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Monday, December 13, 2010

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai, Japan *** Reissued ***

*** Reissued by Think Oct. 2011 ***

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai - s/t. 1971 Toshiba.

In the 5th grade, I learned of the term foreshadowing as a literary technique. So I rewrote a somewhat recent review I had of Yokota's "Beat Generation" and placed it on UMR. Did you guess what I would post today, after I wrote the teaser yesterday? Of course no one actually reads my blogs on a daily basis, but I had fun with it anyway...

But I do think it's worth reading, just to give some slight background on Yokota himself.

Well... here it is. An album only whispered by a few in the know. I'm not in the know of course, but I heard this guy talking once at the barber shop about this Japanese flautist... Yesterday, I spoke of Heavyrock's amazing collection. This isn't one he owns. He had to buy a CD-R transfer from a Japanese dealer who was keeping it closely guarded. And it wasn't cheap. And this from someone he buys a lot from! But since the original sells for a few thousand, what are you going to do? Don't believe me? Well consider that a below average condition copy of "Flute Adventure" recently went for $1600 - and that's commonplace compared to this.

I believe Genshi Kyodotai means Primitive Community, but I'm not 100% sure. (And thanks to Nobuhisa and Rob for confirming it!), And, as Rob asserts, the cover displays "Primitive Community" predominantly, so perhaps that really is the title of the album, not the Japanese variation.

There's scant info on the Internet, but I did find a Japanese page (with an English translation) and it's from there I learned of the band members. Most prominent is Yokota's constant electric guitar companion - Kimio Mizutani. Just the mere mention of Mizutani usually has heads like me scrambling for a listen. There's also a track listing... and it's all originals save one cover - a Beatles instrumental called 'Flying' from their Magical Mystery Tour album. The Beatles, of course, were not known for their instrumentals. A full dissertation on this song can be found here. It's important to note that there are almost no covers, as Yokota had a few pay-the-bills albums like "Exciting Flute" and "Young Young Flute" that are nothing but jazz flute renditions of Bacharach, Simon and Garfunkel, Blood Sweat & Tears, ad nauseum.

So now it's time to pull back the curtain, and display the contents....

I feel like I'm in a Steve Berry novel here...

"Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai" is at the meeting place of jazz and rock. That exciting time at the turn of the 1970 decade, long before what is commonly referred to as fusion, when the ambition of free jazz met with rock's exciting psychedelic nature. It wasn't important to display Berklee-trained chops, but rather it was about texture, atmosphere and creativity at its most radical. But fortunately it stops short of free jazz's reckless abandon - that point where it's just noise for the sake of noise. There is meaning to every note, instrument and pattern. As well, we get a peek-through-the-bushes look at a Japanese sacrificial ritual as described by the tribal drumming, Hammond organ shards, wordless monk chanting, Yokota's flute and Mizutani's acid fuzz guitar blazing a wah wah trail all to be one with Kami. And that's before we get to the Hare Krishna chorus. An album like this becomes mythical because it is mystical. It's in the same league of sixth dimensioners like Älgarnas Trädgård's "Framtiden Är Ett Svävande Skepp, Förankrat I Forntiden", Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho's "Paêbirú" or Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun". If Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser had heard this band, they would have been signed to the Ohr label on the spot.

This album perfectly fits my idea of a "freaky underground album". No, it's not the greatest album of all time. Or even close. But it is the kind that you want to listen to over and over. Because it's fascinating and exhilarating. And for that, I grant it a:

Priority: 1

(we have another gem tomorrow, but it's a bit anti-climatic compared to this)

As Rob points out in the comments, there's a full 18 minutes (nearly half the album!) you can hear of this over on YouTube (with a much better photo of the album). And through the wonders of modern technology I was able to create the album photo from the video. Thanks Rob!



Rob said...

Tom, this is just absolutely freaky. Guess what I also just received a little while ago on CD-R from a big-time collector friend of mine? Yeah, you guessed it. I was actually just going to offer to share this with you. What are the odds?!?! Probably just like you, I've been spinning this thing over and over and over again, basically nonstop. When I first heard that moment at around 1:30 in "Harikrishna" when the fuzz-guitars, ripping organ and pounding drums all kick in my head almost exploded. This is like every overhyped "heavy psych" record dealer's hyperbole come to glorious reality, for once. And then the whole rest of the album just kills, too. What a mind-blower. All of that "african tribal psych" hype that the Akira Ishikawa "Uganda" album received should have been reserved for this one instead. Anyway, believe it or not my friend actually owns an original of this, which we believe is the only copy in existence outside of Japan. I follow Japanese auctions and dealer lists pretty closely, and I can confirm that the last couple sales of these over there went for between $2500-$3000. This is the kind of album that keeps Hans Pokora up at night in a cold sweat.

By the way, the real album name should probably be "Toshiaki Yokota and Primitive Community - Primitive Community". Most of the text on the LP is in English, and Genshikyoudoutai (which is the more proper romanization) does indeed just mean primitive community, as you surmised. I have a couple of (slightly) better cover images I'll mail you. But, the best image is actually to be found on youtube, where a (presumably) Japanese individual who owns the LP actually posted a couple of tracks over a year ago! Maybe you can add theses links to the album review, so people can see it and get to hear how awesome this stuff is:


nnknsh said...

Yes, Genshi Kyodotai means Primitive Community.

Genshi = Primitive
Kyodotai = Community

Yokota have an official site (in English too).


Probably you've picked up the credit information from there ?

The youtube files Rob mentioned are uploaded by Yokota. There's a link from the video section of his site, and also noted on the profile of the poster fuefukijp

I've seen this on an auction site only once, and that one wen't as JPY 230,000 (approx U$2,800-).
I've also seen a record shop ad that they buy this at JPY 200,000-! (so how much they are going to sell it ???!!!)

Tom said...

Thanks Rob and Nobuhisa for the comments.

Uganda - LOL. That's a great example of dealer hype. I guess if they truly liked it, it's not hype, but somehow I doubt it.

But yes, this one earned its mythical status. I love stuff like this. Here we are at the bottom of mine shaft, and there's still gold! Let's keep digging!

vansloo0 said...

Just acquired this album based on a CD-R I got from a Japanese dealer. A superb record! One of the best I have in my entire collection.

vansloo0 said...

Just acquired this album based on a review CD-R I got from a dealer in Tokyo. This album is incredible in every way. You just keep listening to it. Definately one of the very best in my entire collection!