Exposé Online banner

Tipographica — Tipographica
(God Mountain GMED 005, 1994, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

Tipographica Cover art Hello... I'd like to report a Frank Zappa sighting — actually not a visual sighting, but after hearing the first few minutes of this debut disc by Japan's Tipographica, I'm convinced that Zappa's spirit is alive and well across the Pacific. Tipographica is an all instrumental six-piece of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, saxes and trombone, playing an intensely complex and humorous music that blends the best aspects of Uncle Meat/Hot Rats period Zappa, some vintage Henry Cow, Picchio dal Pozzo, and other folks along the RIO axis, along with their own very unique musical perspective. Being the proud owner of a live tape by these guys recorded in October '91 — an outstanding set of Canterbury influenced fusion — I thought I was fully prepped for this CD release. Surprise! It turns out this is some of the tightest, quirkiest, interesting and complex music I've ever heard. And did I say humorous? Well, I'll say it again! Their music is a constantly changing chain of events, with little if any repetition. Can't tap your feet to it, at least not for long, because the meter seems to change with every other measure. The playing is impeccable, every instrument works together like a fine-tuned machine, and no one instrument in particular stands out in the lineup — it's clear they're all working too hard to have time to show off. Bits of rock, jazz, avant-fusion, blues and neo-classical are combined in varying degrees in each composition, often multi-layered, so that at any given moment there may be numerous things going on, all interconnected. This may be difficult music at first, it takes many plays to get to know it well — in fact after the first listen one may have nothing memorable to take away, other than the knowledge that something incredible has just come out of the speakers. Soon it begins to reveal itself, using the humorous aspects of the writing as the hook that brings the listener back for more. After five or six listens, you can't stop. Yet even after twenty or thirty spins, I'm still hearing new things I haven't heard before. Amazing stuff.

by Mike Borella, 1994-10-01:

While Japan has always had its share of inventive new musics, the recent surge in this area has put the country on the map like never before. With Happy Family, Il Berlione, Ruins, Zypressen, Afflatus, Lacrymosa, and now Tipographica, Japan is a lively hot-spot that seems to be open to experimentation and genre-stretching. A combination of Henry Cow, Zappa, composed jazz, and modern classical, Tipographica's debut is one of the most complex and engaging works of recent years. A six piece consisting of guitar, bass, drums, keys, sax and trumpet, each instrument shares the limelight and pulls its own weight. Dense yet whimsical, Tipographica leads the listener though eight tracks of labyrinthine counterpoint and polyphony. With so much emphasis on changing rhythms and time signatures, when the band does repeat the same structure for more than a few bars, it stands out. However, this minor detriment does not reduce the album's overall appeal. With such a prominent brass section, Tipographica may sound superficially jazz-like, but the feel and structure is tight to the point of being rigid. Jazz fans may enjoy this album, but my guess would be that lovers of dense, complex composed works would eat this up. This debut comes with my highest recommendation, as it is one of my favorites so far this year.


by Mike McLatchey, 1994-10-01:

The Japanese progressive rock scene in the 90s in general has taken a remarkable turn towards a more innovative and unique styling. In the latter half of the 80s, the Japanese focus was on the more melodic symphonic end of the genre such as Teru's Symphonia, Outer Limits, Pageant, and Mr. Sirius. The 90s already seem to have a different focus, especially after the Lost Years in the Labyrinth CD, and the newer bands are leaning towards a more unusual RIO, experimental or even Zeuhl influenced music. Tipographica is one of these new Japanese bands, roughly related to contemporaries such as Il Berlione, Zypressen, Happy Family, and to a much lesser extent the earlier work of Katra Turana or Lacrymosa. This, their debut album, easily shows that the Japanese seem to be shedding their reputation as mere copyists and are developing a serious attitude of brazen defiance of the norm. Needless to say, this debut is vastly impressive and despite what is turning out to be a great year for progressive, I would say that this may be my pick of the year to date. Tipographica are definitely in the RIO vein with noticeable shades of early Henry Cow and Hatfield & The North (and a nod to the chamber rock groups such as Julverne, Univers Zero, or Six Cylindres En V.) As a sextet, they show a remarkable pallet of instrumentation: drums (with a Zappa-esque sense for dazzling tuned percussion); bass; keys (from modern synths to really chunky organ); guitar (clean to fuzz with a distinct Phil Miller influence); alto sax and trombone. All of the musicians are nimble, adept, and have extremely proficient control over their instruments. The music is ridiculously complex, to the unconventional point, that mere surface listening will not reveal its incredible subtlety. The music has a playfulness and sense of humor similar to the joviality of Samla at times and the pseudo transcendent sarcasm of Gong at others. Sometimes you just can't help but laugh, especially bearing their titles in mind — "Prostitute Robot by Soni." It jumps from theme to theme with abandon, wry and sassy, often sounding like a mad carnival. For those wanting some type of theme development, I think this may be a bit too erratic and bizarre. To me, this is challenging and rewarding release, funny and brash and superb. The Japanese seem to be quickly becoming the heirs of truly original new music.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Tipographica

More info

Latest news

2020-11-20
25 Views of Worthing Finally Gets Released – A while ago, we wrote about the discovery of a "long lost" Canterbury-style gem by a band called 25 Views of Worthing. And now we're pleased to find out that Wind Waker Records has released their music on an LP. » Read more

2020-10-14
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

2020-10-06
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Hector Zazou - Sonora Portraits 2: Strong Currents – Zazou has been a prominent producer and instigator of musical projects for many years, having worked with a wide variety of artists. On this collection, we get collaborations with various female...  (2006) » Read more

Herbie Kritzer - The Tree Lizard – Californian Herbie Kritzer is clearly someone who enjoys having fun with music. Even his name sounds a bit cartoon-ish, and there’s certainly a streak of sly wit and boy-ish playfulness to many of...  (2005) » Read more

Tom Heasley - Desert Tryptich – On his previous recordings Where the Earth Meets the Sky and On the Sensations of Tone (reviewed in #23 and #26 respectively), Heasley’s floating ambient epics were created with the tuba as the...  (2006) » Read more

My Sleeping Karma - Tri – This German instrumental outfit, described by its label as stoner rock or psychedelic groove rock, comes at you with a nuanced assault of guitar, bass and drums, drenched with moody reverb and dusted...  (2011) » Read more

Caamora - She – Clive Nolan (Arena, Shadowlands, Pendragon, etc.) rarely does anything on a small scale, and elements of theatricality and drama have appeared in much of his past work so it seems only natural that...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues