Toshi Ichiyanagi – an avant-garde composer and pianist who studied under John Cage (and was also once married to Yoko Ono), and is quite a legend in Japan. Although earlier performances of his works had been recorded, the first album I know of that he appears on is ‘Yabunirami-No Concert’ [Salon de Coco, 1966]. The various artists LP ‘Experimental Music of Japan’ [Victor, 1967] featured one track by Ichiyanagi, employing sparse treated instruments with the ordered chaos sound of minimal free-improvisation, but most likely composed in some sense. ‘Orchestral Space – At Nissin Theatre – Volume 1’ [Victor, 1968] was a various artists double-LP that featured a piece written four years earlier for orchestra and tape recorder, on one side, as well as works by Joji Yuasa, Toru Takemitsu [see below] and Yuji Takahashi.

He composed, and performed [some of], the music in 1969 for ‘Opera From the Works of Tadanori Yokoo’ [The End, 1970], a double-LP [with picture discs, no less!] that came in a lavish box with reproductions of some of Yokoo’s paintings inside, as well as the cover being a Yokoo painting. It’s a very varied and experimental album, featuring lots of avant-garde collage work and musique concrete that’s hard to describe, odd Japanese theatre and pop, Japanese ballads, and a side-and-a-bit of The Flowers [when they were about to become Flower Travellin’ Band - see above] jamming in a free and freaked style. This rare album has recently been reissued on Bridge as a deluxe 4-CD set [1 LP side per CD – no bonus material – especially irritating because it could all have fitted on one CD], complete with a small Japanese-text hardcover book of interviews and other information, as well as the art inserts included originally, all in a lavish hard box designed by Yokoo. Unfortunately the CD’s have been taken directly from vinyl [not anywhere near mint condition either, by the sound of it] and have not been cleaned up. And, it’s terribly expensive – all of these things adding up to the impression that this is only a worthwhile purchase if you’re a fanatical collector, who can read Japanese and has money to burn. Fortunately I was able to hear it due to knowing someone who fits that description [except for reading Japanese]! In Hans Pokora’s ‘4001 Record Collector Dreams’, this album is listed as by Flowers & Others.

Around this time Ichiyanagi did a split single/EP with Apryl Fool [see above], ‘Eros + Massacre’ [Columbia, 1970]. The a-side is Ichiyanagi playing prepared piano and shakuhachi; the b-side is Apryl Fool playing a Hiro Yanagida composition that reputedly hints towards Yanagida’s first solo album.

Ichiyanagi later collaborated with Takehisa Kosugi [see below] and percussionist Michael Ranta for ‘Improvisation Sep. 1975’ [Iskra, 1975],which has been reissued on vinyl but is probably out of print. It’s an excellent out-there live jam that sounds like a blend of Group Ongaku, Taj Mahal Travellers and East Bionic Symphonia. He made several other albums that I know of – ‘Music For Living Process/Cho-Etsu’ [Victor, 1976] with Maki Ishii, ‘Transformation of Piano’ [Denon, 1976, ‘Portable Exhibition TAKA’ (with Yuichi Inoue and Shouhei O’oka) [private press, 1982; art gallery release including a book of calligraphic art by Inoue & O’oka] and ‘Cosmos of Toshi Ichiyanagi’ [Camerata, 1988]. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 5’ [Omega Point, 2007] collects three 60’s works by Ichiyanagi – ‘Music For Tinguely’, ‘Appearance’ [featuring John Cage and David Tudor] and ‘Music For Living Space’.

 

Akira Ifukube – a soundtrack musician. ‘Battle In Outer Space’ [Toho, 1978] has been broadly described on EBay as ‘prog psych’ and contains incidental music from the film. The cover looks like it would be a synth album (I haven’t heard it).

 

Masaru Imada – a jazz keyboardist who seems to be quite a famous player in Japan, but I’ve been unable to find anything about him in English, even a discography. He’s released many albums up to the present day, but only some are available on CD and I have been unable to figure out their original release dates. Anyway, the album ‘Green Caterpillar’ [Three Blind Mice, 1975], released as by Masaru Imada Trio +2, is the only one I’ve heard and may be of interest to some readers. Featuring famous guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, it contains four long tracks of instrumental jazz rock, somewhere between mid-60’s Miles Davis, ‘Free Action’-period Wolfgang Dauner and mid-70’s Soft Machine. It was reissued on CD by Three Blind Mice, but is out of print.

 

Yasuo Inada & Bemi Family – Inada is a keyboardist, and with other musicians to make up the ‘Bemi Family’ he released the unusual album ‘Kankaku-Shikou’ [Tam, 1973 or 1974]. The album covers lots of territory and is hard to sum up, but at various times it contains spacey solo piano & synth, the occasional classical piano recital, cosmic progressive rock, semi-freeform sections, and some composed funky, cheesy synth-rock. Instruments are mainly piano, electric keyboards, synths and mellotron, sometimes accompanied by drums, bass and guitar. Mostly instrumental, the one track with vocals is a bit reminiscent of Stomu Yamash’ta’s ‘Go’ album [see below].

Jirou (Jiro) Inagaki & His Soul Media –  Inagaki is a saxophonist who led bands through many albums ranging from modern jazz to commercial jazz-funk. ‘Woodstock Generation’ [Union, 1970] is full of cover versions. ‘Head Rock’ [Nippon Columbia, 1970] is an enjoyable jazz rock album, with that typical psych-infused cross-over style of the late 60’s, curiously with a Germanic vibe rather than Japanese. ‘Wandering Birds’ [Columbia, 1971] is mostly excellent, some of it funky and rocking, with lots of horns and raw, chugging guitar chords; there’s also some great psychedelic parts that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Italian horror or giallo movie of the period. The album is only marred by a small amount of sappy cheese. ‘Dōsojin (Yabunirami Minyoukou)’ [Nippon Columbia, 1972] is quite interesting, interpreting old Japanese folk songs through a psych-prog filter, although with some MOR-type crooners here and there that lessen the overall impact of what is a strange and varied, and sometimes excellent, album. The last track is even reminiscent of Pink Floyd & Ron Geesin’s Atom Heart Mother! ‘Something’ [Columbia, 1972], credited to Steve Marcus + J. Inagaki & Soul Media, tackles compositions by George Harrison & Masahiko Sato [see below]. ‘Woman Robinson Crusoe – Rock Steady’ [Columbia, 1972] was credited to Sammy & J. Inagaki & Soul Media, and appears to be a very commercial effort with the singer. ‘In The Groove’ [Columbia, 1973] followed with lots of short tracks; I haven’t heard it. Credited to Jiro Inagaki & Big Soul Media (as performers) and Hiromasa Suzuki (as composer and conductor; see below) was ‘By The Red Stream’ [Columbia, 1973], reputedly a good electric big band effort. This is an excellent album of zonked cosmic jazz played by a big band, frequently reminiscent of 70s Miles Davis. All of these have been reissued on CD. Inagaki solo without Soul Media made many albums which appear to be easy listening jazz and are presumably of little interest.

 

Takeshi Inomata & Sound Ltd. –  Inomata is a jazz-oriented drummer. ‘Sounds of Sound Ltd.’ [Groove Sound Series/Columbia, 1970] is largely typical ‘swinging 60’s’ pop-psych-jazz, except for the second-last track which is much more original, psychedelic and impressive. Things were much more consistent on ‘Innocent Canon’ [King, 1971], with a range of styles from bass-heavy psych rock, progressive jazz rock, and cinematic moves. The guitar playing is quite impressive, too. Both have been reissued on CD – the first on P-Vine, the second on King Records. After this was ‘Morning Glory’ [Express, 1972], credited to Takeshi Inomata & The Third; it’s supposedly mostly fairly predictable jazz/funk and features Kimio Mizutani on guitar, and lots of horns. His Takeshi Inomata Group also made an interesting progressive jazz album with a small orchestra, ‘Jazz Rock in Stravinsky’ [Liberty, 1970]. Inomata has released numerous other albums I know nothing about.

 

Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos – Ishikawa is a jazz percussionist with a long career, being active since the mid 50’s. He was bandleader for the Japanese version of ‘Hair’. Ishikawa has often worked with Masahiko Satoh [see below], who also features in the Count Buffalos band at some points. What might be their first album was credited to Count Buffalo & the Jazz Rock Band – ‘Soul & Rock’ [Denon, 1969] – and is pretty straight stuff. ‘Electrum’ [Victor, 1970], credited to Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos, featured jazz rock and free jazz composed by Satoh; if you like the fusion of that era, you will probably agree this is a pretty good album with great playing. ‘Bakishinba - Memories of Africa’ [Polydor, 1970], credited to Akira Ishikawa Count Buffalo Jazz and Rock Band, came next; the music is mostly fairly predictable, but very well done, laid-back electric jazz rock. The nearly-11 minute title track has more freewheeling intensity, and is a highlight of the album for me, the whole of which starts out a little bland but improves in creativity as it goes on. Despite this, it never gets that far out, unlike some of the remarkable follow-up albums. ‘Bakishinba’ has been reissued on CD by USM Japan, in a gatefold mini-LP sleeve with a fold-out poster of Ishikawa [and Japanese liner notes on the other side]. After this, Ishikawa went to Uganda and absorbed the native music, bringing home new experience and numerous African percussion instruments to add to his sonic palette. ‘Impression of Africa – Uganda’ [1970] was a live recording arranged by Masahiko Satoh [see below] and with music from Ishikawa & Count Buffalos, as well as Toshiyuki Miyama & New Herd and Terumasa Hino Quartet, but the record company baulked and it only exists as a few test pressings. ‘Power Rock With Drums – The Road To Kilimanjaro’ [Canyon, 1971] has a side of covers and a side with long jams; I haven’t heard it yet. The next album, ‘African Rock’ [Dan/Tokuma, 1971], is reputedly the best of those officially released, and was reissued in 2015 by Clinck. For me this album was over-rated, but still has some great tracks, with great lead guitar on the few occasions it appears. The next album, co-composed with Takeru Muraoka [who had played with Terumasa Hino – see above], was ‘Uganda (Africa Rock No Yoake [‘Dawn of African Rock’])’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1972], which has been referred to incorrectly with the band name being Uganda. Oddly, it was also influenced by Tony Williams’ Lifetime but doesn’t sound like it. Around half the album is African-styled percussion from Ishikawa and Larry Sunaga, with guitarist Kimio Mizutani [see below] and bassist Hideaki Chihara [ex-Adams] joining in the rest of the time for some primal acid rock jams. People usually comment on the fuzz guitar work, but to my ears although the playing is excellent the fuzz is very mild compared to the occasional distorted bass guitar explosions [at least it sounds like bass to me, and I’m a bass player too]. One song even has some brief moments that sound like Egg! It has been reissued on LP by Shadoks, reputedly a bootleg, and has recently been reissued legally on CD by Tiliqua, from the master tapes and with excellent liner notes. This reissue also comes in a miniature box that replicates the original packaging. By the funky jazz rock of ‘Get Up’ [RCA, 1975] Satoh was no longer involved.

 

Hideki Ishima – guitarist who had been in the Beavers, Outlaws, the Flowers, and most famously, Flower Travellin’ Band [see above]. He made at least one solo album, ‘One Day’ [1973], reputedly containing rock influenced by psych, blues and melodic pop, and it’s quite good, with a rather stoned vibe throughout. It has been reissued twice on CD by Sony/Columbia, once in 1999 and again in 2007. Ishima also played on some of ex-Flower Travellin’ Band singer Joe Yamanaka’s solo albums, which are probably of less interest here, reputedly containing glam and reggae-styled stuff.

 

Akira Ito – a former member of the Far East Family Band [see above], who embarked on a solo career making what has been described as ‘floating electronics’ using analogue synths, and sometimes guitar, bass, drums and choral vocals. ‘Inner Light Of Life’ [1978], ‘Akira Ito’ [1981], ‘Shinki-Japanesque’ [King, 1981]  and ‘Hiisurutokoro No Tenshi’ [1982; soundtrack] were followed by ‘Mugenko’ [Nippon Columbia, 1982], which includes piano, violin, guitar, bass [from Keiju Ishikawa, who played with Far Out and on Hiro Yanagida’s debut album – see above and below] and synth. Although occasionally a little cheesy, most of the time it’s gorgeous, mellow, floating cosmic music, perhaps like a more organic Kitaro [see below]. This album was reissued a few years later on a Dutch label. Other albums include ‘Buddha’ [1983] (inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s manga of the same name), ‘Mind Music’ [King, 1983], ‘Bosatu’ [King, 1984] and ‘Japanesque’ [King, 1984]. I’ve also seen his name spelled Akira Itoh.

 

Kiyoko Itoh – a vocalist who made two albums. The first I don’t have any details for, but the second was ‘Woman at 23 Hour Love-In’ (’23 Ji No Onna’) [1970], on which she had some assistance from Kuni Kawachi [see below] and J.A. Caesar [see above]. It’s fairly similar in style to Ike Reiko’s album [see below], but without erotic moaning. It’s pretty straight, dated stuff by today’s standards, or even the standards back then. Many of the tracks are linked by recordings of Japanese street sounds. I believe this album has been reissued on CD. Itoh also appeared on Masahiko Satoh’s ‘Amalgamation’ album [see below].

 

Itsutsu No Akai Fusen – this pop-folk band’s name translates to ‘Five Red Balloons’. They included Nishiokai Takashi from Melting Glass Box [see below], who composed the songs. They’ve released many albums, including ‘Itsutsu No Akai Fusen’ [URC, 1969], ‘Otogibanashi’ [URC, 1969], ‘Miko Olk Dasshutu Keikaku’ [URC, 1970], ‘In Concert’ [URC, 1970], ‘Folk Album Dai Isshu’ [URC, 1971]; ‘Folk Album Dai Ni Shu’ [URC, 1971]; ‘Solo Album’ [Victor, 1971]; ‘Monument’ [URC, 1972] was a compilation; ‘Boku Wa Areno Ni Hitori Iru’ [URC, 1972]; ‘Game Owari’ [URC, 1972]; ‘In USA’ [Victor, 1972]; ‘Last Album’ [Victor, 1972]. In his book ‘Japrocksampler’, Julian Cope included two albums – ‘Flight 1’ [URC, 1970] and ‘Flight 2’ [URC, 1971] – in his Top 50, due to their inclusion of cosmic folk epics alongside the more usual Godz-y singalongs. However, I can’t find any reference to them outside of that book or on-line references to it, and I’m wondering if they are the same as ‘Folk Album Dai Isshu’ and ‘Folk Album Dai Ni Shu’ mentioned above.

 

Shigeru Izumiya – a folk singer, as well as being a poet and actor. He’s released many albums and singles I know nothing about; however, an EBay listing described his fourth LP, ‘Higari To Kage’ [Elec, 1973], as ‘folk prog psych’, so perhaps he warrants inclusion here.

 

The Jacks – this well-known group had their roots in a folk trio formed in 1966, Nightingale. By 1967 this had stabilized into a 4-piece group called The Jacks. They provided some music for an avant garde theatre troupe before landing a record deal with Takt. They put out 2 singles in 1968, which have more recently been reissued together as an EP – ‘Karappo No Sekai: Takt Days’ [Coca/Nippon Columbia]. I haven’t heard this but the music is reputedly pretty good, in a mournful, meditative and psychedelic mode. One song from this [‘Marianne’, also on the debut album] was much later covered by Painkiller as well as Fushitsusha.

After this came their debut album, ‘Vacant World’ [Toshiba/Express, 1968]. This is often spoken of as a great uniquely Japanese psych album, but to me much of it still sounds like a slightly unhinged Japanese take on early west coast US folk-psych, in particular Quicksilver Messenger Service, or at least Cippolina’s tremolo-heavy guitar style. I find the vocals a bit irritating in places, but most of the music is pretty good, and has grown on me since I first heard it. The highlight is probably the first track, ‘Marianne’, which has a backing bordering on free jazz [no screaming horns, though]. After this album guitarist Haruo Mizuhashi left. With the drummer switching to other instruments, and drummer Hiro Tsunoda joining, the band continued to record one last album, ‘Super Session’ [Toshiba, 1969]. It’s a patchy affair with varying styles, but some of it is fairly good. Their fan club also put out a limited edition live album, ‘2nd Jacks Show - Live ’68 ‘7 ‘24’ [private press, 1968 or 69]. There’s also a posthumous release, ‘Live ’68’ [H.A.F., 1973] which I also haven’t heard and might contain the same music. Tsunoda went on to Foodbrain, Strawberry Path, Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see above and below].

Janus – not to be confused with the German or Italian progressive groups of the same name, this Janus made one album, ‘Metropolis’ [ICR, 1978], of good progressive pop rock with a bit of a heavy Deep Purple vibe.

 

Jimmy, Yoko & Shin – this trio was Jimmy Shironaga [bass, acoustic guitar, vocals], Yoko Sumiya [keyboards, synths, vocals] and Shin Okabe [drums, percussion, Mini-Moog, vocals]. They made one album, ‘Sei Shonagon’ [Three Blind Mice, 1978]. It’s mostly instrumental progressive/jazz rock, with improvisation in some parts, and an occasional similarity to Magma and various Canterbury bands. It’s also excellent throughout!

 

Hiroshi Kamayatsu – ex-Spiders, some of his solo albums reputedly have psych-prog elements, such as ‘Album No. 3’ [Vertigo, 1973]. He also did some music for the Lone Wolf & Cub films.

 

Kamijo – Kamijo Tomoaki put out his first album, ‘Martha’ [private pressing, 1971], as by just Kamijo. This has been described by Shadoks as “an underground-rock album with folky elements and a west coast touch”. I found it to largely consist of lame Bob Dylan wannabe stuff, with only a couple of tracks resembling the Shadoks description, and even then they weren’t that great. It has been reissued on LP [Shadoks, 2005]. ‘Tomo Second Album’ [AMS, 1973] and ‘Dear My Friend’ [Corporation, 1975] (as Tomoaki Kamijo KK Band) followed; I don’t know what the music is like on these two records.

 

Jun Kamikubo – an obscure musician who released one record in small quantity, ‘Nothingness’ [Express, 1972]. It’s a patchy album of bluesy post-psych rock with good guitar playing, with occasional great heavy riffing, particularly in the first and last tracks. The rest of the album is ok, but doesn’t live up to the promise of those two tracks. I wouldn’t say it’s the piece of crap that Julian Cope has said, though, and some people think it’s great. The album has been reissued on LP by Shadoks, and more recently on CD by Toshiba-EMI.

 

Karuna Khyal – an obscure avant garde experimental outfit, which has been thought to be the work of the same people or person behind Brast Burn [see above]. In fact, it seems both were one-man bands and the two men were friends, Karuna Khyal apparently being the work of Yoshihiro Takahashi. Karuna Khyal released one album, ‘Alomoni 1985’ [Voice, 1976], which was musically in a broadly similar vein to Brast Burn’s album, but more repetitive and with less folky references and sometimes hinting at weirder Faust. In some respects it lacks the exotic layered depth of Brast Burn, but is also a bit stranger and in places, more seriously shamanic. It was reissued on CD in a limited edition by Paradigm Discs in 1998.

 

Kazuhiko Kato – a guitarist who played in the Folk Crusaders and Melting Glass Box. He made a couple of solo albums, the first of which was ‘Come To My Bedside’ [Express, 1970]. On ‘Supergas’ [Express, 1971] he was supported by members of the Jacks and Melting Glass Box. It’s a pleasant album of mostly mellow folky pop-psych, though fairly mainstream in its appeal and nothing particularly interesting. Both have been reissued on CD. Kato went on to form Sadistic Mika Band [see below]

 

Kuni Kawachi – keyboardist from Happenings Four [see above]. His album ‘Kuni Kawachi & His Friends’ aka ‘Kirikyogen’ [London, 1970] featured Flower Travellin’ Band [see above] as his backing band, prior to making their own debut album. It’s great oriental rock with proto-progressive and psychedelic leanings that reminds me of several obscure bands of the same period that I can’t quite put my finger on, as well as touches reminiscent of Love Live Life +1, Samurai and Foodbrain. One track, ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans’, is an early version of the rare FTB single track ‘Map’. This album has been reissued by Black Rose, with the cover art changed to credit it to ‘Kuni Kawachi & Flower Travelling Band’. The CD credited to Flower Travellin’ Band called ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans – Demonstration 1970’ [Ain’t Group Sounds] actually consists of most of this album, plus some other obscure Flowers and Flower Travellin’ Band stuff.

After this he was briefly involved in the group Rashomon [see below]. His next solo album ‘Love Suki Daikirai’ [1972] has lots of straighter psych-pop, but also has some weirder experimental tracks to redeem it. Kimio Mizutani features on guitar but he doesn’t lend much of interest to the album, unfortunately; also featured is bassist Masaoki Terakawa, who played on the Dema album [see above]. It was recently reissued on CD together with ‘Kirikyogen’ as a bonus [Walhalla, 2007]. ‘Utaenaku Naru Mae Ni’ [Polydor, 1972] is another album of Kawachi’s that I haven’t heard; it’s available on CD [Indie, 2007]. The 1970 album referred to as ‘A High-Teen Symphony’ by Kawachi is most likely the Tenjo Sajiki album ‘Throw Away The Books…’ [see below], which Kawachi was involved in and which has ‘A High-Teen Symphony’ as the sub-title.

Ryo Kawasaki –a jazz/jazz-rock/fusion guitarist. He appeared on a multi-artist free jazz album ‘Guitar Workshop’ [Union Records, 1970] with Masayuki Takayanagi [see below], Kiyoshi Sugimoto and Yoshiaki Masuo. His first solo album was ‘Juice’ [RCA, 1976], followed by many others. ‘Ring Toss’ [Chiaroscuro, 1977] is particularly good, including some traditional instruments in part, the rest being excellent jazz rock bringing to mind Karin Krog with John Surman, and Miles Davis. Shortly after he played with the group Golden Dragon, who were more in the slick fusion vein, but also with some sizzling Mahavishnu Orchestra-like jazz rock and limpid pseudo-reggae; they released ‘Live’ [Openskye, 1980] and ‘Little Tree’ [Openskye, 1980].  He may also be of interest due to his guitar/synth album [as Ryo] ‘Featuring Concierto de Aranjuez’ [Philips, 1982].

 

Keiantaiheiki – see Tatsumaru Naniwaya & Warner Beatniks.

 

Nagira Kenichi – ‘Machi no Kaze’ [1974] reputedly contains melodic west coast-styled psychedelic rock, comparable to early Happy End [see above]. This album has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.

Rinsyoe Kida – a tsugaru-shamisen master who made some collaborative albums into the world of popular music. He teamed up with Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos [see above] on ‘Tsugaru Jongara Bushi Drum & Tsugaru Jamisen’ [Teichiku, 1973], ‘Drums & Tsugaru-Shamisen’ [Teichiku, 1973], ‘Shamisen Poetry’ (also with Takahashi Chikuzan and Rinsho Kadekaru) [Canyon, 1975], and ‘The Confrontation of Incandescence – Tsugaru Shamisen & Drums’ [Teichiku, 19??].

 

Masabumi Kikuchi – a jazz pianist who has been quite prolific. I’ve only heard two of his albums - ‘Susto’ [CBS, 1981], which is excellent post-Miles Davis progressive jazz with hypnotic grooves and an often psychedelic feel; and ‘One Way Traveller’ [CBS, 1982], which could be described similarly, and is arguably better but for  one dud track. Other releases include ‘Poo-Sun’ [Philips, 1970]; ‘The Man Who Keeps Washing His Hands’ [(with Masahiko Togashi & Gary Peacock) [Philips, 1971]; ‘With Gil Evans’ [Philips, 1972]; ‘Hollow Out’ (with Elvin Jones) [Philips, 1973]; ‘East Wind’ [East Wind, 1974]; ‘Wishes/Kochi’ [East Wind, 1976]; ‘Matrix’ [Catalyst, 1977]; ‘But Not For Me’ [Flying Disk, 1978]; ‘Dreamachine’ (with Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell & Bill Laswell) [Glass House, 1992]; ‘Silver World’ (with Hozan Yamamoto) [Philips, 1994]; and ‘Raw Material #1’ [Alfa Records, 1997].

 

Osamu Kitajima/Justin Heathcliff – Kitajima is a musician who has taken a varied path over his career, learning piano and classical guitar as a child. In his college years he was guitarist in The Launchers [see below]. He was thanked in the credits on the Far Out album [see above], though it was not mentioned what for. His first solo album was released under a pseudonym – Justin Heathcliff – and contains good psych pop as well as some more folky singer-songwriter type stuff. However, this isn’t mentioned in his discography on his own label web page, so perhaps the association is false. The self-titled album was released on Atlantic in 1971, and the year after he made an album with Fujio Yamaguchi as ‘Fumio & Osamu’ [see above]. 

His first album under his real name was the stunning ‘Benzaiten’ [Island (Japan)/Antilles (US), 1974 – also seen as 1976], which is mostly instrumental psychedelic/progressive/experimental music incorporating traditional Japanese instruments, such as koto, biwa and shakuhachi. It varies between heavier electric sounds, including exotic jazz rock fusion and psychedelic rock and softer eastern psychedelic folk. Some of it sounds a bit like Brast Burn and Karuna Khyal [see above], with less electronic experimentation involved and more musical skill. The production of the album is excellent, as is the music. Kitajima played almost everything – synth, guitars, percussion, koto and vocal, as well as producing the album. He had assistance from Dennis Belfield [bass], John Harris [bass], Geoffrey Hales [drums, percussion], George Marinelli [guitars], Brian Whitcomb [guitar, synth, keyboards] and Tatsuya Sano [synth]. Kitajima’s mention on the Nurse With Wound influences list is due to this album, which is unfortunately not available yet on CD. Kitajima moved to Los Angeles and went on to release numerous other albums, including ‘California Roll’ [1975], ‘Passages’ [1975], ‘Osamu’ [Island, 1977], ‘Masterless Samurai’ [Head First, 1978], ‘Sweet Chaos’ [1978], ‘Dragon King’ [Arista, 1979], ‘Face To Face’ [Takoma, 1981], ‘The Source’ [CBS/Electric Bird, 1986], ‘In Minds Way’ [Epic, 1987], ‘Behind the Light’ [1991] and ‘Beyond the Circle’ [1996]. These reputedly veer more towards New Age styles, although still diverse. I have only heard ‘Masterless Samurai’ of these, and although it incorporates some of the successful elements of ‘Benzaiten’ that made that album so remarkable, it is diluted by lots of commercial funky fusion. He also makes soundtracks for films and documentaries. Now known as Dr Kitajima, he runs his own New Age label, East Quest Records. Most of his albums are available on CD.

 

Kitaro – real name Masanori Takahashi, he was previously in the Far East Family Band. After that group broke up, he began a long and successful solo career. In general his music could be said to fall squarely in the New Age category – however, some of his music is quite enjoyable for fans of mellow ambient cosmic synthesizer music, and it sometimes has a distinctly Japanese touch to the sound. His first album was ‘Astral Voyage’ [1978], followed by ‘Oasis’ [1979], one of his better albums. A string of other albums followed, such as ‘Full Moon Story’ [1979], ‘Silk Road Vol. 1 & 2’ [1980], ‘Silk Road Suite’ [1980], ‘In Person Digital’ [1980], ‘Tunhuang/Tonko’ [1981], ‘Ki’ [1981] and many more up to the present day. I believe he has also worked on soundtracks.

Asei Kobayashi & Mickie Yoshino – these guys made a soundtrack album together, for the film ‘House’ [Columbia, 1977], with the group Godiego [see above] playing on some of it. It’s a very variable album, mostly accessible cheesy tunes, with a slow blues number, a little bit of rock, and a few highlights where they switch to funky, sometimes a bit psychedelic, fusion reminiscent of early 70’s Herbie Hancock.

Tashinori Kondo – a jazz trumpeter with an experimental bent. His first album that I know of was made with Henry Kaiser and John Oswald – ‘Moose and Salmon’ [Music Gallery Editions, 1978], credited as by Kondo/Kaiser/Oswald. He has made many albums with experimental/avant garde musicians such as Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Andrea Centazzo, amongst others. The first album I know of under just his own name is the live & studio LP ‘Fuigo From a Different Dimension’ [Bellows, 1979]. The only record of his that I’ve heard so far is with his group IMA – ‘Taihen’ [Polydor, 1984], which has a remarkable cover [not on the JARO or Plexus Holland editions, which don’t credit IMA on the cover]. Bill Laswell did some of the mixing and contributed tape music. The sounds on the album are a strange but somehow accessible blend of new wave funk and dub with avant-jazz influences, and lots of interesting sounds and mixing.

 

Takehisa Kosugi – an important experimental musician who was early on associated with the Fluxus experimental music movement, and in 1958 formed Group Ongaku [see above]. The group lasted on and off until 1969, with Kosugi making music for the Expo ’70 at Osaka before forming Taj Mahal Travellers [see below], for which he is perhaps best known. In the mid-60’s Kosugi also assisted Matsuo Ohno [see below] with recording sound effects for the original television cartoon series ‘Atom’ [aka Astro Boy in the west]. After the demise of TMT [or perhaps during it], he resumed a solo career, beginning with ‘Catch Wave’ [CBS, 1975, but recorded 1974]. This was a wonderful album, in a similar vein to Taj Mahal Travellers, but more stripped-back and mesmerizing. It featured 2 lengthy tracks using heavily electronically-treated electric violin and voice. Some people prefer this album to TMT, perhaps due to the presence of less jarring moments!

This was followed by the collaboration ‘Improvisation Sep. 1975’ [Iskra, 1975] (with Toshi Ichiyanagi [see above] and Michael Ranta), featuring ring-modulated violin and bass piano alongside percussion. ‘Distant Voices’, credited to Steve Lacy, Yuji Takahashi [see below] and Takehisa Kosugi [Columbia, 1976], consist of three long free improvisations. There is one patch in the middle of side 1 that is reminiscent of Taj Mahal Travellers, though in my opinion much of the track (and some of track 3) is marred by Lacy’s atonal saxophone that just isn’t contributing anything enjoyable or creative to the proceedings, despite his talents. There is also ‘Pulsers/Untitled’ [Lovely Music, 1985], a collaboration between David Tudor and Kosugi, which is reputedly pretty good. He made numerous obscure commissioned solo works, including ‘S.E. Wave/E.W. Song’ [1976], ‘Interspersion’ [1979], ‘Cycles’ [1981], ‘Spacings’ [1984], ‘Assemblage’ [1986], ‘Rhapsody’ [1987] and ‘Spectra’ [1989]. I don’t know if any of these have been released separately as albums. His ‘Violin Solo 1980 N.Y.C.’ [P-Vine, 1998] is reputedly rather unpleasant listening. There is also the album ‘Violin Improvisations: New York, September 1989’ [Lovely Music, 1990]. As far as I know, he is still performing and innovating.

 

Sho Kubota – a keyboardist, who made a jazz rock album with Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union Orchestra [see below], ‘September Steps’ [RCA, 1978]. Although much of it is polished late 70s fusion some tracks are more progressive and interesting.

Kyokubakan – this group may be a Tenjo Sajiki-like rock-musical-theatre ensemble. They did one album ‘Namidabashi Elegy’ [private press, 1978] and there may be more.

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