Azuma, Japan ***Reissued***

Yoshitaka Azuma - Moonlight of Asia. 1981 Nippon Columbia

Here's another one from the CD-R Revisit Project. This was sent in by MM a few years ago - at the same time as the Lalena album we just featured. But at least in this case I had it rated everywhere, with an entry in the main list. I'm just promoting it to a feature post.

"Moonlight of Asia" is an early all-instrumental work by future video game composer Azuma. Somewhat similar to same period Kitaro, and a precursor to what Motoi Sakuraba would accomplish later in the decade. He has other albums from this period ("Asian Wind", "Far From Asia"), which I'll guess to be in a similar vein. I was later advised that his other (3) albums are much more laid back and that "Moonlight of Asia" is the more progressive rock influenced of the bunch. Not to be overlooked is the fine analog synthesizer work - especially some of the fat Moog sequencer runs. A good one for fans of late 70s electronic music. Details for this artist in English are scarce.

***Reissued by Nippon Columbia April, 2013 ***

Priority: none

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hammerhead, USA

Hammerhead - Ingenius Crimes. 1974 private

Here's another find from the incomparable AC. I have no idea how he continues to find stuff no one else is aware of apparently. He introduces the album as thus: "First of all, yes, that is the actual spelling of the album title. Who knows why. Anyway, this oddity was apparently the work of a California based commune band, which is really all that seems to be known about it. The style here is very hard to describe, but my best attempt would be: jamming hippy rock and garage psych meets UK jazzy proto prog. Sounds weird? It is. There's lots of nice melodic sax and trippy flute, while the guitar hovers somewhere between jazz-tone and garage rock, with just a couple of fuzz outbursts to liven things up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vocals are wasted sounding and amateurish, and the recording quality is pretty weak. But the distant, echoey sound and overall strangeness sort of produce a haunting vibe at times, particularly on the side-long "Love, I Need You", which is definitely the highlight of the album. Unique, but very rough around the edges."

Not sure I can add much here, other than I found this title highly appealing. I think the low-budget nature of the recording, along with the flute and sax, give it an otherworldly cosmic edge. The fluttering flute, in particular, adds quite a bit of exoticism here when cross-pollinated with the low budget recording technique - almost like a Zambian or Nigerian fuzz rock band mixed with early 70's Ohr/Cosmic Couriers era Mythos. The strummed electric guitar reminded me of Rush's "Caress of Steel" - so there's an out of the blue reference. Perhaps too much sax for an underground recording such as this - sort of defies the mood. Definitely have to agree with the AC's unique reference.

I should also note that the album was never issued with a cover. The one above was added by a dealer who bought out the stack in the 1980s or 90s.

Priority: 3

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lalena (Rareinya), Japan

Lalena - s/t. 1982 Better Days / Nippon Columbia

This one came about via the CD-R Revisit project. This was originally sent to me by MM way back in the 2007/2008 time frame (speaking of MM, I just received a fresh batch of goodies from him - so more for all of us to look forward to!). What's most interesting about this, from a personal perspective anyway, is that I didn't have it rated anywhere (Gnosis, RYM, or even here on the CDRWL), OK, that's odd... Perhaps even stranger is that I'd never even heard the album yet! So this wasn't a revisit, but rather the first visit. How did that happen? The clue came to me while researching the album - and it turns out that RYM lists a CD for it from 2002. So I promptly moved it to a different stack.... and then I must have just filed it without a listen! Good grief, Tom... While I don't doubt the existence of the CD, finding details about it is proving to be a challenge. So at the very least, it appears the CD is rarer than the LP. With that - we introduce Lalena into the CDRWL (and ratings have already been applied where necessary).

Before getting into my own review, I found the following notes from ProgArchives Japanese music expert Damo, and he gives us some background on this mysterious group as published on a public chat board: "LALENA were originally formed as an amateurish college band in Kansai University (Osaka, Japan), and reborn as a progressive fusion one with recruiting Furukawa Brothers - Hatsuho (keyboards) and Nozomi (guitar) in early 1980s. In December 1981, LALENA recorded some material for their eponymous (and only one) album released in the following year, where Furukawa Brothers' splendid plays, especially Nozomi's guitar solo as a Holdsworth follower, could be much approved by Japanese progressive rock fans, but sadly soon after that they were disbanded without playing away from the suburbs of Osaka. Furukawa Brothers have been active as session musicians or a five-piece fusion project FURUKAWA KYODAI formed as a five-piece fusion project in 2002."

My own notes follow: Lalena starts promisingly enough in the Bi Kyo Ran / King Crimson "Red" genre, before tapping into more predictable light and slick fusion with soprano sax, cheap synthesizers, and thudding percussion. But the story doesn't end there fortunately and there are many killer guitar solos, as if David Torn stepped into the studio and laid it to waste. In other places, the choppy electronic piano drives the music forward in an exciting way. Brand X seems to be a major influence throughout as well. However, the album never strays too far from Cheeseville, ensuring its place in the hallowed halls of obscurity.

Priority: 3

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Inside Out, USA

Inside Out - Projection. 1981 Corbett

Another one from the batch that The AC sent me back in November (gasp!). Of all the albums sent to me, I heard this one as the most typical of the time and place. Solid jazz with a fusion undertone. A bit of classic 60s Miles / Coltrane mixed with some mid-late 70s Weather Report and even a little breezy tropical island styled fusion similar to Spyro Gyra. A very easy listen, and while maybe not a high priority reissue, something well worth hearing. Especially for deep divers of the genre. The AC adds further: "Yet another obscure late 70s/early 80s fusion album, from a Maryland based group. This time, the main ingredients are keys and melodic sax, as there's no guitar in sight here (save for some acoustic work on the final track). Both sides have a similar structure, with two light but pleasant fusion tracks sandwiching a longer, more intense progressive-tinged piece. These lengthier numbers are what really make the album, as they're much more complex and energetic, with some excellent synthesizer soloing. Worth seeking out for fans of the style."

Concerning the date: Gnosis, Discogs, and the AC say 1981. RYM has 1980. Don't own the LP myself... I'll put 1981 for now on consensus.

Priority: none

Friday, April 25, 2014

Venus, Germany

Venus - s/t. 1975 private.

Here's another one from the AC's last stash. Here's how he described the album to me: "If there's any album that needs to be "demystified", it's probably this one. The next time this thing pops up on eBay, it's probably going to be hyped as a fantastic, mystical, cosmic krautrock masterpiece that has been hidden from the world due to it's insane rarity, bla bla bla... You might actually think that's going to be the case after the first minute or so of the intro, but then... Total amateur-hour kids in the basement garage rock with absolutely no redeeming musical value whatsoever. Yuck. Most very rare albums actually stink, and there's no better example than this. Please note that the album cover is just plain white. That crude "volcano" type of drawing is actually the insert."

As stated by the AC, Venus is one of those super rare albums that was in the pages of one of the older Pokora books, and thus has everyone and their Grandmother looking under every stone for a copy. Starting out with female German narration like Ash Ra Tempel's Rosi or Gilles Zeitschiff, it would seem to be an auspicious beginning for this super obscure Krautrock release. This is followed by a rather straightforward hard rock track, but with some odd female vocals and psychedelic guitar soloing, and so not really that far from my Proto Progressive with Female Vocals list that I have on RYM. It's a pity she didn't stick with German, because the English vocals are heavily accented, and somewhat strained. As it goes it gets weaker.There's some boogie shuffle rock to endure and when they go into folk rock territory, it's time to look for shelter. All the same, I found the album oddly alluring, though by no means necessary for a reissue. Worth two listens at least.

Priority: none

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jackie King, USA

Jackie King - Skylight. 1978 The Texas Re-Cord Company

Now what says PROG like that cover, eh? One could pass hundreds of similar looking albums at your local Goodwill store - and all of them barely worth the 50 cents they are charging for them. Had this album come from a band named Le Savage Diabolique, and sported a HipGnosis styled cover, I guarantee you'd be paying upwards to $500 for it. Instead you get a cover of what looks like Goober Pyle performing for the Mount Pilot Ladies Auxiliary Fundraising event.

Of course, this is another amazing AC find. I'm not sure how he does it. I wouldn't even give this one a second look, much less forking over some dough to check out. Well - we're all glad he did! After hearing it, I bought one immediately. Probably paid more than I had to, but I wasn't chancing it, since absolutely no one knows what this is. There may still be a few copies out in the wilds. If you know where one is, I'd suggest you nail it quickly. Otherwise, this album is going to Landress-Hart territory in short order. You may recall that Landress-Hart was a $5 album - and not long after publishing it here - it started to fetch $400 or more. Still not quite sure how that happened... but I wasn't smart enough to secure one for myself. But this time I did just that. And the dealer I bought it from (photo above is that copy) called it Texas Bossa Nova. That's a pretty apt description actually.

If you don't feel like reading more, then let me give you the Cliff Notes version: Keywords: Cortex, Placebo. Wet your appetite did it?

Here is the AC's description, which is subdued and (I really appreciate this from him), not filled with hyperbole: "Jackie King is a jazz guitarist from San Antonio with an extensive history in the music industry, including stints with Shades of Joy (who did the infamous "El Topo" soundtrack) and Willie Nelson. But in the late 70s he was back in Texas and riding the fusion wave with this little-known outing on a small local label. Things start off in typical cruise ship lounge mode, with some added female vocals giving it a bit of Cortex-ish appeal at times. But then it gets a little weird, as we're treated to a couple of dreamlike, slow motion jazz-rock tracks with droning string synths, flute and sitar. Flip the disc over, and it's back aboard the Love Boat for a few minutes, before things turn strange again. "Twelve Signs" is a 10 minute excursion into deeper, darker waters, with wordless female vocals, flute and wah-wah guitar rattling off into space. It's almost like this was recorded 5 or 6 years earlier, when jazz-rock was still in its more experimental phase. A bit of a head-scratcher really, but an interesting one."

The whole review is absolutely spot on. This isn't an album for hardcore symphonic progressive rock freaks. Definitely has that late 70s French jazz funk fusion feel. I'm a nut for the first two Cortex releases - so the King album definitely scratches that itch.

The female vocals are performed by his wife, and she's really quite the looker. More info here about King, who has quite a reputation with insiders in the jazz world.

Of the last batch from The AC (starting with the Japanese Sun album), this album was my second favorite after the Jon & John, and perhaps just a smidge better than the Paradox.

Priority: 2

Monday, April 7, 2014

News: Subliminal Sounds to reissue Anna Själv Tredje this year (NOT!)

August 19, 2015: Apparently one of the members refuses to allow this to be reissued. Sigh.

As if the last two CD reissue announcements weren't enough, perhaps the most exciting one - for me anyway - is Subliminal Sounds' intent to reissue Anna Själv Tredje's one great album originally released on the superb cult label Silence.

I first saw this announcement via Wayside's e-mail update this morning. But I didn't find any corroborating evidence of the reissue - including from the label itself. However, this reissue has been confirmed and it will contain extra bonus material as well! In contrast to recent Subliminal Sounds reissues, it's our understanding that this will be reissued on CD (maybe LP too - not sure about that).

The main reason the announcements are being made ahead of time, is that there is suspicion a pirate label is about to reissue this one soon. So be sure to only buy the Subliminal Sounds version when it comes out (no date was given - but later this year is the word). Subliminal Sounds does things the right way - with artist involvement - so everyone please be patient and not rush to buy an illegal needle drop with info gathered on the internet.

This is one of my Priority 2's, so I'm really excited about this reissue. Our feature here. I've had this on LP since the early 90s (and will keep it to the end I think), so it's really great to hear about a pending CD reissue.

News: Fractal to reissue both Sonorhc albums!


And, as promised, here's the second CD package from Fractal. Again, like Heratius, this is one I had in the main list, that would have most certainly been picked up for a feature via the CD-R Revisit project. Sonorhc's (Chronos spelled backwards) first two albums were released 10 years apart (1972 and 1982 respectively). My recollection, contrary to the norm, is that the latter "Outrelande" is the stronger album by some margin. I haven't heard them in a long time though.

My notes for "Purf" (1972): "I've seen this album compared to Agitation Free, but it's far more unstructured than that might imply. Basically what we have here is some unhinged experimental avant psych. Closer to some of the loons on the Futura label like Mahogany Brain and Fille Qui Mousse than anything typically associated with the Krautrock tag. "Chronos" is much recommended, though, for those whose tastes run to the exotic and extreme."

The label, once again, comes through with a far more comprehensive summary: "Early 70’s, a group of musicians around Jean-François Gaël, André Chini, Philippe Gumplowicz, Pierre Buffenoir and Youval Micenmacher formed Sonorhc in 1971 near Paris. This discreet band had released only three albums in twenty years : « Purf » (LP-1972), « Outrelande » (LP-1982) et « K’an » (CD-1991). 2014, Fractal Records propose today the first official reissue of the two first albums in a beautiful remastered edition after more than forty and thirty years respectively (!) ; two rare albums, difficult to find and much sought after by collectors.
The musical world of Sonorhc is oriented to collective improvisation and the research of tones ; they create a sound full of invention, rich technically, made by many differents instruments which incorporated judiciously elements from the rock music, free-jazz, acid-psych, concrete, ethnic and experimental making them as one of the most atypical French Underground group, and seems somewhere more closer to the German “krautrock” bands like Between, Agitation Free, Deuter, Limbus 3, Dzyan or the UK group Third Ear Band. But as the most well-known French band Magma, Sonorhc owns their original and strange logo and shows a strong collective : Jean-François Gaël studied musical composition with Michel Puig, guitar with Roger Chaput, electro-acoustic music with Pierre Schaefer at the GRM, and had composed many movie soundtracks later. Pierre Buffenoir taught guitar at the Conservatoire d’Ivry. André Chini is composer of contemporary music in Sweden. Philippe Gumplowicz is a music teacher at the University of Evry and with the percussionist Youval Micenmacher had recorded the 1978’s album “Marron Dingue” with the band Arcane V (see the Nurse With Wound list).
The present edition “2 albums in 1” includes the first “Purf”, a pure jewel of the genre and this one, for example, could had been easily one of the landmark album of the legendary 70’s Futura Records “son” or “impro” series and “Purf” well worth alone the purchase of this disc (!!), plus the second “Outrelande” a compilation of tracks recorded from 1973 to 1982, and with for both their original cover.
To summarize these 74 minutes with Sonorhc, just 3 words as the American blog “Mutant Sounds” has wrote : “A Total Mindbomb”.
THIS IS A « MUST » HAVE !  CD limited edition 300 copies.

Jean-François Gaël : Guitare électrique, Basse, Flûte.
Pierre Buffenoir : Guitare électrique, Basse.
Philippe Gumplowicz : Guitare électrique, Guitare sèche, Trompette.
André Chini : Hautbois, Flûte.
Youval Micenmacher : Percussions.

- Album « Purf » : Remastered by Alexis Frenkel at Art & Son Studio, Paris July 2013.
- Album « Outrelande » : Remastered by Jean-François Gaël."

News: Heratius to come out on CD from Fractal

2014 was starting to look like a slow news year for CD reissues. But we have two announcements from the French label Fractal to report on (thanks Gal!). Fractal's musical tastes definitely run left of mine, but it's great to see them back in the reissue market.

I had Heratius in the main list, but never gave it a special feature. It would have been part of the CD-R revisit project had I gotten to it. Now I don't have to!

The first photo is the original LP (what a cover eh?) - and the second is the CD reissue cover.

My notes: "Spiritual successor to Fille Qui Mousse. Same kind of reckless anarchy in the studio. Spoken word, clarinet solos, piano, sustain fuzz guitar solos. Extremely deep underground music and VERY French. Have to possess an understanding of this style to truly appreciate. The AYAA label is another reference. Most albums on the do-it-yourself FLVM label aren't this experimental. Too out for me, but not unlistenable like some in the genre."

The label, of course, is far more enthusiastic - as they should be! "Double CD retrospective of this amazing « MYSTERIOUS » underground French band including 3 complete full albums : « Gwendolyne » (Heratius first album), « Les Boniments » (Heratius second album) & « L’après-midi chaud » (Armand Mirallès solo album) +  very rare & unreleased bonus material !!!

Booklet 16 pages, liner notes (Herarius-Armand Mirallès story) + rare photos. A superb remastered edition, it sounds fantastic !!!

- Album « Gwendolyne » :  Originally released on Frigico records F.L.V.M. (3004), 1978.
Armand Mirallès : Guitar, Vocal.
Florence Leroy : Special effets, Vocal, Percussions, Piano, Organ, Farfisa.
Robert Diaz : Vocal, Saxophones, Clarinets si bémol Kletzmer, Piano, Anachtayans, Tapes.
Recorded on a Revox A77 in Montpellier on 6,7,8 August 1978.

- Album « Les Boniments » : Unreleased & ultra rare second album !!
Armand Mirallès : Acoustic and electric guitar, Piano, Hammond organ, Special effets, Vocal.
Jérôme d'Aix d'Aubusson : Bass, Percussions, Chorus.
Martine-Hélène Aboucaya : Vocal on Track 13 (Disc1) : reading Baruch Spinoza "Ethics" extract.
Recorded in Avignon, Studio Free Son by François Riether in October 1979

- Album « L'après-midi chaud » : Complete version with 14 Tracks.
(Available also on Vinyl LP "Art Edition" : ref. Fractal 777).

Disc 1 & Disc 2 : Remastered by Alexis Frenkel at Art & Son Studio, Paris June 2013.

This edition is vey recommended for fans  of :  French 70's rock, Red Noise, Fille Qui Mousse, ZNR, Etron Fou Leloublanc, Rock In Opposition, Henry Cow, Faust, Residents, Gavin Bryars, French Poet : Dashiell Hedayat, Michel Bulteau, F.J. Ossang, Henri Chopin, The Desperate Bicycles, D.I.Y., Nurse With Wound "It's On The List !!", Joy Division, 80's Industrial Music, Liaisons Dangereuses, D.A.F., Pascal Comelade, Philippe Doray, Serge Gainsbourg..."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Svend Undseth, Norway

Svend Undseth - Grenseland. 1979 Nor-Disc/Polydor

We've got 8 more fine discoveries from The AC to report on, including one really-out-the-blue album that was my favorite of the remaining batch (priority 2) and I'm awaiting the LP to arrive any day now. "Grenseland" might be my second fave of these eight. After reporting on these, it will be back to the CD-R Revisit project - and I have a growing list there too.

Let's have The AC introduce the album: "Surprising, obscure solo effort from multi-instrumentalist and former member of progressive fusion greats Vanessa. Completely eschewing his former band's style, this is actually a dark, experimental effort that's pretty intriguing. Synths, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, sax, flute, percussion and wordless vocals create an eerie soundscape that at times recalls Lard Free. There's also one track in full band mode that almost sounds like Heldon meets Hawkwind. Overall though, this mostly reminds one of some of the darkest 70s/early 80s electronic progressive works. There seems to be some kind of "arctic" concept going on here a la Richard Pinhas' "Iceland", but the atmosphere actually strikes me as more "lost in a haunted Tibetan monastery", with the clanging percussion, creepy chanting/moaning voices, etc. Maybe a bit too abstract for some tastes, but I really like it!" 

And I concur wholeheartedly with the conclusion. I really like it too! It truly has an underground vibe, almost what you could expect from 1970 Germany or 1971 Sweden. Completely incongruous with the lighter fusion touch of Vanessa (who I also quite like). As is often the case with albums such as this, the experimentalism can sometimes overstay its welcome, but in general, Undseth does a fine job of keeping this within the rails.

Priority: 3