Exposé Online banner

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

by Mike McLatchey, 1994-10-01:

Tipographica Cover art 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.

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

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 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.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Tipographica

More info

Latest news

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Seamus - Zealotry Sterblichen Schizophrenia – Seamus is a French/English band that takes on the monumental task of portraying the horror of the Holocaust. The music is very intense, even abstract at times, as Seamus tries to convey the anguished...  (2008) » Read more

Vander / Top / Blasquiz / Garber - "Sons" Document 1973 - Le Manor – With the relase of AKT I - Les Voix de Magma, Christian Vander launched his new label to release live and unreleased studio material to all the eager Magma fans around the world, following the...  (1994) » Read more

Drifting in Silence - Facewithin – Drifting in Silence is the electronic brainchild of composer and multi-instrumentalist Derrick Stembridge and Facewithin is his fifth release of ambient-based dance music. The eight tracks, three of...  (2010) » Read more

MK II - Burning Daylight – Remember the long protracted intro to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"? That's a fair enough reference point for the first track on this British trio's debut. Other reference points for this album might...  (1994) » Read more

Cast - Beyond Reality – If anything, Cast are at least one of the best when it comes to promoting and marketing their music. A hundred "progressive" bands could learn a lot from the way they do things as...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues