Machine and the Synergetic Nuts – a heavy Canterbury-inspired progressive group with a jazz-fusion edge, formed in 1997. Comparisons include Soft Machine, Nucleus, Passport and Zappa fused with Happy Family or Korekyojin. Their first album was ‘Machine and the Synergetic Nuts’ [Alibaba, 2003], followed by the even better ‘Leap Second Forward’ [Cuneiform, 2005].

Mandog – this trio made only one album that I know of, the live ‘Big Wednesday’ [Captain Trip, 2004], which basically plays as one long improvised jam divided on the CD into 6 tracks. I first read of this as being in the style of Ashra, but it is much more rock-based and wild in the vein of Ash Ra Tempel and GAM, with lots of echo-guitar throughout. Excellent stuff!

 

Miminokoto – a Tokyo trio playing noisy underground psychedelic rock. They’ve been compared to White Heaven but also clearly show a love for US and UK rock from the late 60’s and early 70’s. Their first album was the cassette-only ‘Miminokoto’ [Gyuune, 2002], followed by ‘2’ [Austin Record, 2003], ‘Live’ [Last Visible Dog, 2003], ‘3’ [Siwa Records, 2004] and ‘Green Mansions’ [Alchemy Records, 2005]. ‘Orange Garage’ [Last Visible Dog,2005] is their second live album, recorded at the Orange Garage, hence the album title.

 

Mizukagami – a complex, original symphonic prog group with one album so far – ‘Mizukagami’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003]. It’s been compared to Vermillion Sands and Shingetsu [see above].

 

Molca – a folk-jazz group with progressive leanings, taking in ‘ethnic’ folk music styles from all over the world. There is one album that I know of, ‘Ethnic Fusion - Super Ethnic Flavor’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2004].

 

Mongol – a symphonic-fusion progressive band who have been compared to Kenso, Ain Soph [see above], UK and Dream Theater. To my ears they are more like a blend of the fusion-prog of Kenso and quite a bit of Magma influence, especially on the last, long track. They have only one album that I know of, ‘Doppler 444’ [Belle Antique, 1997].

 

Mono – perhaps classifiable as an experimental ‘post-rock’ band, their first two albums were ‘Under the Pipal Tree’ [Tzadik, 2001] and ‘One Step More and You Die’ [Rykodis/Arena Rock, 2003]. They  recorded ‘Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined’ [Fujipacific Music/Virgin, 2004 – rec. 2000-2001] with a string quartet and Steve Albini [though I’m not sure if he plays on it or just helped them with recording – the relevant part of the liner notes is obscured on a dark background and is partly unreadable]. The music on this album is beautiful, slowly unfolding instrumental stuff [kind of modern symphonic avant-prog in slo-mo], occasionally building to clanging furious guitar climaxes. They have at least one other album out, ‘New York Soundtracks’ [Human Highway, 2004].

 

Morsof – a progressive jazz rock group with some free jazz leanings. Their album ‘Heap’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003] is reputedly comparable to Soft Machine, Henry Cow and Passport.

 

Motor Humming – an ‘avant-prog’ group influenced by Ruins, Boredoms and John Zorn’s Naked City, amongst other things. Their first album was ‘Musical Aluminum’ [Tzadik, 1999]; I’m not sure if they’ve released anything else yet.

 

Mu Mu – an ‘avant-jazz’ trio using keyboards, trombone and drums; the drummer also plays in P.O.N. [see below]. Apparently broadly comparable to John Zorn’s Naked City, I’m not sure if this band has any albums out.

 

Seiji Nagai – ex-Taj Mahal Travellers member who released an album, ‘Electronic Noise Improvisation’ [Doppelganger, 1999], which in the words of Julian Cope is “a wild journey through a ring-modulated primal swamp infested with treated pianos, insane drummers, boiling bubbling synthesizers, ring-modulated mandolinists, and strange ever-upwardly shifting electronic FX”.

 

Kazunao Nagata – an experimental electronic musician, active since the mid-90’s, who runs 2 labels – Transonic and Zero Gravity. He features in some groups on his labels, as well as releasing his own solo performances. The most predominant of these are ‘The World of Electronic Sound’ series, which go up to volume 4. Of those that I’ve heard, basically what you get is lots of electronic fucking-around with no real direction or attempts at musical coherence. It can be quite enjoyable if you like electronic music of all kinds but I find these albums get a bit samey by the time they’re about half way through playing. All of the Zero Gravity releases have very distinctive and effective artwork – hard to describe, but a web search should pick up some examples. Those perhaps of more interest to psychedelic/progressive electronic freaks are mentioned above and below [Dub Sonic Roots, Strange Garden, Trio Rakant]. Many of the other releases are either fairly quiet and minimal, or high-frequency and fucked-up. Some of it’s quite good, but if I start listing every Japanese electronic group or artist I’ll be here forever!

 

Naikaku – a Tokyo progressive rock group formed in 1998 by bassist Satoshi Kobayashi and flautist Kazumi Suzuki; they’re also known as Naikaku-No-Wa, but they seem to have dropped the last bit more recently. They have been compared to Jethro Tull and King Crimson, with some metal and jazz rock leanings. Their first album was the self-produced ‘Wheels of Fortune’ [2003], followed by ‘Shell’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2006].

 

Kido Natsuki – guitarist from Bondage Fruit, who toyed with his own brand of psychedelic quasi-space rock on the limited edition CD-R ‘Disco Space Baby!’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 2000], which is very enjoyable and comparable broadly to Atsushi Tsuyama [see below].

 

Nijiumu – one of Keiji Haino’s [see above] side projects. Their debut was ‘Nijiumu’ [PSF, 1990], followed by ‘Era of Sad Wings’ [PSF, 1993], which comes recommended by Alan Cummings as a “contemplative fusion of electronic washes, ethnic instruments and deeply echoed vocals”.

 

Novo Tono – a kind of avant-prog supergroup, including such luminaries as Seiichi Yamamoto [Boredoms], Phew [solo, Aunt Sally] and Otomo Yoshihide. Their album ‘Panorama Paradise’ [1996] is wildly diverse and thoroughly great, although hard to describe.

 

Ohkami No Jikan – a psychedelic group formed by Asahito Nanjo from High Rise; Kawabata Makoto [see above] was in the group for a while. I’ve only heard one track by them, from the ‘Tokyo Flashback 2’ PSF sampler, and no longer with Makoto in the group. Starting out as a hypnotic inner-space groove reminiscent of live Can, the track [‘Thin City Part 2’] soon morphs into a blistering acid guitar freakout. They have one ‘proper’ album, ‘Mort Nuit’ [Fractal, 2002], as well as some cd-r releases including ‘Psychedelic Atmosphere Beatnik’ [La Musica, 1999] and ‘Untitled’ [La Musica, year?].

 

O-U – I haven’t been able to find out much about this band, who certainly don’t have a name that allows for easy internet searching! They have made at least one album, ‘O-U’ [Poseidon, 2003], reputedly containing a complex mix of RIO, jazz rock and classical music with an avant-garde approach.

 

Overhang Party – formed by guitarist and vocalist Rinji Fukuoka. From the little I’ve heard they play a kind of psychedelic rock occasionally a little reminiscent of the White Heaven I’ve heard, but heavier and less commercial. Their albums are ‘Overhang Party’ [private press, 1993], ‘2’ [Pataphysique, 1994], ‘Live at Show Boat 8/22 1994’ [Pataphysique, 1995], ‘4’ [Pataphysique, 1998] and the 2-CD + 7” ‘Otherside Of’ [Pataphysique, 2000].

 

Peril – a Japanese/Australian group who played a weird kind of experimental quasi-industrial music blending samples, turntables and tapes with hard-core avant rock. Their sound is comparable to Bill Laswell’s Praxis, some Mr. Bungle and ‘pre-enlightenment’ Boredoms, and perhaps John Zorn, with lots of cut-ups, chops and changes. Their first album was ‘Peril’ [Dr Jim’s Records/Survival, 1993], which featured Otomo Yoshihide [turntables, guitar, tapes], Tony Buck [drums, samples, machines, composer of most of the music], Kato Hideki [Ground Zero; bass, voice] and Michael Sheridan [guitar]. Their second album ‘Multiverse’ [Sound Factory Records, 1993] saw Hideki replaced by Thierry Fosmale. ‘Astro’ [Red Note, 1996] is the last album I know of.

 

Pochakaite Malko – an instrumental prog band with two keyboard players, and a heavy symphonic approach. They’ve been compared to Magma, Happy Family and ELP and are reputedly great. They’ve released two albums so far – ‘Pochakaite Malko’ [Infinite, 2002] and ‘Laya’ [Tutinoko, 2004], which features Akihisa Tsuboy from KBB [see above] on violin.

 

P.O.N. – formed as an offshoot of Ground Zero [see above], with the guitarist Kido Natsuki being from Bondage Fruit [see above]. Using sax, drums, bass and guitar they play a highly complex kind of progressive rock with RIO and zeuhl influences, a bit like a blend of Koenjihyakkei, Happy Family, PFS and Trap. They only made one album that I know of, the excellent ‘P.O.N.’ [Double Trap, 1995], and they had two tracks on the ‘Neu Konservatiw’ sampler [Holy Mountain].

 

Priority – a trio led by guitarist Takumi Seino, also of Six North and Budderfly. They’ve made at least one album, ‘Light is Decomposed Into Fragments’ [Musea, 2001]. The music is reputedly abstract jazz rock with progressive and improvisational aspects, and has been compared in part to Pat Metheny.

 

Pryme Tyme – a heavy guitar-fronted progressive fusion band with one album that I know of, ‘Pryme Tyme’ [2000].

 

Quaser – formed in 1977, initially influenced by ELP, and broke up in the early 80’s. However they reformed in 1993 and have since made three albums – ‘Out From Quaser’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1994], ‘Remergence’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1999] and ‘Phase Transition’ [Flap, 2003]. Their music is reputedly European-influenced symphonic progressive rock that’s sometimes heavy. Guitarist Masmai Katsuura was also in Ain Soph [see above].

 

Rovo – a project led by guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto [Boredoms] and violinist Yuji Katsui [Bondage Fruit]. They’ve made a few albums, and I think the first is ‘Pico!’ [Dohb Discs, 1998], which is a great ride blending kinda avant-garde drum & bass and space rock in a stew of psychedelia. The excellent ‘Pyramid’ [2000] consists of one long track of cosmic psychedelia, moving from harmonica and echoed percussion to higher-key late-Boredoms-like vibes and endless techno-space-funk grooves, like Boredoms jamming with Dub Sonic Starship Arkestra.

 

Ruinzhatova – another Ruins side-project, consisting of Tatsuya Yoshida and Hisashi Sasaki from Ruins, Seiichi Yamamoto from The Boredoms and Atsushi Tsuyama from Acid Mothers Temple [see above]. The album ‘Close to the RH’ [Tractor, 2003] contains frenzied interpretations of prog and psych songs.

 

Motoi Sakuraba – keyboardist from prog band Deja-vu [see above]. He made some contributions to the v/a Italian prog tribute album ‘Pazzo Fanfano di Musica’ [Crime, 1989], also featuring Outer Limits, Teru’s Symphonia, Mr. Sirius and Kanon [which consisted of members of Outer Limits]. ‘Gikyoku Onsou’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1990] was his first solo album. Around this time he also started composing and recording music for video games, and there are many CD’s available containing this music. ‘Force of Light’ [Musea, 1998] is instrumental and was adapted from one of his computer game soundtracks. It has been described as mechanical, maniacal and bombastic, although with some moments of calm. By this time he was also making music for TV shows and anime.

Salle Gaveau – an excellent RIO/prog band, incorporating folky polka grooves and a flash of zeuhl. They made two albums, ‘Alloy’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 2007] and ‘Strange Device’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 2008].

Masaharu Sato – – ex-drummer from Bi Kyo Ran [see above]. His first solo album ‘Tappi’ [2001] was made with Bernard Paganotti [ex-Magma, Weidorje, Paga Group] and others. It’s reputedly progressive rock with jazz and eastern influences. There are some good moments of zeuhl thanks to Paganotti’s bass  playing, but this is a minor component amongst some acoustic guitar-based tracks, a bit of experimentation, and a whole lot of proggy fusion that is sometimes pretty cheesy.

 

Jyoji Sawada – an experimental/electronic musician and composer who also plays double bass, amongst other things. He’s made numerous albums, perhaps the best known being his third, ‘Enfant Terrible’ [Sonore, 2000]. It’s apparently a ‘futuristic fairy-tale’ inspired by travels to tropical lands, with sounds including Brazilian music, chamber music, jazz, gamelan, tape collages and electronics. ‘Base of Fiction’ [1994] was more rock-edged, although utterly unlike normal rock, with members of Ruins, Boredoms and Ground Zero playing on some tracks. It’s an excellent and radically inventive album at times sounding like Univers Zero and Bondage Fruit, but with lots of rapid style changes and unusual moods that make it very hard to sum up or classify.

 

Seikazoku – an interesting Ruins/Acid Mothers Temple [see above] side project, being a chaotic experimental psychedelic rock band consisting of Tatsuya Yoshida [drums, percussion, oboe, bouzouki, keyboards, voc.], Kawabata Makoto [guitar, violin, sarangi, hyoutan syamisen, keyboards, voc.] and Tsuyama Atsushi [bass, guitar, drums, violin, keyboards, kazoo, voc.]. Their album ‘Out Takes ’66-‘78’ [Fractal Records, 1996] and the crediting of the tracks [eg. 1. live recorded at Avalon Ball Room, San Francisco, 24th May ‘67] gives the impression that these are long-lost live archive recordings of a previously unknown vintage band. If that were the case then history would need some re-writing, but it later becomes quite clear that all of it was recorded as improvisations in 1996. Why the misleading album name and notes when they give it away anyway, if you read the notes properly? Beats me. The music is pretty good, though!

Seventh Seal – an offshoot of Asahito Nanjo’s Ohkami No Jikan [see above]. Their self-titled album [Acme, 1997] has been compared to Amon Duul II. There is also a live album, ‘Live 1995’ [1995].

Shibusashirazu Orchestra – an avant-garde jazz big band, led by Daisuke Fuwa. Shibusashirazu roughly means ‘never be cool’, and their sound likewise avoids modern trends and focuses on diversity and musical inspiration, with lots of inspiration. Their live shows are also multimedia events to feast the eys as well as the ears. They’ve released many albums – ‘Shibusamichi’ [Chitei, 1993], ‘Dettaramen’ [Chitei/Nutmeg, 1993], ‘Something Different’ [Chitei, 1994], ‘Be Cool’ [Chitei, 1995], ‘Shibusai’ [Chitei, 1997], ‘Shiburyu’ [Chitei, 1999], ‘Shibuhata’ [Chitei, 2002] and ‘Shibuboshi’ [Chitei, 2004]. The latter included Marshall Allen, Michael Ray and Elson Nascimento from the Sun Ra Arkestra. Of these, I’ve only heard ‘Dettaramen’, which is a bit like a blend of Chicago, Globe Unity Orchestra, Sun Ra, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Operation Rhino and Centipede.

 

Side Steps – an instrumental progressive fusion group formed in 1990, who have been compared to Kenso [see above] and Brand X. They’ve released at least 8 albums, including ‘Steps on Edge’ [1994; reissued Musea, 2003], ‘Out & Out’ [Musea, 1998], ‘Points of View’ [Musea, 2001], ‘Alive’ [Musea] and ‘Verge Of Reality’ [Musea, 2005] – I’ve found it pretty hard to discover anything more about their discography.

 

Le Silo – starting as a punkish band called Miyako, they changed their name to Le Silo and became proggier in an RIO vein. Their excellent first album was ‘8.8’ [Tutinoko, 2004], followed by ‘3.27830’ [Arcengelo, 2006]. Their style is comparable to a blend of Happy Family, Korekyojin, National Health and Henry Cow.

 

Six North – an unusual progressive group who have been compared in part to Weidorje and Mr. Sirius [see above]. They are led by bassist/composer Hideyuki Shima. Their debut ‘I’m Here In My Heart’ [Stream Line/Musea, 2000] is apparently a unique symphonic progressive album with elements of jazz-fusion and RIO. The next album ‘Prayer’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003] was reputedly spacier is better, with some hints of zeuhl fusion and less sympho-prog, and features Dave Sinclair of Caravan guesting on one track.k.

 

Soft – a great experimental psychedelic band, formed in 1993 in Kyoto. Their first album was ‘Shamanic Waveform’ [Inoxia, 1997], which plays more or less as one long piece, although it’s broken up into numerous tracks. It flows from serene cosmic meditations to frantic, over-the-top heavy rock outs and psychedelic weirdness. Other albums, which I haven’t heard, include ‘Sun Box’ [Comma, 1999], ‘Bonjour Bonshanfarm’ [Comma, 2000] (a cd maxi-single), ‘Otodama’ [Comma, 2001], ‘He Looks daughter, I Eat Chicken!?’ [Comma, 2004], ‘Live at Westcott House Garden’ [Japonica, 2008] and ‘The Whole Worlds Sacred Sounds Music Touches You’ [Japonica, 2009]. The band on the first album features someone named Sab on Moog – I wonder if this is the same Sab or SAB mentioned above?

Soft Mountain – this group was a brief collaboration between Hoppy Kamiyama [see Demi Semi Quaver], Tatsuya Yoshida [see Ruins], Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper [both ex-Soft Machine]. Their sole album ‘Soft Mountain’ [Hux, 2007] documents a live performance from 2003 over two long tracks of mostly avant garde free jazz.

Starless – a symphonic hard prog band, comparable to Teru’s Symphonia, Marge Litch and Novela [see above]. ‘Song of Silence/Wish’ [Musea] is a reissue of their 1992 album and an EP from the same year; I’m not sure if they released anything else.

 

Strange Garden – one of the more interesting groups on the Zero Gravity label. Their first album, which I haven’t heard, was ‘For Speaker System’ [Zero Gravity, 1996]. The only other album I’m aware of is ‘Mumbo Jumbo (Ritual of the Back Yard)’ [Zero Gravity, 1997]. It’s a really interesting record of varied electroacoustic experimental sounds and moods, very unusual and very listenable if you like things that are offbeat. The first track for example goes from an off-kilter sax/bass/percussion/electronics workout into a deep trippy section with treated throat chanting monks, exotic percussion etc. giving the feeling of being ferried to some mysterious place through an underground channel. Six band members are credited, as well as “some strange people”, utilizing bass, alto sax, percussion, kalimba, synthesizer, rhythm machine, electronics, effects, tapes, sampler, kazoo, bell, key and drill. The saxophonist on this [Masahiko Okura] also plays on the Trio Rakant album [see below].

 

String Arguments – a project of Six North [see above] mainman Hideyuki Shima. The live ‘The Encounter’ [Musea, 2002] again has jazz-fusion, classical prog and RIO influences but is reputedly quite different to Six North or other Shima projects.

Subvert Blaze – a power trio whose blazing, fuzzed-up rock borrows from some of the bands they covered [Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Hendrix] whilst still offering something of their own. Their two excellent albums ‘Subvert Art’ [Alchemy, 1990] and ‘Subvert Art II’ [Alchemy, 2002] were reissued as a 2-CD set as ‘Subvert Art Complete Works’ [Alchemy, 2004].

 

Sweet and Honey – a psychedelic rock group formed in 1989 by Junichi Yamamoto. In 1991 the guitarist was replaced by Masoki Batoh of Ghost [see above]. As far as I know their sole recorded legacy was ‘Live At Your Cosmic Mind’ [Now Sound, 1993], which I think was released after the band had broken up. It’s a great enthusiastic live album, swinging between extremes of fast hardcore punky stoner rock-outs and mellower, heavily stoned Floydian space grooves.

 

Synaesthesia – a 2/3 Japanese trio consisting of Kato Hideki [ex-Peril – see above] on a weird miniature electric bass, Ikue Mori on drum machines, and the well-known Fred Frith on guitar. What I think is their sole album, ‘Death Ambient’ [Tzadik, 1999], is a spell-binding array of weird but very listenable abstract free-form experimental ‘rock’ music. Pretty hard to describe, ranging from gentle exotic melodics to chaotic, tripped-out sound collages.

 

Time Strings Travellers – originally inspired by progressive jazz rock such as Miles Davis and Weather Report, this band made two albums – ‘Time Strings Travellers’ [1995, cassette] and ‘Second Action’ [1996, cassette] – before becoming a more original instrumental group for ‘Still Songs’ [Chitei, 1999]. They describe it as ‘neo popular music’ with an Asian feel and pop stylings – though it’s also been described as hypnotic and exotic spacey prog! The Musea catalogue says we should expect “Japanese folk-rock with a Magma influence”.

 

Tipographica – formed in 1986 by guitarist Tsuneo Imahori, who composed all the material. Their music was highly complex and convoluted progressive rock in a mind-boggling RIO vein. Comparisons include Henry Cow, Cartoon, Samla Mammas Manna, Picchio dal Pozzo and Frank Zappa. They released a few albums that I know of – ‘Tipographica’ [God Mountain, 1993], ‘God Says I Can’t Dance’ [Mellow, 1994; reissued Pony/Canyon, 1996], the live ‘The Man Who Does Not Nod’ [Pony/Canyon, 1995] and ‘Floating Opera’ [Sistema, 1997] – all of which are highly regarded. They broke up in 1998.

 

Trembling Strain – a cosmic-avant-folk group formed by synth player Pneuma [see above], later taking on a little Third Ear Band influence. They have numerous albums, including ‘Four Pictures’ [1994], ‘Music For Aerial Sculptures’ [1994], ‘Fu-ka - Anthem to Raise the Dead’ [1995], ‘Bottom of Empty’ [1996], ‘Tower’ [Heresie, 1997] and [as Akira and the Trembling Strain] ‘Dwelling of Telescopefish’ [1999]. ‘Four Pictures’ is quite a remarkable album with a dark and experimental mood, moving from ritualistic funereal music to crazed guitar soloing, and other places in between.

 

Trio96 – an instrumental jazz-rock-fusion group, a little progressive with some RIO leanings. They have a couple of albums, ‘Quartet ‘99’ [Musea/Poseidon, 1999; reissued 2004 – or, recorded in ’99 but released for first time in ‘04] and ‘Duo ‘03’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003]; they are a trio on neither of these, although they were when they formed!

 

Trio Rakant – an electronic experimental duo who released only one album that I know of, the wonderful ‘Kokorosususu’ [Zero Gravity, 1997]. Along with Strange Garden [see above] Trio Rakant were one of the better groups on the Zero Gravity label, in my opinion. This album is a lengthy collection of deep inner-space electronic weavings with acoustic elements expertly spun in, including guest musicians on sax, bass, and treated guitar loops on some tracks. At times meditative, at other times dissonant and challenging [a bit like some Interstellar Cementmixers, and sometimes with the vibe of latter-day Taj Mahal Travellers getting a look into cyberspace].

 

Tsurubami – formed in 1994 by Kawabata Makoto & Hiroshi Higashi [from Acid Mothers Temple – see above] with drummer Nobuko Emi. They have a strong cosmic/spiritual intent in their deep, droning soundscapes. Albums include ‘Tsurubami’ [Tenkyo No To, 1995 – cassette only], ‘Tenkyo No To’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1998 – CDR], ‘Kaina’ [Last Visible Dog, 2000 – CDR, reissued on CD in 2003], ‘Hanshoh No Omoi’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 2001], ‘Tsukuyomi Ni’ [Riot Season, 2003] and ‘Gekkyukekkaichi’ [Strange Attractors Audio House, 2003]. The latest album that I know of [and the only one I’ve heard so far] is ‘Shohjohkisshohtan’ [C3R, 2004], which swings between noisy free rock jamming [not unlike Acid Mothers Temple but without the electronics], amorphous cosmic ramblings that are almost free jazz [though minus the instrumental talent that free jazz usually requires to actually be good], and more ethereal spacey dronings.

 

Atsushi Tsuyama – guitarist/bassist/vocalist member of Acid Mothers Temple [see above], who used to play with Omoide Hatoba. He’s released some solo albums, of which I think ‘Starring as Henry the Human Horse’ [F.M.N. Sound Factory, 1996], an LP release, was the first. ‘Your Holiday’ [AMT, 2008] was a limited edition cd-r that came in a gorgeous elaborate paper package that looked like what I imagine the envelope to a fancy traditional Japanese wedding invitation might look like – as it turns out, it is actually meant to represent an envelope for a cash gift at a wedding. The music was great too, and totally tripped-out, taking in meditative cosmic synths, full-throttle guitar onslaughts, psychedelic rock and stranger points of experimentation. The earlier ‘Is This a Pencil Or a Sheep?’ [AMT, 2001; cd-r] was also great stuff, though a bit more restrained and less diverse, residing mostly in a tripped-out psychedelic folk/rock bubble. Tsuyama has numerous solo and collaborative recordings, and collaborated with Ruins’ Tatsuya Yoshida in the duo Akaten [see above].

 

Uchû – an Acid Mothers Temple offshoot with Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi and Ayano. They play German-influenced cosmic psychedelia with just electric guitar, effects and vocals. There are two albums that I know of, ‘Uchû’ aka ‘1st’ [AMT, 1998] and ‘Buddha’ [AMT, 1999], both being rather similar, and comparable to Fripp & Eno [‘Evening Star’, ‘The Equatorial Stars’] and Tomorrowland – in other words, totally blissed-out minimal mellowness.

 

Unbeltipo – a guitar/bass/drums trio playing complex space rock with comparisons to Ozric Tentacles and King Crimson – or, a solo project of ex-Tipographica [see above] guitarist Tsuneo Imahori, with guest musicians, in prog-jazz-drum’n’bass realms like Squarepusher, depending on who you believe. I haven’t heard them yet, myself. I’ve been unable to find much information in English, but there are at least two albums – ‘Unbeltipo’ [Sistema, 1999] and ‘Joujoushka #1’ [2003]. The first featured guest musicians on flute, trumpet, sax, bass, turntables, percussion, drums and programmed drums.

Up-Tight – a trio formed in 1992, clearly enthralled by Les Rallizes Denudes. Their first album ‘Up-Tight’ [private press, 2001] was great psychedelic rock with plenty of mellow valleys and bruising peaks. It was recently reissued on vinyl [Desastru, 2016]. They’ve made numerous other albums, including ‘Sweet Sister 1994-2003’ [private press CD-r, 2003], featuring live recordings of the title track going back to 1994, and ‘Up-Tight & Makoto Kawabata’ [Galactic Zoo Disk, 2005], a collaboration with the Acid Mothers Temple guitarist.

 

Wappa Gappa – a symphonic prog-jazz group formed in 1992 by bassist Keizo Endo. Apparently they are Mongolian, but they sing in Japanese and they are often thought of as a Japanese band. Their music has been described as Pageant-meets-Kenso [see above]. They’ve released three albums – ‘Yamataikoku’ [Air From Mt. Fuji, 1996], ‘A Myth’ [Musea, 1998] and ‘Gappa’ [Musea, 2004].

 

Taiho Yamada – an electronic music composer based in Los Angeles, born in Michigan. ‘Stages’ [Think Tank Media, 1999] is a compilation of material recorded as soundtracks for live theatre, that has been compared to Kitaro, Yellow Magic Orchestra [see above], Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno.

 

Otomo Yoshihide’s New Jazz Ensemble – those who find Yoshihide’s noisier and more experimental music a bit hard to get into may appreciate this group instead. Featuring sax, electric and acoustic guitar, double bass, trumpet, drums, percussion and electronics, their album ‘Dreams’ [Tzadik, 2002] is odd but approachable vocal jazz sometimes with a European traditional folk dance vibe, much in the way of slow, dreamy stuff, and a bit of free jazz, all with an over-arching avant-garde approach.

 

Zypressen – a chamber rock group comparable to Tipographica and Lacrymosa [see above] in style. They have one album that I know of, ‘Zypressen’ [Belle Antique, 1996].

Japanese Music Encyclopedy A-Z was written by Chris McLean

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