1980’s

 

After Dinner – formed in 1982 by vocalist Haco, After Dinner were an avant-garde progressive group inspired by Art Bears, and Haco’s vocals have been compared to those of Art Bears’ Dagmar Krause. Their first album was ‘Glass Tube’ [Kang-Gung, 1984], which was released in the UK as ‘After Dinner’ [ReR], minus one track but plus their first single. It does have some broad similarities to Art Bears, but is more diverse and experimental, often downright odd! It has been reissued on CD by ReR with an album’s worth of live bonus material recorded between 1986-1990 [‘Live Editions’]. ‘Souvenir Cassette’ [ReR/Zero, 1988] was a tape release, recorded on a Walkman.‘Paradise of Replica’ [ReR, 1989] was their last, and some say best. I’ve heard of an album called ‘Tribalism’ from 1994 but can’t confirm its existence.

 

Astral Temple – some kind of electronic progressive group involving Hiro Kawahara from Osiris [see above] & Heretic [see below]. They released three albums on cassette only – ‘Shadow Illusion’ [1981], ‘Vista Under Arc Light’ [1982] and ‘100% Odd Lots Session’ [1982].

 

Asturias – a progressive group inspired by Camel and Mike Oldfield. They released two albums, ‘Circle in the Forest’ [King, 1988] and ‘Brilliant Streams’ [King, 1990], before breaking up. They reformed recently as more of a chamber music ensemble, and released another album, ‘Bird Eyes View’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005], which is only 25 minutes long.

Ataraxia – a symphonic prog band, with one album, ‘Adolescence of an Ancient Warrior’ [Made In Japan, 1986].

 

Azoth – a symphonic progressive jazz rock group who have been making demos since the late 80’s, but only recently released an album – ‘The Awkward Age’s End’ [2004]. Guitarist Masahiro Noda had also been in Interface [see below].

 

Yoshitaka Azuma – a synth musician influenced by German electronic artists such as Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. Albums include ‘Moon Light of Asia’ [1981], ‘Asian Wind’ [1981], ‘Far From Asia’ [1982], ‘Mysterious Asian Roads’ [1983], ‘Azuma’ [1987] and ‘NHK’ [1989]. ‘Moon Light of Asia’, for example, is an excellent synth album that largely sounds a bit like Michael Hoenig with a pan-eastern melodic palette; one track has parts that are reminiscent of Philippe Besombes. He later went into making video game music.

 

Back Ground Music – this group released an album ‘B.G.M.’ [Vanity, 1980] on the experimental Vanity label, and by extension may well be of interest. It’s been described as ‘minimal experimental techno pop’, and it’s quite good.

Bellaphon – a symphonic prog band inspired largely by Camel, featuring bassist Masahiro Torigaki from Ain Soph [see above]. They only have two albums that I know of, ‘Firefly’ [Made in Japan, 1987; reissued Musea, 1996] and ‘Delphi’ [Belle Antique, 1995].

Be-2 – this group were Zen Oikawa and Psycho, playing guitar synth, electric violin and percussion between them. They released only two 7” flexi-discs that I know of, ‘Be-2’ [Inner Space, 1983] and ‘Kindness’ [Inner Space, 198?]. I’ve only heard the first, which is a bit like the more cosmic-pastoral side of Harmonia.

 

Benikarin – a progressive rock band formed in 1984, featuring the drummer of Interface [see below]. I’ve got no idea what they sound like. They’ve made numerous albums - ‘Tekkin Omnibus I’ [1987, cassette], ‘Yellow Sky/Long For Lan’ [1988, cassette], ‘Melodies Park II’ [BBM, 1989], ‘Yellow Sky’ [1989, cassette, remixed instrumental], ‘Benikarin’ [1990, cassette; reissued on CD – Horen, 2001] and ‘Long Into the Edge’ [Long-In, 1991].

Bi Kyo Ran – an excellent progressive rock group very much influenced by mid-70’s King Crimson, focusing on guitar/bass/drums dynamics; an earlier incarnation was Madorami [see below]. They’ve released numerous albums, including ‘Bi Kyo Ran’ [Nexus, 1982], ‘Parallax’ [Nexus, 1983], ‘Live Vol. 1 - Fairy Tales’ [Belle Antique, 1987], ‘Live Vol. 2 – Who Ma’ [Belle Antique, 1988], ‘Live Vol. 3 - Ran’ [Belle Antique, 1994], ‘Go-Un’ [Belle Antique, 1995], ‘Deep Live’ [Belle Antique, 1995] and ‘Kyobo Na Ongaku (A Violent Music)’ [Freiheit/Musea, 1997]. They also do music for the bizarre anime series ‘Cromartie High School’, as can be heard on ‘Sakigake!! Cromartie High School’ [Lantis, 2004].

 

The Boredoms – a legendary group formed in 1986, including 2 ex-Hanataresh members, Yamatsuka/Yamantaka/Yamataka Eye and Ikuo Taketani, as well as guitarist Tabara Mata [who soon left to join Zeni Geva – see below] and bassist Hosoi. Numerous line-up changes have taken place over the years, with Eye remaining constant, and these days the group is very percussion-heavy. Over the years they’ve mutated constantly, from avant-punk to disjointed psychedelic avant-punk-prog-rock to enlightened inner-space rock for the new era. Not counting cassettes, singles and EP’s, these are their albums - ‘Osorezan no Stooges Kyo’ [Selfish, 1988]; ‘Soul Discharge ‘99’ [Selfish, 1989]; ‘Pop Tatari’ [WEA Japan, 1992]; ‘Wow 2’ [Avant, 1993] (live in studio, supervised by John Zorn); ‘Onanie Bomb Meets the Sexpistols’ [numerous labels, 1994]; ‘Chocolate Synthesizer’ [100%/WEA, 1994]; ‘Super æ’ [WEA, 1998] clearly hints at the masterwork to follow, with lots of pure-vibed harmonious psychedelic stuff, as well as lots of cut-up and fucked-up weirdness reminiscent of their older stuff; ‘Vision Creation Newsun’ [WEA, 1999] (2-CD limited edition box set version); ‘Vision Creation Newsun’ [WEA, 2000] was the group’s masterwork in the opinion of many [although alienating some fans of the earlier stuff]. I kind of got the impression from listening to it on mushrooms that the group had collectively reached a state of enlightenment! It flows more or less as a unified thematic whole, very organic yet high-tech at the same time. It’s a pure-vibed white light psychedelic epic, largely undescribable but with occasional reference points [or perhaps tributes] to bands such as Hawkwind and Neu! Music for a new age [not a New Age!].

There are numerous ‘EPs’ in the ‘Super Roots’ series dating from 1993-1999, some of which are very short, others full-length releases which shouldn’t be called EP’s. There are also several remix albums of recent material, ‘Rebore Vol. 1’ [WEA, 2000] (remixed by DJ Unkle), ‘Rebore Vol. 2’ [WEA, 2000] (remixed by DJ Ken Ishii), ‘Rebore Vol. 3’ [Warner Japan, 2001] (remixed by DJ Krush) and ‘Rebore Vol. 0: Vision Recreation by Eye’ [Warner Japan, 2001] (remixed by Eye).

These days the group is known as Vrdoms, and they apparently plan not to make albums but just play live. However, they recently released a new album as The Boredoms – ‘Seadrum/House Of Sun’ [Warner Bros, 2004], which I have been told was recorded a few years earlier. It features just two long tracks, the titles of which are found in the album title. Seadrum was partly recorded literally in the ocean[!], with the accent on percussion and whole-earth vibes, all treated and mixed in the more recent hallucinogenic Boredoms fashion. House Of Sun is more relaxed, meditative and cosmic – simply beautiful, like the very mellow side of early Ash Ra Tempel and Achim Reichel perhaps.

There are also countless Boredoms offshoots and side projects, sometimes venturing into radically different styles, of which only a few are mentioned elsewhere here.

 

Chakra –not to be confused with the US prog band of the same name. Their first album was ‘Chakra’ [Victor, 1980], produced by Makoto Yano from Moonriders [see above]; it reputedly contains keyboard-dominated progressive rock with few vocals, compared to ELP and ‘Relayer’-era Yes. On ‘Satekoso’ [Victor, 1981] they were joined by Hideki Matsutake and Haruomi Hosono from Yellow Magic Orchestra [see above]; this album was more experimental and quite bewildering. It veers between – and blends – incredibly cheesy synth-pop of the uniquely Japanese variety, whiny sugary female vocals, and odd forays into prog and post-punk experimentation (occasionally sounding kind of like a prot-Cornelius). Their last album ‘Nanyo de Yoisho’ [VAP, 1983] was a mini-album, and the group was now only two people, using guest musicians to complete the recordings. By this time they were much more pop-oriented, and the group soon fell apart

 

Haniwa Chan – not sure if this is the name of the singer, or if it’s the band name [in which case it should be under ‘H’]. They/she created at least one album, ‘Kanashibari’ [AMJ, 1984], full of weird sugary avant-pop and progressive/RIO moves, like Virgin Vs [see below] and other bands of that ilk. Very diverse and a lot of fun!

 

Ché Shizu – a kind of psych-pop group featuring Tori Kudo [Maher Shalal Hash Baz] and Chie Mukai. On ‘Live 1996’ [PSF, 1997] these folks play mostly slow, melancholic psych with [what I think is] viola and vocals that are often annoyingly out of key – though some people like them for this attribute and, presumably, don’t find it annoying. The bass and drums are well-played though, and the guitar is understated but perfect for the music. It’s all pretty accessible and structured, pleasant but nothing too great for my ears. There are two other albums which I haven’t heard – ‘Nazareth’ [PSF, 1993], which is live from 1981, and ‘A Journey’ [PSF, 1994].

 

Deja-vu – symphonic prog band formed in 1984 by university students; they had previously been called Clashed Ice, as a part of the university’s progressive music club. Deja-vu made one album, ‘Baroque in the Future’ [Made in Japan, 1988; reissued Musea, 1998]. They broke up in 1989 while making a second album. Keyboardist Motoi Sakuraba [see below] went on to a solo career. Ken Ishita [bassist on some tracks] also played with Ars Nova. Keyboardist Tomoki Ueno also played with Outer Limits, Gerard and Marge Litch. Drummer Genta Kudo also played drums and acoustic guitar with Due, Eiko Plus, Vermillion Sands and Kirche.

 

Doom – a progressive metal band, who are perhaps better described as a progressive rock band who happen to play metal. On the EP ‘Killing Field’ [Invitation, 1988] they played a highly complex and impressive music with a noticeable Voivod influence.

 

Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde – some kind of electronic progressive group involving Hiro Kawahara from Osiris [see above]. They released four cassette-only albums – the imaginatively-titled ‘1’ [1981], ‘2’ [1982], ‘3’ [1982] and ‘4’ [1982].

Enema Music – a one-man group with one album that I know of, ‘Enema Project’ [1984]. It’s pretty diverse but mostly experimental and very good, veering between 80’s new wave [rarely] and stranger avant-electro stuff that occasionally reminds me of Phew’s debut, Snakefinger and Der Plan.

Eastern Orbit – a hard rock/metal band who had a fairly noticeable space rock influence. They made two albums, ‘Future Force’ [Nexus, 1982] and ‘Live! Journey To Utopia’ [Nexus, 1983], as well as playing on the soundtrack to ‘Battletruck’ [Nexus, 1983] with music composed and conducted by Kevin Peek. Discogs has this one categorized as ‘prog rock, soundtrack, ambient’ so I imagine it’s rather different to their usual output if that’s at all an accurate description. The first album is mostly commercial song-based HM, but there are prog touches and a bit of a space rock element on some tracks, and it ends with a cover of King Crimson’s ‘Epitaph’. Lyrically it is sometimes unintentionally funny – there’s even an anti-smoking song!

 

Expo – a strange experimental group including Kimitaka Matsumae. They released one album that I know of, ‘Do The Expo!’ [GMO, 1987], which is comparable to a blend of Picky Picnic and Tipographica [see below].

Flying Teacup – a progressive band of some kind who made at least one album, ‘Flying Teacup’ [Private, 1981]; I would guess from the name that they were inspired by Gong, and I hope so, too! More Gong-inspired bands can’t be a bad thing.

 

Fromage – a melodic symphonic prog band with lots of vocals and solos, and a slightly poppy touch; they’ve been compared to numerous UK neo-prog bands of the same period. Formed in the late 70’s, they initially featured guitarist Ikkou Nakajima [later in Pageant – see below] and keyboardist Toshio Egawa [Gerard, Novela, Scheherezade, Rumble], though both had left before the first album. Fromage made three albums – ‘Ondine’ [Belle Antique, 1984], ‘Ophelia’ [Belle Antique, 1988] and ‘Tsukini-Hoeru’ [1990]. They broke up around 1993, and some members went on to Cinema [see below].

 

Fushitsusha – a noisy free ‘psychedelic’ rock group formed in 1978 by permanently black-bedecked guitarist Keiji Haino [ex-Lost Aaraaff, see above]. What I’ve heard has been largely, to my ears, pretty much unlistenable [beyond a point] feedback-laden sheets of guitar noise, with barely a cohesive groove of any kind audible from beneath it all. However, Haino fans insist that there’s more to it than that but I can’t see why anyone would want to own more than one of these albums, and I find it hard to want to even listen to a whole Fushitsusha album all the way through before getting bored with the noisy monotony of it all. This group has released many albums, and all of the ones I’ve seen are almost [or entirely] all-black. Alan Cummings recommended their 2nd album, the 2-CD ‘Fushitsusha’ aka ‘Live 2’ aka ‘2nd’ [PSF, 1991] as a good starting point. Note that the first album is also self-titled and both have black covers.

 

G.A.O.S. – an instrumental progressive fusion band with two guitarists and no keyboards; they’ve been compared to Brand X, Side Steps and Kenso [see below]. They made at least one album, ‘G.A.O.S.’ [1987; reissued by Musea Parallele, 2001].

 

Gerard – a symphonic progressive rock group formed in the early 80’s by keyboardist Toshio Egawa, who had just left Novela. They’ve been compared to Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Genesis, and have released quite a few albums – ‘Gerard’ [1984], ‘Empty Lie, Empty Dream’ [1985], ‘Irony of Fate’ [1991], ‘Save Knight By The Knight’ [1994], ‘Evidence of True Love’ [1994; a mini-CD], ‘The Pendulum’ [1996], ‘Pandora’s Box’ [1997], ‘Meridian’ [1998], ‘Live at Marseille’ [1998], ‘The Ruins of a Glass Fortress’ [Musea, 2000], ‘Sighs of the Water’ [2002] and ‘Power of Infinity’ [Musea, 2005].

Motohiko Hamase – a bassist and keyboardist who had played with Isao Suzuki, though his solo albums explored more interesting territory, retaining some jazz influence but based more in blends of electronic and organic sounds in a fascinating kind of 1980s future world fusion. ‘Intaglio’ [Shi Zen, 1986], ‘Reminiscence’ [Shi Zen, 1986] and ‘#Notes of Forestry’ [Newsic/Wacoal Art Center, 1988] exemplified this. I haven’t heard is later albums ‘Anecdote’ [Lung, 1993] and ‘Technodrome’ [Newsic/Wacoal Art Center, 1993].

 

Heretic – sometimes referred to as Japan’s Heldon, and admired by Heldon’s Richard Pinhas. Heretic were a highly regarded Kyoto progressive electronic rock band formed by Hiro Kawahara, ex-Osiris [see above], and influenced by Heldon, King Crimson & Ashra. They’ve put out numerous albums which I haven’t heard – ‘Interface’ [Sound of Poppy, 1985], ‘Escape Sequence’ [Belle Antique, 1988], ‘1984-88’ [Belle Antique, 1994 – compilation of previous 2 LP’s plus an extra track], ‘Past In Future’ [CDR, 1996], ‘Yayoi Dream’ [Belle Antique, 1996] and ‘Drugging For M’ [Belle Antique, 1997].

Terutsugu Hirayama – a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, who was a member of Novela and Teru’s Symphonia [see below]. His solo album ‘Castle of Noi’ [Nexus, 1983] featured Teru’s Symphonia as the backing band, and consisted of excellent prog in a mid-70s vein. The dominant bass work of Sasai Ryuji is a highlight of the music.

Joe Hisaishi – a minimalist composer, his first solo album was ‘Information’ [1982], after which he got into anime soundtrack work, starting with ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind’ [Animage, 1983], and later for many other Studio Ghibli films. ‘α-Bet City’ [Japan Record, 1985] is a strange mix of rhythmic, experimental electronic music and cheesy electro-pop.

 

Idiot O’Clock – a post-punk psych rock group with keyboards and jangly guitars, and a leaning towards shoe-gazing downer melancholy and plodding rhythms. Their first album ‘Original First Album’ [Org, 1989] is ok but nothing that great, and sometimes veers a bit close to dull indie rock, but overall it’s ‘progressive’ enough to possibly warrant some interest amongst some people. It’s been reissued on CD by Alchemy [2001]. This group may have released a second album.

 

Inoyamaland – a duo of Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita, who played electronic music influenced by 70’s German pioneers. ‘1984 Pithecanthropus’ [3D, 1999] consists of live recordings from a 1984 gig, as well as some studio-quality demos from 1978 and a recording from 1998 at the end. The live stuff is often percussive and out-front, sometimes almost cheesily melodic like some Harmonia, whereas the other tracks are more ambient and cosmic. They have released at least one other album, ‘Music For Myxomycetes’ [2002], which may have also been recorded in the 80’s.

 

Interface – a heavy progressive band formed in the mid-80’s; guitar synth player Masahiro Noda had previously been bassist in Azoth [see above]. At first they played punky new wave and heavy rock, but soon they incorporated a strong King Crimson influence. Noda and stick player Kouji Ishii played on the Heretic album ‘Drugging For M’. Drummer Katsuyori Aihara is also in progressive rock band Benikarin. They’ve released at least 3 albums including ‘Interface’ [199?], ‘II’ [199?] and ‘III’ [Mellow, 2000].

 

Juma – obscure synthesizer group who released numerous albums on cassette. One of the better ones is reputedly ‘Aqua Cosmos’ [D.D. Records, 1981], compared to Pneuma and Osiris [see above].

Yoshihiro Kanno – an avant-garde composer who has made some interesting albums. His first, ‘Four Seasons In Resonance’ [Denon, 1983] was performed by the Tomoyuki Okada Percussion Ensemble, and the music is atmospheric experimental percussion that’s mostly more of an ambient wash in effect, rather than the usual instrumental percussion fare. (Incidentally, Okada’s ensemble also did an album composed by Katsuhiro Tsubonou, ‘Heavenly Heaven’ [King, 1980], which I haven’t heard.) ‘Angel’s Egg Music Collection – Living In Water’ [Animage, 1985] is another excellent album, containing soundtrack music from the anime ‘Angel’s Egg’. Other albums I haven’t heard are ‘Resounding Sphere III’ [Fontec, 1999] and ‘Light, Water, Rainbow’ with pianist Noriko Ogawa [BIS, 2015].

 

Kennedy – a progressive rock group consisting of guitarist Mitsuhiko Izumi [ex-Dada, After Dinner – see above], keyboardist Juju Kitaoka, saxophonist Kohji Itoh and drummer Takashi Yasuda. They released only two albums that I know of. Their debut was ‘Twinkling Nasa’ [King-Nexus, 1986], reputedly ‘spacey with mellotron’. ‘Kennedy!’ [Monolith, 1987; reissued by Musea, 1999] is live, and is mostly pretty driving stuff, obviously influenced by King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, though with [sometimes cheesy] 80’s new wave edges. They even cover a Mahavishnu song [‘Birds of Fire’], as well as an old Dada track [‘The Flying Ship’]. The album has a great cover, showing a network of golden radiant Buddhas!

 

Kenso – a progressive rock group who are still around now. Their music is generally a blend of jazz-rock-fusion, harder rock and symphonic prog, although their style and breadth has evolved considerably over the years. Their first album was ‘Kenso’ [Pam, 1980], followed by ‘II’ [1983], ‘III’ [King/Nexus, 1985], ‘Music For Five Unknown Musicians’ [1986], ‘Self Portrait’ [1987], ‘Sparta’ [1989], ‘Yume No Oka’ [1991], ‘Sora Ni Hikaru’ [1992], ‘Live 92’ [1993], ‘Inei No Fue (Early Live 2)’ [1994], ‘Early Live’ [1995], ‘In The West’ [1997 – live] and ‘Esoptron’ [1999]. The earlier stuff, such as ‘III’, has more of a fusion basis, as well as prog influences such as Camel and Gentle Giant, whereas later stuff such as ‘Esoptron’ touches on more avant-prog influences such as Happy Family and Bondage Fruit [see below].

 

Killing Time – an unusual avant-garde group with only three releases that I know of – ‘Bob’ [1986; 12” EP reissued in 1988 with bonus tracks], ‘Skip’ [1987; 12” EP] and ‘Irene’ [Absord, 1988]. Their music had some similarities to that of Wha-Ha-Ha [see below], but their own brand of weirdness was less chaotic and more low-key, with more straight/schmaltzy elements that are subverted into something altogether odd – excellent, but pretty hard to describe. There’s at least one other group with the same name, not to be confused with this one.

Kodō – an interesting percussion ensemble who released their first album ‘Heartbeat Drummers of Japan’ [Sheffield Lab, 1985] in the mid-80’s and are still going strong. The only album of theirs I’ve heard is the excellent ‘Mondo Head’ [Red Ink, 2002], with Mickey Hart [Grateful Dead] and others. It’s a deep, global drum journey with psychedelic shadings, and beautifully packaged, too.

 

Kousokuya – a ‘psychedelic inner-space rock’ group formed in the late 70’s. They took a while to record an album, ‘1st’ [PSF, 1990]. I don’t know of any other albums except a collaboration with Masayoshi Urabe [who’s known for doing pretty full-on noisy stuff with saxophone and objects] – ‘The Dark Spot’ [PSF, 1997]. I’ve heard one track by them from the ‘Tokyo Flashback 2’ PSF sampler, which was basically trudging, chaotic downer acid rock with fuzz bass and guitar all over the place, although mellower and spacier at the beginning. I imagine Terry Brooks & Strange might have sounded like this after 10 bong hits too many! The first album is broadly similar, but sloppy playing and a loose command of basic rhythm stands out much of the time, with inspired dementia sometimes developing enough to balance things out.

 

Lacrymosa – these guys played a mostly sedate form of RIO that leans towards chamber music, but with a bit of an avant-garde edge. They’re often compared to Univers Zero. They released several albums that I know of, ‘Lacrymosa’ [1984], ‘Budbear’ [1984], ‘Gishin Onki’ [1985] and ‘Joy Of The Wrecked Ship’ [1994].

 

Magdalena – a song-based progressive rock group influenced by UK symphonic prog; not to be confused with the Basque group of the same name. They made one album, ‘Magdalena’ [Musea, 1987]. They broke up in 1988, and vocalist Megumi Tokuhisa joined Teru’s Symphonia [see below].

 

Magic – this was mainly one person, Kuniaki Ohtomo, with Kuniyuki Ohtomo also credited on some tracks of the cassette release ‘Marionette Karma’ [private, 1981]. The music on this tape is a bizarre concoction of out-there mutant underground music, like a blend of Bomis Prendin, Fille Qui Mousse, The Mark of the Imperial Family [see below], Karuna Khyal [see above] and Ilitch, for example.

 

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – a cult ‘avant-psychedelic’ underground band centered around guitarist/vocalist Tori Kudo. From the little I’ve heard they sound pretty sloppy, half-baked and uninspired, with the occasional shimmer of something beautiful. Their style has all kinds of elements to it and can’t be easily summed up. Some people attribute genius to this group – but some people would attribute genius to a child’s crayon scrawls if they were passed off as the work of an adult avant-garde artist. Maybe I’m being too unkind, and sorry to offend fans of Kudo’s work – but I wouldn’t hesitate to make the same comments about supposed genius when referring to ultra-crap group Reynols. According to PSF, “call Maher inept and you miss the point entirely”. Well, so be it…

Their releases include ‘M.S.H.B. Vol. 1’ [cassette; D’s Label, 1985], ‘Pass Over Musings’ [cassette; D’s Label, 1985], ‘January 14th, 1989 Maher Goes to Gothic Country’ [Org Records, 1991], ‘Return Visit To Rockmass’ [3-LP/3-CD; Org Records, 1997] and ‘From a Summer to Another Summer (An Egypt to Another Egypt’ [Geographic, 2000].

 

Kohichi Makigami – this is the guy behind Hikashu [see above]. His album ‘Minzoku No Saiten’ [1982] is a strange affair, comparable to Hikashu and Virgin Vs., swinging between cheesy pop, RIO avant-rock and utter weirdness.

 

Marble Sheep – formed in 1987. Apparently this group started out as a Blue Cheer-inspired psychedelic rock band, though they soon changed to a more jammy, accessible psych rock style reminiscent in parts of the Grateful Dead. They’ve released many albums, including ‘Marble Sheep & The Run-Down Sun’s Children’ [Alchemy, 1990], ‘Big Deal’ [Captain Trip, 1992], ‘Old From New Heads’ [Captain Trip, 1993], ‘Twiga’ [Captain Trip, 1993], ‘Whirl Live’ [2-CD; Captain Trip, 1994], ‘Psychedelic Paradise’ [Captain Trip, 1995], ‘Shinjuku Loft’ [Cold Spring/Captain Trip, 1995], ‘Circle Vs. Marble Sheep’ [Captain Trip, 1998], ‘Stone Marby’ [Captain Trip, 2001] and ‘For Demolition Of A Spiritual Framework’ [Captain Trip, 2003]  

 

Marge Litch – a symphonic prog-metal group. Keyboardist Tomoki Ueno had been in Deja-vu [see above]. Their early albums are demos, at least some of which were cassette releases - ‘Rainbow Knight’ [1986], ‘Star Light’ [1987], ‘The Force of Trinity’ [1988], ‘Mage Lich’ [sic.?] [1989] and ‘Prologue’ [1989]. ‘Fantasien’ [K Machin, 1991] was their first ‘proper’ album, followed by ‘The Ring of Truth’ [Made in Japan, 1992], the 2-CD ‘Crystal Heart in the Fountain’ [Made in Japan, 1995], ‘Fantasien 1998’ (a re-recording of the debut; aka ‘Fantasien 2’) [Musea, 1998] and ‘Particuliöh’ [MLR, 2000]. Keyboardist Yuhki Nakajima joined after Castle in the Air [see below] broke up.

 

The Mask of the Imperial Family – a very obscure group who did one album that I know of, ‘The Mask of the Imperial Family’ [Mimic, 1981]. It’s a strange all-instrumental electronic album that brings to mind a blend of the styles on the two Tolerance albums [see below].

 

Midas – another symphonic progressive rock group. They’ve released a few albums – ‘Beyond the Clean Air’ [Made in Japan, 1988], ‘Midas II’ [Belle Antique, 1996], ‘Third Operation’ [Belle Antique, 1999], ‘International Popular Album’ [King, 2000] and ‘In Concert (Live)’ [Belle Antique, 2002].

 

Fumio Miyashita – this guy formed Far Out and the Far East Family Band [see above]. He studied acupuncture in the US in the late 70’s and returned to Japan in 1981 as a music therapist, releasing many albums of tranquil, meditative electronic music mostly on his own label, Biwa (see www.discogs.com). The best known of these are ‘Meditation – Meisou’, ‘Birth – Tanjou’ and ‘Peace – Yasuragi’, and many were released just as by ‘Fumio’. I have only heard ‘New Lights – Journey to Space’ [JVC, 1984], which consists of cosmic synth music and cheesy space disco.

Mkwaju Ensemble – a trio of Midori Takada (see below), Yoji Sadanari and Junk Arase, they made two albums - ‘Mkwaju’ [Better Days, 1981] and ‘Ki-Motion’ [Better Days, 1981]. Both are excellent, and contain instrumental percussive cosmic world groove music with subtle electronic treatments, revelling in repetition. The first was produced by Joe Hisaishi (see above), who also played bass; Hideki Matsutake (see above) also contributed computer programming. The latter was without Arase, and featured Shuichi ‘Ponta’ Murakami (see above).

 

Mr. Sirius – a symphonic prog band with jazzy and Canterbury touches. Their first release was an LP – ‘Eternal Jealousy’ [1986]. They made three albums – ‘Barren Dream’ [Made in Japan, 1986], ‘Dirge’ [King, 1990] and ‘Incredible Tour’ [Made in Japan, 1994; rec. ’89-‘91]. ‘Crystal Voyage’ [1990] compiled recordings from earlier, when they were called Sirius. Singer Hiroko Nagai was also in Pageant [see below].

 

Mugen – a symphonic prog band formed in 1978, influenced by Tony Banks, Genesis, Le Orme and The Enid. Their first album was ‘Symphonia Della Luna’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1984], followed by ‘Leda et le Cygne’ [Made in Japan, 1986], often considered their best. This album featured guests from Outer Limits and Pageant. The third album was ‘The Princess of Kingdom Gone’ [Made in Japan, 1988]. ‘Vento di Primavera’ [label? year?] was a flexi-single, and appears to contain recordings dating from before the first album.

 

Nariyuki Shimamoto – this four-piece band made at least one album of progressive rock, ‘Prelude To…’ [ACM, 198?]. On the CDreissuewishlist blog it’s said the music is centred on 80s-style “ghostly” synths with some acoustic guitar and vocals.

 

Nishin – their album ‘Dai Dai’ [Panama, 1987] is said to be heavily influenced by King Crimson when Adrian Belew was in the band (thanks http://cdreissuewishlist.blogspot.com).

 

Nord – an obscure experimental group formed in 1980 by Satoshi Katayama and Hiroshi Oikawa. Together they released one album, ‘Nord #1’ [Pinakotheca Records, 1981] in a limited edition of 300 copies. The Soundohm website says “side one is meditative, with repetitive electronic loops. Second long side is a terrific noisy space drone”. This isn’t quite accurate. None of the music is what most people would consider ‘meditative’. What we have here is slightly cosmic industrial experimental music and musique concrete, hinting at Kluster, MEV, Seesselberg and the like, some tracks also featuring noisy, fractured guitar scrapings. Side two doesn’t sound spacey to me, except perhaps in the last 5 minutes where it could be reminiscent of the sounds inside a space capsule with everything malfunctioning, warning beeps going off everywhere! The rest is pretty grating, sounding like a team of 200 people breaking a running steam train down to atoms using all manner of noisy power tools.

They went their separate ways in 1982, but both continued to perform individually as Nord. Oikawa recorded again with his newly-formed label, LSD Records. This Nord released ‘LSD’ [LSD Records, 1984] in a limited edition of 200 copies, which contains lengthy tracks of repetitive and meditative cosmic electronics; and ‘Ego Trip’ [LSD Records, 1984] in a limited edition of 100, musically in a similar vein – a little like Nik ‘Pascal’ Raikevic but with more variety and development in the soundscapes. There are also three live cassettes on the ZSF label, featuring Nord/Oikawa with Merzbow and [on one tape] K.K. Null of Zeni Geva [see below]. Katayama also issued a cassette as Nord – ‘Live Materials 1980-1993’ [Vanilla Records, 1994] – in a limited edition of 150 copies.

 

Normal Brain – these guys have been described as ‘techno-pop with a computer voice’! They released a flexi-disc mini-album, ‘Ready Made’ [Vanity, 1981], which is a bit more interesting than mere pop. Some tracks do feature a computer voice, which sounds like an early talking-computer spelling aid program for children. The ‘poppier’ tracks are weird electro minimal synth pieces with repetitive rhythms, with a longer track on side 2 that’s more in the cosmic synth vein. It’s all quite interesting for those liking experimental electro-pop.

 

Novela – formed in 1979 as an amalgamation of hard rock band San Sui Kan and hard prog band Scheherezade [see above]. In their early years they were more progressive-rock styled; some have compared them to Renaissance, Genesis, Yes, Rush and Rainbow. In the second half of the 80’s they became more pop-oriented. Their albums include ‘Miwakugeki’ [1980], ‘In the Night’ [1980], ‘Requiem’ [1981; a mini-LP], ‘Paradise Lost’ [1981], ‘Sanctuary’ [1983], ‘Harmageddon Story’ [1983], ‘From the Mystic World [1984; live], ‘Harmageddon Story 2’ [1984], ‘Brain of Balance’ [1986], ‘Land of Time’ [1986; mini-LP] and ‘Words’ [1986]. Guitarist Terutsugu Hirayama [see above] went on to Teru’s Symphonia [see below]. Keyboardist Toshio Egawa formed the group Gerard [see above].

 

Goro Ohmi – a keyboardist, ex-Minotaurus [see above]. From the 1980’s to now, he has made music for soundtracks. One album of his that I’ve heard is ‘Niji Sinden’ (‘Rainbow Shrine’) [Nippon Columbia, 1983], which contains cosmic synths, dark keyboard structures and gamelan music, and was inspired by the manga of the same name.

Ryo Okumoto – a keyboardist with classical training, who made a couple of solo albums at the start of the 80s – ‘Makin’ Rock’ [See Saw, 1980], reputedly a fusion album, and ‘Synthesizer’ [Canyon Records, 1980], which appears to be a synth demonstration album. Later he became a studio musician and joined prog band Spock’s Beard in the 90s.

 

Onna – this was vocalist/guitarist/manga artist Keizo Miyanish and whoever was backing her at the time. The only official release when Onna was most active was the single ‘Cortigiana dal velo’/’Enfolding Your Breasts…’ [Cupid & Psyche Records, 1983]. Backed by Hiroki Mafuyu on guitar, bass and drum machine, these two tracks of gloomy, hypnotic psychedelic art-punk are a great distillation of Onna’s style. The 2-CD ‘Eros’ [Bloody Butterfly, 1999] contains live material from 1983. ‘Katawa’ [PSF, 2007] was new material with two other guitarists. The more recent compilation ‘Onna’ [Holy Mountain, 2009] collects the single along with live stuff from 1983 and out-takes from the ‘Katawa’ sessions, both looser, gnarlier and more jammy than the single, only occasionally coalescing into something great. The live stuff featured Michio Kurihara on guitar, better known later on from Ghost [see below].

 

Outer Limits – a symphonic prog band featuring mellotron and violin. I haven’t heard any yet, though the music is reputedly comparable to early King Crimson, PFM and UK. They released numerous albums in the second half of the 80’s – ‘Misty Moon’ [1985], ‘A Boy Playing the Magical Bugle Horn’ [1986], ‘The Scene of Pale Blue’ [1987] which is generally considered their best, ‘Silver Apples On The Moon’ [1989] and ‘Outer Mania’ [1989].

 

Pageant – a symphonic progressive rock band who have been compared to Genesis, Yes, Renaissance and early 80’s Rush. Their albums include ‘La Mosaique de la Reverie’ [1986], ‘Abysmal Masquerade’ [Made in Japan, 1987; reissued by Musea, 2000], the EP collection ‘Kamen no Egao’ [1987] which might be the same as ‘Abysmal Masquerade’, ‘Live and Rare’ [1989] and ‘The Pay For Dreamer’s Sin’ [Spalax, 1989]

 

Paikappu – a spacey progressive fusion band using traditional Japanese instruments along with modern instruments, including ‘80’s’ keyboards. They’ve been compared to Ozric Tentacles, Camel, Gandalf, Terpandre, Kenso and Pulsar. They recorded an album in 1984 on cassette that wasn’t released on CD until later – ‘Paikappu’ [Mellow, 1993].

 

Pale Acute Moon – a symphonic prog group formed in 1984, who have been compared to Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Keith Emerson. They made only one album, ‘Newtopia’ [Monolith, 1985]. It was reissued by King in 1988, and Musea in 2000. Keyboardist Motoi Semba was also in Teru’s Symphonia [see below], Kennedy [see above] and Shonen Knife.

 

Phew – vocalist from Aunt Sally [see above]. Her solo debut ‘Phew’ [Pass Records, 1981] had a venerable backing of Conny Plank, and Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit. It’s an excellent album that has a propulsive electro groove much of the time, like a ‘No Wave’ evolution of the Moebius & Plank sound, but with Phew’s Japanese vocals added.

 

Picky Picnic – a duo of Yuji Asuka and Kaoru Todoroki. Their very strange experimental electro-pop-rock was eccentric and playful, reminiscent of The Residents, Tom Recchion and other singular weirdos. Their discography consists of ‘Picnic Land’ [cassette, 1982], ‘Ha! Ha! Tarachine’ [Aka-Tak, 1985] and ‘Kuru Kuru World’ [1989].

 

R.N.A. Organism/EP-4 – R.N.A. Organism released one album, ‘Meets P.O.P.O.’ [Vanity, 1980], before transforming into EP-4. The music has been described as a kind of new wave heavy funk. EP-4 released numerous albums – ‘Seifuku Nikutai’ [1983], ‘Multilevel Holarchy’ [1983], ‘Lingua Franca 1’ [1983], ‘The Crystal Monster’ [1985], ‘Five To One’ [Hot Records (Australia), 1985], ‘Lingua Franca X’ [1993] and ‘Found Tapes’ [1994].

 

Ruins – formed in 1985 by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, with a continuing line of bass players, Ruins have almost always been a duo. The main exception is the album ‘Symphonica’, which features numerous guest musicians with heaps of keyboards, and hints towards Yoshida’s later side-project Koenjihyakkei [see below]. Yoshida’s musical inspirations are basically complex progressive rock such as Magma, Area, Gentle Giant and ELP, but delivered with a blinding in-yer-face punk-metal-ish speed and fury. Like Magma, Ruins’ vocals are delivered in an incomprehensible language of their own design. Many of their tunes feature so many tight changes and fiddly runs it boggles the mind to imagine how these guys are able to learn to play this music. Indeed, live recordings demonstrate that there is no studio trickery involved – these guys really can play like demons possessed, with the complexity of mathematicians! Yoshida and some of the bassists he has played with have branched out into numerous other collaborations and special projects, some of which are mentioned elsewhere here [mostly in the next section].

Full album releases only [there are EP’s and other things dating back to 1986] are ‘Stonehenge’ [Shimmy Disc, 1990], ‘Early Works’ [Bloody Butterfly, 1991], ‘Burning Stone’ [Shimmy Disc, 1992], ‘II & 19 Numbers’ [SSE Communications, 1993], ‘Infect’ [SSE, 1993], ‘Graviyaunosch’ [Nipp Guitar, 1993], ‘Hyderomastgroningem’ [Tzadik, 1995], ‘Refusal Fossil’ [Skin Graft, 1997; a collection of live and unreleased out-takes], ‘Vrresto’ [Sonore/Magaibutsu, 1998], ‘Symphonica’ [Tzadik, 1998], ‘Mandala 2000/Live at Kichijoji Mandala II’ [2001], ‘Pallaschtom’ [Sonore/Magaibutsu, 2000; reissued on Skin Graft, 2005] and ‘Tzomborgha’ [Ipecac, 2002]. ‘Symphonica’ was much proggier than usual, featuring keyboards and two female vocalists. ‘Pallaschtom’ contained only three tracks – a prog medley, a hard rock medley and a classical medley. More recent releases such as ‘Tzomborgha’ have toned down the clamorous assault slightly and brought in more diverse sounds in parts – Ruins just keep getting better! ‘1986-1992’ [2002] is a compilation of early stuff, some of it pretty rare.

 

Sagittarian – a largely-instrumental symphonic progressive rock group who made only one album that I know of, ‘Sagittarian’ [Aries, 1984]. It sounds a bit like Camel, Genesis and early Novalis and is pretty ordinary. There is a CD reissue of this on Mellow.

 

Saisei-Koubou – an obscure band influenced by mid-70’s King Crimson. They made at least one album, ‘Saisei-Koubou’ [LLE, 1987]. The drummer was previously in Lacrymosa [see above]. The group was more than a bunch of Crimson copyists, however. Their great, short album (which sounds live, or demo quality) also sounded a little like a rough-edged Magma at times, and there is a weird, spaced-out current running through a lot of the music.

 

Akira Sakata – this guy saxophonist made an EP, ‘Tenoch Sakana’ [Nippon Columbia, 1980], that’s an unusual blend of styles. Pretty hard to classify or even describe but fascinating throughout, it’s all instrumental and uses mainly synths, percussion and saxophone. It could be lumped in with the weirder, more eclectic end of the RIO camp. He has made many other albums since then, few of which I’ve heard, including Pochi’ [Better Days, 1980], ’20 Personalities/Akira Sakata Sings’ [Better Days, 1980], ‘Tacology’ [Invitation, 1987], ‘Mooko’ [NEC Avenue, 1988], ‘Vs Spherical Sound’ [Apollon Music Industrial Corp., 1989], ‘Silent Plankton’ [Japan Record, 1991], ‘Fisherman’s.com’ [Starlets, 2001] and many others. ‘Fisherman’s.com’ also features guitarist Pete Cosey [from Miles Davis’ ‘70s band] and Bill Laswell, and is broadly jazz rock with a Gong-like current. I’m not sure if he released anything else as a solo artist, but He was also in the group Wha-Ha-Ha [see below].

SF – this group was formed in California by Fumio Yamashta and Shigeo Nakashima, and is named after their first initials. They drafted in Fumio Miyashita, ex-Far Out and Far East Family Band, and made one album, ‘Process’ [private press cassette, 1981], later reissued on CD [Belle Antique, 1998]. It’s very reminiscent of mid-70s Pink Floyd and Far East Family Band, though not quite as good as either.

 

Social Tension – a prog trio inspired by ELP and UK, and who have been compared to Ars Nova and Gerard. They made two albums, ‘MacBethia’ [1989] and ‘It Reminds Me Of Those Days’ [1990]. ‘It Reminds Me Of MacBethia’ [Musea] is a compilation of both albums.

 

Speed – formed in 1976 by Shinichi Aoki [ex-Murahachibu] & Kengo, playing loud, high-energy rock’n’roll. Their album ‘Kiss On Live At Shinjuku Loft ‘85’ has been [re?]issued on CD by Captain Trip.

Stubbs – led by Kojiro Yamashita, this group played top-notch freaky instrumental prog very much in the Canterbury mould of Egg, Hatfield & the Noth and National Health. The album ‘The Prime Moving Lumps’ was recorded in 1985 but appears to be a posthumously-released CD-R compilation of demo tracks. The sound is pretty good, though some of it is very thin and trebly.

 

Damo Suzuki – Damo is an experimental vocalist perhaps best known for his years with German group Can; this stuff won’t be discussed here. After leaving Can, Suzuki became a Jehovah’s Witness and didn’t release any music for a while. The sojourn ended in 1984 when he joined the group Dunkelziffer, who have been described as ‘percussive space reggae’. They made a few albums with him – ‘In The Night’ [1984; reissued by Captain Trip], ‘III’ [1986; reissued by Captain Trip] and ‘Live 85’ [Captain Trip, 1997]. More recently, Suzuki has been playing with the psychedelic group Cul-De Sac, as well as the Damo Suzuki Band [featuring Jaki Liebezeit, and two ex-members of Dunkelziffer] and his own Network, groups of musicians all over the world who form a unique backing jam band whenever he comes to town to play.

 

Sympathy Nervous – this group released the great album ‘Sympathy Nervous’ [Vanity, 1980] on the collectable experimental Vanity label, and may be of some interest. The music has been described as ‘rhythmic-based dark synth-pop’, but I wouldn’t call it pop at all. There was also a 2-LP release, also self-titled, which came out in 1996 on Nova Zembra; this might be a compilation.

 

Hajime Tachibana – a musician and graphic designer, who was in a pop group in the mid-70’s called Plastics, but later turned to strange avant-garde rock influenced by the likes of Etron Fou Leloublan and Albert Marcouer. His albums include ‘H’ [Alfa/Yen, 1982] (the only one I’ve heard – it’s great!), ‘Hm’ [Alfa/Yen, 1983], ‘Mr. Techie & Miss Kipple’ [Alfa/Yen, 1984], ‘Taiyo Sun’ [Midi Inc., 1985], ‘Beauty & Happy’ [Midi Inc., 1987], ‘Bambi’ [Toshiba EMI, 1991] and ‘Low Power’ [For Life, 1997].

 

Taco – also seen listed as Tako, and should not be confused with the Yugoslavian prog band of that name. Formed by Harumi Yamazaki and Toshiharu Ozato, ex-Gaseneta. Their first album, ‘Taco’ [Pinakotheca Records, 1983], featured some backing from Tori Kudo [Maher Shalal Hash Baz, see above], amongst others. The music is a great mixture of punk, new wave, psychedelia, musique concrete and various experimental/avant-garde approaches. It’s a totally weird album, jumping from style to style, sounding relatively normal one minute and completely bizarre the next. Some comparison can be made to Decayes and H.N.A.S., and one track sounds like a J.A. Caesar ballad with crazed guitar soloing.

Tairikuotoko vs Sanmyakuonna – a Tatsuya Yoshida [Ruins – see above] side project, in which the band members played instruments other than their usual ones. They released two excellent and very varied albums of crazy experimental prog/RIO/zeuhl – ‘Perfect Hell’ [SSE Communications, 1994] and ‘Viva Young Florida’ [Magaibutsu, 1998].

Midori Takada –a percussionist (ex-Mkwaju Ensemble) who made two solo albums that I know of – ‘Through the Looking Glass’ [RCA, 1983] and (with Masahiko Satoh – see above) ‘Lunar Cruise’ [Epic, 1991]. The first album contains very good electronic-tinged progressive world music, having a little in common with some of Akira Ito’s better work (see above). The second is also excellent.

 

Ayuo Takahashi – a prolific composer, who has released many of his albums just as ‘Ayuo’. His first was ‘Silent Film’ [MIDI Inc, 1984], recorded in New York City, and featuring Takehisa Kosugi [see above] on violin and Carlos Alomar [from David Bowie’s group] on guitar; it was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see above]. ‘Memory Theatre’ [MIDI Inc, 1985] was a concept album based on a story by playwright Koharu Kisaragi; it featured Sakamoto and many others. ‘Nova Carmina’ [MIDI Inc, 1986] featured Maddy Prior and Peter Hammill. ‘Blue Eyes, Black Hair’ [Belle Antique, 1995] was a rock opera recorded live in 1989. It featured Takahashi’s band Rok Groupa, including drummer Masaharu Sato [see below; from Bi Kyo Ran]. ‘Heavenly Garden Orchestra’ [FOA, 1995] contains instrumentals and songs, some of which were made for films, theater and ballet. ‘Eurasian Journey’ [JVC Victor, 1997] again featured Peter Hammill, and contains music based on ancient Asian and European melodic forms. ‘Eastern Tradition’ [Belle Antique, 1998] focuses on just traditional Japanese music, and was mostly recorded in 1991. ‘Izutsu’ [Tzadik, 2000] is an opera based on a Noh play, and features koto, voice, hurdy gurdy, sitar, guitar, Celtic harp and other traditional instruments. ‘Earth Guitar’ [MIDI Inc, 2000] features a great host of musicians, again including Peter Hammill. ‘Red Moon’ [Tzadik, 2005] is credited to Ayuo and Ohta Hiromi.

 

Toyoda Takashi – this ex-Taj Mahal Travellers musician has made ambient synthesizer albums, such as ‘The Comet’ [Master Sound, 1980], ‘Big Bang’ [Sound of Tranquility, 1985] and ‘Zodiac’ [Sound of Tranquility, 1999].

 

Takami – a female vocalist using dark, dreamy, melancholy atmospheres, a little comparable to Nico. Albums include ‘Y de Noir’ [cassette; 1982], ‘Tenshikou - Y de Noir II’ [LLE, 1983; reissued Belle Antique, 1995] and ‘Yume no Kirigishi’ aka ‘Cliff of Dreams’ (although Google translate gave a phonetic translation of the Japanese title as ‘Yume no Gake’) [LLE, 1985; reissued Belle Antique, 1995]. Synthesist Pneuma [see above] played on all of these albums. I’ve only heard ‘Cliff Of Dreams’ [LLE, 1985]. It is excellent throughout, with the highlights being the very psychedelic long first and last tracks; comparisons include Nico’s classic period, and the mood of Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes but without the propulsive rhythms or strident vocals. Instrumentation consists of vocals, kalimba, guitar, sitar, percussion, bells, electric piano, synths and oscillator.

 

Masayoshi Takanaka – this guy was the bassist for Brush and Flied Egg in the 70’s. In the early 80’s he made a solo album, ‘The Rainbow Goblins’ [Kitty, 1984], which he composed, arranged and produced, but doesn’t seem to have played on, from what I can make out – for that he used session musicians. It’s a concept album based on a story about some rainbow-eating goblins, with occasional narrational interludes in English. The music starts off as light orchestral, but this is quickly overtaken by lots of bland instrumental white funk/soul/fusion muzak. Occasional brief moments of more storming funk fusion and atmospheric psychedelics aren’t quite enough to save a pretty bland and cheesy album, unfortunately! The cover art is nice, though. I’m not sure if Takanaka has any other albums, and after hearing this one I’m in no hurry to find out – you can do that if you like!

 

Teru’s Symphonia – a lush symphonic prog band who have been compared to Marillion, and later, The Enid, Outer Limits, Mr. Sirius and Pale Acute Moon. They have released many albums over the years – ‘Teru’s Symphonia’ [1985], ‘Egg the Universe’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Human Race Party’ [King/Nexus, 1989], ‘Fable on the Seven Pillows’ [Made In Japan/Symphonia, 1991], ‘Clockworked Earth’ [Made in Japan/Symphonia, 1993], ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Camel’ [Musea, 1997] and ‘The Gate’ [Musea, 1999].

 

Tolerance – this group released two very rare albums, ‘Anonym’ [Vanity, 1980; seen listed as 1979 also] and ‘Divin’ [Vanity, 1981]. The first is strange experimental electroacoustic music, and is probably the reason the group were mentioned on the well-known Nurse With Wound list of influences. The second album is quite different, being wholly electronic and making much use of repetitive electro beats in a compelling music that is still experimental but in parts clearly pointing towards ambient techno to come.

 

Vermillion Sands – a lush symphonic prog band who are renowned by fans of the genre. Their sound has been compared to that of Renaissance and Camel. They only made one album that I know of, ‘Water Blue’ [Made in Japan, 1989; reissued by Musea, 1999].

 

Vienna – a hard, energetic symphonic prog band formed by guitarist Yukihiro Fujimura [ex-Gerard – see above]. Their music has been compared to that of Gerard. They’ve made four albums that I know of – ‘Overture’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Step Into...’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Progress – Last Live’ [King/Crime, 1989] and ‘Unknown’ [Protect, 1998].

 

Virgin Vs. – formed by Morio Agata [see above], this band was a weird, wacky and often cheesy style-hopping avant-pop that would probably interest RIO enthusiasts, in a similar arena overall to Hikashu and Kohichi Makigami [see above]. ‘Virgin’ [1981] was, I believe, their first album, and there may have been more.

 

Wha-Ha-Ha – a totally nutty experimental fusion band of the post-RIO variety, reputedly with some inspiration from Frank Zappa, though overall much stranger and not really like him. Very diverse, weird and difficult to describe, their music was a bizarre hybrid of all kinds of stuff, only occasionally showing their jazz rock roots. Some touching points for comparison are the Residents, Albert Marcoeur, Supersister, Samla Mammas Manna, Snakefinger, H.N.A.S., Flying Lizards, Sun City Girls, Vas Deferens Organization etc. The group included Akira Sakata, Shuichi ‘Ponta’ Murakami [see above for both], Shigetoku Kamiya, Shuichi Chino, Mishio Ogawa, Takafumi Fuse, Kiyohiko Semba and Tamio Kawabata. They made only three albums – ‘Shinutokiwa Betsu’ [Columbia/Better Days, 1981], ‘Getahaitekonakucha’ [Columbia/Better Days, 1981] and ‘Live Dub’ [Columbia/Better Days, 1981], actually a 12” EP. I’ve only heard the first two, which are both excellent. At least the first two have been reissued on CD by Columbia, and there was also a compilation on ReR from 1982.

 

White Heaven – a well-known psychedelic rock group formed in 1985, with a style derived from US west coast psych rock [including Blue Cheer and San Diego band Iron Butterfly] and a guitarist obviously obsessed with John Cippolina. Later on they became more progressive-rock oriented, though still psychedelic. From the little I’ve heard, their style is similar to the more accessible side of Ghost [see above], and fittingly there have been other collaborations between members of the two groups [see Cosmic Invention below]. White Heaven also included guitarist Michio Kurihara [from Ghost, Marble Sheep, The Stars, and solo], at least on the first album. Albums include ‘Out’ [PSF, 1991; rec. ‘86], ‘Electric Cool Acid’ [Noon, 1995] – which contains live recordings from 1987-88, ‘Levitation’ [Now Sound, 1997; rec. 1988] and ‘Next to Nothing’ [Noon, 1994].

 

Wuthering – a hard progressive rock group who have been compared to Novela [see above]. I’ve been unable to find out anything about them, except that they released at least two albums – ‘The Gate of Fate’ and ‘The Land of Dilettante’.

 

YBO2 (aka Yellow Biomechanik Orchestra 2) – an early group of Tatsuya Yoshida [drums, metals, piano, vocals; see Ruins above], Kazuyuki K. Null [guitar, metals, reeds, vocals; see Zeni Geva below] and Masashi Kitamura [bass, mellotron, vocals], who are the line-up on the first album. Other members were in the group briefly before and after this period. The music on all of their releases that I’ve noted below as having heard was a crazed, heavy form of punk-prog that hinted at early Ruins. The sound quality tended to suck a bit, but the music was great. They released a few albums, but I’ve only heard the first two - ‘Alienation’ [Trans Records, 1986] and (as Yhwh…Black Omen II) ‘Kingdom of Family Dream’ [Trans Records, 1986]; the others are ‘Live Bootleg’ [Trans Records, 1987], the double ‘Pale Face Pale Skin’ [1988] and ‘Starship’ [1989]. I’ve heard two of their EPs, ‘Taiyou no Ouji’ (‘Prince of the Sun’) [Trans Records, 1986] and ‘Sora ga Ochiru’ (‘The Sky Falls’) [issued together with Prince of the Sun on CD, Trans Records, 1989]; others are ‘Doglamagla’ [Trans Records, 1986; reissued in 1987 as a picture disc] and ‘Hikari No Kuni’ [Trans Records, 1987].

Hiroshi Yoshimura – this electronic musician formed a group, Anonyme, in 1972 to play computer music, but they didn’t record anything as far as I know. He started releasing albums of improvised ‘environmental music’ in the 1980s, starting with ‘Music For Nine Postcards’ [Sound Process, 1982], until his death in 2003. All of the tracks I’ve heard from dipping in through Youtube are great, absorbing ambient music. The album ‘A.I.R. – Air In Resort’ [Shiseido, 1984] was apparently made to be given away at a promotional event by the Shiseido perfume company, and it is said that all copies still smell of the perfume sprayed on the sleeves for the launch! The music is excellent cosmic ambient with one side forest-themed, the other sea-themed - some of it is reminiscent of the feel of Cluster’s ‘Cluster & Eno’ and ‘Sowieso’ albums. 

 

Zeni Geva – formed in 1987 by guitarist Kazuyuki K. Null [K.K. Null], with Mitsuru Tabata and Eito Noro. Their sound is generally chunky, fierce and aggressive industrialoid punk-metal with an experimental/progressive flavour buried within the sonic assault. Often they sound like a blend of Voivod, Sepultura and early Godflesh. They had no bassist, instead using down-tuned guitar. Their albums were ‘How to Kill’ [Nux, 1987], ‘Vast Impotenz’ [Nux, 1988], ‘Maximum Money Monster’ [Pathological, 1990], ‘Total Castration’ [Public Bath, 1992], ‘Nai-Ha’ [NG, 1993; a mini album, reissued by Skin Graft, 1996], ‘All Right You Little Bastards’ [NG, 1993], ‘Desire For Agony’ [Alternative Tentacles, 1993], ‘Freedom Bondage’ [Alternative Tentacles, 1995] and ‘10,000 Light Years’ [Neurot, 2001]. K.K. Null has also made solo albums which are generally more experimental and abstract than his work with Zeni Geva, but reputedly declining in quality over time.

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