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Harpy — Au Secours!
((Not on label) no#, 1997, MC)

by Jeff Melton, Published 1999-01-16

Au Secours! Cover art

Three limited-edition cassettes released from Japan's Harpy (all of which pre-date their 1997 Stupeur & Trompette CD debut Do Not Eat) can be quickly categorized as quirky fun. The albums are broken down into several short ideas which pulse, kick, and push in jerky rhythms which to a casual listener, make only partial sense. But as usual, there is a higher plan to an exotic schema. What you're hearing is a more accessible Slapp Happy circa Desperate Straights (with co-contributors, Henry Cow). In fact, the similarities (specifically with arrangements and approach) between the two projects become obvious after a few of these ideas are analyzed just a bit from underneath a complex musical veil. Mood on the pieces varies between whimsical and silly, and the playing is syncopated and well planned. Instrumentation is nearly identical to the RéR release formats: guitar, piano, drums, and voice, but the album's tone is far more light hearted (and hopefully less political in nature). Definitely a less heavy handed approach yields a more listenable album in my book. Musicians are referenced by single names: drumming and percussion is from Itoken, guitars by Suzuki, Onotetsu on piano, and Dagmar-esque female vocal from Kyoko. The use of recorders, whistling, and seemingly structured, random thoughts works from a certain standpoint. Au Secours! is a live album recorded on the quartet's international tour from last year. And true to form the group goes for a live improv approach after their heroes and muse. Their performance is evenly split between noise architecture and tone control. I'd imagine that the London show was the best of the three gigs if only due to emotional level of the ensemble. Harpy may be the new kid on the Japanese noise scene block, but be prepared to hear more from this quietly engaging band on the verge of major international recognition.
[Note: Several tracks from these cassettes were collected on the Titilles CD.]

Filed under: New releases, Issue 16, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Itoken (Kenji Ito), Harpy


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