J.A. Caesar — Kokkyou Junreika
(Belle Antique 061216, 1972/2006, CD)
Tenjo Sajiki / J.A. Caesar — Shintokomaru
(Belle Antique 061217, 1978/2006, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1996-08-01
J.A. Caesar – this is obviously not his real name – has been an enigmatic figure in Japanese rock and avant-garde music dating back to the early 70s. His music is impossible to categorize, each record being a radical departure from the previous, and up until earlier this year his records were impossible to find. These two albums, just reissued by Belle Antique, are very different from each other.
Kokkyou Junreika is clearly a product of the early 70s, the flavor is hard prog-rock mixed with psych, sort of a crude late-60s sort of production, and very unusual vocals. Since no credits are given in English, I can't be sure, but it sounds like we have a basic four-piece of guitar, bass, drums, and organ, with added percussion, along with a number of vocalists (lead male plus two or more female backing). The psychedelic rock basics are combined with a certain amount of role-playing on the part of the vocalists – a combination of near-operatic singing and spoken/shouted parts. The overall effect is powerful, albeit a little unrefined on the production side.
Eight years later, Shintokumaru exhibits far more refinement; that raw underground rock style has given way to a far more serious and theatrical style – in fact one is led to believe (based on booklet photos and overall feel of the music and dialog) that this is the musical score for a theatrical production of some type. Instrumentation involves some traditional Japanese instruments (biwa, shamisen, etc.) as well as rock instruments, and in general is very sparse, sometimes reminding of the first couple albums by Osamu Kitajima. Still a lot of spoken and operatic parts, hooting, shouting, and regular outbursts of great driving rock with searing guitar and violin. The heavy arpeggiated choral parts might even remind the listener of Magma at times. This is certainly an interesting listen, yet unless the listener is Japanese-fluent, one doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. Indeed this is one time when some information in the booklet, in English would have been helpful; still, it's great to finally be able to hear these obscure early Japanese artifacts.
Related artist(s): Terahara Takaaki (J.A. Seazer / J.A. Caeser)
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more