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Bountiful Braintrust 

Japanese New Music Festival members play musical chairs

Wednesday, Sep 6 2006
Talk about multitasking. When the Japanese New Music Festival hits town this week, all seven groups performing will comprise various configurations of three musicians. Not just any three mind you; the trio in question — Yoshida Tatsuya, Kawabata Makoto, and Tsuyama Atsushi — are vital, influential veterans of Japan's underground music scene.

They certainly are prolific, with hundreds of bands and releases between them. Yoshida is best known as the powerhouse drummer for longstanding bass-and-drums prog duo Ruins, and has been in such important noise-rock groups as YBO2 and Musica Transonic. Kawabata is the wild-haired guitarist in psychedelic collective Acid Mothers Temple, and contributes to an insane number of side projects. Acid Mothers Temple bassist Tsuyama is no slouch either; in addition to a healthy solo career, he's been in such renowned Japanese bands as UFO or Die and Omoide Hatoba. He's also an accomplished Tuvan throat singer and, incredibly, a forest ranger who summers on top of a mountain.

Funny thing is, everything these men do is consistently excellent. "These three guys in some ways stand for the indie scene in Japan," says San Francisco avant-guitarist and Japan-booster Mason Jones of the triumvirate. "They're constantly creative, and they continue to grow and evolve, which is the real trick. Through their collaborations, their various projects, and playing with different people all the time, they avoid stagnation."

To showcase some of their many projects, the musicians are currently touring the fourth version of their Japanese New Music Festival. You can't tell the players without a program, so here are descriptions of the scheduled groups:

Shrinp Wark. This Yoshida/Kawabata improv duo derives its name from the song "Shrink Wrap" by British band This Heat. Liner notes for a CD promoting the festival calls Shrinp Wark a "cosmic chemical reaction sound that embraces a multidimensional chaos based upon the principles of minimalism, an anarchistic warping of the time axis, and ultra-accelerated revolving of time particles." In a recent e-mail, Yoshida calls it "post This Heat minimally."

Seikazoku. Kawabata once described Seikazoku as "an improvised krautrock unit, consisting of the holy trinity of myself, Tsuyama, and Yoshida." Formed in 1996, Seikazoku's all-encompassing extemporaneous sprawl provided the template for Acid Mothers Temple.

Zubi Zuva X. Yoshida describes Zubi Zuva X as the trio's "eccentric polyrhythmic a-cappella ensemble," one which runs the gamut from Gregorian chant and doo-wop to goofball scat and screaming.

Zoffy. Tsuyama and Kawabata's whimsical minstrel duo. Expect anything from "destructivist" renditions of classic rock tracks to medieval music forgeries. With four full-length releases since 1997, the members of Zoffy are currently focused on improvising bogus versions of troubadour and traditional music from around the world.

Ruins Alone. Since forming in 1985, Ruins has traditionally been a bass/drums power duo. At least four bassists have come and gone over the years, and Yoshida toured recently auditioning bassists in the various towns he visited. "I stopped looking for [a] bassist," he explained. "Now I feel good to play with sampler." Hence Ruins Alone.

Akaten. "Every day-based experimental comic free form," writes Yoshida of this Tsuyama/Yoshida duo. This consumerist commentary act uses such items as zippers and umbrellas as sound sources. Brand names often double as song titles, with iconic phrases like "Nikon" repeated over and over; Akaten is best experienced live.

Acid Mothers Temple SWR. Acid Mothers Temple is Japan's cosmic freakout space-rock mothership. There have been many permutations of the Acid Mothers commune, and SWR is the one composed of Kawabata, Tsuyama, and Yoshida.

When asked what to expect from the New Music Fest overall, Yoshida summed things up thusly: "Within these different contexts, the musicians will experiment with and explore 'the essence' of the varying forms of extreme music. This event, most assuredly, is not to be missed." Now that's confidence.

About The Author

Mike Rowell


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