1990’s-present

 

Acid Mothers Temple – a band/collective formed in 1996 by visionary self-taught free rock guitarist Kawabata Makoto, ex-Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai [see above] and numerous other groups. He wanted the band to bring to life the kind of totally wild psychedelic music that he had always wanted to hear but never been able to find. They are also known as the Acid Mothers Soul Collective.

The first album, ‘Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.’ [PSF, 1997], played all as one track, which makes it tough luck if you can’t handle the total onslaught and want to skip to a mellow bit! There are two main vibes going on here – totally insane acid noise guitar & electronics freakouts over simple and repetitive grooves, and delicious mellow spacey interludes in which to catch your breath. The former feels like flying into the sun on LSD, and seems to get more and more intense as the album plays; the latter gives a bit of a nod to Gong, as does the style of lettering on the track-listing. ‘Pataphysical Freakout Mu!!’ [PSF, 1999] was a bit less intense [and that’s still pretty intense], and a bit shambolic like they’d fried too many nerve-endings with their too much-too soon high-octane overdrive, but still a good one. ‘Troubadours From Another Heavenly World’ [PSF, 2000] followed in a similar vein. ‘La Nòvia’ [Eclipse, 2000] supposedly explored the lost folk music of Occitania, and musically, most of the album is one long track sometimes reminiscent of Soft [see below] circa ‘Shamanic Waveform’. It’s a beautiful and uncharacteristically restrained mellow psychedelic jam, occasionally building to some mind-boggling harder freakout sections. The CD issue has a few extra tracks in a similarly mellow druggy mood. ‘Absolutely Freak Out – Zap Your Mind!’ [Static Caravan/Resonant, 2001] was a double album with lots more variety and spontaneity than on previous albums. ‘New Geocentric World’ [Squealer, 2001] was a little more accessible [only a little!], following a similar grouping of styles to the first few albums, but with more focus in places. Other albums include ‘In C’ [Eclipse, 2001], ‘Electric Heavyland’ [Alien8, 2002] etc etc. These guys release so much stuff it’s hard to keep up!

 

Adachi Kyodai – formed by two brothers who both play guitar. Their music is fairly concise, jazzy progressive rock influenced by King Crimson, Jethro Tull and John McLaughlin. They’ve released three albums, ‘Blood and Instinct’ [2001], ‘Adachi Kyodai’ [Musea, 2003] and ‘Xianshi’ [Musea, 2005].

 

Afrirampo – a duo of Oni (guitar, vocals) and Pikachu (drums, vocals). Their album ‘Kore Ga Mayaku Da’ [Tzadik, 2005] at first seems to be a basic punky scream-bash, but spreads out into all sorts of creative variations and expansions that are hard to really sum up or describe. Tracks range from just over a minute to around 12 minutes. I guess you could call this ‘idiot-avant’ rock? The only other album of theirs I’ve heard is ‘We Are Uchu No Ko’ [Supponpon/Rock Action, 2010] which is quite an improvement, and still bonkers!

 

Akaten – a duo of Tatsuya Yoshida [Ruins – see above] and Atsushi Tsuyama [see below, and Acid Mothers Temple above]. They played a really weird kind of freak music that largely sounds like the work of two crazed loons with Attention Deficit Disorder. The music on their debut EP – ‘Akaten’ aka ‘I’ [Magaibutsu, 1995] – bears some resemblance to early Boredoms, and at times a more chaotic take on very early Ruins. They’ve made several other releases – ‘II’ [Magaibutsu, 1995], ‘III’ [Magaibutsu, 1996], ‘IV’ aka ‘Junmaiginjyou’ [Magaibutsu, 1997] and ‘Chateau du Akaten’ [Magaibutsu, 2001] – all of which are EP’s. I’ve only heard the first, but they reputedly get even less structured and serious as the years go by.

 

Altered States – an offshoot from Ground Zero [see below]. They play a kind of crazed, complex progressive rock, a mix of mid-70’s King Crimson, zeuhl, Boredoms, free jazz and psychedelia; Frolk Haven have been compared to Altered States, if you’ve heard that band, but on the basis of the little Altered States I’ve heard [the ‘Mosaic’ album] I wouldn’t agree. They’ve released many albums – ‘Altered States’ [Zenbei, 1992], ‘Lithuania and Estonia Live’ [Trigram, 1994], ‘Mosaic’ [God Mountain, 1995], ‘4’ [Zenbei, 1996], ‘Café 9.15’ [Phenotype/Disk Union, 1996; with Ned Rothenberg], ‘6’ [Zenbei, 1997] and ‘Plays Standards’ [Eyewill, 1999]. A great track by them on the ‘Neu Konservatiw’ sampler [Holy Mountain] sounds like a whacked-out instrumental Primus improve crossed with the avant-prog madness of Korekyojin.

 

Amygdala – a duo consisting of Yoshiyuki Nakajima [keyboards, synths] and Yoshihiro Yamaji [guitar, bass, vocals]; Yamaji is also in a band called Tyrant. There are drums to be heard, though I presume they’re programmed on a synth because no drums are credited. Their first album was ‘Amygdala’ [Soleil Zeuhl, 2004], followed by ‘Algemeine Angaben’ [2004], but I couldn’t find any mention of them on the Soleil Zeuhl web site. I’ve only heard the first, which is full of excellent complex instrumental progressive rock with a clear zeuhl influence, sharing elements of Magma, Present and Happy Family [see below].

 

Angel’in Heavy Syrup – a pretty good all-female psychedelic/progressive group formed in 1989 or 1990 by Mine Nakao and Mineko Itakura. They’ve released numerous albums – ‘I’ [Alchemy/Subterranean, 1991], ‘II’ [Alchemy, 1993], ‘III’ [Alchemy/Circular Reasoning, 1995] and ‘IV’ [Alchemy, 1999], and have had the honour of opening gigs for Gong and Hawkwind, by whom their form of space rock is influenced by, with comparisons to Temple and Sensation’s Fix also being audible. Although often spoken of as though they’re solely gentle and ethereal, they do actually rock a fair bit of the time. Guitarist Fusao Toda, who joined after the first album, is half of Christine 23 Onna [see below].

 

Fumitaka Anzai – a composer and keyboardist who is well-known for his work on anime soundtracks, particularly in the 80’s. He’s also performed with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, and wrote the theme music for the ’85 expo in Japan. In 1999, he started his own label. His first album was ‘Kyrie: Canto Cybernetico’ [Apricot Systematic Recordings, 1999] contains a unique mix of symphonic prog, cosmic synthesiser music, drum’n’bass etc. with operatic female vocals. His second album was ‘Exclusive Sequences’ [Apricot Systematic Recordings/CD Baby, 2001].

 

Ars Nova – formed in 1983, with numerous line-up changes ensuing. These three ladies play progressive rock very much inspired by keyboard-fronted old-school classical prog such as ELP and Le Orme, but with a bit of their own touch. Their music [based on ‘Android Domina’, the only album of theirs I’ve heard] sometimes pretty intense and impressive, sometimes pretty cheesy, and largely instrumental. Their first album was ‘Fear and Anxiety’ [Made in Japan Records, 1992], followed by ‘Transi’ [Made in Japan, 1994], ‘Goddess of Darkness’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1996], ‘Reu Nu Pert Em Hru’ (‘The Book of the Dead’) [Made in Japan/Musea/AMP/Black Widow, 1998], ‘Android Domina’ [Musea/Black Widow, 2001] and ‘Lacrimaria’ [Made in Japan, 2001].

 

A-theta – a mellow symphonic prog group led by keyboardist Yoko Royama from Vermillion Sands. Their first album was ‘Seeds of the Dream’ [Musea, 2000], and includes numerous guests including Akihisa Tsuboy, violinist from KBB [see below]. The music has been compared to Renaissance and Vermillion Sands.

 

Ausia – a virtuosic progressive acoustic trio consisting of Source Adachi [Adachi Kyodai – see above] on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Akihisa Tsuboy [KBB – see below] on violin, and Yukihiro Isso [Solo] on recorder and dengakubue. They have at least one album, the excellent ‘Kasa Kasa’ [Poseidon/Musea, 2003], which is mostly instrumental and bridges folk, jazz and ‘world music’ in an original, complex and dazzling way. One track is a Jethro Tull cover, ‘Mother Goose’. It sounds to me like a blend of Radio Noisz Ensemble, Shakti, Sirocco, Bären Gässlin, and the dense instrumental style of early Comus.

 

Bandvivil – a trio formed by guitarist Issei Takami. Their album ‘Junaokissei’ [Musea Parallele/InterMusic, 2004] is instrumental music with a lot of jamming, from heavy rock to fusion, inspired by Hendrix, Zappa, King Crimson and Brand X.

 

Bass Army – this trio had two electric bassists [Kazuyoshi Kimoto from Ruins, and Kato Hideki from ground Zero] and a drummer [Masahiro Uemura from ground Zero], and made one great album, ‘Karada Wa Oto O Dasu Mono’ [Trigram, 1994]. The music encompasses RIO/avant-prog and Phlegm-like freeform noise rock.

 

Il Berlione – an RIO-progressive group who have been compared to Henry Cow, Hatfield & the North, National Health, Kenso, Happy Family and Lacrymosa. Their first album was ‘Il Berlione’ [Belle Antique, 1992], which was excellent; I wouldn’t agree on the Hatfield and Happy Family comparisons, though. It reminds me of bands like Picchio Dal Pozzo, Aqsak Maboul, Present, Potemkine and even Archimedes Badkar in places. The follow-up, ‘In 453 Minutes of Infernal Cooking’ [Belle Antique, 1994], has been described as disappointing compared to the debut, focusing on more of a boring fusion style.

 

Blazing Bronze – a dark progressive group with symphonic and jazz touches, as well as lots of synths. Their first album was ‘Dominion of the East’ [Independent, 2001], followed by the even darker ‘Death Collection’ [Independent, 2001] and ‘Unscientific’ [2002].

 

Bondage Fruit – an excellent progressive band formed in 1990, who have been described as a cross between Happy Family and Kenso. They are often pegged as a zeuhl band, but that’s only one of the styles they utilize in creating their own original style, which also takes in ethnic music in a similar way to French group Babel, as well as experimental and psychedelic prog leanings. The original core members were Kido Natsuki [guitar; ex-Deforme], Yuji Katsui [violin] and Otsubo Hirohiko [drums], with the later addition of vocalists Saga Yuki and Aki Kubota, as well as Ohtsubo Hirohiko [bass], Tamara Kumiko [vibes] and Okabe Yoichi [percussion]. Not sure who played bass! They first released a home made live compilation tape before establishing their own label and releasing proper albums. The first was ‘Bondage Fruit’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1994], followed by ‘II’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1996], which is sometimes said to be their best album. After this the vocalists left and the band turned to more instrumental improvisation with the live album ‘III - Récit’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1997]. ‘IV’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1999] was another wild affair with weird psychedelic avant-blues, and freaky dense jams that pointed towards what Battles would be doing later, as well as hitting many other points of unique creativity. ‘Skin’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 2002] and ‘Live at IPMF’ [1999] are the only others I know of. Natsuki has also been a member of P.O.N. and Korekyojin [see below], and Kubota was in an early lineup of Koenjihyakkei [see below], as well as singing on Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ album [see above].

 

Boris – a slow, heavy experimental group influenced by The Melvins but even more stretched-out and minimal – some have compared them to Sleep in their general approach. Their first album was ‘Absolutego’ [Fangs Anal Satan, 1996], followed by a split album – ‘Boris/Abones’ [Fangs Anal Satan, 1997]. Their next was a collaboration with Keiji Haino – ‘Black - Implication Flooding’ [Inoxia, 1998], followed by ‘Amplifier Worship’ [Mangrove, 1998]. Next was another split album - Boris vs Choukoku No Niwa – ‘More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape’ [Inoxia, 1999]. On ‘Flood’ [MIDI Creative, 2001] they had mellowed somewhat, with one 70-minute semi-acoustic piece.  ‘Heavy Rocks’ [Quattro, 2002] and another two collaborations with Merzbow were next – the doomy ‘Megatone’ [Inoxia, 2002] and the more active and psychedelic ‘04092001’ [Inoxia, 2005], which was released on LP only. Other releases to date include ‘Akuma No Uta’ [DIW Phalanx, 2003], a mini-album; ‘At Last – Feedbacker’ [DIW Phalanx, 2004]; ‘The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked’ [Kult of Nihilow, 2004], an EP; and ‘Mabuta No Ura’ [Catune, 2005], a movie soundtrack which is reputedly pretty mellow. ‘Altar’ [Southern Lord, 2006] was an excellent collaboration with Sunn O))), dreamy, dark, psychedelic, and heavy in vibe. ‘Smile’ [Southern Lord, 2008] embraced a kind of stoner rock with Blue Cheer influences as well as some mellower psych tracks. Boris are still going strong and have released many more albums, continually evolving their approach.

 

Budderfly – a group consisting of members of Six North, led by bassist Hideyuki Shima and with two guitarists and two drummers. Their album ‘Budderfly’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005] contains live jams, largely avant-jazz free improvisation, but with some moments of cohesive heavy prog rock riffs, and a delicious cosmic drum jam near the end. The standard of musicianship is very high.

 

Buffalo Daughter – their album ‘Psychic’ [V2 Records, 2003] is full of great rhythmic psychedelic electro-trance rock, with elements of Time Control, later ‘cosmic’ Boredoms, Stereolab, Cornelius, Litmus and Black Dice.

 

Castle in the Air – a symphonic progressive metal group, who have been compared to Novela and Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. They made only one album that I know of – ‘Castle in the Air’ [Made in Japan, 1999]. Keyboard player Yuhki Nakajima joined Marge Litch [see above] after Castle in the Air broke up.

 

Christine 23 Onna – a duo formed in 1994, with Maso Yamazaki [Masonna] and Fusao Toda [Angel in Heavy Syrup – see above], seemingly paying homage to 70’s German electronic rock and 60’s exploitation psych. ‘Space Age Batchelor Pad Psychedelic Music’ [Insignificant, 1996] was their debut, and came as a clear pink LP. ‘Shiny Crystal Planet’ [Alchemy, 2000] is a heady blast of modern electro-noise psych with a retro edge, featuring raw electronics and guitar with breakbeat drums, dense but surprisingly varied and textured. One track reminds me quite a lot of The Spoils Of War, but this isn’t typical to the album. Although a long way from Masonna’s usual noise chaos, this is still a pretty noisy record by normal standards. The cover art ripped off Ash Ra’s ‘New Age of Earth’ logo, and the version of that album’s cover which showed Manuel Göttsching and Rosi looking hipper-than-thou. The only other album I know of is ‘Acid Eater’ [Midi Creative/Noble, 2002]. As a live band they have appeared as a four-piece.

 

Cinderella Search – a symphonic prog band with English vocals and violin. They have been compared in various ways to Genesis, Tony Banks, Camel and UK. They have only two albums that I know of, ‘Cinderella Search’ [Made in Japan, 1993] and ‘Stories of Luminous Garden’ [Made in Japan, 2001].

 

Cinema – a progressive rock group formed by ex-members of Fromage [see above]. They play in a symphonic/classical prog style, with violin, viola, cello, bouzouki and ocarina in the brew. Their first album was ‘The Seven Stories’ [Belle Antique/Made in Japan, 1995], followed by ‘Into the State of Flux’ [Belle Antique/Musea, 2000] and ‘Mindscape’ [Belle Antique, 2002; reissued by Musea, 2004].

 

Construction – the only recording I’m aware of by this obscure new-ish psychedelic rock band is the live ‘Fade Out’, on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 4’ PSF sampler. It’s a great jammy track that sounds simple yet fairly complex at the same time, building to a Neu-meets-Hawkwind-meets-Simply Saucer-like climax.

 

Coral Caves – an electronic group using a great array of analog and midi synths, and computer processing. The band is actually just one person, Toshiyuki Fujita, although he calls himself Fujita Satoshi here. Coral Caves is named after a lyric in Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’, and is influenced by 70’s progressive rock and New Age music. The only album that I know of is the debut ‘Voice From a Distance’ [Musea Dreaming, 2000]. The Exposé web site referred to it as being in “the space between Yanni, Kitaro and [Rick] Wakeman”. Others bring up comparisons such as a more rock-oriented Vangelis, and 90’s Tangerine Dream.

 

Cosmic Invention – a short-lived ‘supergroup’ formed by Masaki Batoh [Ghost – see below], Michio Kurihara [White Heaven – see above] & Futoshi Okano [Subvert Blaze], with other members of Ghost, Overhang Party, Kakashi & Yura Yura Kingdom. Their album ‘Help Your Satori Mind’ [The Now Sound, 1997] is a varied and enjoyable one, seemingly some kind of homage to their 70’s psychedelic heroes. The title track sounds like Flower Travellin’ Band jamming with Foodbrain! Some of the album ventures into heady 70’s Miles Davis psychedelic jazz rock territory pretty effectively, as well as some out-there space rock explorations with a nod to Pink Floyd. Some tracks are in the Ghost song-style, and as such there are commercial touches here and there which in my opinion slightly damage the album’s credibility. According to the liner notes, track 5 is written by Boz Scaggs!

 

Daiichi-Hakkensha (First Discoverer) – a four-piece group who [based on the track I’ve heard on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 3’ PSF sampler] played a kind of atmospheric free-form psychedelic music. They sound to me like a more basic Taj Mahal Travellers kind of thing, but with acoustic guitar and semi-spoken narrative vocals.

 

Daimonji – a kind of RIO prog band featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins, with Hoppy Kamiyama on keyboards and Nasuno Mitsunu on bass. The first album was the live ‘Improg’ [Poseidon/Musea, 2003], which has very long tracks [between roughly 14 and 22 minutes]. It’s jammy, spawling avant-prog with free jazz rock leanings, sometimes resembling a form of space rock, and sometimes with a slight zeuhl feel. Recently this was followed up by ‘Into a Blind Alley’ [God Mountain, 2004].

 

Death Comes Along – a loose assemblage led by a guy who goes simply by the name of Crow, they’ve been around since at least the early 90’s but have only made two releases, ‘First Live Album’ [Mangrove Root, 1994] and ‘Death Comes Along’ aka ‘Psychedelic Inferno’ [Psychedelic Inferno, 2001]. I’ve only heard the second, which is a refreshingly demented [and excellent] album of heavy cosmic rock. The near-20 minute opening track sounds like classic-era Guru Guru, Ash Ra Tempel and Hawkwind never died but moved to Japan after a period of cryogenic suspension and subsequent cell alteration; you also get a brief, creepy vocal piece, 14 minutes or so of throbbing, whirring psychedelic ‘noise’ insanity, and a weird melodic guitar piece overlaid with loud, incongruous throat chanting and spontaneous rumbling percussion, the whole concoction building to a twisted feedback’n’fuzz guitar plateau before settling to a pleasant and harmonious end.

 

Demi Semi Quaver – an excellent progressive group formed by Hoppy Kamiyama, best known as an extravagant cross-dressing personality who is behind the God Mountain label, as well as many varied bands such as Optical*8, Pink, Saboten, Pugs, Bubbleman, O.N.T.J., ESP and eX-Girl. However, I don’t think he actually played with them. Their first album, ‘Demi Semi Quaver’ [God Mountain, 1993], featured Toru Terashi [guitar], Hidenori Yokoyama [bass], Koichiro Naka [drums], Genya Kuwajima [keyboards], Steve Eto [percussion], and Emi Eleonola [piano, accordion, vocals]; Eleonola also sang on the Ruins album ‘Symphonica’. The music on their album is like a blend of Happy Family, Bondage Fruit, Korekyojin and Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’, and would appeal to anyone into that stuff. Their second album ‘II’ [1995] was in a similar vein and was again excellent.

Djamra – an RIO/jazz rock band. Their albums include ‘Transplantation’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003], ‘Kamihitoe’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2006] and ‘Circle of Circus’ [self-released, 2010]. 

Dowser – an electronic rock trio led by Hiroyuki Nagashima, with Masateru Terai and Hisahiko Horiuchi. Their excellent album ‘Telecoma’ [Creativeman Disc, 1997] also used guest musicians to provide conventional instruments and vocals on some tracks. While the first track of the album could be described as ‘cyber prog’, much of it is more purely electronic, and is very diverse and creative as a whole. Some of the music reminds me of Strange Garden [see below], Download and Dome.

 

Dub Sonic Roots – a large collective using massive percussive grooves combined with electronic fucking-around and free-jazz sax. Their album ‘Live at the Uplink Factory November 3, 1996’ (with Nerve Net Noise) [Zero Gravity] also features a jam with noisy electronics group Nerve Net Noise, as well as a track with Nerve Net Noise by themselves. Dub Sonic Roots also sometimes play as Dub Sonic Warriors or Dub Sonic Starship Arkestra [as well as probably other names], depending on the mood.

 

Dub Sonic Starship Arkestra – an offshoot of Dub Sonic Roots, perhaps simply the same group. I find their album ‘For Psychobuddhfaridrumachinespace Age’ [1997] much more varied and enjoyable than the other Dub Sonic Roots albums I’ve heard. It’s a pretty weird trip, running through trippy experimental jazz grooves, dijeridu and electronics mystical dronings, and further percussion/sax/double bass/electronics freeform workouts. This CD is pretty hard to find, and the copy I bought didn’t even come with a cover insert or any information!

 

L’Evoluzione – a heavy progressive band that has been compared to Dream Theater, or prog such as Banco crossed with metal such as Metallica. The only album that I know of is ‘Antibiotic Rhythm’ [Castle Records, 1999]. Keyboardist Yoshihiro Kataoka was previously in Round House [see above].

 

Fairy – a symphonic prog group including Hiroyuki Ishizawa and Masahiro Uemura from Dharani. Formed in 1988, they soon broke up with some members forming the group Io [see below]. A few years later they got back together and made an album, ‘Hesperia’ [1994], before splitting for good. Uemura went on to make computer game music and formed the project Kalo [see below].

 

Flat122 – an instrumental progressive jazz-rock trio, who have released one album so far - ‘The Waves’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005]. Their style has been described as being a mix of Gong, King Crimson, The Enid, Pat Metheny, Erik Satie and Side Steps [see below].

 

Floating Flower – a psychedelic folk group with female vocals, consisting of Kawabata Makoto [Acid Mothers Temple – see above], Tetsuya Kaneko and Yuki; they formed in 1998. Albums so far are ‘1st’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1998, CD-R; reissued on LP by Eclipse, 2000] and ‘2’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1999; CD-R] – both of which were reissued together on 1 CD [Black Plastic Sounds, 2002].

 

Fox Hole Commune [F.H.C.] – a supposedly ‘frantic’ progressive band using Chapman stick, bass, violin, banjo, synths and drums. Their album ‘One Locus Consisting of Three Fragments’ [Musea, 2003] is reputedly great, and very complex and unique. The few sample tracks I’ve heard that can be downloaded from the band’s website are pretty good RIO/avant-garde chamber music, but without drums, and not really ‘frantic’ at all.

 

Tetsuo Furudate – an experimental/avant-garde musician. I think his first two albums were ‘L’arret de Mort’ [1992] and ‘MacBeth’ [SSE Communications, 1993]. ‘(X).X Is Not a Man Or X Is Mortal’ [Staalplaat/God Factory, 2000] was recorded live in 1998, and is reputedly dark ambient industrial orchestral music. Following this was ‘Othello as Noise Opera’ [Les Disques Du Soleil et de l’Acier, 2001]. ‘World As Will’ (with Zbigniew Karkowski) [Staalplaat, 1998] and ‘World As Will II’ [23Five, 2003] are reputedly intense works with electronics and elements of Wagner. On ‘Autrement Qu’être’ (with Sumihisa Arima and Pneuma – see above) [DSA, 1995] Furudate provides guitar, violin, sampler and voice; Arima provides computer, sampler, keyboards and piano, with Pneuma on electronics, percussion and bowed string. The Forced Exposure web site describes it as “doomy sound patchworks, utilizing subtle collage techniques and the massive layering of modern Euro classical bents (Penderecki, etc.)”. Some of it reminds me of Igor Wakhevitch circa ‘Les Fous D’Or’ and ‘Nagual’. It was recorded live in Tokyo in ’94 and ’95, and is really out-there! There’s also a part II of this on the same label.

 

Gestalt – a great progressive band who have only one album that I know of, ‘Gomorrha Vs. Khan’ [Phalanx/Disk Union, 1999]. It’s a whirling dervish experience, blending doomy metal with middle eastern melodies and space rock. Some people have mentioned a zeuhl influence to the sound, but if so, they’ve kept it subtle and created their own sound that is barely reminiscent of Magma. Some of it sounds like Ozric Tentacles circa ‘Strangeitude’ and Gong circa ‘You’, but much heavier and more furiously rocking like Praxis [the Bill Laswell group, not the Mexican prog band]. There’s also a much more conventional quasi-ballad thrown in, which sticks out like a sore thumb – I usually skip it. The album is split into the “Orient (Khan) Side” and the “Psy-Phy (Gomorrha) Side”, with the second being a bit more heavy than the first, but otherwise not terribly different in style.

 

Ghost – formed in 1984, originally playing just free improvised music. By the time they began recording they had also incorporated composed and structured material. Basically they’re a psychedelic band with folk, rock, progressive and experimental facets. They utilize a wide range of instruments including acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, banjo, hurdy gurdy, keyboards, electronics, wind instruments etc. The music often has a fairly serious, mystical and spiritual feel of a kind. This appears to be in line with the intentions of the group for their expression in music. All of the albums also have moments where the band do more ‘commercial’ sounding songs, and these bits [which by and large I don’t like] are the only thing holding me back from declaring myself a fully-fledged Ghost fan.

Their first album was ‘Ghost’ [PSF, 1990], followed by ‘Second Time Around’ [PSF, 1992], ‘Temple Stone’ [PSF, 1994], ‘Lama Rabi Rabi’ [Drag City, 1996], ‘Snuffbox Immanence’ [Drag City, 1999] and the double album ‘Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet’ [Drag City, 1999], which ended with a very lengthy, experimental and tripped out slab of brain-melt. The recent double album ‘Hypnotic Underworld’ [P-Vine/Drag City, 2004] is arguably Ghost’s best yet. It runs the full gamut of their styles in top form, often venturing more into progressive rock and trippy jazz rock territory. There are still a few more ‘commercial’ sounding songs which I don’t like, but the rest comes highly recommended.

Golden Avant-Garde – a side-project of the Lacrymosa [see above] leader Chihiro S. Their album ‘Golden Avant-Garde’ [Belle Antique, 1994] was recorded between 1988-91; it is complex and weird RIO-progressive fusion with electronic effects and samples, that they described at the time as ‘cyber-rock’. It’s somewhere between Wha-Ha-Ha and Trap, to my ears.

 

Tadashi Goto – a talented musician who played all the instruments on his first album ‘Soundscape’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2005]; however, everything is reproduced by synthesizers, which is all he plays. The music is reputedly a blend of jazz-fusion and symphonic prog.

 

Green Milk From the Planet Orange – a psychedelic group formed in 2001 by Dead K and A [both ex-No Rest For The Dead, a grindcore band], later joined by bassist Benjian. They proudly proclaim themselves to be “the new wave of progressive rock”. Their first release was the CD-R ‘The Shape Of Rock To Come’ [Ancient, 2001], followed by ‘Birth of the Neon Trip’ [Ancient, 2002], also a CD-R, which introduced keyboards and trumpet into the mix. By ‘He’s Crying “Look”’ [Beta-Lactam Ring, 2003], their first ‘proper’ full-length release, Benjian had been replaced. This album received a lot of attention, and it’s a really good release [as well as the only one I’ve heard so far] containing lengthy and varied tracks of largely-instrumental psychedelic rock and spaced-out explorations. ‘A Day In The Planet Orange’ [Ancient, 2004] was a CD-R demo containing one lengthy [41:25] track – but why release a demo at this point? Their latest album was ‘City Calls Revolution’ [Beta-Lactam Ring, 2005].

 

Ground Zero – I won’t go that much into this group of Otomo Yoshihide’s and if you’re already a fan you don’t need any telling, but for the rest of us a little bit goes a long way, and the curious might want to check out the only Ground Zero album I’m familiar with, ‘Plays Standards’ [ReR Megacorp, 1997]. Sometimes pretty chaotic, and nearly always strange, it contains an eclectic collection of obscure covers (in a loose sense), played in a heavy avant-garde psychedelic jazz prog vein with sampled sound collages, some presumably from vinyl copies of the song being covered. Sometimes it sounds a bit like Secret Chiefs 3, but more fucked-up!

 

Group Therapy – a psychedelic avant-jazz group, reputedly sounding like a mix of Passport, Sun Ra and James Blood Ulmer. ‘Atlantis’ [Mellow, 1998] and the live ‘Digitalive’ [GT, 2000] had more of a fusion approach; ‘Melatomania’ [Mellow, 2001] leans more towards progressive ‘art rock’.

 

Gyaatees – a group consisting of mentally-handicapped priests [yes, I’m not just saying that] with guest musicians. They apparently make some kind of spiritual freeform music. They released 2 albums – ‘1’ [Captain Trip, 1997] and ‘2 – Gyaatees Meets Mani Neumeier’ [Captain Trip, 1999] – before they were joined by bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa [see below] for ‘Welcome Motoharu Yoshizawa Last Live’ [Captain Trip, 1999]. A few months after the recording, Yoshizawa died. Gyaatees recorded only one more album that I know of, ‘4 – Live at Show Boat’ [Captain Trip, 2001].

 

Hanadensha – side project of the bassist from The Boredoms [see above]. He’s released numerous albums, including ‘The Golden Age of Heavy Blood’ [Alchemy Records, 1992], ‘Hanaden Bless All’ [Alchemy, 1993] [double], ‘Narcotic Guitar: Imaginary Movie Soundtracks’ [WEA Japan, 1996], ‘Astral Pygmy Wave’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997], ‘Acoustic Mothership’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997] and ‘Doobie Shining Love’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997]. Of these, I’ve only heard ‘Acoustic Mothership’, which is really excellent, tripped-out experimental electronic rock that is processed almost beyond recognition as having any rock basis. It doesn’t really sound like anyone else that comes to mind.

 

Happy Family – one of the best newer Japanese progressive bands, these guys played a complex and meaty, mainly instrumental music that is heavily influenced by Magma and heavy King Crimson. Not counting 2 early cassettes (‘Happy Family’ [1990] and ‘Flying Spirit Dance’ [live; 1994]) they only released two albums, ‘Happy Family’ [Cuneiform, 1995] and ‘Toscco’ [Cuneiform, 1997]. Some folks might be put off by the cheesy keyboard sounds, which are only dominating in a couple of the shorter tracks, though apart from that the quality of the music is very high indeed! Perhaps most enjoyable to people who like the idea of Koenjihyakkei [see below] but find them a bit too demented and relentless to get into. I love ‘em both! The band seems to be defunct although there’s always the hope they might put something new together.

 

Aki Hata – a symphonic vocal prog artist who has been compared to Kate Bush, Fromage and Shingetsu [see above]. There are four albums that I know of – ‘Lass Die Welt Untergehen’ [Arcangelo, 1996], ‘L’ile Aux Trente Circueils’ [1997 or 1999], ‘Kan Oke Jima’ [Arcangelo, 1999] and ‘Sekai Nante, Owari Nasai’ [Arcangelo, 1999]. She is also prolific in making songs and music for computer games.

 

Sachi Hayasaka – a saxophonist who has made at least one interesting and enjoyable album, ‘Minga’ [Tzadik, 2003]. Broadly speaking it’s kind of ‘modern jazz’, but it encompasses a great range of styles beyond regular jazz, with an accessible experimentalism, which is why it’s mentioned here. The album starts and ends fairly conventionally, but in the middle there are plenty of surprises.

 

Head Pop Up – a complex, dynamic progressive rock band with two keyboardists. They reputedly have zeuhl, Canterbury and jazz rock overtones. They have one album that I know of, ‘Tokusen Burari Tabi’ [Poseidon, 2003], but they’ve apparently been playing together since the early 90’s.

 

Hikyo String Quintet – the only recording I’m aware of by this group is ‘Strings Quintet No. 1’ on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 4’ PSF sampler. As their name suggests, they’re a string quintet, but they play an intriguing improvised-sounding avant-garde chamber music with excellent musicianship and a great ability to create a moody and psychedelic atmosphere from such a conventional-seeming group format.

 

Higashi Hiroshi – a synth player and member of Acid Mothers Temple [see above]. He’s released at least three solo albums of cosmic floating synth music, as very limited edition cd-r’s - ‘Ikkan No Yo Yo’ [AMT, 2001], ‘He No He No’ [AMT, 2002] and ‘The Day Before: Psychochemistry’ [AMT, 2002].

 

Hi-Speed – an RIO/prog band featuring Mizuhiro [sax, flute, piano, percussion, computer etc], Taiji Takahashi [bass, violin, percussion], Yuji Takahashi [guitar, percussion etc], Masaomi Yatsuzuka [clarinet, keyboard, percussion] and Tadashi Kumada [drums]. They have released one album, ‘Erioka Con Animac Planetico’ [Unknownmix, 1996], compared to Happy Family, P.O.N. and Picchio Dal Pozzo.

 

Interpose+ - a mostly-instrumental progressive rock quartet, with symphonic and jazzy leanings. They include violinist Akihisa Tsuboy [from KBB – see below], and have been compared to UK, Outer Limits and Pageant [see above]. Their only album so far is ‘Interpose+’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005].

 

Io – an obscure prog band consisting of some members of Fairy [see above]. They made on album, ‘Glass Castle’ [1990], which I know nothing about.

 

Kadura – a space rock group with the fairly unique use of a zurna [a double-reeded horn]. They made only one album that I know of, ‘From the Depths of the Other Space’ [Charnel Music, 1997], which is pretty good stuff, although I would only call some of it ‘space rock’ as such – regardless, the vibe throughout is definitely psychedelic, be it earthbound or floating through the cosmos. Some of it reminds me of the Greek group Vavoura Band [circa ‘Ethnic – Soundtracks For Films’] blended with something like instrumental Angel’in Heavy Syrup [see above]. 

 

Kalo – a broadly symphonic prog group which is a project of keyboardist/guitarist/programmer Masahiro Uemura [ex-Fairy, Io – see above]. Kalo has one album that I know of, ‘Spiral Dream’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2004]. Apparently it lacks a particular style or direction, dabbling in a bit of everything proggy.

 

KBB – formed in 1992 by guitarist/violinist Akihisa Tsuboy. They play instrumental progressive rock with prominent violin and improvisation, and symphonic and fusion elements. The only albums I know of are ‘Lost & Found’ [Musea, 2000] and ‘Four Corner’s Sky’ [Musea, 2003].

 

Kinzokuebisu – a progressive rock group with lots of mellotron, said to be comparable to Genesis and Anekdoten [though not as dark]. They’ve made one album that I know of, ‘Hakootoko’ [Vital, 2003].

 

Makoto Kitayama – the ex-singer from Shingetsu [see above]. I haven’t been able to find out much of anything about this person, who has at least one album that came out as by Makoto Kitayama with Shingetsu Project – ‘Hiraku Sazanami’ [Musea, 1998]. It reputedly contains symphonic progressive rock with some comparisons to King Crimson, and was recorded between 1972 and 1996.

 

Koenjihyakkei – a side-project formed by Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida to play full-band stuff that’s more ‘proggy’ than other Ruins stuff – particularly in the zeuhl mold. The first two albums featured keyboardist/vocalist Aki Kubota from Bondage Fruit [see above], who also sang on Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ [see above]. ‘Hundred Sights of Koenji’ [God Mountain, 1994] and ‘Nivraym’ [Magaibutsu/Infinite, 2000] are both really dense, complex and over-the-top intense [Nivraym more so – ‘Hundred Sights’ is more varied and has some respite from the assault on the senses]. The only other albums I know of are ‘II’ aka ‘Viva Koenji!’ [God Mountain, 1997] and ‘Angherr Shisspa’ [Magaibutsu, 2005], which is more diverse and quite excellent.

 

Korekyojin – another Yoshida side-project, with guitarist Kido Natsuki [Bondage Fruit] and bassist Mitsuro Nansuro [Altered States, Ground Zero]. Their debut ‘Korekyojin’ [Tzadik, 1999] is a full-band [trio] outing, sometimes slightly reminiscent of Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ album, though more stylistically diverse and leaning towards RIO prog. It still has that Ruins jumpiness, but the music is a little bit more accessible [only a little bit!]. Pretty hard to describe, but recommended highly! Following that some years later came the albums ‘Arabesque’ [Magaibitsu, 2004], the live ‘Isotope’ [Tzadik, 2005], Jackson [Magaibutsu, 2006] and ‘Tundra’ [Magaibutsu, 2011].

 

Leningrad Psychedelic Blues Machine – an obscure offshoot featuring Makoto Kawabata [Acid Mothers Temple, Mainliner], Asahito Nanjo [High Rise, Mainliner, Seventh Seal], Hajime Koizume [Acid Mothers Temple] and Mara Tabata [Leningrad Blues Machine]. Their sole release was the cassette ‘Dark Star’ [La Musica, 1996], and on the first side they did indeed cover [in a way] the Dead’s piece of the same name. It’s a lengthy, spaced-out rambling jam – good, but not a patch on the Dead’s creativity and musical intuition when they would stretch out on it themselves. The second side is a lot noisier and rocky, sounding like a lo-fi, electronics-free Acid Mothers Temple.

 

Lu7 – a light, melodic progressive rock group with jazzy leanings. They have one album, ‘L’Esprit de l’Exil’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2005].

GO TO NEXT PAGE 90s-NOW : M-Z