[updated throughout 2007, added Feb. 08]
To simplify sweepingly, the Japanese psychedelic rock scene beginning in the late 1960’s grew, as it did in many countries, from the influence of beat/r&b/psych-pop from leading UK groups, particularly The Beatles. The result of this influence was what was known as the ‘Group Sounds’ movement – basically involving lots of young folks seeking to emulate their idols by forming their own groups to play the new sounds. As the years passed most of these groups didn’t move with the times very well and were too commercially manipulated, remaining a pale psych-pop imitation of their UK and SF heroes. [It should be said that some Japanese music from this era does have a lot of strange charm due to the ways in which foreign musical influences were remoulded, and a few Group Sounds bands were actually pretty good.] This slowness in changing is comparable to the similar situations in Australia, New Zealand, and many South American and Asian countries at the same time.
However, as 1970 was ticking around some groups began to emerge who were making more credible and ‘progressive’ music. Many of the best Japanese bands from this time were already showing the over-the-top enthusiasm with which the Japanese have become endearingly associated with in other countries. This, combined with the willingness to experiment and incorporate Japanese musical influences, adds up to give Japanese psychedelic and progressive music a special something which aficionados of such music should appreciate. Unfortunately, not many of these albums gained an international release, making the original LP’s from the 60’s and 70’s very rare indeed for the rest of the world. Even in Japan, I presume such albums would now be very hard to find after the countries’ record shops have been scoured by international collectors with money to burn. Also, only a relatively small amount of the vintage stuff has been reissued on CD, though more comes out over time – and those that have been reissued tend to go out of print quickly [and are often not re-licensed], and/or are usually hard to obtain for a reasonable price outside of Japan. So, my advice is, if you see one of these in a shop or on-line and you know you want to buy it, don’t delay thinking you’ll be able to get it any time, because chances are perhaps you won’t! Even a lot of the newer Japanese music of interest seems to come and go pretty quickly, as Japanese experimental music is now very popular [at least in Australia] and prolific, but often with small print runs.
In case it helps to know, the main labels that have been reissuing a lot of the 70’s stuff are P-Vine, Showboat, Belle Antique, Coca/Nippon Columbia, Hagakure, and to a lesser extent PSF [Psychedelic Speed Freaks] and Captain Trip. The Naked Line imprint of Universal Japan has also recently been releasing some welcome mid-price cd reissues.
The 80’s are represented here mainly by a variety of symphonic neo-prog, RIO, experimental/weird synth-pop and post-punk avant-garde music. Originally I was going to leave out lots of neo-prog stuff from the 80’s and beyond, due to a lot of it being pretty unoriginal and unappealing to me, but to consider a wider audience I have put many of them in, although knowing less about them I haven’t gone into as much detail as with some groups or solo artists. I also hadn’t planned to include any of the synth-pop/art-punk-oriented stuff, but after actually hearing some of these bands I decided they were definitely weird enough to stand out and deserve mention. From the 90’s and beyond there has been a huge amount of supposedly ‘experimental’ and/or ‘psychedelic’ and/or ‘avant-garde’ music coming out of Japan, much of which is probably too basic, aimless, noisy and unpleasant to interest many readers of this article – or stuff that’s pure ‘noise music’. For this stuff I’ve tried to only discuss bands from these later periods that have something novel and interesting going on - in other words, the stuff that is still progressive in some way, or at least has a sense of aesthetics and art in the music. For example, Acid Mothers Temple clearly fit into that scheme, but bands like Mainliner, Musica Transonica and High Rise are too straight-forward to my ears and don’t really have a soul. If they were doing the same thing in the 60’s or early 70’s I would have listed them for interest’s sake, but for the 90’s and beyond they’re basically just very loud, over-the-top Blue Cheer-inspired rock bands without the sense of imagination, variety, dynamics and feeling that made Blue Cheer more than just a very loud collection of riffs. When Blue Cheer overloaded their recording equipment, they did it with finesse; when Mainliner et al. do it, it comes across to me as a sloppy horrid mess with no restraint or sense of aesthetic – recording in the red for the sake of it.
There’ll no doubt be a lot of stuff that I’ve missed on the radar, but I’m considering this as a work in progress, as should the reader. Simply put, since the 80’s a huge number of progressive rock and experimental groups have sprung up in Japan. It’s quite a task to keep track of them all!
Some details were gleaned from ‘The Primer – Japanese psychedelia’ by Alan Cummings [appeared in The Wire – issue?], Hans Pokora’s ‘Record Collector’s Dreams’ books [showing record covers and release info, with very limited and sometimes misleading genre assignations], progarchives.com, and a lot from extensive web-crawling; the rest is based on my own limited knowledge and opinions of groups or solo artists I’m more familiar with. Please bear in mind that not being able to read or speak Japanese has made it very difficult to find accurate information on many of these bands or musicians – it’s only since I had nearly completed this that Google started offering to translate Japanese web pages, and even then the process isn’t anywhere near perfect. And, Google can’t translate my many Japanese CD liner notes! To Japanese readers, therefore, this article may seem to be hopelessly inadequate and full of inaccuracies. I have tried to do my best piecing together fragments of information, and listening to whatever I can. I look forward to the publication of a comprehensive book on this subject written in English by someone who is also Japanese-literate and has broad tastes.
In 2007, Julian Cope’s book ‘Japrocksampler’ came out, which is a good source for more detailed information on some of the more major of these artists. However, as you’ll notice, our tastes differ considerably in some areas, although there’s some overlap. Regardless, Japrocksampler is recommended reading for a much more thorough look at the roots of Group Sounds and the Japanese avant-garde, and leading into the ‘new rock’.
Below I’ve listed bands alphabetically in sections divided into groupings of decades. As some bands span the decades, this is based on earliest recordings. For example if a band formed in the 70’s but didn’t record until the 80’s, they’ll be in with the 80’s stuff; if, however, there are live recordings available from the 70’s, then I would put them in with the 70’s stuff. Previously I had a division between everything up to the mid-70’s, and later groupings, but I changed this because the mid-70’s borderline was too confusing and tenuous. I hope this change has made things a bit easier to navigate as this web page keeps growing.
– an obscure raw rock’n’roll group led by activist and distributor of free psychedelic drugs Dr Acid Seven. Their only recorded legacy seems to be half of one side of the rare 1973 2-LP ‘Oz Days Live’ compilation [see below under Various artists], as well as the soundtrack to ‘Dokko Nigenbushi-Kotobikijiyu Rodosha No Machi’, a 1975 documentary about hippies. Besides making music, Dr Acid Seven also organized rock festivals through the 70’s, including the Oz Days festival itself.
– a hippy folk musician and singer/songwriter. According to the biography on his web-site, he “created a thoroughly original musical world which evoked the romantic popular culture of Taisho and Showa era-Japan.” His first album was the privately-produced ‘Chiku on Ban’ , made with Keiichi Suzuki and Haruomi Hosono [see below; ex-Apryl Fool, also in Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra]. He first attracted major attention with his single ‘Sekishoku Elegy’  and shortly after released his second album, ‘Otome no Roman’ [King, 1972]. Following albums include the soundtrack ‘Boku wa Tenshi ja Naiyo’ [King, 1973], ‘Aa Mujou (Les Miserables)’ [King, 1973], ‘Nihon Shonen (Jipangu Boy)’ [Philips, 1976], ‘Kimi no Koto Sukinanda’ [Philips, 1977] and ‘Shonen Youga Eien no Enkoku (Ausland am Eveit Railrod)’ . ‘Norimono Zukan’ [Vanity, 1980] featured Phew of Aunt Sally [see below]. In 1981 he formed the group Virgin VS and went on to release many more albums. In the late 80’s he started to take on world music influences, and in the early 90’s he formed the group Raizo. He now also makes films.
– a Canterbury-styled progressive group, formed in 1970 as Heaven and Earth Creation; they changed their name to Ain Soph in 1977. They are not to be confused with the Italian ‘avant-rock’ group of the same name. Their first album was ‘A Story of Mysterious Forest’ [King Nexus, 1980]. This is the only one I’ve heard, and I can’t detect much of a ‘Canterbury sound’. It’s very good jazz rock-influenced prog with a symphonic and, at times, spacey edge almost hinting at early 70’s Pink Floyd. It’s been reissued on CD by Spalax. Numerous other albums have followed – ‘Hat and Field’ [King Nexus, 1986], ‘Marine Menagerie’ [Made in Japan, 1991], ‘Ride on a Camel – Special Live’ [Belle Antique, 1991; rec. 1976-78], ‘Five Evolved From Nine’ [Made in Japan, 1993], ‘Mysterious Triangle – Special Live Vol. 2’ [Belle Antique, 1993] and ‘Quicksand – Special Live Vol. 3’ [Belle Antique, 1994].
– an avant-garde composer and music critic, who founded the Jikken-Koubou Experimental Workshop in 1951, with Toru Takemitsu [see below] and others. In the early 60’s he was in the New Directions Music Ensemble with Yuji Takahashi, Kenji Kobayashi and Toshi Ichiyanagi [see below]. His musique concrete piece ‘Noh-Miso’, composed in 1962 for performances of an experimental puppet theatre group, appears on ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 2’ [Omega Point, 2004], alongside a shorter piece by Yoji Yuasa [see below]. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 6’ [Omega Point, 200?] consists entirely of tape works by Akayima, with ‘Environmental Mechanical Orchestra’ from 1966, ‘Demonstration’ from 1963 and ‘Music For H Bomb’ from 1971. Akayima died in 1996.
– a beautiful young actress who did at least one solo album, ‘Kumiko Akiyoshi’ [Elec Records, 1972], on which she was backed by Yonin Bayashi [see below]. You can’t hear it most of the time though, as much of the album is mainstream schmaltzy orchestrated ballads and weak jazz-funk lounge music not far from the similar albums by Ike Reiko and Kiyoko Itoh [see below], all of which have recently been hyped as psych classics now that they’ve been reissued on CD. However, this album does have one track with more of a slightly psyched progressive rock feel, and one funky track that’s a bit better than the rest, which together redeem it a little, as do the cute cover photos!
– a psychedelic rock group, playing more or less in a US west coast style with swelling organ and great gnarly lead guitar in places. They recorded one album, ‘Apryl Fool’ [Columbia, 1969]. There are a variety of styles, from slow blues to weirder psych - some of it’s pretty trippy, with ‘The Lost Mother Land (Parts 1 & 2)’ sounding a little like C.A. Quintet at their most psychedelic, but weirder and arguably better! Keyboardist Hiro Yanagida later went on to Foodbrain and a solo career [see below]; Shigeru Suzuki, drummer Takashi Matsumoto and bassist Haruomi Hosono went on to Happy End [see below]. The album has been reissued on CD by Coca.
– these guys were a freaky ‘No Wave’ rock band, fronted by vocalist Phew. Their only album released at the time was ‘Aunt Sally’ [Vanity Records, 1978], which was largely ignored due to poor distribution. It has been reissued by Undo. Recently, a CD of live recordings has surfaced, ‘Live 1978-1979’ [P-Vine]. Phew went on to make solo albums [see below].
– an avant-garde synth trio, consisting of Kazutaka Katai, Motoaki Suzuka and Akiro Kamio. They released at least three albums – ‘Waga Kokoro Imada Yasura Kanarazu’ [RCA/Red Seal, 1976], ‘No Warning’ [RCA/Red Seal, 1979] and ‘Suna No Obune’ [RCA/Red Seal, 1980].
– an excellent progressive rock group very much influenced by mid-70’s King Crimson, focusing on guitar/bass/drums dynamics. They’ve released numerous albums, including ‘Madoromi Live’ , ‘Bi Kyo Ran’ [Nexus, 1982], ‘Parallax’ [Nexus, 1983], ‘Fairy Tale’ , ‘Who Ma Live Vol. 2’ [Belle Antique, 1988], ‘Go-Un’ , ‘Ran Live Vol. 3’  and ‘Deep Live’ .
– this band played at lots of festivals in the early 70’s, but didn’t make their own album. I have no idea what they sounded like, but their only known recordings kept good company on the compilation ‘Rock Age Concert’ [Warner/Pioneer, 197?], with Flower Travellin’ Band, Speed Glue & Shinki, Far Out, Too Much, and the unknown [to me] Rock Pilot.
– Hans Pokora listed this in one of his ‘Record Collectors Dreams’ books as Bludd Sucker, but looking at the cover he reproduced it looks like he just misread it due to the way it was written – it looks like Blood Sucker to me. They released one album that I know of, ‘Blood Sucker’ [ALM, 1978], reputedly some kind of hard rock.
– a great heavy band who started out with the LP ‘Blues Creation’ [Polydor, 1969], containing hard blues rock with a garage band hangover. It was a good album but didn’t really stand out from the crowd, lacking originality. These guys really shone, however, on their 2nd album ‘Demon & Eleven Children’ [Denon, 1971], by which time they had become considerably hairier than 2 years previous [both in sound and appearance!]. It’s a wild ride of early heavy progressive rock, in a raw and bluesy early Black Sabbath-influenced mode – and, by extension, comparable to other similar heavies of the era such as Incredible Hog. For this album the only original member left was guitarist Kazuo Takeda. Yoshiyuki Noji [bass], Shinichi Tashiro [drums] and Fumio Nunoya [vocals] from the debut had been replaced with Masashi Saeki, Masayuki Higuchi and Hiromi Osawa, respectively.
Their next album saw them hook up with the already well-known [in Japan] vocalist Carmen Maki - ‘Carmen Maki & Blues Creation’ [Denon, 1972]. For fans of the previous album, this is often a bit of a disappointment, as there are only a few tunes that are heavy or rock much at all, the remainder being fairly generic slow blues and ballads to make room for Maki’s Joplin-wannabe wailings. Well, maybe that’s unfair – Maki does have more restraint and a purer tone of voice than Joplin, and isn’t really a copyist. The heavier tracks are uniformly great, a tighter and more confident [but more compact] evolution from the previous album’s style, though there’s not enough of them to make this a very rewarding album, except for Carmen Maki fans. She also did some albums under her own name, most of which I haven’t heard [see below].
After this the band shortened their name to Creation [not to be confused with the earlier UK mod-pop group], for which see below. All of the above albums have been reissued on CD by Coca/Nippon Columbia. There’s a live album that has been issued on CD by Black Rose, but I don’t know if it was released back then or not; I think it dates from shortly after their 2nd album, with Carmen Maki on some tracks. Although the bass is sometimes a little out of tune, the band really let it rip on this album, with lots of frenzied heavy jamming. There’s also a classic heavy song, ‘Nightmare’, that doesn’t appear on their studio albums. Blues Creation also had a great live recording on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below].
– an obscure folky Communist group formed in 1970 by vocalist/writer Panta [real name Haruo Nakamura], previously of Peanut Butter, MOJO & Spartacus Bunt. From what I’ve heard [from one of the earlier albums], they basically played fairly raw and rudimentary guitar and vocals-based songs with percussion and an angry political bent, kind of punk folk. The appeal is probably limited for those who don’t understand the lyrics, which are all sung/shouted in Japanese and tend to dominate proceedings. Apparently a lot of their material advocates violent reolution. They had several live tracks on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below]. They released 6 albums [all live, I think], but I’ve found it tricky to locate any listings in English. They broke up at the end of 1975, but reformed briefly in 1990. All that time Panta remained active with a solo career. After Brain Police, guitarist Hiroshi Narazaki [a.k.a. Hiroshi Nar, previously in Datetenryu – see below] played bass with Les Rallizes Denudes, and later collaborated occasionally with Acid Mothers Temple [see below]. Drummer Toshi Ishizuka also collaborated with Kan Mikami and Kazuki Tomokawa [see below]. Lead guitarist Eiichi Sayu was briefly a member, before joining Dew and then Far Out [see below]. Not to be confused with the late-60’s US group Brain Police.
– an obscure underground avant-garde psychedelic outfit who made one album, ‘Debon’ [Voice, 1976]. It featured 2 lengthy tracks of largely repetitive, mantric, stoned folk grooves with percussion, keyboards, guitar, bass and plenty of sound effects and trippy mixing. Some of it’s like some Magical Power Mako; a lot of it is reminiscent of numerous of the more interesting progressive psych-folk and ‘krautrock’ bands [such as Amon Düül I & II, Lula Cortes e ze Ramalho]. The album attracted the attention of Nurse With Wound due to its weirdness, and is name-dropped on the famous ‘NWW list’. It was reissued on CD in a limited edition by Paradigm Discs in 1998. Brast Burn is said to have been just one person, Michirou Sakurai – who was a friend of the person responsible for the Karuna Khyal album [see below] on the same label, often rumoured to have been done by the same person.
– bassist Masayoshi Takanaka formed this group and recorded a sole album in a limited private pressing, ‘Brush’ [TPR, 1971] a.k.a. ‘Escape’. Although starting out with psychedelic electronics, overall the rest of the album is fairly mellow West Coast-influenced psych rock, occasionally rocking it up a bit. It’s arguably slightly progressive-leaning at times. The album has recently been reissued on LP by Shadoks. Takanaka went on to Flied Egg after this.
– this guy was a graphic design student, who adopted the name J.A. [Julius Arnold] Caesar, often also found spelled Seazer and even Ceazar [just to confuse internet searches even further!], and was known by the late 60’s as one of the few ‘true hippies’ on the local scene. He apparently won a competition for hair length! He gravitated to Shuji Terayama’s Tenjo Sajiki underground experimental theatre company [see below] and despite lack of any previously evident musical talent quickly became the musical director, composing and performing the music for most of Tenjo Sajiki’s films and plays. Alongside this, he also staged his own musical ‘recitals’. His music often featured elements of Japanese percussion, ‘sekkyobushi narrative music’, progressive and psychedelic rock, raw heavy rock, and other influences as diverse as Carl Orff and Pierre Henry.
‘Sho O Suteyo, Machi E Deyo’ [Tenjo Sajiki, 1970], which I had previously listed as ‘Matihedeyou Syowosuteyo’ as it has been referred to elsewhere, is the earliest album I know of, but I don’t know if it was actually credited to J.A. Caesar or to Tenjo Sajiki. It had some well-known musicians involved such as Hiro Yanagida [see below], Hideki Ishima from Flower Travellin’ Band [see below] and Eiichi Sayu from Far Out [see below]; it was reissued on LP by P-Vine.
The first album I’m sure of being released under his own name [or pseudonym] is ‘Jasoumon’ (‘Heresy’) [Victor, 1972], sometimes listed as ‘Jashumon’, or ‘Tenjousajiki – Jasoumon’. It’s one of their best, an album to induce ‘shamanic meltdown’ according to Julian Cope. Many of its themes would be repeated on later albums such as ‘Kokkyo Junreika’, but here they have an earthier, deeper quality. It was reissued on CD with a book by P-Vine years back but is now out of print and very tricky to find. The following album was ‘Recital - Kokkyo Junreika’ [Victor, 1973], sometimes listed as ‘Kokkyo Junreika’ by J.A. Caesar Recital. This has great psychedelic ‘cartoon’ cover art [which looks really ahead of its time, for an early 70’s LP cover], and ranges from heavy progressive rock-outs, to sedate almost Magma-like grooves, to deep spacey stuff. It was reissued on CD by Belle Antique in 1995, and again in 2006; there is also an LP reissue by P-Vine.
‘Baramon – A Gay Sexual Liberation Record’ (‘The Rose Gate’) [Victor, 1973 or 1972] was said by Julian Cope to be “glam-inspired”, but musically, I can’t hear it at all. Music mostly takes a back seat on this album, which has lots of monologues with background music [and a Hitler speech in the opening track], but there are also some ballads, children’s tunes and some great raw, heavy psych rock. Whilst J.A. Caesar was credited as the main performer of the music, The Happenings Four [see below] and others are also credited. It has been reissued on CD by Tenjo Sajiki Records . ‘Den-en Ni Shisu’ (‘Death in the Country’) [RCA Sony, 1974] is also often listed as a Tenjo Sajiki release, and is the soundtrack to Tenjo Sajiki’s 1974 film of the same name. It was reissued on CD fairly recently by Showboat. It’s a lot more conventional than the other J.A. Caesar albums I’ve heard, in a kind of ‘folky’ song-based vein with hardly anything of progressive or psychedelic interest. It’s still okay, but not at all one of the better ones in my estimation. Caesar also released an EP at this tme, which I know nothing about, ‘Cache Cache Pastoral’ [Carrere, 1974].
‘Shintokumaru’ (‘Poison Body Circle’) [Victor, 1978] is another live recording that I think is one of Caesar’s best, in terms of both sound quality and musical evolution, now having heard it at last. The Carl Orff and Magma influence is more present here than ever, with proceedings largely alternating between moody and delicate traditional Japanese music, dialogue and loud prog rock. It’s in the loud prog that the Orff/Magma feel lies, driven by Shinji Takemura’s muscular bass – though at times they can sound a bit like early 70’s Gong and Amon Düül II. It has been reissued on LP by P-Vine, and more recently on CD at last from Belle Antique .
‘Sealbreaking’ [Ain’t Group Sounds] was issued on CD as by J.A. Seazer. The packaging contains no information except track titles, and is pretty lo-fi. I’ve also seen an alternate cover, and I have no idea if it had been originally issued earlier, legitimately or not. I have to guess that it’s either crudely recorded from a film soundtrack, or consists of demo or bootleg live recordings. According to Julian Cope it’s live in Shibuya, Tokyo, 1980. Musically though, it’s great, with lots of heavy rock outs and progressive rock typical of their best early 70’s style. The opening track even sounds like a raw, heavy Magma for several minutes.
‘Saraba Hakobune’ (‘Farewell to the Ark’) [Sound Marketing Systems Records, 1984] was the soundtrack to Shuji Terayama’s last film, and has been reissued on CD by Showboat. It’s apparently in a more meditative psychedelic mood, perhaps akin to ‘Pilgrimage Of Blood’. ‘Okami Shonen’ (‘Pilgrimage Of Blood’) [P-Vine, 2002] is a soundtrack to a film by Hiromichi Tannai, and is a very diverse offering, essentially a compilation, with tracks recorded in 2001, 1981, 1979, 1977 and 1972. The music is hard to describe, with a uniquely Japanese feel, and is mostly sedate, moody and unusual, sometimes with subtle electronics and gorgeous mixing, and always sounding distinctly Japanese. One track reminds me of the German group Cozmic Corridors; some of it wouldn’t sound out of place in a mid-70’s Dario Argento film [no funky Goblin grooves though]! I’ve seen the title spelled incorrectly as ‘Ookami Syonen’ [a mistake previously continued here].
Tenjo Sajiki’s ‘Aho Bune’ aka ‘Ahousen’ [see below] can be considered a J.A. Caesar album, as might some of the Tokyo Kid Brothers albums [see below], which Caesar was sometimes involved in. Given that the text on these albums is mostly in Japanese print, and that they are collaborations between more than one entity, it can be hard to tell how to list these albums correctly or even to find agreement regarding the spelling – and as mentioned above, this makes internet searches considerably difficult.
Some other J.A. Caesar albums I know nothing further about are ‘Nuhikun’ (‘Directions to Servants’) [cassette, 1979], ‘Kusa Meikyu’ (‘Grass Labyrinth’) , ‘The Lemmings’ [cassette, 1984; reissued Banyru Inryoku, 2000], ‘King Lear’  and ‘Tenshi Souzou Sunawachi Hikari’ .
J.A. Caesar is still active in composing and performing music for stage productions and soundtracks; he inherited Tenjo Sajiki following the death of Terayama. Also recently, Caesar composed the music for the TV anime ‘Shoujo Kakumei Utena’.
– after Foodbrain [see below], guitarist Chen collaborated again with Hiro Yanagida and others, including bassist George Yanagi [ex-Powerhouse] to record a great solo album, ‘Shinki Chen & His Friends’ [Polydor, 1971]. Musically, it hints at the bluesy heavy acid rock of his next band, Speed, Glue & Shinki [the bassist of that group also played on one track here], with some experimental bits here and there reminiscent of his tenure with Foodbrain; it is considered a classic album by many fans of the genre [including myself], though others think it’s boring and aimless. It’s been reissued on CD by Hagakure.
– an offshoot of Far Out [see below]. When that group was in the process of crumbling, before Fumio Miyashita picked up the pieces and started Far East Family Band [see below], bassist/vocalist Kei Ishikawa and last in a succession of drummers Osamu Takeda left, moved to California, and formed Cronicle with two other fellow Japanese. They played electronic space rock in a similar vein to Far East Family Band, although with their own sound, and more song-based. They also shared the uneasy blending of soppy/cheesy commercially oriented balladry and really cool spacey stuff. The liner notes to their 3rd album claims that Ishikawa and Takeda had both been in Far Out and FEFB, but based on what Julian Cope has laid out in ‘Japrocksampler’ they left Far Out before FEFB was formed, as mentioned above.
Chronicle released at least three albums – ‘Live at Whisky A Go-Go’ [Express, 1975], ‘Imawa Tokino Subete’  and ‘Like a Message From the Stars’ [All Ears Records, 1977].
– a hard rock group from Okinawa with a wild live reputation. Their first album ‘Life of Change’ [See Saw, 1978] contained great heavy rock alongside more percussive and flowing stuff, hinting at a mix of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and Santana. There are slight psychedelic and progressive touches to the whole thing. The next album ‘Mixed Up’ [label?, 1978] was slightly more mainstream, but still a great heavy rock album overall. Some people have compared it to Ted Nugent and Grand Funk, but those comparisons don’t really hold true for me now that I’ve heard it. I haven’t figured out what it does remind me of, but regardless, any lover of 70’s hard rock will probably like it. It’s been reissued on CD by Pony Can. Also existing is the very rare ‘’83 Live’ [Disques Jean Jean, 1983], which only came out in a limited number of promotional copies before the official release was cancelled. It features long, jammy psychedelic tracks and is reputedly even better than the debut.
– a progressive group formed in Nogoya, 1970. They moved to Tokyo the next year, acquired a manager [who was also a well-known rock critic] and got to work. The band are now perhaps best known for their first album, ‘Cosmos Factory’ (a.k.a. ‘An Old Castle of Transylvania’) [Columbia, 1973], which has long been the easiest to obtain on CD. In the Ultima Thule shop catalogue it’s compared to Far East Family Band; I find this very misleading, as the only similarities I can hear are in their worst moments, ie. when they get into their cod-emotive sappy balladic crooning. Other than those bits, which take up a lot of space, it’s a pretty good to great album, with heavier bits as well as spacey and slightly ominous progressive rock reminiscent of a blend of The Nice, Arzachel and early Pulsar, with cool use of the Moog. Anyway, this album brought them a lot of recognition and they began playing support for big western bands of the era such as Humble Pie and The Moody Blues, both then well past their prime and probably overshadowed by their unique support act!
The next album, ‘A Journey With The Cosmos Factory’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1975], was well-received. In some ways it was a better album, entering some more experimental electronic rock realms and with more creative use of synths, but in other ways it was still a little patchy. Here they sound a bit like Far East Family Band at times. ‘Blackhole’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1976] contained some of their best ever stuff, amongst which were some tracks that owed more to ‘Red’-era King Crimson than the Cosmos Factory of past albums. These tracks still had a spacey feel though, and sound surprisingly like the recent US group Yeti from their first album ‘Things To Come’ . The harder tracks have caused this album to show up in some lists of metal/hard rock albums, though most of the album doesn’t rock hard at all, and there’s still a lot of soft ballads and electronic rock. Around this time, the band also began making music for film soundtracks and TV themes. Their last album, ‘Metal Reflection’ [Toshiba EMI/Express, 1977], has a reputation for being more of a metal/hard rock thing, but it’s actually a lot more varied than that. It’s a pretty good album containing proggy hard rock, proggy metal, spacey prog, cosmic funk, a ballad, and almost omnipresent synthesisers. Some bits are reminiscent of some Magical Power Mako circa ‘Jump’ [see below]. The production is excellent. They also released a number of rare EP’s - ‘Fantastic Mirror’ [Toshiba/Express, 1975], ‘The Infinite Universe Of Our Mind’ (a promo release) [Toshiba/Express, 1975] and ‘Days In The Past’ [Toshiba/Express, 1975]. The first album has been reissued on CD by Coca/Nippon Columbia; the next 3 by Toshiba EMI. They’re possibly out of print now but a fresh line of reissues recently appeared.
– this group [not to be confused with the UK 60’s group] was a continuation of Blues Creation [see above], after their involvement with Carmen Maki [see below]. Bassist Masashi Saeki and vocalist Hiromi Osawa were replaced by Shigeru Matsumoto [bass, percussion,vocals] and Yoshiaki Iijima [guitar], with guitarist and band leader Kazuo Takeda also taking on keyboards. In 1973 the band opened for Mountain on a tour, beginning a friendship between Takeda and Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi that would last for some time. Their first album was ‘Creation’ [EMI, 1975], produced by Yuya Uchida of The Flowers [see below], and Kei Ishizaka. While being less heavy and not quite as good as Blues Creation had been, with a bit more of a mainstream leaning in parts, it was still a very good and varied album in it’s own right, and revisited a bit of a hard psych element to the music here and there. When Felix Pappalardi came to Japan in 1975 to play at a rock festival, Creation guitarist Takeda played with him in Pappalardi’s World Rock Festival Band. Pappalardi was going to produce their next album, but he ended up joining the band briefly as well on bass, keyboards and vocals, resulting in the album ‘Creation & Felix Pappalardi’ [Express/Toshiba EMI, 1976], which was more eclectic and commercial in style, with Pappalardi’s vocal and compositional style being very noticeable, making the album sound kind of like a less heavy, more commercial version of Mountain. Although weaker than the previous album, it still featured a few pretty good songs. In the US it was released with a different cover as ‘Felix Pappalardi & Creation’. ‘Pure Electric Soul’ [EMI, 1977] followed without Pappalardi, again produced by Uchida and Ishizaka. Featuring lots of funk rock and soul ballads, it was a pretty disappointing album overall, although the funky tracks are still good and there are a couple of really good heavy rockers, most impressive being a cover of The Yardbirds’ ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’. This has been claimed by some to be a live album, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it. There is a CD release on Mason with ‘Creation’ and ‘Pure Electric Soul’ together as a 2-CD set, possibly a bootleg, and both have also legitimately been reissued separately. ‘Super Rock in the Highest Voltage’ [Express, 1978] saw Iijima absent, Matsumoto replaced by Masahiko Takeuchi and Mitsuru Kanekuni added on sax. ‘Studio Live in Direct To Disc Recording’ [Express/Toshiba EMI, 1978] saw yet more line-up changes, plus numerous guest musicians. Albums following were ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ [Toshiba EMI, 1980], ‘Lonely Heart’ [Toshiba EMI, 1981], ‘Just Arrive’ [Toshiba EMI, 1982], ‘Running On’ , ‘Songs For a Friend’ [King, 1983] and ‘Rainy Nite Dreamer’ [King, 1984]. These days guitarist Takeda lives in the United States and is known as Kazuo ‘Flash’ Takeda or ‘Flash’ Kaz Takeda, and plays blues and jazz. He’s released many solo albums, beginning with ‘Misty Morning Flight’ [Toshiba EMI, 1978].
– formed by guitarist Ginji Ogawa in 1976. They played jazzy progressive rock and made at least three albums – ‘Crosswind’ , ‘II’  and ‘Soshite Yume No Kuni E’ . I’ve only heard the last of these, which is pretty good stuff, though sometimes a bit cheesy, with lots of fiery guitar work and comparisons to Finch, Camel and Ain Soph. Ogawa also performed in Carmen Maki’s band [see below]. After Crosswind broke up in 1984, Ogawa formed several other bands and began a solo career. In 2001 he re-emerged with Ginji Ogawa Band, playing prog apparently comparable to Camel, Yes, Focus, Rush & Jethro Tull.
– vocalist and flautist from Samurai [see below]. After Samurai, he released a solo album, ‘Mimi’ [Vertigo, 1972], reissued in 1977 on Philips. It’s reputedly totally different to the music of Samurai, instead being mellow psych-pop, with backing from members of Happy End [see below].
– an electronic group who have been described as ‘a Japanese Fripp & Eno’, and have also been compared to Ashra and Pôle. From what I’ve heard so far, the Fripp & Eno comparison only stands up as far as that the band was a synth/guitar duo - Kenji Konishi on synths and Mutsuhiko Izumi on guitar, although sometimes they both play synths. Their debut, ‘Jyo’ [Vanity, 1978], was the first release on the Vanity label. This was followed by ‘Dada’ [Vanity, 1978], the live ‘Joheki’ (cassette) [Belle Antique, 1979] and ‘Dada’ [King-Nexus, 1981; pretty sure this isn’t a repackaging of the ’78 s/t album, as the back cover says it was recorded in late 1980]. This last record is the only early one I’ve heard so far, and is a bit cheesy here and there but nevertheless quite good. Some of it reminds me of late-70’s Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, though one track sounds like Raymond Scott and another is a weird and wacky rhythmic piece. It’s been reissued on CD by King, but is out of print. ‘Castle Wall’ [Belle Antique, 1984] was a collection of previously unreleased material produced by H. Tamaki [see below], reissued on CD in 1994. While some of it is pretty cheesy with icky early 80’s synth tones and melodies predominant, most of ‘Castle Wall’ is pretty top-notch spaced-out stuff, though with a few slight tape flaws here & there. Some of it reminded me a bit of some Pôle, Vangelis, late-70’s Tangerine Dream and Spacecraft, some of it perhaps like Carpe Diem stripped back to just the keyboards & guitar. Konishi later joined P-Model and Shifukudan; Izumi later joined After Dinner [see below] and Kennedy [see below].
– an underground band formed in 1971. They played a kind of underground psychedelic progressive rock. Guitarist Hiroshi Narazaki was also in Brain Police [see above] and Les Rallizes Denudes [see below]. There are numerous CDs available covering recordings from 1971-1982, but I don’t think they released any albums at the time. ‘1971’ [Dragon Freek, 1996] sounds like live demo recordings, and is mostly great raw, and sometimes funky, heavy psychedelic prog that features quite a lot of fierce jamming and strange changesof direction. Some comparisons at various points are Foodbrain, Lagger Blues Machine and Elluffant. At one point they even sound a bit like Ruins or Korekyojin! The last track is much more conventional. ‘Unto’ [Belle Antique, 1997] featured live stuff from 1978 [possibly previously issued as ‘Rock Horizon Vol. 4’], 1975 and a studio track from 1982. The music on this disc is less heavy, substituting more of an almost jazzy prog jamming vibe. It may not appeal to fans of the earliest recordings, but I think it’s still pretty good. Both CD’s are out of print. There was a CD-R release of more archive material, ‘1976’ . They broke up in 1983, but after a hiatus the band got back together recently, and have released more CD’s on their own label – ‘Nagi’ [Banana Songs, 2000], ‘[Japanese title]’ [Banana Songs, 2003], ‘Red Afternoon Blues’ [Walking Press Records, 2004] and ‘Cool Flying Dragon’ [Banana Songs, 2006].
– a very obscure piece, Dema [‘Rumour’] actually is the name of the album [CBS/Sony, 1972], not the group, but I’ve put it here because that’s how it’s usually referred to amongst Western collectors. It was a collaboration between Masahiko Satoh [see below] and Kohsuke Ichihara, referred to on the inside cover and label as number 2 in the Sound Display Series – no idea what else was in that series. Satoh [who arranged and composed the music] and Ichihara each led a separate group who combined to create the music. These were Kohsuke Ichihara All Stars, consisting of Ichihara on wind instruments, Takao Naoi and Kimio Mizutani [see below] on electric guitar, Masaoki Terakawa on electric bass, Hideo Ichikawa on electric piano and Akira Ishikawa on drums; and Masahiko Satoh & Garan-Doh, consisting of Satoh on piano and synth, Keiki Midorikawa on wood bass and Hozumi Tanaka on drums and percussion. The music is interesting avant-garde jazz rock that is mostly pretty spaced-out and occasionally enters free jazz territory. Most of the album consists of a length piece broken over two sides, with a shorter piece at each end. The inside cover states that the album was adapted from an original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui, and credits Yoshio Gyoda for “commentary”, but as it is an entirely instrumental album I have no idea what this actually means. The gatefold cover features memorable artwork with a baby floating in space, overlaid with a lattice of geometric diagrams. It’s also quadrophonic, by the way!
– a raw heavy blues rock band formed by ex-Blues Creation singer Fumio Nunoya. They didn’t release an album of their own, but they had a couple of live tracks on the rare ‘Genya-Sai’ album [see below under Various artists], which are good but nothing great. Guitarist Eiichi Sayu [ex-Brain Police] was briefly a member before joining Far Out [see below].
– this was a group featuring Filipino Joey Smith from Speed, Glue & Shinki [see below] and Juan De La Cruz Band with two Japanese musicians, playing drums, bass, guitar and Moog. They recorded an album’s worth of material in 1972 that wasn’t released at the time. It was supposed to be released some time recently as ‘Hit’ [Victor, 200?], according to Julian Cope, but I’ve been unable to find any trace of its existence except for his say-so, and oddly there’s no further mention of it in his recent book ‘Japrocksampler’. It reputedly features “slow, squelchy farts over Stoogean teen riffs”, according to Cope! Smith joined the new lineup of Juan De La Cruz in the Philippines after this.
– this band were based in the US, and reputedly played ‘eastern influenced psych’. They recorded three discs that I know of – ‘East’ [Capitol, 1972], ‘Beautiful Morning’ (an EP)  and ‘Coronado Moonbeams’ (an EP) . Their album is available on CD.
– not really a proper band, but a temporary musical presentation staged for the graduation of Kazuo Imai and fellow students from the art school workshops of Takehisa Kosugi [see below]. These concerts of collective free-improvisation were called East Bionic Symphonia. They made a live recording, ‘Recorded Live’ [ALM, 1976], featuring 10 members playing all manner of instruments and objects over 2 lengthy jams. This sounds very much like a largely mellow Taj Mahal Travellers [see below]. After this, the group seems to have dissolved, with Imai playing with the Kosugi-less Taj Mahal Travellers and later with a variety of other avant-garde musicians. Another EBS member, Chie Mukai, went on to form her own ‘folk-psych’ group Ché-Shizu [see below].
– a studio project by Masahiko Satoh [see below], with a drummer and a trio of percussionists. They made one quadrophonic album, ‘Eternity? (4Ch Niyoru Dagakki To Okesutora No Tameno Konpojishon)’ [Polydor, 1972]. The subtitle translates to ‘Composition For Percussion and Orchestra in Quadrophonic’, and the music is “an alienated and epic avant-garde wash of empty space music” according to Julian Cope.
– a space rock group formed out of the ashes of Far Out [see below], with synth players Masanori Takahashi [a.k.a. Kitaro], Fumio Miyashita [also played guitar] and Akira Ito, all later to achieve some fame as solo artists [see below]. Their style was very much influenced by early/mid-70’s Pink Floyd and perhaps Eloy, with a gentle [and almost proto-New Agey] oriental touch. In my opinion they’re at their best when doing lengthy hypnotic space treks – their mellow crooning song style does not appeal to me much, and is in a similar vein to that of Far Out [see below]. Their first album was ‘The Cave Down To The Earth’ [Mu Land, 1974], which featured lots of mellow, spacious material and a fair bit of the crooning mentioned above. Other members on this album were Akira Fukakusa [bass], Hirohito Fukushima [guitar, vocals] and Shizuo Takasaki [drums]. It’s been reissued by TRC, and probably Coca.
By the time of ‘Nipponjin – Join Our Mental Phase Sound’ [Nippon Columbia/Vertigo, 1975] they were assisted in recording in the UK by Klaus Schulze. This was a better album than its predecessor, with some great lengthy space treks [especially ‘Nipponjin’, a reworked version of Far Out’s ‘Nihonjin’], and partly contained reworked material from the first album. It’s been reissued by Buy Or Die, and probably Coca.
Their real masterpiece [also made with Schulze’s assistance, as well as that of Gunther Schickert] was ‘Parallel World’ [Columbia, 1976], a lengthy album with [in my opinion] only 1 partly-dud track, and lots of excellent space rock. The sound is very digitally-processed and cutting-edge for the time, the music ranging from barely audible spacey ambience to full-flight oriental space rock hinting at some Ozric Tentacles. The lengthy track covering side 2 is a totally spaced-out piece of mostly free-form synthesizer and computer music adventures. It’s been reissued by Coca.
Their last album was ‘Tenkujin’ [All Ears Records, 1977], by which time they had become a trio of Miyashita, Fukushima and drummer Yujin Harada [ex-Samurai – see below], and Kitaro, Ito and Takasaki had left. It is reputedly dominated by their earlier balladic style and is low on space music content, having a reputation as a weak album to avoid. However, I’ve heard it now and I was surprised to find it not too bad, and quite good in places, with less vocals than expected. However it is a big dip in quality after the awesome album that came before it. This was reissued some time ago by TRC and Coca. I’ve also seen another one listed, ‘Tom Hatano’ , but I don’t know anything further.
– a rather legendary psychedelic progressive group formed by Fumio Miyashita [Moog, acoustic guitar, harmonica, vocals; ex-Glories], with Eiichi Sayu [guitar, Hammond; ex-Brain Police, Dew], Kei Ishikawa [bass, electric sitar, vocals; ex-Fujio Dynamite – see Fujio Yamaguchi below] and Manami Arai [drums]. They recorded only one album, ‘Far Out (a.k.a. Nihonjin)’ [Denon, 1973]. (I’ve seen a previous one listed in one place, ‘Mio’ , but it might just be legend or a case of confusion. They also have some stuff on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ – see below) It contains only 2 lengthy tracks ranging through a variety of moods. Starting out with slow echoed percussion and some painful oscillator twitching, the album quickly establishes a serious and exploratory intent, marred only by the occasional chunks of balladic crooning with ‘mournful’ Dave Gilmour-styled guitar licks which don’t quite agree with me [it’s not the music I object to so much as the singing in these parts – though I grow to like it all more each time I hear this great album]. However the album also contains plenty of slow and chunky ominous minor key heavy riffing, exotic guitar-cum-sitar stroking, and hypnotic plodding eastern space rock - think Pink Floyd’s ‘Careful With That Axe…’/‘Set The Controls…’ Japanese style, with a pinch of Flower Travellin’ Band circa ‘Satori’, and Dave Gilmour playing with the Moody Blues for the balladic bits [apparently Miyashita was pretty into the Moody Blues]. Some famous guests also participated in the album sessions - Joe Yamanaka [Flower Travellin’ Band] and Osamu Kitajima [see below].
The album didn’t meet with its deserved success, and one by one members departed until only Miyashita remained, starting from scratch with new musicians as Far East Family Band [see above], pursuing a similar mode but with less rock and more spaciousness; Ishikawa later moved to the US and formed Chronicle [see above]. The Far Out album has been reissued on CD a number of times; the Buy Or Die reissue I own has an album’s worth of bonus tracks that consist of most of the Far East Family Band’s first album, ‘The Cave Down To The Earth’, although not credited as such.
– a popular group who released 2 albums in their short lifespan – ‘Dr. Siegel’s Fried Egg Shooting Machine’ [Vertigo, 1972] and ‘Good Bye’ [Vertigo, 1972]. The debut featured a mix of accessible psych-pop-prog, hard-riffing heavy rock [with some moves directly lifted from early Uriah Heep], and early progressive tendencies. The last album was mostly live [from their farewell concert, apparently] and leant more towards their heavy rock side, notably influenced by Grand Funk circa ‘Live Album’ and numerous Black Sabbath-meets-Mountain wannabes, and including a couple of old Strawberry Path songs. The studio material was in a similar vein to the range of styles on their first album. Drummer Hiro Tsunoda had previously been in The Jacks, Foodbrain and Strawberry Path, and was also in Sadistic Mika Band at some point [see below for all]. Bassist Masayoshi Takanaka had previously been in Brush [see above]. George Yanagi [ex-Powerhouse, Shinki Chen solo, Strawberry Path] sang on one track on the last album.
– formed in the late-60’s to explore psych rock beyond group sounds, this septet played a lot in Tokyo and were very into Big Brother & The Holding Co. Their first recording was a monster jam called ‘I’m Dead’ that would be released on a Toshi Ichiyanagi album [see below]. They eventually released a sole album of their own, ‘Challenge!’ [Columbia, 1969], which was perhaps most challenging in that it showed the whole band standing naked in a field on the front cover! It contained cover versions from the likes of Big Brother & The Holding Co., Hendrix, Cream and Jefferson Airplane, and only one original composition [which is an excellent piece of west coast styled hard psych jamming that hints a little at their monster jam ‘I’m Dead’ (see Toshi Ichiyanagi below) and was apparently recorded at the same session]. Another track, ‘Intruder’, may also be an original but I’m not sure. Despite being largely covers, it’s not a bad psych album, and the instrumental breaks are great, especially the guitar and bass interplay. The album has been reissued on CD by Coca and Synton, as well as on LP. Near the end of their days, they recorded live stuff for the ‘Rock’n’Roll Jam ‘70’ various artists live album [see below], on which their version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘How Many More Times’ reputedly kicked up a real storm, and can be heard on the bootleg ‘From Pussys To Death In 10,000 Years Of Freak-Out’ [Apex, 1995; credited to Flower Travelling Band but full of Flowers music]. Soon after this, Uchida left the group as a member, got rid of everyone bar the drummer and one of the guitarists, formed the remainder of the group into the Flower Travellin’ Band [see below] and became their producer.
– a legendary group formed out of the remnants of The Flowers. The lineup was Akira ‘Joe’ Yamanaka [vocals; ex-491], Hideki Ishema [guitar; ex-Beavers, Flowers], Jun Kosuki [bass], and Joji ‘George’ Wada [drums; ex-Flowers].
There’s a Flower Travellin’ Band bootleg CD available called ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans – Demonstration 1970’ [Ain’t Group Sounds, 2002], which should really be credited to Flowers, Flower Travellin’ Band and Kuni Kawachi. It contains a near half-hour jam, ‘I’m Dead’, comprising freeform improvising and composed acid rock song sections, with great searing fuzz guitar leads, which is the Flowers contribution to the Toshi Ichiyanagi album ‘Opera From The Works Of Tadanori Yokoo’ and the first and best thing they recorded – see below, later bootlegged on ‘From Pussys To Death In 10,000 Years Of Freak-Out’ [Apex, 1995]. It also contains shorter tracks, which comprise much of the ‘Kuni Kawachi & Friends’ album dubbed from vinyl [see below], as well as ‘Map’, a rare non-album single that I know nothing more about [a-side? b-side? label? year?]. Anyway, backing Kuni Kawachi on his solo album was the first thing the new band did in the studio.
Their first album proper was ‘Anywhere’ [Philips, 1970], which had surely one of the coolest rock album covers ever – a gatefold photo of the band speeding down the road, naked, on motorcycles! Musically, it was good but only of passing interest to non-FTB fanatics, as it contains nearly all cover versions [such as ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, ‘Black Sabbath’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’], the only ‘original’ compositions being a heavy progressive blues jam track and a very short harmonica piece. Perhaps for hardcore fans and completists only, although some people might want to own a copy just for the cover! That being said, they do give the covers a good treatment and the album is very enjoyable.
Their second album, ‘Satori’ [Atlantic, 1971], was a huge leap forward in strength and originality, and is arguably their monolithic masterpiece. It contains lengthy, and usually very loud, hypnotic psychedelic heavy progressive rock, with pummeling riffs and a great stoned, mystical feel. The next album, ‘Made in Japan’ [Atlantic, 1972], was better distributed internationally and even featured a sound-bite from a radio ad for a rock festival at which they played with numerous big names of the day, including ELP. Musically it was in a similar vein to the preceding album but more song-oriented and varied overall – an excellent album, and one friend even likes this one better than ‘Satori’. Their last album, ‘Make Up’ [Atlantic, 1973] was a double LP, and had Yuya Uchida guesting on vocals. The album featured studio and live material, including a 20-minute version of ‘Hiroshima’ from the previous album [with bass solo] and a live-in-studio version of ‘Satori Part 2’. Of the studio material, some is in a heavy progressive vein [though leaning more towards an oriental King Crimson in parts than their older style], some is in a more commercial softer style. Some of the live material is rather throwaway, including a bluesy rock’n’roll number and a soppy ballad. Overall it’s patchy but with plenty of good to great stuff – it could have been edited down to a single great LP in my opinion.
All of these have been reissued on CD by Coca but they are generally expensive to import [the main reason I haven’t heard the pricey double-CD reissue of ‘Make Up’]. There was also a single-CD version of ‘Make Up’ which left out some of the most desirable live material. A compilation LP exists, ‘The Times’ [Atlantic, 1975], credited to ‘Joe with Flower Travellin Band’. Supposedly there is one more obscure album, ‘Futarino Don’ , but I don’t know what the story is with this. Flower Travellin’ Band also had some stuff on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ [see below].
– this legendary band released only one album, ‘Social Gathering’ aka ‘Bansan’ [Polydor, 1970], the cover of which stands out due to the large elephant approaching the viewer. It contains a great, diverse mix of stuff delivered with over-the-top gusto, from stabbing high speed hard acid rock, to rollicking progressive psych jamming with crazed piano, to loud distorted bass experiments, etc. etc. Not a ballad in sight, very enjoyable from beginning to end. Julian Cope says it’s legendary only because it’s so rare, but I can’t understand why he thinks it sucks, and everyone I’ve played it to liked it a lot. Guitarist Shinki Chen [ex-Golden Cups and Powerhouse – see below] later went on to record a solo album and to form the group Speed, Glue & Shinki with Foodbrain bassist Masayoshi Kabe [a.k.a. M. Glue, also ex-Golden Cups, Room]; keyboardist Hiro Yanagida [ex-Apryl Fool – see above] later went on to play with Love Live Life + One, Masahiko Sato & Sound Brakers and to a solo career [see below]; drummer Hiro Tsunoda [ex-Jacks – see below] went on to Strawberry Path, Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see below]. The album has been reissued on CD by P-Vine.
– formed in 1978 by two ex-members of 3/3 [Sanbun No San], Reck and Chiko Hige. They’re usually referred to as a ‘No Wave’ band, but not having heard them yet I can’t comment. They released a single first, ‘I Can Tell’/‘Pistol’ [Pass, 1979], then their debut album, ‘Atsureki’ aka ‘Friction’ [Pass, 1980], which was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see below]. Many more albums followed over the years, including ‘Skin Deep’ [Pass?, 1982], ‘Live at “Ex Mattattoio” in Roma’ [Marz, 1985], ‘Replicant Walk’ [Wax, 1988; issued in the US on Enemy, 1994], which featured John Zorn on sax, the live ‘Dumb Numb’ [Wax, 1990], ‘Zone Tripper’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1995; issued in the US on Tzadik, 1999, with different cover art and expanded with remixes], ‘Remixxx + One’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1996], ‘Live 1980’ [Video Arts/Bass Trap, 1996] and ‘Friction Maniacs’ [Pass, 2007; 2-CD]. More recently, reputedly excellent live recordings from 1979 were released as ‘’79 Live’ [Pass, 2005].
– they made one album that I know of, ‘Tetsu Yamauchi, Haruo Chikada (and others)’ [Victor, 1971]. I’m not sure if Friends is the name of the album or the group. I believe it was a one-off studio project, but I have no idea what the music was like. Bassist Tetsu Yamauchi had previously been in Samurai [see below], and after this went on to the British groups Free and The Faces as well as a solo album [see below]. Ken Narita was ex-Beavers, and went on to make a solo album [see below]. The Friends album was reissued on CD by P-Vine, but is now out of print.
– this was Fujio Yamaguchi and Osamu Kitajima [see below], who got together during Yamagauchi’s time out from Murahachibu to record an album, ‘Shinchugoko’ . It’s been referred to as progressive, but I haven’t heard it. Don’t confuse it with Fumio & Osamu [see below].
– Fukamachi is a keyboardist with jazz roots. His first album was ‘Introducing Jun Fukamachi’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1975], reputedly great jazz rock/fusion. This was followed by ‘Rokuyu’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1975], as Jun Fukumachi & 21st Century Band. This [the only one I’ve heard] is a great album of synth-heavy progressive fusion. While some of the music is conventional fusion, for better or worse, there are plenty of surprises and bursts of intensity with great guitar work and dense synths, especially on the diverse title track which takes up all of side 2. Some of the style reminds me of Fermáta’s second album. By ‘Spiral Steps’ [Kitty, 1976] he was using many western musicians, such as Randy & Michael Brecker on horns, and Anthony Jackson on bass. ‘Evening Star’ [Kitty, 1977], ‘Live: Triangle Session’ [Kitty, 1977], and ‘The Sea of Dirac’ [Kitty, 1977], followed a similar trend. ‘Second Phase’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1977] and ‘On The Move’ [Alfa, 1978] went back to primarily Japanese musicians, though ‘Live’ [Alfa, 1978], as Jun Fukumachi & The New York All Stars, obviously didn’t. ‘Quark’ [Alfa, 1980] was different for being an album of solo synth music. In the early 80’s he was part of a fusion group called Keep, who did one album – ‘DG-581’ [Trash/Trio, 1981].
– this very obscure group recorded at least one album, ‘Fulukotofumi’ [RCA, 1972], reputedly progressive. It’s been listed as ‘Furukotofumi’ which is probably incorrect.
– this very obscure group recorded at least one album, ‘Fumanzoku’ [Private, 1974], reputedly containing psychedelic rock.
– not to be confused with Fujio & Osamu [see above], this was the duo of Fumio Miyashita [soon to form Far Out – see above] and Osamu Kitajima [see below]. They released one album, ‘New China’ , reputedly full of traditional Japanese music, but it sunk without trace and the two went their separate ways.
– a trio formed in 1972, including the charismatically androgynous guitarist/vocalist Hideto Kanoh, previously of the group The M [see below]. Bassist Masayuki Aoki was ex-Too Much [see below], and the trio was completed by drummer Ryoichi Nakano. Gedo had a big biker following and were a popular band at rock festivals. Their first album was ‘Gedo’ [Trio/Showboat, 1973 or 1974], reputedly mostly hard rock with some psychedelic touches. I haven’t heard it, but based on live stuff from this period we’re probably looking at a pretty good mix of old-style rock’n’roll and heavier, high-energy guitar rock, with the occasional lighter moment or a bit of blues rock. The debut has been reissued on CD by P-Vine and Showboat, but both are out of print. I’ve seen mention of an album from 1973 called ‘Nippon Sanka’, but I don’t know if this was actually the first album, or a later release of pre-debut recordings.
Gedo played lots of interesting gigs, including the ‘One Step Music Festival’ in ’74 with Yoko Ono, and the ‘Sunshine Festival’ in a crater in Hawaii for the ‘74/’75 New Year. Their second album was ‘In Sounds Of Hawaii Studios’ [Trio/Showboat, 1975], presumably recorded in Hawaii, followed by ‘Just Gedo’ [Trio/Showboat, 1975], after which they played at the ‘World Rock Festival’ with Jeff Beck, as well as jamming with the New York Dolls and Felix Pappalardi. Their last album for the time being was ‘Jyuttoku Live’ [Showboat, 1976], the band breaking up a year later. They reputedly got a bit poppier in these later years. Between 1978 and 1980 Kanoh released three solo albums, with his session group The East Junkie Family, before Gedo re-formed in 1981 and released the album ‘Power Cut’ [Columbia, 1981], followed by ‘Mooning’ [Columbia, 1982], ‘Live’ [Meldac, 1991] and ‘Die For You’ [Polydor, 1993] [as Hideto Kanoh with Gedo]. In 2001 Gedo re-formed again, Kanoh having kept himself busy with solo projects, soundtracks and guest appearances in the mean time. Hagakure also released some previously unissued live albums, ‘1975 Mihappyo Live’[Hagakure, 2002] and ‘Gedo Live: Kaisan Concert 1976.10.16’ [Hagakure, 2001]. In 2003, to commemorate the band’s 30th anniversary, some live gigs from the mid-70’s were released on CD. ‘Kyonetsu no Machida Police ‘74’ [Sony, 2003; 2-CD] featured two gigs from ’74, and one live track from ’73 as a bonus. The first disc gets off to a slow start, with over 8 minutes of Japanese dialogue and joking with the audience, followed by half a set of quiet acoustic material. The acoustic stuff isn’t bad, but if you’re hungry for some rock and don’t know what’s going on it could be frustrating. The rest of the set is electric and rockin’, though often a bit lethargic. When they go off though, it’s a killer guitar burn! The second disc is more consistent and rocks out most of the way through. ‘1975 Yaonkyo no Aloha’ [Sony, 2003; 2-CD] is another solid collection of two good live shows, similar to the second disc of the ’74 set. Both 2-CD sets have some occasional censorship bleeping of some sung lyrics and spoken words, so perhaps they were recorded for radio broadcast originally. Also released were ‘1976 Sayonara Nippon’ [Sony, 2003] and ‘Saigo no Mandala Yaneura Densetsu ‘76’ [Sony, 2003]. There was another Sony release at the time with another 2-CD 1975 live set but I’ve only seen the title in Japanese characters. One release also came with a DVD. There have been other Gedo releases and compilations, but it all starts to get a bit confusing regarding what is what if you can’t read Japanese.
– originally an experimental/avant garde musical collective formed in the mid-1950’s, intending to ‘destroy accepted values in the world of choral music’. In 1966 Shoji Yamashiro took over as composer, arranger, producer and ‘sound architect’ of the collective. In 1974 they changed their name to Geino Yamashirogumi, though I don’t know what they were called before; by this time they had absorbed many diverse vocal influences, such as from Bali and Bulgaria. The group consists of hundreds of people ‘from all walks of life’, many of them professionals in fields of science. Most of these people work in the vocal performances. They have become known for their ‘skilful fusion of traditional music with high technology’. The collective is also home to 2 organisations, Festival Arts Research Institute and Civilization Sciences Research Institute.
The first album has come to be regarded as a bit of a classic – ‘Osorezan/Do No Kenbai’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1976]. It contains only 2 lengthy tracks of weird experimental music with creative mixing, exotic instrumentation and strange ritual vocals. The first track ‘Osorezan’ (‘Mt. Fear’) is utterly weird, beginning with an anguished scream and moving through various shorter sections from there. Some of it is really eerie and full-on, like a bad trip, other parts feature soft synthesizer tones and tripped-out guitars, some parts hint slightly at New Age world fusion but weird-ass, and there’s even some relaxed and funky jazz-fusion backing in one place. The sounds here and there remind us that we are nearing the 80’s, but it never gets cheesy. This is perhaps one of the most intense pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot of intense stuff of all styles. The second track is group vocal work with a ritual/shamanic feel and nice reverb dynamics, incorporating the well-known traditional ‘monkey chant’; the back art work [of the CD; not sure about the LP] shows them sitting in a circle with arms raised in the air, wearing only pants and headbands – I presume this is how they look when performing something like this.
‘Chi no Habiki Higashu Yu-Roppu Wo Utau’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1976], was, as far as I can gather, interpretations of traditional old European folk songs and is worlds away from the first album, though still pleasant in its own right. Numerous other albums followed which I know little or nothing about, such as ‘Yamato Gensho’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1977], ‘Ohgonrin Sanyoh’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1978], ‘Live’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1978 or 1979], ‘Shonentachi Eno Chikyu Sanka’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1979], ‘Africa Gensho’ [Invitation/RCA Victor, 1982] and ‘Reverberation of Earth’ [Invitation, year?]. ‘Rinne Kohkyogaku’ (Reincarnated Orchestra) [Invitation, 1986] is a concept piece about the eternal cycles of birth, death and rebirth. ‘Ecophony Gaia’ [Invitation, 1990] is a 70-minute ‘macrosymphony homage to the Earth’s ecosystem’. In 1988, Geinoh Yamashirogumi made the great music for the soundtrack to the popular anime film, ‘Akira’, one of the few soundtracks that stands up well on its own as an album. There is a regular soundtrack version, including some dialogue and sound effects from the film, and the ‘Akira Symphonic Suite’ version, which is longer and features only the full, original versions of the music from the soundtrack. All of these albums have been reissued on CD by Victor.
– see below under Various artists.
– an unruly solvent-sniffing garage psych band which at one point contained future Foodbrain and Speed, Glue & Shinki members Shinki Chen & Masayoshi Kabe [then calling himself ‘Louis Louis Kabe’], though I believe Chen left before they released any albums, joining Powerhouse in the interim [see below]. Their debut was ‘Album’ [Capitol, 1968], which featured a great deal of cover versions. This was followed by ‘Album No. 2’ [Capitol, 1968], ‘Album No. 3 - Blues Message’ [Capitol, 1969] and ‘Recital – Recorded Live at Shibuya Concert Hall 1969’ [Capitol, 1969]. ‘Super Live Session’ [Capitol, 1969] was mostly hard garage r&b with an obvious Cream influence and a loose jazziness that is actually pretty sloppy, but compensates in producing a subtle psychedelic haze over the proceedings; it’s reasonably good, with extended jamming, but nothing really original or different. Most tracks are covers, except ‘Zen Blues’ which is basically a derivative slow blues. It’s been reissued on CD by EMI/Capitol Japan. Over the last few albums - ‘All About’ [Capitol, 1970], ‘Live Album – Recorded Live at Shibiya [sic.] Concert Hall’ [Capitol, 1971] and ‘Return of the Golden Cups Volume 8’ [Capitol, 1971] – the band reputedly got a little more progressive and psychedelic.
– a very obscure group led by guitarist Hiroshi Kato. They made at least one album, ‘Inochi’ [Tengu/URC, 1970], which has been described as ‘progressive underground’. Going from a small cover scan in Hans Pokora’s ‘3001 Record Collector Dreams’, which shows the numerous personnel listed on the cover but mostly too tiny and blurred to read, Akira Ito [Far East Family Band and solo – see above and below] can be made out, on percussion.
– an experimental group formed in 1958 by the Fluxus-influenced Takehisa Kosugi [see below], with Shukou Mizuno and some members of Tokyo University’s Musicology Programme. Their name means simply ‘Music Group’. They recorded three pieces in 1960 and 1961 that became their sole album, ‘Music of Group Ongaku’. I don’t think it was ever released at the time, but it has been available on CD [Hear Sound Art, 2000]. The 1960 pieces are noisy and chaotic musique concrete and tape-manipulated acoustic ramblings, and the 1961 piece is more sedate overall. Julian Cope has called it “The Faust Tapes thirteen years ahead of its time”, but there’s no experimental rock, or any other sign of melody, to break it up. Rather than sounding anything like Faust, I’m reminded of any number of musique concrete pieces and numerous avant garde free-improv groups that cropped up in the 60’s and 70’s, in Europe in particular, many of which are mentioned in the Nurse With Wound influences list. In fact, it is in a similar vein to the first Nurse With Wound and AMM albums.
– a very obscure group who reputedly played a kind of psychedelic rock, according to Hans Pokora. They released two albums that I know of, ‘Blue Roses For the Gypsy – in Wishbone’ [Private pressing, 1971] and ‘Rokko Oroshi’ (also seen listed as ‘Rokkourishi’) [Vertigo, 1971]. I’ve only heard the second, which is mostly US West Coast-styled ‘rural rock’ and country rock. I’m not a fan of country music, but it’s not bad. Occasionally they touch on slight West Coast psych vibes, and sometimes they sound a bit like early Humble Pie, though not as good and without anything approaching Steve Marriot’s distinctive vocal style. The latter album was reissued on CD by P-Vine in 1998, with 4 bonus tracks, but is now out of print; it’s been reissued again as a mid-price CD [Naked Line/Universal, 2007].
– a seemingly permanently black-clad guitarist/vocalist/harmonica player who was in a late-60’s Doors covers group before forming Lost Aaraaff [see below]. Around this time he befriended the similarly black-clad Mizutani Takashi of Les Rallizes Denudes [see below]. He released an early solo album, ‘Ama No Gawa’ (‘Milky Way’) [label? 1973], reputedly containing droney electronic music which Alan Cummings described as “an enduring favourite for its evocative, spiritually charged atmosphere”. It’s been reissued on CD by Mom’N’Dad. Haino went on to form Fushitsusha [see below] and release numerous other solo albums in various styles – too much to go into here, and much of it is probably of limited interest to readers of this article.
– a pretty light and commercial dual keyboard-led psych-pop group, who released their debut ‘Touemi Ningen’ [Capitol, 1968], which has been compared to early Procol Harum. The next was obviously Beatles-influenced – ‘Magical Happenings Tour’ [Capitol, 1968]. The cover had a slightly amusing picture of the be-costumed band, with hair up in erect top-knots, laid into a ¥10,000 bill. I’ve only heard a couple of tracks from it, which are far inferior to, and quite unlike, the Beatles [and for the record, I’m not much of a Beatles fan]. ‘Outsider No Sekai’ [Capitol, 1970] was loaded with very straight and dated orchestrated pop music, but often [not always, unfortunately] a subtle weirdness permeates the tracks, and a few tracks are just odd on their own. This juxtaposition of the very straight and the rather weird reminds me Sound of Feeling’s album ‘Spleen’ in approach, but not nearly as out-there, avant-garde or as interesting overall. You could also say that some tracks are a bit like the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band but without the comedy [though one strange track with a squeaky ‘Chipmunks’ voice raises a smile, and musically could practically be a Raymond Scott creation], and there’s also a bit of mid- and far-eastern folk. As Happenings Four + 1 they released another album, ‘The Long Trip’ [Capitol, 1971], which is reputedly much more on the early progressive side of things, with the band in this period compared by Julian Cope to Procol Harum and Greenslade. Keyboardist Kuni Kawachi would also work with Tenjo Sajiki, J.A. Caesar and Flower Travellin’ Band [see above & below].
– formed in 1969, this band featured Shigeru Suzuki, Takashi Matsumoto and Haruomi Hosono, all ex-Apryl Fool [see above], as well as singer Nobuyasu Okabayashi, who was known as ‘the Japanese Bob Dylan’ and similarly was disliked by some for joining an electric band. They have been described as a Japanese Buffalo Springfield, and reputedly blended US west coast psychedelic rock styles with modern Japanese folk and soft progressive rock. They released a few albums that I know of, the debut being ‘Happy End’ (a.k.a. Yudemen) [URC, 1970]. This is often considered to be their best, and it is quite good in a low-key way, though I failed to notice much that reminded me of Buffalo Springfield, Japanese folk or actual progressive rock. ‘Kaze Machi Roman’ (‘Windy Roman City’)  was another good album, but a little patchy, with a fair bit of dull country pop, though the great funky psychedelic rock makes up for it. ‘Happy End’ [King, 1973] was different to the self-titled debut, just to avoid any confusion. It was produced by Van Dyke Parks, and presuming the copy I heard was complete, it’s more of an EP than a full album. By now the style of the music was much more commercial, though still with a few good moments. ‘Live Happy End’ [1974, but rec. 1972] may have been a posthumous release, as I think the band had broken up by this point. There have also been numerous compilations, and stuff from an 80’s reformation. Hosono went on to a solo career of sorts, and Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below].
– Harumi was a Japanese guy living in the US, where he recorded his double album ‘Harumi’ [Verve Forecast, 1968]. The first LP contains psych pop, with shorter tracks. It’s of variable interest but some tracks are really good, and perhaps reminiscent of Beatles circa ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’. The second LP contains only a lengthy track per side. One is a huge psychedelic rock jam, with great use of horns and trippy mixing, with Harumi’s parents and sister talking about him in Japanese; and the other is a two-way mystical dialogue over an exotic, introverted bed of trippy music with sitars and lots of beautiful sounds and sound effects. However the ‘dialogue’ isn’t really connected much – you have Harumi coming out with reminiscences of his childhood in Japan, and an American guy who then picks up with his own barely-related contributions of fuzzy wisdom – but it’s almost like Harumi is feeling hard-pressed to come up with anything insightful to say, whilst the other guy is trying too hard to sound like an all-knowing benevolent godhead and coming across as though he’s not really even listening to what Harumi has to say, but waiting for any break in Harumi’s reminiscences to just go back to his own benign airy monologue rather than actually sharing a discussion. Good music, though! The album is recommended even if only for these long tracks, and has beautiful cover artwork. It hasn’t yet been reissued on CD, as far as I know.
– see Osamu Kitajima.
– on their first album, the aptly-titled ‘First Album’ [Victor, 1969], this group played pretty good heavy psychedelic blues rock, with lots of raw jamming. Some of the tracks are Cream and Hendrix covers. The album has been reissued on CD as a bootleg by Black Rose. The only other album I’m aware of is ‘Tales Of A Thousand & One Nights’ a.k.a. ‘Senya Ichiya Monogatari’ [Victor, 1969]. I haven’t heard it, but it’s the soundtrack to a film of the same name, presumably an animation going by the cover art, which was done by famous Atom/Astro Boy cartoonist Osamu Tezuka. The music reputedly swings between orchestral stuff and heavy acid rock. The singer/rhythm guitarist Junio Nakahara changed his name to Tstomu Ogawa and formed Too Much [see below].
– an avant-garde pop group formed in the late 70’s by vocalist and song-writer Koichi Makigami [ex-Tokyo Kid Brothers – see below]. I lack info for their debut recording, ‘Hikashu’ [1978 or 1980], but I believe ‘Natsu’  is their second album. It’s an odd, jerky collection of avant-pop songs with some forays into electro-pop and post-punk, a little like Wha-Ha-Ha [see below] but not as whacked out. Their third album, ‘Uwasa No Jinrui’ [‘The Human Being’] , was a bit more interesting and took their style more into the edges of RIO. Both of these have been reissued on CD. Synth players Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita left shortly after this and formed Inoyamaland [see below]; Hikashu continued [sometimes as Hikasu] and have released many other albums I know nothing about except that they explore many different styles.
– an obscure psychedelic folk group who made at least one album, ‘Page One’ [Fish, 1975].
– a jazz trumpeter influenced by Miles Davis. His albums include ‘Alone, Alone and Alone’ ; ‘Alone Together’ ; ‘Into the Heaven’ [Columbia, 1970]; ‘Journey to Air’ [Teichiku, 1970]; ‘Love Nature: Terumasa Hino Quartet in New York’ ; ‘Fuji’ [Polydor, 1972]; ‘Taro’s Mood: Recorded Live at the Domicile’ [Enja, 1973]; ‘Hi-Nology’  was apparently recorded in 1969; ‘Into Eternity’ [Sony, 1974]; ‘Journey Into My Mind’ [CBS, 1974]; ‘Wheel Stone: Live in Nemuro’ ; ‘Speak to Loneliness’ ; ‘May Dance’ [Victor, 1977] featured Tony Williams and John Scofield; ‘City Connection’ [Victor, 1979]; ‘Daydream’ [Victor, 1980]; ‘Double Rainbow’ [CBS/Sony, 1981]; ‘Trans-Blue’ [CBS/Sony, 1985], and more up to the present day. ‘Double Rainbow’ was very successful at the time, and although it owes an obvious debt to 70’s electric Miles Davis, it features an extra creativity that makes it more than just an imitation. At times it sounds like a blend of Miles, Hermeto Pascoal and German group Ibliss.
– starting out as bassist for Apryl Fool, then Happy End [see above], Hosono later helped form Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below] and became well known as a successful and innovative electronic musician and producer. His first solo album was ‘Hosono House’ [King, 1973], but it reputedly contains commercial vocal r&b. He formed a group, Tin Pan Alley, with whom he released a few albums of ‘tropical’ music – ‘Caramel Mama’ [Panam, 1974?], ‘2’ [Panam, 1975?], ‘Izumi Yukimura Super Generation’ [1974?], ‘Norio Maeda and Tin Pan Alley’ [197?] and ‘Yellow Magic Carnival’ . During the same period he made another solo album in a similar vein to the Tin Pan Alley stuff – ‘Tropical Dandy’ [Panam/Crown, 1975]. This was followed by ‘Taian Yoko’ [Crown, 1976?], as Bon Voyage Co., and ‘Paraiso’ [Alfa, 1978], as Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band. The latter features soon-to-be Yellow Magic Orchestra members on one track, and finally introduces some synth, but reputedly doesn’t sound much like YMO.
‘Pacific’ [CBS, 1978] came out as by Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Yamashita, all of whom had been in Tin Pan Alley. The music is ‘exotica’ with each musician doing their own tracks, and with YMO’s Ryuichi Sakamoto [see below] on synths as a session muso. Hosono’s first masterpiece is often considered to be ‘Cochin Moon’ [King, 1978], which came out as by Hosono & Yokoo. In actuality, [Tadanori] Yokoo [see Toshi Ichiyanagi below] only did the cover art, and does not contribute to the music. Sakamoto, Hideki Matsutake [YMO, Logic System] and Shuka Nishihara also play on the album. It’s a very inventive and exotic electronic work that is highly regarded, and for good reason! As tripped-out synth albums go, this is a glittering jewel. Some parts are a kind of proto-trance-techno, others hint at Bruce Haack and Kraftwerk with their playful cheesiness, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable throughout. It has recently been reissued on CD by King.
‘The Aegean Sea’ [CBS, 1979] came out as by Hosono, Takahiko Ishikawa and Masataka Matsutohya; it was similar to ‘Pacific’ conceptually, but sounding a bit different again. By this point Hosono was playing with YMO; it was a few years until he released another solo album, ‘Philharmony’ [Alfa/Yen, 1982]. It reputedly contains electronic ambient music and ‘quirky’ songs. Hosono went on to release many albums, also making music for anime, TV, movies, video games etc. He also started a funky ‘technopop’/hip-hop group, Friends of Earth a.k.a. F.O.E.#1.
– an avant-garde composer and pianist who studied under John Cage (and was also once married to Yoko Ono), and is quite a legend in Japan. Although earlier performances of his works had been recorded, the first album I know of that he appears on is ‘Yabunirami-No Concert’ [Salon de Coco, 1966]. ‘Orchestral Space – At Nissin Theatre – Volume 1’ [Victor, 1968] was a various artists double-LP that featured a piece written four years earlier for orchestra and tape recorder, on one side, as well as works by Joji Yuasa, Toru Takemitsu [see below] and Yuji Takahashi.
He composed, and performed [some of], the music in 1969 for ‘Opera From the Works of Tadanori Yokoo’ [The End, 1970], a double-LP [with picture discs, no less!] that came in a lavish box with reproductions of some of Yokoo’s paintings inside, as well as the cover being a Yokoo painting. It’s a very varied and experimental album, featuring lots of avant-garde collage work and musique concrete that’s hard to describe, odd Japanese theatre and pop, Japanese ballads, and a side-and-a-bit of The Flowers [when they were about to become Flower Travellin’ Band - see above] jamming in a free and freaked style. This rare album has recently been reissued on Bridge as a deluxe 4-CD set [1 LP side per CD – no bonus material – especially irritating because it could all have fitted on one CD], complete with a small Japanese-text hardcover book of interviews and other information, as well as the art inserts included originally, all in a lavish hard box designed by Yokoo. Unfortunately the CD’s have been taken directly from vinyl [not anywhere near mint condition either, by the sound of it] and have not been cleaned up. And, it’s terribly expensive – all of these things adding up to the impression that this is only a worthwhile purchase if you’re a fanatical collector, who can read Japanese and has money to burn. Fortunately I was able to hear it due to knowing someone who fits that description [except for reading Japanese]! In Hans Pokora’s ‘4001 Record Collector Dreams’, this album is listed as by Flowers & Others.
Ichiyanagi later collaborated with Takehisa Kosugi [see below] and percussionist Michael Ranta for ‘Improvisation Sep. 1975’ [Iskra, 1975],which has been reissued on vinyl but is probably out of print. I haven’t heard it, but it’s reputedly a worthy slab of avant-garde jamming. He made several other albums that I know of – ‘Music For Living Process/Cho-Etsu’ [Victor, 1976] with Maki Ishii, ‘Transformation of Piano’ [Denon, 1976] and ‘Cosmos of Toshi Ichiyanagi’ [Camerata, 1988]. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 5’ [Omega Point, 200?] collects three 60’s works by Ichiyanagi – ‘Music For Tinguely’, ‘Appearance’ [featuring John Cage and David Tudor] and ‘Music For Living Space’.
– a jazz keyboardist who seems to be quite a famous player in Japan, but I’ve been unable to find anything about him in English, even a discography. He’s released many albums up to the present day, but only some are available on CD and I have been unable to figure out their original release dates. Anyway, the album ‘Green Caterpillar’ [label?, 1975], released as by Masaru Imada Trio +2, is the only one I’ve heard and may be of interest to some readers. Featuring famous guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, it contains four long tracks of instrumental jazz rock, somewhere between mid-60’s Miles Davis, ‘Free Action’-period Wolfgang Dauner and mid-70’s Soft Machine. It was reissued on CD by Three Blind Mice, but is out of print.
– I don’t know anything about this person or their music, but ‘Kankaku-Shiko’  was listed as being progressive rock of some kind.
– Ishikawa is a jazz percussionist with a long career, being active since the mid 50’s. He was bandleader for the Japanese version of ‘Hair’. Ishikawa has often worked with Masahiko Satoh [see below], who also features in the Count Buffaloes band. Their first album was ‘Electrum’ [Victor, 1970], featuring jazz rock composed by Satoh. ‘Bakishinba: Memories of Africa’ [Polydor, 1970] seems to be next, but I might have the date wrong; I don’t know anything about the musical content yet, but it is available on CD. ‘Uganda’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1972] is often referred to as ‘Africa Rock No Yoake’ or just ‘Uganda’, with the band name being Uganda. The album prominently features Kimio Mizutani [see below] on primal fuzz guitar, and is apparently very different from the debut, with an African-inspired percussion basis. It has been reissued on LP by Shadoks, reputedly a bootleg, and is due to be reissued legally on CD by Tiliqua, from the master tapes [that’s what I’m waiting to buy, so I can’t give you my impressions of the album until the next update]. By ‘Get Up’ [RCA, 1975] Satoh was no longer involved, and I don’t know anything about what the music was like at this point or if the band continued.
– guitarist who had been in the Beavers, the Flowers, and most famously, Flower Travellin’ Band [see above]. He made at least one solo album, ‘One Day’ , reputedly rock influenced by psych, blues and melodic pop. It has been reissued twice on CD by Sony/Columbia, once in 1999 and again in 2007. Ishima also played on some of ex-Flower Travellin’ Band singer Joe Yamanaka’s solo albums, which are probably of less interest here, reputedly containing glam and reggae-styled stuff.
– a former member of the Far East Family Band [see above], who embarked on a solo career making what has been described as ‘floating electronics’ using analogue synths, and sometimes guitar, bass, drums and choral vocals. ‘Inner Light Of Life’ , ‘Akira Ito’  and ‘Hiisurutokoro No Tenshi’ [1982; soundtrack] were followed by ‘Mugenko’ [Nippon Columbia, 1982], which includes piano, violin, guitar, bass [from Keiju Ishikawa, who played with Far Out and on Hiro Yanagida’s debut album – see above and below] and synth. Although occasionally a little cheesy, most of the time it’s gorgeous, mellow, floating cosmic music, perhaps like a more organic Kitaro [see below]. This album was reissued a few years later on a Dutch label. Other albums include ‘Mind Music’ [King, 1983], ‘Bosatu’ [King, 1984] and ‘Japanesque’ [King, 1984]. I’ve also seen his name spelled Akira Itoh.
– a vocalist who made two albums. The first I don’t have any details for, but the second was ‘Woman at 23 Hour Love-In’ (’23 Ji No Onna’) , on which she had some assistance from Kuni Kawachi [see below] and J.A. Caesar [see above]. It’s fairly similar in style to Ike Reiko’s album [see below], but without erotic moaning. It’s pretty straight, dated stuff by today’s standards, or even the standards back then. Many of the tracks are linked by recordings of Japanese street sounds. I believe this album has been reissued on CD. Itoh also appeared on Masahiko Satoh’s ‘Amalgamation’ album [see below].
– this pop-folk band’s name translates to ‘Five Red Balloons’. They included Nishiokai Takashi from Melting Glass Box [see below], who composed the songs. They’ve released many albums, including ‘Itsutsu No Akai Fusen’ [URC, 1969], ‘Otogibanashi’ [URC, 1969], ‘Miko Olk Dasshutu Keikaku’ [URC, 1970], ‘In Concert’ [URC, 1970], ‘Folk Album Dai Isshu’ [URC, 1971]; ‘Folk Album Dai Ni Shu’ [URC, 1971]; ‘Solo Album’ [Victor, 1971]; ‘Monument’ [URC, 1972] was a compilation; ‘Boku Wa Areno Ni Hitori Iru’ [URC, 1972]; ‘Game Owari’ [URC, 1972]; ‘In USA’ [Victor, 1972]; ‘Last Album’ [Victor, 1972]. In his book ‘Japrocksampler’, Julian Cope included two albums – ‘Flight 1’ [URC, 1970] and ‘Flight 2’ [URC, 1971] – in his Top 50, due to their inclusion of cosmic folk epics alongside the more usual Godz-y singalongs. However, I can’t find any reference to them outside of that book or on-line references to it, and I’m wondering if they are the same as ‘Folk Album Dai Isshu’ and ‘Folk Album Dai Ni Shu’ mentioned above.
– this well-known group had their roots in a folk trio formed in 1966, Nightingale. By 1967 this had stabilized into a 4-piece group called The Jacks. They provided some music for an avant garde theatre troupe before landing a record deal with Takt. They put out 2 singles in 1968, which have more recently been reissued together as an EP – ‘Karappo No Sekai: Takt Days’ [Coca/Nippon Columbia]. I haven’t heard this but the music is reputedly pretty good, in a mournful, meditative and psychedelic mode. One song from this [‘Marianne’, also on the debut album] was much later covered by Painkiller as well as Fushitsusha.
After this came their debut album, ‘Vacant World’ [Toshiba/Express, 1968]. This is often spoken of as a great uniquely Japanese psych album, but to me much of it still sounds like a slightly unhinged Japanese take on early west coast US folk-psych, in particular Quicksilver Messenger Service, or at least Cippolina’s tremolo-heavy guitar style. I find the vocals a bit irritating in places, but most of the music is pretty good, and has grown on me since I first heard it. The highlight is probably the first track, ‘Marianne’, which has a backing bordering on free jazz [no screaming horns, though]. After this album guitarist Haruo Mizuhashi left. With the drummer switching to other instruments, and drummer Hiro Tsunoda joining, the band continued to record one last album, ‘Super Session’ [Toshiba, 1969], which is reputedly not as good as their earlier work. There’s also a posthumous release, ‘Live ’68’ [H.A.F., 1973] which I also haven’t heard. Tsunoda went on to Foodbrain, Strawberry Path, Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see above and below].
– an obscure musician who made at least three albums – ‘Martha’ [private pressing, 1971], ‘TOMO’ [?] and ‘Tomoaki Kamijo KK Band’ [?]. The first of these just says ‘Martha’ in large white letters on a black background, and was listed incorrectly in Hans Pokora’s ‘3001 Record Collector Dreams’ book as being a self-titled album by Martha. This has been described by Shadoks as “an underground-rock album with folky elements and a west coast touch”. I found it to largely consist of lame Bob Dylan wannabe stuff, with only a couple of tracks resembling the Shadoks description, and even then they weren’t that great. It has recently been reissued on LP [Shadoks, 2005].
– an obscure musician who released one record in small quantity, ‘Nothingness’ [Express, 1972]. It’s a patchy album of bluesy post-psych rock with good guitar playing, with occasional great heavy riffing, particularly in the first and last tracks. The rest of the album is ok, but doesn’t live up to the promise of those two tracks. I wouldn’t say it’s the piece of crap that Julian Cope has said, though, and some people think it’s great. The album has been reissued on LP by Shadoks, and more recently on CD by Toshiba-EMI.
– an obscure avant garde experimental outfit, which has been thought to be the work of the same people or person behind Brast Burn [see above]. In fact, it seems both were one-man bands and the two men were friends, Karuna Khyal apparently being the work of Yoshihiro Takahashi. Karuna Khyal released one album, ‘Alomoni 1985’ [Voice, 1976], which was musically in a broadly similar vein to Brast Burn’s album, but more repetitive and with less folky references and sometimes hinting at weirder Faust. In some respects it lacks the exotic layered depth of Brast Burn, but is also a bit stranger and in places, more seriously shamanic. It was reissued on CD in a limited edition by Paradigm Discs in 1998.
– keyboardist from Happenings Four [see above]. His album ‘Kuni Kawachi & His Friends’ aka ‘Kirikyogen’ [London, 1970] featured Flower Travellin’ Band [see above] as his backing band, prior to making their own debut album. It’s great oriental rock with proto-progressive and psychedelic leanings that reminds me of several obscure bands of the same period that I can’t quite put my finger on, as well as touches reminiscent of Love Live Life +1, Samurai and Foodbrain. One track, ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans’, is an early version of the rare FTB single track ‘Map’. This album has been reissued by Black Rose, with the cover art changed to credit it to ‘Kuni Kawachi & Flower Travelling Band’. The CD credited to Flower Travellin’ Band called ‘Music Composed Mainly By Humans – Demonstration 1970’ [Ain’t Group Sounds] actually consists of most of this album, plus some other obscure Flowers and Flower Travellin’ Band stuff.
‘Love Suki Daikirai’  has lots of straighter psych-pop, but also has some weirder experimental tracks to redeem it. Kimio Mizutani features on guitar but he doesn’t lend much of interest to the album, unfortunately; also featured is bassist Masaoki Terakawa, who played on the Dema album [see above]. It was recently reissued on CD together with ‘Kirikyogen’ as a bonus [Walhalla, 2007]. ‘Utaenaku Naru Mae Ni’ [Polydor, 1972] is another album of Kawachi’s that I haven’t heard; it’s available on CD [Indie, 2007]. The 1970 album referred to as ‘A High-Teen Symphony’ by Kawachi is most likely the Tenjo Sajiki album ‘Throw Away The Books…’ [see below], which Kawachi was involved in and which has ‘A High-Teen Symphony’ as the sub-title.
Kawachi was also in the band Mentanpin, who released an album – ‘Mentanpin’ [Philips, 1975] – though I don’t know what kind of music they did.
– ‘Machi no Kaze’  reputedly contains melodic west coast-styled psychedelic rock, comparable to early Happy End [see above]. This album has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
– Kitajima is a musician who has taken a varied path over his career, learning piano and classical guitar as a child. In his college years he was guitarist in The Launchers [see below]. He was thanked in the credits on the Far Out album [see above], though it was not mentioned what for. His first solo album was released under a pseudonym – Justin Heathcliff – and contains good psych pop as well as some more folky singer-songwriter type stuff. However, this isn’t mentioned in his discography on his own label web page, so perhaps the association is false. The self-titled album was released on Atlantic in 1971, and the year after he made an album with Fujio Yamaguchi as ‘Fumio & Osamu’ [see above].
His first album under his real name was the stunning ‘Benzaiten’ [Island (Japan)/Antilles (US), 1974 – also seen as 1976], which is mostly instrumental psychedelic/progressive/experimental music incorporating traditional Japanese instruments, such as koto, biwa and shakuhachi. It varies between heavier electric sounds, including exotic jazz rock fusion and psychedelic rock and softer eastern psychedelic folk. Some of it sounds a bit like Brast Burn and Karuna Khyal [see above], with less electronic experimentation involved and more musical skill. The production of the album is excellent, as is the music. Kitajima played almost everything – synth, guitars, percussion, koto and vocal, as well as producing the album. He had assistance from Dennis Belfield [bass], John Harris [bass], Geoffrey Hales [drums, percussion], George Marinelli [guitars], Brian Whitcomb [guitar, synth, keyboards] and Tatsuya Sano [synth]. Kitajima’s mention on the Nurse With Wound influences list is due to this album, which is unfortunately not available yet on CD. Kitajima moved to Los Angeles and went on to release numerous other albums, including ‘California Roll’ , ‘Passages’ , ‘Osamu’ [Island, 1977], ‘Masterless Samurai’ [Head First, 1978], ‘Sweet Chaos’ , ‘Dragon King’ [Arista, 1979], ‘Face To Face’ [Takoma, 1981], ‘The Source’ [CBS/Electric Bird, 1986], ‘In Minds Way’ [Epic, 1987], ‘Behind the Light’  and ‘Beyond the Circle’ . These reputedly veer more towards New Age styles, although still diverse. I have only heard ‘Masterless Samurai’ of these, and although it incorporates some of the successful elements of ‘Benzaiten’ that made that album so remarkable, it is diluted by lots of commercial funky fusion. He also makes soundtracks for films and documentaries. Now known as Dr Kitajima, he runs his own New Age label, East Quest Records. Most of his albums are available on CD.
– real name Masanori Takahashi, he was previously in the Far East Family Band. After that group broke up, he began a long and successful solo career. In general his music could be said to fall squarely in the New Age category – however, some of his music is quite enjoyable for fans of mellow ambient cosmic synthesizer music, and it sometimes has a distinctly Japanese touch to the sound. His first album was ‘Astral Voyage’ , followed by ‘Oasis’ , one of his better albums. A string of other albums followed, such as ‘Full Moon Story’ , ‘Silk Road Vol. 1 & 2’ , ‘Silk Road Suite’ , ‘In Person Digital’ , ‘Tunhuang/Tonko’ , ‘Ki’  and many more up to the present day. I believe he has also worked on soundtracks.
– an important experimental musician who was early on associated with the Fluxus experimental music movement, and in 1958 formed Group Ongaku [see above]. The group lasted on and off until 1969, with Kosugi making music for the Expo ’70 at Osaka before forming Taj Mahal Travellers [see below], for which he is perhaps best known. In the mid-60’s Kosugi also assisted Matsuo Ono [see below] with recording sound effects for the original television cartoon series ‘Atom’ [aka Astro Boy in the west]. After the demise of TMT [or perhaps during it], he resumed a solo career, beginning with ‘Catch Wave’ [CBS, 1975, but recorded 1974]. This was a wonderful album, in a similar vein to Taj Mahal Travellers, but more stripped-back and mesmerizing. It featured 2 lengthy tracks using heavily electronically-treated electric violin and voice. Some people prefer this album to TMT, perhaps due to the presence of less jarring moments!
This was followed by the collaboration ‘Improvisation Sep. 1975’ [Iskra, 1975] (with Toshi Ichiyanagi [see above] and Michael Ranta), featuring ring-modulated violin and bass piano alongside percussion. His ‘Violin Solo 1980 N.Y.C.’ [P-Vine, 1998] is reputedly rather unpleasant listening. Another collaboration album exists, ‘Distant Voices’ (with Steve Lacy and Yuji Takahashi [see below]) [Columbia, 1981], which I know nothing about. There is also ‘Pulsers/Untitled’ [Lovely Music, 1985], a collaboration between David Tudor and Kosugi, which is reputedly pretty good. He made numerous obscure commissioned solo works, including ‘S.E. Wave/E.W. Song’ , ‘Interspersion’ , ‘Cycles’ , ‘Spacings’ , ‘Assemblage’ , ‘Rhapsody’  and ‘Spectra’ . I don’t know if any of these have been released separately as albums. There is also the album ‘Violin Improvisations: New York, September 1989’ [Lovely Music, 1990] . As far as I know, he is still performing and innovating.
– a Group Sounds band featuring guitarist Osamu Kitajima [see above]. They released two albums, ‘Free Association’ [Toshiba EMI, 1967] and ‘Oasy Okoku’ [Toshiba EMI, 1969]. These are often said to be in a soft-psych/beat vein, but Julian Cope commented that they are “bizarre concept albums”, and by the sounds of that, they may be worth checking out. The second album has been reissued on CD, though I’m not sure about the first. Kitajima went on to an illustrious solo career.
– a free-jazz-rock group formed in the early 70’s by Keiji Haino, later to record solo albums [see above for one of them] and form Fushitsusha [see below]. No albums released at the time that I know of. Some 1971 recordings have been issued as ‘Lost Aaraaff’ [PSF, 1991], containing three apparently Albert Ayler-influenced ‘improvised acid jams’ featuring piano, drums, vocals and what sounds like occasional cello. It’s pretty demented stuff; at times they sound like no-talents attempting free jazz, at other times they get some really interesting things going, though not easy to describe. I find it hard to sit through the more painful stuff to thet to anything good they might have to offer, however. There is also their contribution to the 1971 live ‘Genya Concert’ [see Various artists, below]. This was supposedly their first performance, and apparently the audience hated them so much they were lucky to get out of there in one piece! The track on ‘Genya Concert’, at least, is quite listenable and creative, and with no audible audience fury at that point in the gig.
– a great group who recorded only one album that most people are aware of, ‘Love Will Make A Better You’ [King, 1971]. As well as some searing fuzzed-out psych rockers and more orchestrated moments of progressive psych-pop, the highlight of the album is the side-long piece ‘The Question Mark’. This begins as a kind of free-form freakout, developing into manic acidic free-rock jamming [reminds me a little here of the first Amon Duul II and Embryo albums], with proficient and inspired playing from all musicians. Guitarist Kimio Mizutani shortly after went on to play on the People album and record an excellent solo album [see below for both]. Keyboardist Hiro Yanagida [previously with Apryl Fool & Foodbrain – see above] resumed his solo career [see below]. Singer Akira Fuse was otherwise a MOR pop crooner, though he turned in a freaky and excellent performance here. There are reputedly two more Love Live Life albums [without the ‘+ One’, which was Fuse] – ‘10 Chapters of Murder’ aka ‘Satsujin Jissho’ [1974 – also seen listed as 1972], reputedly more jazz-oriented, and ‘Rock in Bacharach’ .
– an obscure band whom, for all I know, were quite well-known in Japan. The line-up was Asano Takami [guitar, keyboards, vocals], Tarumi Yoshimichi [bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals], Nishi Tetsuya [drums] and Tarumi Takamichi [vocals, percussion]. Their first album, ‘M’ [MCA, 1972], reputedly contained progressive rock of some kind. I’m yet to hear a copy, but judging by the parts of the track-listing which are in English [thanks to the internet], it seems they did a fair few cover versions, including one by McDonald & Giles. One of their original tracks is reputedly a longer psych rock piece similar in style to Quicksilver Messenger Service and Gypsy. The album has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. There are also two cover-heavy live CD’s available, ‘1971 Live’ [Hagakure] and ‘1972, Live at Shinjuku’, which may not have been released until recently. Guitarist Hideto Kanoh was apparently in the band at one point, and went on to form Gedo [see above], and Tetsuya was briefly drummer for Far Out [see above] before they recorded their album.
– a pre-Bi Kyo Ran group [see above]. Their album ‘The Hardest Live ‘76’ [label? year?] is apparently mostly King Crimson covers with a few originals.
– real name Makoto Kurita, he made his first album aged 18 – ‘Magical Power’ a.k.a. ‘Polydor ¥2,200’ [Polydor, 1973]. An extraordinary debut, it featured highly original experimental music with psychedelic rock, folk and traditional Japanese music elements, a patchwork comparable in parts to Faust and Franco Battiato. This was followed up by the aptly-titled ‘Super Record’ [Polydor, 1975], a more exotic and esoteric album which I find quite beautiful, although some people hate it. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as ‘New Age music’ as some people have. ‘Jump’ [Polydor, 1977] featured more rock elements in a weird avant-psychedelic mish-mash of styles. Some of it [not all] sounds like what The Boredoms [see below] would be doing nearly 20 years later around their ‘Pop Tatari’ and ‘Chocolate Synthesizer’ period! The Faust and Battiato elements are also present again. For some reason this album evokes very mixed feelings amongst Mako fans, with some loving it and others loathing it [I’m in the former camp]. All of these have been reissued on CD a few times, but I have been told older versions were rather shoddily mastered and didn’t sound that great; the currently available Hagakure reissues, however, have great sound.
Fairly recently, recordings largely pre-dating the debut have been issued as a 5-CD set by MIO, ‘Hapmoniym 1972-1975’. In my opinion this could have been edited down to a more digestible 2- or 3-CD set, though completists would disagree. While a lot of it is quite good, some tracks go on for too long without really going anywhere and are begging for a chop. Also, each CD is presented as containing one long track, whereas in reality they each consist of shorter tracks with clear gaps between them. The indexing for each disc shows more than one track, but the first one/s are simply short tracks of silence, so that all the music on each CD is actually only playable as a single very long track. Also, in the gaps between pieces there are loud click defects which could easily have been removed if MIO had paid more attention to this project. These were definitely not a CD player fault, but a fault somewhere in the production or manufacturing process. To make this set enjoyable I had to make CD-R copies with the pieces cut up into the shorter tracks they should be, and with the clicks cut out. It’s a shame and a mystery, as other MIO reissues I have encountered are done with a lot more care.
Mako went on to release numerous other albums, such as ‘Welcome to Earth’ [East World, 1979], ‘Music From Heaven’ [Marquee Moon, 1981], ‘Magical Computer Music’ , ‘Happy Earth’ , ‘Next Millennium Vibrations’ , ‘Blue Dot’ , ‘Trance Resonance’ , ‘Cosmo Vision’ , ‘Human! Get Out From the Earth Quickly’ , ‘Kero Jetter No. 1’ , ‘Lo Pop Diamonds’ , ‘No Government After Revolution’ , ‘Erotic Elohim’ , ‘Magic’  and ‘Cozmo Grosso’ . I haven’t heard any of these except ‘Music From Heaven’, but at least most of them are reputedly more on the pop side of things. ‘Music From Heaven’ is a delightful psychedelic trip, sometimes hinting at Achim Reichel and Lula Cortes e ze Ramalho, as well as Mako’s own earlier work. For some reason the 1997 CD reissue on Atavistic features the whole album playable only as one long track, whereas the track listing indicates many shorter tracks.
– this all-instrumental progressive rock group made at least one album, ‘Babylonia Suite’ [Made in Japan, 1978], with an eye-catching cover painting borrowed from Spanish/Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo. The music is complex, competently played symphonic prog, influenced by the likes of ELP and Yes. It’s good, but rather flat, uninspired and not bringing anything unique or memorable to my ears.
– a vocalist who had previously worked with Blues Creation for one album [see above]. Previous to this, Maki had released two solo albums of soft psych – ‘Adam & Eve’ [label? year?] and ‘Goodbye My Memories’ [CBS, year?]. She further dabbled in vaguely progressive territory with the group Oz, beginning with ‘Carmen Maki & Oz’ , which has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. Overall it’s a pretty commercial affair, but with a few good heavy progressive moments. Anyway, I’m not a big fan of vocalists as band leaders unless they have something really great to offer, which Maki doesn’t in my opinion. She’s a good enough singer, but has a style that seems to demand a fairly commercial musical leaning. Further albums included ‘Tozasareta Mati’ , reputedly with heavy progressive rock and more emotional ballads; ‘III’ , reputedly with less heavy rock; ‘Live’ ; and ‘Nightstalker’ . The first three of these have been reissued by Kitty Records. Carmen Maki’s 5X formed in 1981 with guitarist George Azuma from her late-70’s band, Laff. 5X apparently played some kind of melodic metal, and released these albums – ‘Human Target’, ‘Live X’ and ‘Carmen Maki’s 5X’ [Eastworld, 1983]. She recently got together with Oz again for a live album, ‘One Night Legend’ .
– guitarist/vocalist from Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai [see below] and later Acid Mothers Temple [see below] and other groups. In 1978 he made his first solo album ‘Psychedelic Noise Freak’ on cassette, reputedly containing synthesizer and voice as well as a cover of Kiss’s ‘Love Gun’! It was made available as part of the limited edition 10-CD Makoto box set, ‘Learning From The Past’ [label? year?]. Around 1993 he formed Toho Sara with Asahito Nanjo of High Rise. They apparently used ‘ethnic’ instruments in their collective freak-outs; I’m yet to hear any of their music. Along with Nanjo he also formed numerous other off-shoots such as Ohkami No Jikan [see below], Musica Transonic and Mainliner, the latter originally with Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida who left before they recorded an album. Of these I’ve only heard stuff by Musica Transonic & Mainliner, who basically play whole albums of high-octane, fairly rudimentary and repetitive loud grinding rock riffs recorded constantly in the red – pretty much one riff per song. During his tenure with these groups he also formed Acid Mothers Temple [see below], for which he is best known. He continues to release a torrent of stuff in different guises.
– a 70’s symphonic prog group, influenced by King Crimson. As far as I know, they didn’t get anything released until much later – ‘Unreleased Materials Vol. I’ [Belle Antique, 1997] and ‘Unreleased Materials Vol. II’ [Marquee/Avalon, 1997]. Somehow this band later transformed into the late 70’s/early 80’s ‘techno punk/pop’ group P-Model [see below].
– a symphonic progressive rock band who made one album, ‘Maria’ , reputedly featuring prominent guitar and keyboards interplay.
– formed by George Murasaki after his band Murasaki [see below] broke up, Mariner are often referred to as a ‘pomp rock’ band, but that’s only part of the story. At least on their first album, ‘One’ [Bourbon, 1979], they break up the pomp with a bit of prog and some great metal influenced by Deep Purple and Rainbow, as with Murasaki but with better vocals. After ‘Two’ [Bourbon, 1980], singer John Patterson left to join Heavy Metal Army, a mostly Japanese metal band. Mariner themselves were a Japanese band only by virtue of Murasaki’s presence.
– see Kamijo [above].
– an underground performance group from Tokyo, formed by Sakuro ‘Kant’ Watanabe, existing from 1970-73. The group featured future members of Murahachibu and 3/3 [Sanbun No San] [see below]. They self-produced a self-titled 3-LP album set [197?], of which I believe only a few acetates ever saw the light of day – or alternately, they released 5 albums in 1973, depending on who you believe. Their recordings have been reissued as a 3-CD set by Captain Trip, and reputedly sound like bands such as Third Ear Band and Taj Mahal Travellers [see below], though more chaotic. Julian Cope has described it as “indoor stoned parrot torture cutlery & crockery grooves”!? Three of the members later formed 3/3 [Sansun No San – see below]. Much later, having reformed, they collaborated with Tokyo heavy psych group Marble Sheep [see below], for the album ‘Marble Sheep Meets OD’ [Captain Trip, 2003], the music of which is described on the Captain Trip website as ‘spacy trip sessions’.
– a producer and computer-programmer [for music] who trained under Tomita [see below]. From 1978 he was involved with the Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below]. He made some obscure albums some time in the late 70’s, such as ‘Pop Memories on Moog III’ , ‘The Beatles World on Moog III’ , ‘Pyramid Power – Meditation’ [CBS Sony, 1978], ‘Fantasia – The Invitation to the Stars’ [Teichiku, 1978], ‘Edo’ [Columbia, 1978], ‘007 Digital Moon’ [CBS Sony, 1979] (as H. Matsutake & K.I. Capsule) and a Japanese-only titled album [Columbia, 1979]. ‘Edo’ was made with Chojuro Kondoj & Masashi Komatsubara, and contained two long tracks made with Moog synth and traditional Japanese instruments, particularly koto. It maintains a lovely blend between the modern and ancient styles, with the more electronic parts reminiscent of some Tangerine Dream and Tomita. ‘The Fantasia’ is apparently cheesy easy-listening songs played on synthesizer. Both albums have been reissued on CD by P-Vine. There is also a recent CD, ‘Contrast ECD’ [P-Vine, 2000] that I don’t know anything about. Matsutake also made albums with Logic System [which he formed in 1981], Akihabara Electric Circus and Beat Musik.
– this was a studio-only project of Nishiokai Takashi [from Itsutsu No Akai – see above], with Tetsuo Saito [vocals, percussion], Kazuhiko Kato [guitar], Kazuo Takeda [Blues Creation; guitar], Haruomi Hosono [ex-Apryl Fool; bass] and Takasuke Kida [ex-Jacks; percussion, wind instruments; Takashi played guitar and percussion, and sang. They released one album of mellow psychedelia, ‘Melting Glass Box’ [URC, 1971]. Although largely fairly ordinary, some tracks are weirder and the whole thing has a dreamy melancholy that can be quite pleasant. One track sounds like a blend of Os Mutantes and Le Stelle di Mario Schifano. It has been reissued on CD. Nishiokai Takashi went on to make at least one solo album [see below].
– K. Miho’s full name was Keitaro Miho or Kei Miho for short. His combo released one album that I know of, ‘Kokezaru Kumikyoku’ [MCA/Nippon Victor, 1971], which features Masahiko Satoh [see below] on electric piano, Akira Ishikawa on drums [see above] and Ryo Kawasaki on guitar. Miho was credited for composing, but I’m not sure if he played any instrument. The album is reputedly progressive jazz rock of some kind.
– an underground radical protest folk singer/shouter and actor who was involved in the Tenjo Sajiki and Tokyo Kid Brothers troupes [see below], and by extension, with J.A. Caesar [see above]. His first album, ‘Mikami Kan No Sekai’ (‘The World of Kan Mikami’) [label? 1971] apparently contained a kind of folk rock with intense presence and dark, harrowing, ‘real’ lyrical subject matter. I’m not sure if there were any albums between this and the next one I’m aware of, ‘BANG!’ [label? 1974]. It features Yosuke Yamashita’s group and other jazz musicians as his backing, and is a stranger, more ‘progressive’ and partly experimental affair, mainly for the title track, a lengthy piece of musique concrete and intense freeforming. Styles on the other tracks range from acoustic guitar/drums/vocals folk and psych-folk, piano-led ballads, mournful free jazz wailing, and some more mainstream, conventional moments. Mikami’s vocals are noteworthy, even if not to your taste, ranging from restrained emotivism to anguished freak-outs. An interesting album! It has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
Mikami apparently didn’t do much again until the late 80’s, collaborating with Keiji Haino [see above] of Fushitsusha [see below] for the group Vajra.
– a ‘folk rock star’ somewhat well known in Japan. His first album was released in 1969, though I have no details for it. His best known album, ‘Kaikisen’ aka ‘The Tropics’ [label? 1971], is referred to on the Captain Trip web-site as “the monumental work of Japanese rock in 1971”, and it went to gold record status. I can’t understand why, as it’s a very straight affair, mostly consisting of forgettable laid-back acoustic singer/songwriter-type stuff. However, the opening track is a little better, a bluesy stomp that reminds me a little of Medicine Head, and the closing long track develops from pleasant psych-folk into a great psychedelic climax of guitars and subtle echo treatments. Overall the album is perhaps of most interest for the backing personnel present – Haruomi Hosono [Happy End – see above] on bass, Takasi Mizutani [Les Rallizes Denudes – see below] on guitar presumably only on a couple of tracks, and he’s very restrained here compared to his own records], and others lesser known, such as Masako Tanaka on piano, Tatsuo Hiyashi on drums, Hiromi Yasuda on guitar and harmonica, and Tatsuhiko Oshikawa on guitar and organ. Minami himself is on guitar, harmonica and vocals. The album has been reissued on CD by Regression Line with 4 bonus tracks. Minami also had live recordings on the double LP ‘Oz Days Live’ [see below under Various artists]. I’ve been unable to find much more in English, except that he is active in working towards a spiritually unified world, and also, unfortunately recently got busted for marijuana possession!
– I know nothing about this group except that their album ‘Super Fighter’s Theme’  was included in a list of Japanese progressive rock. Not to be confused with the German prog band of the same name.
– a rock’n’roll group of little interest except for appearing alongside some grander company on the 2-LP ‘Oz Days Live’ [see below under Various artists].
– this avant-garde jazz-rock combo has been around for a long time and released many albums, most of which I know nothing about. For us, their all-time classic is reputedly ‘Yamataifu’ [Toshiba-EMI/Far East, 1972], according to Julian Cope. This has been referred to by Cope as ‘Yamati-fu’ by Masahiko Satoh & New Herd Orchestra, but the album cover shown in ‘Japrocksampler’ credits it as ‘Yamataifu’ by ‘Toshiyuki Miyama & his New Herd: Masahiko Satoh’. Cope describes it glowingly as perhaps the “greatest cosmic jazz album ever made”, and I look forward to a reissue.
– a renowned electric guitarist, known early on as Jun ‘Kimio’ Mizutani when he led the group Out Cast. Along with Hiro Yanagida [see below], he was in the ‘Hair’ band and later played in lots of classic ensembles in the late 60’s/early 70’s – such as Love Live Life + One, People, Masahiko Satoh & Sound Brakers, Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffaloes, Dema, Yuigonka and Hiro Yanagida’s solo album backings. He recorded one great solo album, ‘A Path Through Haze’ [Polydor, 1971], which contains a variety of unique styles broadly akin to some of the music on the other albums he played on around the same time. That is, Japanese-tinged progressive psych with jazzy touches and plenty of variety and evocative moods. However, here Mizutani’s guitar is more restrained and blends beautifully into the rest of the music, which owes a little to David Axelrod in parts. The album also featured keyboardist Masahiko Satoh [see below]. This has been reissued on both CD and LP.
– a group I know nothing about except that they released an album, ‘Moon Dancer’ [Alfa, 1979], reputedly ‘melodic rock/pop with hints of light symphonic progressive rock’.
– a ‘new wave/techno/punk/pop/folk’ group somehow connected with keyboardist Makoto Yano [I thought perhaps he was in the group at some point], who had a career in the late 70’s/early 80’s as a pioneer in ‘ethno-techno’. They somehow grew out of an earlier band, Hachimitsu-Pie (‘Honey Pie’), who released an album in 1973 of stuff apparently influenced by The Band. Moonriders albums include ‘Moonriders’ [Crown, 1977], ‘Istanbul Mambo’ [Crown, 1977], ‘Nouvelles Vagues’ [Crown, 1978], ‘Modern Music’ [Crown, 1979], ‘Camera Egal Stylo’ [Crown, 1980] and ‘Mania Maniera’ [Canyon, 1982]. This latter album is apparently more experimental and avant-garde. Moonriders kept releasing albums into the 90’s.
– this was one of Japan’s best-known garage-beat-psych groups, led by drummer Mikiharu Suzki. They apparently started out as a Ventures-styled instrumental group, but soon turned to garage rock, soul and psych for the ‘group sounds’ era. I think ‘Psychedelic Sounds’ [Victor, 1968] was their first album, and it’s not bad. There are quite a few covers, but mostly done very well, particularly on their versions of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘White Rabbit’, although their inability to discern all the lyrics correctly led to them missing the point of the latter song, even ending on the line “keep your head” instead of “feed your head”! Their cover of ‘Inside Looking Out’ was pretty hard rocking and pre-empted Grand Funk Railroad’s classic version from a couple of years later. The originals on the album were also reasonably good, particularly their anthem ‘I Am Just A Mops’. ‘Rock’n’Roll ’70’ [Liberty, 1970] had moved towards more of a hard rock and blues-influenced psych sound, and was reasonably good despite featuring mainly cover versions. Around this time they also played at the ‘Rock’n’Roll Jam ‘70’ gig, with a side of live music recorded for the various artists album [see below].
By ‘Iijanaika’ [Liberty, 1971] they had gained more of a wild heavy edge with some slight progressive and psych leanings. The heavier tracks are reminiscent of bands such as Toad and Jeronimo, although there are also some very mellow, mainstream tracks as well that make the album not a total success. Overall, a pretty good album, and it has been reissued on CD by Toshiba-EMI/Express. They later reverted to bluesy garage rock on ‘Live’ [Liberty, 1971] and ‘Rain’ [Liberty, 1972]. ‘Mops & 16 Friends’  has been said by some to be the best Mops album. Their last album was the jammy and partly live ‘Exit’ [Liberty, 1974], which contained many cover songs but is reputedly great hard psych-prog overall.
– a keyboardist who made some obscure albums. The only ones I’m aware of are ‘Toccata’ [Dharma, 1972], reputedly containing keyboard-dominated progressive rock; ‘II – Juuhassai Miman No Ballad’ [Polydor, 1972], reputedly soft and orchestrated jazz-prog; and ‘Yokai Gensou – Mizuki Shigeru’ [label? 1978]. I’m not sure if this last one is the title itself or if these are people with whom Morishita collaborated to make the album. It reputedly contains ‘abstract electronic soundscapes’. It was reissued by P-Vine on CD in 1999, but is now out of print. The other two have recently been reissued on CD. Morishita later played keyboards with Geinoh Yamashirogumi [see above] on the Akira soundtrack.
– formed by guitarist Fujio Yamaguchi [see below; ex-Dynamites, Fujio Dynamite] and vocalist Kazushi Shibata, aka Chahbo. They only released one official album that I know of, ‘Live’ [Elec, 1973], which was recorded at a gig at Kyoto University. The music is fairly basic hard-ish garagey rock and rock’n’roll, sometimes a bit bluesy and mostly sounding a lot like the Rolling Stones but with less finesse and attraction, coupled with weak and derivative song writing. Even the posturing of the singer on the live-on-stage cover photos of ‘Live’ betrays an obvious Jagger fixation, without having to know that this guy really did want to emulate Jagger! Chahbo’s gift was simply in looking good and acting like a rock star, not actually being a decent singer. Regardless, to some people these guys are one of the best Japanese rock bands – though I can’t see why. That said, I can see some of the charm, but not enough to make me go out and but their stuff at anything more than bargain-basement prices. Later, previously unreleased material was issued on CD. ‘1971 - Kutabirete’ [Gator Wobble, 1991] contains 6 studio recordings, and is around 22 minutes long; some of it’s kinda good in a sub-New York Dolls kinda way, and although very much based in old-school rock’n’roll and r&b, the raw, half-assed delivery gives it some punk credibility. Also released are ‘Underground Tapes 1972 KBS Kyoto Studio Live’ [Hagakure/Universal], ‘Underground Tapes 1973 Kyoto Univ Seibu Kodo’ [Hagakure/Universal] and ‘Underground Tapes 1979 Kyoto Univ Seibu Kodo’ [Hagakure/Universal]. For a while in 1970, Murahachibu helped out Yamaguchi’s friend Takashi Mizutani by acting as live stand-ins for the rest of Les Rallizes Denudes, who had absented the scene in one way or another [see below], although they kind of blew it by also playing without Mizutani – and at his displeasure – as Chahbo Rallizes. Yamaguchi’s label Good Lovin’ has released a Murahachibu box set – ‘Murahachibu Box’ – which also includes a DVD of early live footage.
– a drummer/percussionist known to me mainly for his occasional work with Jun Fukumachi [see above]. His first album, ‘Introducing “Ponta” Murakami’ [Toshiba-EMI, 1976], was produced, arranged and co-written by Fukumachi, who also accompanies Murakami on much of the album, playing synths and other keyboards. The only other musician was Kenji Takamizu on electric bass on one track. It’s a really excellent blend of fusion and more experimental styles. Some of the phased drum pieces wouldn’t sound too out of place on the Cosmic Jokers’ ‘Planeten Sit-In’! Murakami was a member of Wha-Ha-Ha in the early 80’s [see below].
– a heavy rock/progressive band from Okinawa formed in 1970 by keyboardist George Murasaki, influenced by Deep Purple. The vocals were sung in English and the singer is usually remarked on as the band’s weak point, but I don’t find him a problem. Their first album ‘Murasaki’ a.k.a. ‘Starship’  featured a cover of Purple’s ‘Lazy’, and is a good collection of heavy prog and Deep Purple-ish heavy rock. Second album ‘Impact’  is often considered their best. There have been two live albums – ‘Doin’ Our Thing At The Live House’ [Bourbon, 1977] and ‘Why Now...?’ . All have been released on CD by Tokuma, except ‘Why Now...?’ on Victor. In the late 70’s Murasaki formed ‘pomp rock’ group Mariner [see above]. Drummer Aiichi Miyanaga went on to Heavy Metal Army, along with John Patterson [ex-Mariner], Shinki Sugama [ex-Condition Green], Masahiko Takeuchi [ex-Creation] and Yuki Nakajima [ex-Carmen Maki band].
– singer from Group Sounds band The Beavers. After they broke up, he contributed to the Friends album [see above], before making his own solo album, ‘Nemuri Kara Samete’ [Denon, 1971]. Produced by Miki Curtis from Samurai [see above and below], backing musicians included Kimio Mizutani [see above], Tetsu Yamauchi [ex-Samurai, Friends, Free] and Shigeru Suzuki [Happy End, ex-Apryl Fool]. The music is reputedly varied psychedelic folk and rock.
– an obscure group who released at least one album of folk rock, ‘Heavy Way’ [Yes, 1974], which might be of interest.
– this group made at least one album, ‘Olive’ [Studio 3, 1976], reputedly containing hard progressive rock.
– Ono was an experimental musician who made sound effects and incidental music for the popular television cartoon series ‘Atom’ [Astro Boy in the west] in the 60’s. Tape experiments that he recorded between 1963 and 1966 with assistance from Kosugi [see above], some of which was used for ‘Atom’, was released on LP as ‘Roots of Electronic Sound’ [Alm, 1975], and reissued in 1979 on Victor with a different cover featuring imagery from the ‘Atom’ cartoon. The music is basically lots of spaced-out electronic explosions and sound effects plastered together and often getting quite nuts. Sections are introduced by spoken voice in Japanese. This album was recently reissued on CD-R by Creel Pone in a limited edition bootleg.
– an electronic progressive group formed around 1978 by Hiro Kawahara and friends. They made many albums in a short period – ‘Journey to New World’ [cassette, 1979], ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ [cassette, 1979], ‘Osiris Mythology’ [cassette, 1979], ‘Astral Temple’ [cassette, 1980], ‘Rhapsody For You’ [cassette, 1980], ‘The Restoration of Soul’ [cassette, 1980], ‘In And Out’ [cassette, 1980], ‘In The Mist Of Time’ [Sound Of Poppy, 1980 (‘progressive’)], ‘El Rayo de Luna I’ [cassette, 1981], ‘El Rayo de Luna II’ [cassette, 1981], ‘A Failed Play’ [cassette, 1982] and ‘Echo Troublant’ [cassette, 1982]. At the same time in the early 80’s, Kawahara was in the groups Astral Temple and Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, later forming Heretic [see below].
– see under Various artists below.
– a studio super-session project. Guitarist Kimio Mizutani had previously played with Love Live Life + One [see above] and Masahiko Satoh’s Sound Breakers [see below]. At any rate, their sole album, the concept piece ‘Ceremony – Buddha Meet Rock’ [Teichiku, 1971], is an absolute classic. The album came with extensive liner notes elaborating on the intended meaning for each track – the whole album flowing more or less as a conceptual whole. As the title would suggest, it was an attempt to fuse a Buddhist-influenced spiritual vibe into an innovative oriental form of hypnotic psychedelic progressive rock. It’s all quite unique and doesn’t sound like any preceding groups that I’m aware of, though some bits are like a much less-heavy Flower Travellin’ Band circa ‘Satori’. It’s a bit jazzy in places, hinting at some of Stomu Yamash’ta’s work with Come to the Edge [see below]. There’s lots of nice fuzz guitar leads and overall, a very sanctified vibe that makes this a deep but groovy experience. The album has been reissued on both CD and LP. Following this [or around the same time], Mizutani recorded his equally great solo album [see above].
– a mellow group who made at least one obscure album, ‘Spooky Time’ [Polygram, 1972]. According to Shadoks, who reissued it at the end of 2007, the music is “mellow underground with English vocals […] A beautiful concept album, far away from any avant-garde tunes.” They compared it to Procul Harum and the Kamijo album ‘Martha’ [see above].
– an avant-garde electro-pop-punk new wave band, formed by Susumu Hirasawa. Amongst their most acclaimed albums are the first two, ‘In A Model Room’  and ‘Landsale’ , which reflect a Devo influence blended with flashes of proggy RIO-ish complexity. Many others followed, including ‘Potpourri’ , ‘Perspective’ , ‘Another Game’ , ‘Scuba’ [1984; cassette with book], ‘Karkador’ , ‘One Pattern’ , ‘P-Model’ , ‘Big Body’ , ‘The Way Of Live’ , the live ‘Pause’ , ‘Fune’ , ‘Denshi Higeki’ , ‘Music Industrial Wastes’  and ‘Vistoron’ . There are also several archival live albums – ‘Virtual Live 1 – Live at S-Ken Studio 1979’, ‘Virtual Live 2 – Live at Shibuya Nylon 100% 1980’ and ‘Virtual Live 3 – Live at Kyodai Seibu Kodo 1982’.
– a German-styled synth musician, reputedly comparable to Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. ‘Psychabuse’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1995] collected recordings from 1979-85. He also made three albums with a vocalist, Takami – ‘Y de Noir II’, ‘Tennshi-ko’ and ‘Yume no Kirigishi’ [see below]. He later formed Trembling Strain, did an album with Tetsuo Furudate [see below for both] and also researches cognitive science, psychiatric linguistics and clinical medicine.
– a hard-ish garage rock group featuring guitarist Shinki Chen, bassist George Yanagi, drummer Shinichi Nogi and vocalist Chibo [as far as I know, not to be confused with Chahbo from Murahachibu]. They made one album, ‘Powerhouse’ aka ‘New Style of Blues… Here’s Powerhouse’ [Toshiba/Express, 1969], which has recently been reissued on CD. It contains all covers, ranging from r&b to garage psych. It’s mostly pretty throwaway, but side 2 is given over to two lengthy jams [on ‘Spoonful’ and ‘Good Morning Little School Girl’] that offer something a bit more adventurous, although both being longer than necessary considering the limited chops of the players at this time. Chen went on to Foodbrain, a solo album [see above], and Speed Glue & Shinki [see below]. Yanagi was heavily involved in Chen’s solo album, and was later vocalist for Strawberry Path and briefly Flied Egg.
– apparently a rather Santana-esque fusion band, initially featuring guitarist Katsutoshi Morizono [ex-Yonin Bayashi – see below], who left after the 1st album. They stood out a little by having 2 guitarists and 2 keyboardists. They released a fair few albums – ‘Prism’ , ‘Second Thoughts/Second Move’ , ‘III’ , ‘Live Alive (Absolutely)’ , ‘Mother Earth’ , ‘A Personal Change’ , ‘Jam’ , ‘Whiter’ , ‘In The Last Resort’  and ‘MJU’ . I don’t know if this Prism has anything to do with the US AOR band or the obscure US prog band.
– a progressive pop ‘supergroup’ formed around late 1970/early 1971, from ex-members of The Tempters, The Spiders and The Tigers. Their first album had a distinctive simple cartoon of a pig on the front – ‘Original First Album’ [Polydor, 1971]. It was reissued on CD some years back by Polydor and has been reissued again more recently. The original LP is now very expensive when encountered. Musically, it contains largely mellow early progressive rock with some slight soft psych touches. Much of it is fairly accessible, and while it’s not a bad album overall, it’s not great, either. They only made one other album, the little-known live 2-LP ‘Free With Pyg’ [Polydor, 1971], which featured covers of heavy groups like Deep Purple as well as the mellower stuff from their studio album. It was reissued by Polydor in 2007. Drummer Hiroshi Oguchi went on to join the glam band Vodka Collins.
– formed in Kyoto, 1967 by the black-clad guitarist/vocalist Takashi Mizutani, partly as a reaction against the ‘Group Sounds’ movement. The group name means something like ‘Fucked Up and Naked’ according to some, which well describes the music! However no-one seems to be able to agree on a correct translation of ‘Rallizes’, which is not a real French word. Early on they hooked up with the Kyoto ‘radical avant-garde theatre group’ Gendai Gekijo, providing musical backing for their performances. The band’s music stayed essentially similar over the years – high volume, raw, lo-fi rock stretched out into repetitive guitar feedback/psychedelic noise-fests, with hints of noisy Velvet Underground, Pärson Sound, and even Acid Mothers Temple without all the electronics. Some of the studio recordings, however, sound much tamer and reveal attempts at actual songs.
In early 1970, bassist Moriyasu Wakabayashi was one of nine Japanese Red Army nutjobs who hijacked an airliner and forced the pilots to fly them to North Korea. In the panic that followed, all the other band members left, and for a while Mizutani did gigs using Murahachibu [see above] as his band. Since 1971, Mizutani has chosen a route of total obscurity, shunning official recordings, interviews, publicity etc. As a result of this, I’m not sure which releases were official [probably none of them?] and which were bootlegs from live gigs or sneaked out of Mizutani’s tape collection. There have been many albums released, with more emerging all the time, though the casual fan would probably only need one or two of them to get the idea. Releases include ‘67-69 Studio et Live’ [Sixe, 1969], a mix of hideous noisy ‘free rock’ and beat-psych of varying levels of merit [from good to pretty bad]; ‘Mizutani’ ; ‘Live 1973’ [1973; repackaged and reissued in 2001 as ‘Field of Artificial Flowers’]; ‘Electric Pure Land’ ; ‘Wild Party’ ; the double-LP ‘’77 Live’ [1977; repackaged and reissued as 2-LP ‘Fucked Up and Naked’, 2-CD ‘Le 12 Mars 1977 à Tachikawa’]; ‘December’s Black Children’ ; ‘Heavier Than A Death In The Family’ [Ain’t Group Sounds, 1995], apparently a re-sequenced version of ‘’77 Live’; ‘Five Colour Coded CDs’ ; ‘Blind Baby Has Its Mothers Eyes’ [Japanese Rock, 2003]; ‘Mars Studio 1980’ [Univive; 4-CD box set]; ‘Naked Diza Star’ , a 3-CD set with live stuff from 1973 to 1987; ‘Wild Trips’ [Univive, 2006], a 5-CD box set of 1976 recordings; ‘Cradle Saloon ‘78’ [Univive, 2006], a 4-CD set with two different recordings of the same gig; ‘Great White Wonder’ [Univive], another 4-CD set of various live stuff; and the ‘best of’ compilation ‘Flightless Bird (Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go)’ [10th Avenue Freeze-Out, 2006]. There is also an LP-side of material on the 1973 ‘Oz Days Live’ various artists album [see below]. This list is certainly not comprehensive!
The music hasn’t changed much over the years, and as such you can dive in almost anywhere and get a good idea of where Mizutani’s coming from. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, but those who like it tend to really love it and can’t get enough. To most people’s ears they sound rather shambolic at times, and Mizutani’s occasional vocals can be described as mostly pretty awful, but once you get into their aesthetic – and it might take a few listens to sink in, if it’s going to – these things don’t mater so much, and the listener can just enjoy getting engulfed in the maelstrom that inevitably builds up. Certainly, Rallizes have grown on me a little since I wrote the first version of this piece a few years ago.
– I don’t know anything much about these guys. They released two albums that I know of, the first and best being ‘1971 Summer’ [URC, 1971]. This is a live recording featuring lots of extended jamming from song beginnings, mostly in a slightly bluesy, heavy post-acid rock style. Occasionally the raw guitar riffing sounds like a blend of Black Sabbath and The Stooges! The following studio album ‘Ranmadou’ [Polydor, 1972] is a patchy affair, and often pretty mainstream, but in amongst the forgettable ditties there’s still some pretty good guitar rock to be had, sometimes with a bit of an acid rock feel, sounding like many forgotten hard post-psych bands that played across the US in this era. It’s a shame it’s so mixed, as some of it is excellent. Both have been reissued on CD.
– Reiko was only 17 when she made her only album, ‘Kokotsu No Sekai’ [Teichiku, 1971], which features her topless on the front cover clutching a microphone! It’s apparently all covers of Iroke Kayokyoku music, but being ignorant of such things, it sounds mostly like subtly orchestrated cocktail jazz and ballads to me, with erotic moaning over pretty much the whole thing – one track even has her being whipped! There’s a vague psych feel to some of it, and musically, some of the album is not too far from J.A. Caesar’s ‘Den-en ni Shisu’ and Kiyoko Itoh’s ‘Woman at 23 Hour Love-In’ [see above]. Around the same time she went into sex-and-violence exploitation films and is quite famous. The album has been reissued on CD by Tiliqua.
– the name of this Kyoto power trio means something like ‘serial killer’! I don’t think they released anything at the time, but there is a CD of a live show - ‘1978.3.26 Shibuya Yaneura’. Starting out as free noise rock, via an unexpected mutilation of Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, grooves begin to coalesce until you’re treated to heavy acid rock jams and savage riff rock. The guitarist can really play, and frequently throws up a riotous wall of sound. The bassist sometimes has trouble keeping it together, and the infrequent vocals range from ok to awful, but the music as a whole is so insane these points hardly matter, if you’re into fucked-up guitar freakouts. Overall it’s like a blend of 3/3 (Sanbun No San), Fushitsusha and Les Rallizes Denudes. Despite a few severe tape malfunctions, the sound quality is pretty good.
– an obscure folk rock group who released at least one album, ‘Rotten Peach’ [TPL, 1975].
– a fiery instrumental progressive jazz rock group formed in 1976. They may or may not have released an album at the time [I’ve seen conflicting claims], and broke up in 1979, but live recordings from 1978 have been released on CD as ‘Jin-zo-Ni-n-gen’ [Music Term Presents/Poseidon, 2003]. It reputedly has live bootleg sound but is musically great, mixing symphonic, metal and jazz progressive styles. Keyboardist Yoshihiro Kataoka later ended up in L’Evoluzione [see below]. The band reformed and released at least two more albums, ‘Live@2001 in Osaka’ [Music Term Presents, 2001] and ‘Wings to Rest’ [Poseidon, 2002], which reputedly has a jazzy, almost Santana-like flavour and has been claimed to date from 1979.
– I haven’t been able to find out anything about Ryuzaki’s earlier work, such as the album he did with Rock Succession, ‘Moog Sound Now Niji No Watatte’ [label? year?]. Ryuzaki is better known these days for having done some of the music for the film ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’.
– a very obscure trio fronted by SAB, and accompanied by Meg and Ravi. They recorded only one album that I know of, ‘Crystallization’ [Vanity, 1978]. It’s full of very good cosmic music, with plenty of synthesizers, electronics, keyboards, and even some guitar, sitar and flute thrown in for good measure. This should appeal to fans of Michael Hoenig and Tangerine Dream. A CD reissue is supposedly in preparation but there hasn’t been any progress that I’m aware of.
– one of the better known Japanese bands of the era, largely due to some international distribution, being released on Harvest in the UK. They were led by guitarist Kazuhiko Kato [ex-Folk Crusaders] and his wife Mika. Their first album, ‘Sadistic Mika Band’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1973], was reputedly ‘uncompromising heavy rock with a pervasive Oriental underlay’. An NME review at the time said that it made “Iggy and the Stooges sound like the Amadeus String Quartet”! However I’ve also seen reviews saying that much of it is “straight-ahead pop with country, reggae and rock’n’roll influences here and there.” The truth is closer to the last description, though some of the rockier tracks do have good some good fuzzed guitar here and there, and there is a slightly weird production and execution to the whole thing that it seems to link to some Tropicalia. There’s certainly nothing here I would call “uncompromising heavy rock”, and the person who made the Stooges comment needs his head checked! Anyone expecting anything approaching or surpassing The Stooges will be sorely disappointed.
Their next album was made with UK producer Chris Thomas – ‘Kurobune’ aka ‘Black Ship’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1974], with the band more or less relocating to England for the next few years. ‘Black Ship’ was again patchy, but with some really good stuff, and is arguably their best album. It is sometimes more progressive and kinda spacey, and also funkier overall, and lacking the hard rock’n’roll of the debut. The only other albums I’m aware of [not including reformations] are ‘Hot! Menu’ [EMI/Toshiba, 1975], ‘Mika Band Live in London’ , ‘Sadistics’  and the final, ironically titled ‘We Are Just Taking Off’ . Kato had left some time after ‘Hot! Menu’ because Mika was having an affair with their producer. The drummer, Yukihiro Takahashi, later joined Yellow MagicOrchestra.
– a classically-trained keyboardist/composer with tendencies towards electronic and ethnic music. He’s known as one of the fathers of ‘techno-pop’. His first solo album was ‘Thousand Knives Of’ (‘Sen No Naifu’) [Nippon Columbia/Denon, 1978], which has been described as having an ‘instrumental techno sound influenced by contemporary music [Xenakis and so on]’, or ‘clearly influenced by German synth music of the past decade’. At the same time he had formed ‘techno-pop’ group Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below] with 2 others who guested on this album. Soon after he recorded some albums with guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, who had played on ‘Thousand Knives Of’. ‘Tokyo Joe’ [Nippon Columbia, 1978] came out as by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Kazumi Watanabe, and is apparently fusion. He also collaborated with Watanabe’s jazz-fusion group Kylyn. His next album of interest was ‘B-2 Unit’ [Alfa, 1980], reputedly containing ‘hard-edged electronics’ and ‘avant-garde and abstract sound in dub style’. He has made numerous other solo albums which I also know little about. He made the music for the film ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ , as well as acting in it as one of the main characters, and also made the music for ‘The Last Emperor’ and numerous other films.
– a multi-instrumentalist and composer who had worked with Stomu Yamash’ta & The Horizon, and with Masahiko Satoh [see below]. Sakurai is perhaps best known for creating the soundtrack music for many of the cult classic Lone Wolf and Cub/Baby Cart films [Kozure Ookami] based on the earlier mangas [be aware that not all of the soundtrack music from these films is of interest]. Kunihiko Murai was responsible for those not done by Sakurai. Both have also worked on other soundtracks. I’m not sure who actually played the music with Sakurai – I’d be surprised if he played everything. The soundtracks I’ve heard range from evocative Japanese music to various kinds of moody progressive rock, electronic music and other weird sounds. I suppose Sakurai was to the Lone Wolf and Cub films what Goblin were to the films of Dario Argento! There is at least one compilation CD available, ‘The Best Of Lone Wolf and Cub’ [La La Land, 2004].
– a Japanese group led by vocalist/flautist Miki Curtis. They went to Europe in late 1967 [some say 1968], picking up some European members and thus becoming half-Japanese. In London they recorded a single and their debut album, the double-LP [so I’m told] ‘Samurai’ a.k.a. ‘Miki Curtis & Samurai’ [German Metronome, 1970], as well as a single only released in Italy. They should not be confused with the UK group of the same name, who released a self-titled LP on Greenwich in 1971.
Their second album, ‘Green Tea’ [Philips, 1970], is as far as I can tell simply a single-LP repackaging of the debut only released in Japan, to where the band had returned. The last album was ‘Kappa’ [Philips, 1971]. The band played a varied kind of psychedelic progressive rock, occasionally a bit hard-rocking, with jazzy and exotic Asian touches. They’ve been compared by Vernon Joyson to Andwella’s Dream and early Traffic. The music on their first album is fairly accessible, but without at all sacrificing quality or creativity. On ‘Kappa’ they played lengthier tracks with more of a heavy progressive leaning, though still with an exotic creativity. The album is not named for the Greek letter, but for a mythical Japanese water monster. This, and the single-LP version of the debut, have been reissued on CD by P-Vine. The debut has also been reissued on Naked Line.
The bass player, Tetsu Yamauchi, was later in Friends [see above], Free and The Faces, as well as pursuing a brief solo career. Drummer Yujin Harada was later in the last incarnation of Far East Family Band [see above]. Graham Smith, credited on harmonica on the first 2 albums, is probably the same person who later played violin in String Driven Thing and Van Der Graaf. Miki Curtis went on to release at least one solo album [see above].
– a guitar/bass/drums trio, all ex-Maru Sankaku Shikaku [see above]. They released one album as an acetate demo – ‘3/3’ [LLX, 1975]. Only 15 copies were pressed; presumably there was no record label interest, because this lo-fi record appears to be all that they made. The music is very heavy, raucous acid rock influenced by the likes of Randy Holden and MC5, with a bit of a punk feel as well, sounding overall more like San Fransisco’s Shiver, Shagrat [the heavy stuff with Larry Wallis, not the stuff Twink has put out] and George Brigman. Here and there it even reminds me a bit of early Guru Guru, though without electronic effects. It’s been reissued on vinyl by Shadoks, and more recently as a 2-CD set on P-Vine with bonus unreleased material. Guitarist/vocalist Reck and drummer Chiko Hige moved to New York after this, playing with numerous well-known musicians in the ‘No Wave’ scene there [Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, James Chance & the Contortions], before returning to Japan and forming post-punk band Friction in 1978 [see above]. These days Reck is playing with Keiki Haino and Pill as Head Rush.
– Satoh [sometimes spelled as ‘Sato’] is a composer/arranger/keyboardist from Tokyo. After leaving music school he played in various jazz combos in Japan [and later, Europe and the US], and recorded his first album as the Masahiko Satoh Trio, ‘Palladium’ [Express/Toshiba, 1969], which won the Japan Jazz Award. In 1970 and 1972 he also won awards of excellence for two compositions. Numerous jazz and experimental albums followed, including one with Jean-Luc Ponty, one with Wolfgang Dauner and some with Stomu Yamash’ta [see below]. ‘Pianology’ [Toshiba/Far East, 1971] was credited to Masahiko Satoh & Wolfgang Dauner, and featured ring-modulated piano duets.
Satoh is perhaps best known amongst collectors of Japanese progressive music for the excellent album as Masahiko Satoh & Sound Breakers, ‘Amalgamation’ aka ‘Kokotsu no Showa Genroku’ [Liberty/Toshiba, 1971]. He was backed by Mototeru Takagi, Hideakira Sakurai [see above], Kiyoko Itoh [see above], Kimio Mizutani [see above], and some say Hiro Yanagida [see below]. Each side is a more or less continuous piece, divided into numerous cumbersome titles. Side 1 is a riotous collage of free psych rock, avant-garde jazz and musique concrete, coming across like a blend of Friendsound, The Feed-Back and Red Noise, whereas side 2 is more focussed on percussion. I believe this album has been reissued on CD, but I lack release details.
Satoh also played keyboards and Moog on Mizutani’s solo album, as well as composing some or all of the music [see above]. Another Satoh album consisted of electronic music, composed and performed on synthesizer – ‘Switched On East/Electronic Japan’ [Columbia, 1971]; I presume it’s Japanese traditional music played on Moog! He collaborated with German guitarist Attila Zoller for ‘A Path Through Haze’ [MPS, 1971], credited to Attila Zoller and Masahiko Satoh, which featured a new version of the title track which Satoh had written for Kimio Mizutani’s solo album. Whilst in Germany he also made the restrained live free jazz album ‘Trinity’ [Enja, 1971], with Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre and American bassist Peter Warren. Back in Japan, he was also involved in K. Miho & Jazz Eleven, the Dema and Epos studio projects [see above], and was integrally involved in the album ‘Yamatai-Fu’ [Toshiba-EMI/Far East, 1972] performed by Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd [see above], for which he won the award in 1972 mentioned above.
Satoh has continued his career in jazz and composing/arranging to the present day, and formed his own label BAJ Records in 1997.
– a progressive hard rock band from the late 70’s who were reputedly pretty good. They’ve released at least one album but I lack any details for it. In 1979 they merged with members of San Sui Kan to become Novela [see below].
– a group from Asahikawa, formed by high school students including Ikuro Takahashi [who later went on to play with Fushitsusha, High Rise, Che-Shizu, Maher Shalal Hash Baz and others]. The name apparently translates to something like ‘Organs of Blue Eclipse’. I’m not sure if they released anything at the time, but the recent LP ‘1975-1977’ [Siwa, 2005] collects most of their known recordings and seems to be the only release available. They played sometimes noisy, repetitious, minimal and lo-fi experimental music driven by guitar, percussion and occasional keyboards and other instruments, partly comparable to French groups such as Semool, Fille Qui Mousse and Mahogany Brain, and the German Limbus 3.
– a complex symphonic prog band influenced by Genesis. Their albums are ‘Shingetsu’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1979], ‘Akai me no Kagami Live ‘79’ [Belle Antique, 1979], ‘Kagaku no Yoro’ [Belle Antique, 19??; also included material from the pre-Shingetsu band Serenade] and ‘Live ABC Kaikan Hall, Tokyo 1979’. After this, some members went on to the group Outer Limits [see below]. Shingetsu’s debut album, the only one I’ve heard, is pretentious and tiresome symphonic neo-prog.
– a psychedelic group formed by teen guitarist Char; they were apparently very popular in the underground scene but never got to record anything. Char went on to bigger local success as a solo musician, before temporarily retiring from music near the end of the 70’s. In 1979 he re-emerged with a trio, JL&C, apparently recapturing a focus on musical content over commercial appeal. In 1982 they changed their name to Pink Cloud and went on to release numerous albums, as well as Char’s solo albums. Char later formed another band, Psychedelix, in 1991; they went on to release several albums as well. I have no idea what any of the music is like!
– an instrumental progressive fusion band straying into cosmic territory, with prominent Moog, violin & guitar. They released 2 albums that I know of, ‘Funky Caravan’  and ‘Fantastic Arrival’ . I’ve only heard the second, which is often pretty good, but sometimes rather cheesy. It could be compared to a blend of Eleventh House, Tako [the Yugoslavian band] and Crack The Sky.
– guitarist Shinki Chen had previously been in The Golden Cups [maybe, and briefly even if so], Powerhouse, and Foodbrain, and recorded a solo album [see above]; bassist M. Glue [Masayoshi Kabe] had previously been in The Golden Cups and Foodbrain; songwriter, drummer and vocalist Joey ‘Pepe’ Smith [ex-Zero History] was a Filipino with a large speed habit! They recorded two great albums, ‘Eve’ [Atlantic, 1971] and the 2-LP ‘Speed, Glue & Shinki’ [Atlantic, 1972]. The main musical style on both albums is a mix of bluesy, rough & ready heavy rock and slight touches of psych/acid rock, ballads, and occasional experimental blasts. Some people think these guys were pretty unique and amazing; in my opinion they’re pretty good overall but there’s a lot of stuff like this from the same period the world over. It’s mostly pretty derivative and a lot of the riffs sound suspiciously familiar from elsewhere, although performed with gutsy gusto [and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no way these guys were ‘free rock’ as Julian Cope has said – early Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream played free rock, as did Cream occasionally when really letting rip in live jams, whereas this is resolutely structured, not counting the occasional experimental bass solo or minimal synth work]. I suspect some people get a bit of a schoolboy thrill from the open drug references and kind of punky attitude, and let their musical judgement take a back seat to image when rating this band so highly over others. No matter – it’s great if people love these guys.
What sets the second album apart from the first is that it’s a bit tighter, and much of the last quarter of it consisted of fairly minimal and rudimentary synthesizer explorations from Smith, who had apparently just bought a synth and wanted to try it out on record. Due to Glue often being absent and unreliable at this point, they were also joined on the album by Filipino bassist Mike Hanopol [also ex-Zero History], later in Juan De La Cruz and a solo artist back in the Phillipines. Incidentally, the band appear on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ [see below].
Not sure what happened to Chen and Glue afterwards, though Joey Smith supposedly recorded with DK Mushroom & Son [see above] and went on to the second line-up of Juan De La Cruz in the Philippines, with Hanopol. With them they carried some of the flavour of Speed Glue & Shinki to that revamped group.
– these guys made only one album that I’m aware of, ‘When the Raven Has Come To The Earth’ aka ‘Ohtori Ga Chikyu Ni Yattekitahi’ [Philips, 1971], credited to Strawberry Path – Jimmy & Hino. It’s largely a great slab of bluesy heavy psychedelic rock in a slight early progressive vein. Some of it sounds a bit like funky Hendrix as filtered through New Zealand’s Human Instinct. A couple of tracks are pretty bad commercial ballad slop, but they don’t ruin it for me as the rest is so good. Drummer Hiro Tsunoda was previously in The Jacks and Foodbrain, and went on to Flied Egg and Sadistic Mika Band [see above]. Guest vocalist George Yanagi had played bass in Powerhouse, and went on to sing briefly for Flied Egg. Hisashi Eto also played bass on the album as a guest. Guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Shigeru Narumo also did a solo album, ‘London Notes’ [Columbia/Denon, 1971], but I don’t know anything about the music on it. It has been reissued on CD by Hagakure. There’s also a CD of demo recordings, ‘Smokin’ Drug, Demo & Hotcake’ [Ain’t Group Sounds], which I haven’t heard.
– an experimental group formed in 1969 by Takehisha Kosugi [see above]. They were a large combo playing free-form organic electro-acoustic improvisations, using diverse instrumentation such as electric violin, electric double bass, harmonica, percussion, timpani, vibraphone, castanet, trumpet, bass tuba, electronics, voice and ‘suntool’. All of this was heavily treated with effects during live performances by Kinji Hayashi. They excelled in creating oozing, and sometimes jarring, trippy soundscapes with a deep mystical Japanese feel, a step on from groups such as AMM, Anima, Kluster, Dream Syndicate and perhaps some of the more spacious early Tangerine Dream [circa Zeit & Atem]. They performed anywhere they could, from coffee houses and art galleries to beaches and other outdoor settings, providing electricity was available. Their first official album was the excellent ‘July 15, 1972’ [CBS Japan, 1972], featuring 3 lengthy excerpts from the one performance; it was recorded in Tokyo on a stopover in the midst of a tour of Europe and England. This has been reissued on CD by Showboat. Their second and final album, ‘August 1974’ [CBS Japan, 1975] was a double LP set recorded in the studio, featuring a lengthy track per side. It was less varied and perhaps slightly more jarring in parts than the debut, but still a fine album. It’s been reissued as a 2-CD set by P-Vine. By late 1975 the group had broken up, with Kosugi resuming his solo career. A recording predating their debut, ‘Live Stockholm July 1971’ [Drone Syndicate, 1998], has recently been issued for the first time on CD, and some prefer it over the official releases; reputedly it’s a lot more varied and chaotic. They also have an excellently trippy live side on the double LP ‘Oz Days Live’ [see below under Various artists].
Other info I’ve found suggests that the Taj Mahal Travellers didn’t stay apart for long, and continued playing for a while without Kosugi, but with Kazuo Imai [see East Bionic Symphonia, above] filling his shoes.
– an avant-garde pianist known for his interpretations of Xenakis pieces. He made an album with Masahiko Satoh [see above], ‘Yuji Takahashi & Masahiko Satoh’ [Columbia, 1974], consisting of avant-garde piano music with electronics. Takahashi also played on a Takehisa Kosugi album with Steve Lacy [see above], and is on the ‘Space Theatre’ various artists album [see below].
– a singer/songwriter [ex-Melting Glass Box – see above] who made at least one album – ‘Manin no Ki’ [URC Records, 1973]. It’s reputedly melancholic folk with some experimental tendencies, and has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
– a free jazz guitarist known for his totally fucked-up deconstructed playing. He released several albums in the late 50’s and early 60’s, reputedly in a bossa nova jazz style, before finding his monstrous free style in the late 60’s, forming his group New Direction For The Arts/New Direction Unit with bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa [see below] and others. I think his first album from this period was ‘We Now Create’ [Victor, 1969], but I’ve also seen this listed as a Masahiko Togashi album [see below], featuring Takayanagi and others, with a 1968 release date. ‘Independence: Tread on Sure Ground’ [Teichiku, 1969; reissued on Tiliqua with 1 bonus track] was an excellent free jazz album, more artful and restrained than a lot of Takayanagi’s music, and sounding a little influenced by Wolfgang Dauner circa ‘Free Action’. ‘Guitar Workshop’ [Teichiku, 1970]; ‘Kaitaiteki Kohan’ [Sound Creators, 1970]; ‘Mass Projection’ [Victor, 1970]; ‘Swing Allstars’ [Philips, 1971]; ‘Free Form Suite’ [Three Blind Mice, 1972]; ‘Jazz Guitar Forms’ [RCA, 1973]; ‘Eclipse’ [Iskra, 1975]; ‘Axis Another Revolvable Thing 1’ [Offbeat, 1975]; ‘Axis Another Revolvable Thing 2’ [Offbeat, 1975]; ‘Cooliojo’ [Three Blind Mice, 1979]; ‘Live at Moers Festival’ (New Direction Unit) [Three Blind Mice, 1980]; ‘Lonely Woman’ [Trio, 1982]; ‘Waltz Step/Up and Down’ [Aketa’s Disk, 1985]; ‘Action Direct’ [Kijima Recordings, 1985; reissued on Tiliqua]; ‘Experimental Performance’ [Moby’s, 1986] was done with John Zorn; ‘Inanimate Nature’ [Jinya Disc, 1990]; ‘Call In Question’ [PSF, 1991], a live recording from 1970, features lengthy noisy improvisations. There are also other live various artists albums featuring Takayanagi amongst others, including ‘Genya Concert’ [see below under Various artists].
– a well-known experimental composer who made some of Japan’s first electronic music back in the 50’s. He was also a film and music critic, and as well as composing many film scores [Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ran’ being a prominent one], he also wrote a detective novel. His first album ‘Toru Takemitsu’ [Philips, 1969] was a French release, and contained performances of his compositions from various times. ‘Eclipse (for biwa and shakuhachi)’, composed in 1966, took up much of the first side and was a meditative piece of ancient-sounding Japanese music; ‘Masque (for 2 flutes)’, composed 1960-61, continued in a similar feel; ‘The Dorian Horizon’, composed 1966, was performed by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and was a wonderful piece of moody, dark avant-garde classical music; ‘Cross Talk (for bandoneons and magnetic tape)’ was a strange piece of electroacoustic music neatly bridging between the previous track and ‘Sky, Horse & Death’, a piece of musique concrete he made back in 1954 for a radio play. It’s an excellent record showcasing Takemitsu’s varied musical talents. He has composed pieces for Stomu Yamash’ta [see below], and later helped Magical Power Mako [see above] get his first record deal. Other Takemitsu albums that I know of – not including collaborations or appearances on compilations – are ‘Coral Island/Water Music/Vocalism Ai’ [RCA Victor, 1969], ‘Corona/Far Away/Piano Distance/Undisturbed Rest’ [Headline, 1972], ‘Miniatur II’ [Deutsche Grammophon, 1974], ‘Miniatur V: Art of Toru Takemitsu’ [Deutsche Grammophon, 1975], ‘Film Music of Toru Takemitsu 6’ [JVC, 1991], ‘Rising Sun’ (OST) [Arista, 1993], ‘The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu’ [Nonesuch, 1997], ‘In an Autumn Garden’ [Deutsche Grammophon, 2002], ‘Piano Music’ [Naxos], ‘Choral Works’, ‘Chamber Music’ [Naxos, 2003], ‘Orchestral Works - A Flock Descends Into The Pentagonal Garden’ [Naxos, 2006]. Takemitsu had a side of music on the 2-LP ‘Orchestral Space Volume 1’ [Victor, 1968], alongside Toshi Ichiyanagi, Joji Yuasa and Yuji Takahashi.
– Hiroki Tamaki is a violinist who started composing aged 10. He played in the Tokyo Symphony, but later dropped out of the formal classical music world. In 1970, he played electric violin on Hiro Yanagida’s first solo album, ‘Milk Time’ [see below]. At some point Tamaki formed the group S.M.T. [no idea what that stands for] and made an unusual album, ‘Time Paradox’ [Columbia, 1975]. Every track is different, ranging from symphonic/classical progressive rock, Vivaldi-like stuff, trippy eastern mind-melt, funky jazz rock with wacked-out electronics etc. mostly with prominent electric violin and [usually] subtle use of Moog. Some of it is a bit too cheesy for my tastes, but I find a lot of the album very enjoyable, and some of it is just awesome. It was reissued on CD by P-Vine. Other albums followed, though I’m not sure if they came out as by H. Tamaki or H. Tamaki & S.M.T. – ‘Kumoino-Hototogisukoko’  and ‘Zonzai No Uta’ . Tamaki has also made a lot of music for films and television.
– an underground experimental theatre company that used progressive forms of music in their performances, formed by Shuji Terayama with Yutaka Higashi. In 1968, Higashi parted to form the Tokyo Kid Brothers [see below]. In 1969, J.A. Caesar [see above] became the company’s musical director. In 1970, a soundtrack to one of Terayama’s theatre projects, ‘Throw Away The Books Let’s Go Into the Streets’, was released on their own label, and later re-done in a different form by the Tokyo Kid Brothers for the film version. It featured keyboardist Kuni Kawachi [see above] and Tadatoshi Nagoya as arrangers, and J.A. Caesar performed on one track. Eiichi Sayu, later of Far Out [see above], also featured as a performer. It has some similarity to the Tokyo Kid Brothers version, but is very different overall. The musicianship and quality of recording is a bit sloppy in parts, but it is an entertaining and unique album all the same.
Over the next few years other albums of Tenjo Sajiki productions were released as J.A. Caesar albums [see above]. The only other album that I know of that seems to have been released as solely by Tenjo Sajiki is ‘Aho Bune’ [I’ve also seen it listed as ‘Ahousen’] (‘The Ship Of Fools’) , which was sponsored by the Shah of Iran’s daughter, and premiered at the 10th Persepolis Arts Festival in Shiraz, Iran, in 1976. The ensemble performed alongside other avant garde artists such as Stockhausen and Xenakis. The music is apparently what you would expect from the J.A. Caesar albums, though this one has a reputation as one of the best of the bunch. I can’t really describe it for you because I haven’t heard it. This was reissued on CD with a book by P-Vine, but it now appears to be out of print, or at least very difficult for non-Japanese seekers to track down. Shuji Terayama also made at least one solo album [see below].
When Terayama died in 1983, J.A. Caesar took over the
reigns of Tenjo Sajiki. You can read an account of an early Tenjo Sajiki
– the leader of Tenjo Sajiki [see above], Terayama put out at least one album just under his own name – ‘Daidogei’ [CBS, 1978]. It is apparently a tapestry of field recordings capturing the vanishing old Japan in sound.
– ‘Kimi wa Eiyuu Nankajya Nai’  reputedly contains progressive folk, with prominent guitar and howling vocals. It has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
– a Group Sounds band which reputedly started out more rough and ready, but then got commercially moulded and released many albums of pop. However their 6th and last album ‘Meiji Hyakku Nen’ [label?, 1969] is reputedly much better, mixing pop-psych with great fuzz-laden acid rock. After the album did poorly, the group disbanded, some members forming Pyg [see above]. The singer, Julie Sawada, was actually a guy just trying to be provocative.
– formed in 1968 by Yutaka Higashi, a founding member of Tenjo Sajiki [see above], as his own splinter underground/experimental theatre troupe [though still sometimes working in association with Tenjo Sajiki]. In 1970 they made an impact abroad with some performances at New York’s La Mama Experimental Theatre Club. Their first album was ‘Golden Bat’ a.k.a. ‘Giniro Bat’ [Polydor, 1971], with musical arrangements by Hiro Yanagida [see below]. Singer and songwriter Itsuro Shimoda left after this to form Yuigonka [see below].
Their classic album ‘Throw Away The Books Let’s Go Into The Streets’ [Victor, 1971] is different to the earlier Tenjo Sajiki version (being for the film version rather than the original theatre version), but like it, is without many obvious parallels in western music and has a strange uniquely Japanese feel. It features an odd mix of rough & raw psychedelic rock [at times midway between High Tide, Foodbrain & Amon Düül], rousing anthemic bursts, mournful psychedelic funeral marches, theatrical moments, bits that could be from a late-60’s film soundtrack, ballads, and a fair bit of spoken [and angrily shouted] stuff in Japanese. Some parts are reworked versions of themes from the Tenjo Sajiki version. Due to the all-Japanese liner notes of the P-Vine CD reissue, I’ve found it hard to figure out who was on this album, but I’ve read elsewhere that it included guitarist Hideki Ishima from Flower Travellin’ Band, and singer/shouter Kan Mikami [see above], who was with the troupe for a while. It’s pretty likely J.A. Caesar [see above] was involved in this album, as it is quite reminiscent of some of his early 70’s albums. These first 2 albums were reputedly their best with later albums generally considered far inferior; they were both reissued on CD but are out of print.
My knowledge of the rest of the TKB discography is patchy, but there was a 6-CD box set released by P-Vine. As well as the works already mentioned this includes Polydor recordings for a play called ‘The Lost Colour Blue’, King recordings from the productions ‘One and the Same Door’ and ‘Golden Bat Returns’, Victor recordings from a 1977 revived version of ‘Golden Bat’ [not the same as ‘Golden Bat Returns’, I believe], Warner Pioneer recordings for an unreleased 1975 album called ‘October is the Golden Country’, a self-released EP called ‘Love & Banana’, and other previously unreleased material. It came with generously-sized liner notes, but they’re all in Japanese. The afore-mentioned description I’ve been going from [from the Forced Exposure website] also hints that Tokyo Kid Brothers were not involved in all of the recordings on ‘Throw Away Your Books…’, and as such only 5 tracks from that album are included. Much of this material is reputedly of very little interest to fans of ‘Throw Away The Books’. Apart from that album, personally I’ve only heard the 1977 version of ‘Golden Bat’, which has some reasonably good moments of progressive jazz rock here and there, but it’s largely a pretty straight affair that sounds like family entertainment theatre to me [except I can’t understand a word they’re saying, so I don’t know how wholesome it really is!].
Tokyo Kid Brothers performed for some 30 years, until Higashi died in 2000.
– an avant-garde jazz musician who made Japan’s first free jazz album, ‘We Now Create’ [Victor, 1968], with an ensemble also including Motoharu Yoshizawa [see below], Masayuki Takayanagi and Mototeru Takagi, but I’ve also seen this referred to as a 1969 release credited to Takayanagi [see above]. It has been reissued on CD by Bridge. ‘Speed and Space’ [Union, 1975] was recorded in 1969, with Masahiko Satoh [see above] in the group. Both albums are reputed to be great if you’re into free jazz.
– a well-known and award-winning synthesizer player and composer, full name Isao Tomita. In the 50’s he was already pursuing his interest in electronic music; in 1956 he composed the theme music for the Japanese Olympic gymnastics team, and also made music for films and television [including the anime ‘Kimba The White Lion’]. In 1973 he formed an electronic music group, Plasma Music, with Kinji Kitashoji and Mitsuo Miyamoto. The bulk of his work, with which he has been quite successful, consists of all-synthesiser adaptations of classical works. The best I’ve heard is one of his earliest albums [perhaps his first], ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’ [RCA, 1974], which features Debussy adaptations and is really quite beautiful listening if you enjoy both electronic music and classical music. It’s certainly no Moog-meets-Bach type cheesiness! When I listen to parts of this I can practically see snowflakes falling outside on a dark, clear night. Lovely! Apparently this was also released in a different cover as a Plasma Music release, and also as ‘Clair de Lune’ by Tomita. Tomita went on to release many other albums, many reinterpreting classical works, including ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ [RCA, 1975], ‘Firebird’ [RCA, 1975], ‘The Planets’ [RCA, 1977], ‘Cosmos’ [RCA, 1978; included the Star Wars theme!], ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ [RCA, 1978], ‘Daphnis et Chloe’ [RCA, 1979], ‘Grand Canyon Suite’ [RCA, 1982], ‘Dawn Chorus’ [RCA, 1984] and ‘Storm From the East’ [RCA, 1992]. I haven’t heard many of these, but ‘Firebird’ is pretty enjoyable and progressive, and ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ contains plenty of excellent trippy cosmic electronics [as well as great artwork].
– coming from a similar position as Kan Mikami [see above], this singer/poet/actor etc. didn’t get an album out until 1975, though I don’t know what it was called. He continued to release albums, with ‘Sakura No Kuni No Chiru Naka O’ (‘Within the Country of Falling Cherry Blossoms’) [King, 1980] arranged by J.A. Caesar [see above]. It has been described by Alan Cummings as ‘intense prog-folk’ with “the final track a 15 minute masterpiece that explodes from a wind-blown beginning into a maelstrom of chanting choirs, full-on guitar and Tomokawa’s deranged howling”! Also recommended is ‘Hitori Bodonori’ (‘A Solo Dance of the Dead’) [PSF, 1995], reputedly containing great free psychedelic rock with a backing band including famed bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa [see below].
– originally a saxophonist, he had been involved in Group Ongaku [see above] in the early 60’s. In 1961 his composition ‘Anagram For Strings’ was recorded by Takehisa Kosugi [see above], and later showed up on one side of an LP, ‘Yasunao Tone’ [Slowscan Editions, 2005], with a 1979 Tone composition ‘Geography & Music’ featuring Kosugi, John Cage, David Tudor and Martin Kalve on the other side. Tone and Kosugi sometimes played as a duo, as well as performing with Group Ongaku. Tone was also involved in the radical performance-art troupe Hi-Red Center. In 1966 he made history by putting on the world’s first computer arts festival, which included performance from his computer music group Team Random.
– an obscure group formed in 1970 by guitarist/vocalist Tstomu Ogawa [ex-Helpful Soul, as Junio Nakahara], inspired by Blues Creation [see above]. They made only one album I’m aware of, ‘Too Much’ [Atlantic, 1971]. It’s nothing very original, containing a fairly generic mix of Black Sabbathy-heavy rock, slow blues [one song sounds like a thinly-disguised re-make of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’!], dodgy ballads and soft progressive rock. I find a bit over half the album is fairly good, and the opening track is a great heavy riff monster. Nothing to write home about overall, though. Bassist Masayuki Aoki went on to Gedo [see above]. The album has been reissued as a bootleg CD by Black Rose. Too Much also appear on the various artists ‘Rock Age Concert’ [see below].
– see Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffaloes [above].
– an extremely obscure group who released only one album that I know of, ‘Mugen Uchu No Tabi – Infinite Cosmos Travel’ [CBS/Sony, 1978]. It’s reputedly full of totally tripped-out electronic music.
- a very obscure various artists album [TV Man Union, 1971] documenting a three-day combination underground music festival and protest against the expansion of the Narita International Airport [which was to force farmers from their land], held on some of the very land in question. As well as recordings of the protest goings-on and heated debates, there are live recordings of Blues Creation, Brain Police, Dew and Lost Aaraaff [first recorded performance]. It was reissued once by Purple Trap , but a recent expanded CD reissue adds music by Mototeru Takagi Trio, Masayuki Takayanagi’s New Directions Unit [both Takagi and Takayanagi were free-jazzers who played with Masahiko Togashi – see above] and Shun Ochiai Trio [a good free jazz group I know nothing further about], as well as extra stage announcements and shouting, and traditional songs done by local farmer’s wives. This reissue [on Hayabusa Landings] also comes with a DVD of Super-8 footage, but the set appears to be unavailable already. The full New Directions Unit performance is available on CD as ‘Complete La Grima’ [Doubtmusic]; the full Lost Aaraaff performance is included in the Lost Aaraaff 4-CD ‘Soul’s True Love’.
- a very rare 2-LP [Oz, 1973] set compiling performances from a five day benefit festival called Oz Last Days at the ‘Oz live space’, organized by Dr Acid Seven. It featured a side each for Taj Mahal Travellers [as a trio], Les Rallizes Denudes, and Minami Masato, with the first side split between Acid Seven and Miyako Ochi [see above for all]. This album recently received a limited CD reissue, taken from a vinyl source but mostly fairly clean. The original record might be easier to find than expected, as it apparently received some distribution in western countries.
– an obscure record from 1971 involving Hiro Yanagida [see below], Kimio Mizutani [see above], two folks called Mao and Sammy, and probably others. It all sounds like it could be the work of a studio band rather than an actual ‘various artists’ album, and I don’t know what the thought behind this was. Anyway, it’s a mix of fairly forgettable psych-pop with horns, and heavier funky rock which is much better.
– presumably a live album [Warner/Pioneer, 197?], with performances by Blind Bird, Flower Travellin’ Band, Speed Glue & Shinki, Far Out, Too Much and Rock Pilot. Certainly a record I’d like to hear!
– a double-LP [Toshiba/Express, 1970] featuring live performances from a faux-Battle of the Bands-style concert, with the Flowers, Mops, Golden Cups and Happenings Four.
– an LP [RCA Red Seal, 1970] containing music recorded for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World Expo. It contained three tracks of avant-garde electronic music by Toru Takemitsu, Yuji Takahashi and Iannis Xenakis. Takahashi later recorded an album with Takehisa Kosugi and Steve Lacy [see above].
– an obscure group I’m yet to hear. All I know is that they released an album, ‘VSOP’ [London, 1973], which is reputedly hard rock in style and has very modern-looking cover artwork, as though they were a recent electronic group. Not to be confused with Herbie Hancock’s late-70’s jazz group of the same name, who were incidentally popular live in Japan.
– a guitarist who had previously been in ‘group sounds’ band The Dynamites. When they disbanded at the end of 1969, he formed a new band, Fujio Dynamite, with keyboardist Shigero Narumo, bassist Shinishi Aoki, drummer Mamoru Manu [ex-Golden Cups] and Hiro Tsunoda on vocals [although a drummer most of the time; see Foodbrain, Strawberry Path]. They played a few gigs but didn’t record, and Yamaguchi soon after formed Murahachibu [see above] with vocalist Chahbo. As Fujio & Osamu [see above], he did an album with Osamu Kitajima. He released a solo album, ‘Himatsubushi’ [Elec, 1974], a little short at just over half an hour, but good, containing rock’n’roll, hard rock and ballads, comparable partly to The Flamin’ Groovies and Murahachibu. It’s been reissued on CD by Yamaguchi’s own label Good Lovin’, though this appears to be out of print; there’s also a 2007 reissue on Elec/Vap, and an older reissue with an alternate cover.
– I’ve seen this album listed as being progressive rock – ‘Hohoemi’  – but I can’t find out anything about it.
– a renowned avant-garde percussionist, whose first album ‘Red Buddha’ [Barclay, 1971] featured lengthy and exotic percussion performances. It’s a very absorbing and sanctified album, and has been reissued on CD by Spalax. ‘Gagaku Ensemble of Takemitsu & Ishii’ [EMI, 1971] featured the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. Another album of exotic experimental percussive music was recorded in the UK shortly after, ‘Stomu Yamash’ta’ [Decca, 1972]. I’ve seen the album title listed as ‘Henze/Takemitsu/Maxwell/Davies’, but the cover shows Yamash’ta’s name large across the top, with Hans Werner Henze, Peter Maxwell Davies and Toru Takemitsu listed below in much smaller print, and in that order; as far as I am aware, those three composed the pieces on this album but did not appear themselves.
Next he came into the fore as a composer and band leader, releasing numerous albums of slightly experimental progressive rock through the 70’s [see below]. Here, I’ll just mention the other albums released under only his own name; the others are listed below by band name. Incidentally, tracks from various Stomu Yamash’ta albums [both solo-titled and with bands listed below – specifically ‘Floating Music’, ‘The Man From The East’, ‘Freedom Is Frightening’ and ‘Raindog’] were used in the soundtrack to the film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, starring David Bowie.
I haven’t heard ‘Contemporary Works’  or ‘Takemitsu Ishi’ [EMI, 1973]. ‘Rain Dog’ [Island, 1975] was born from another multi-media stage production [see the album ‘The Man From The East’ below]. Musically it was a little reminiscent of the last album with East Wind, ‘One By One’ [see below], and like that album it featured another ill-considered mug shot of Yamash’ta on the cover, making him look like a real wanker! As well as Yamash’ta, it featured Boyle, Gasgoine and Hisako Yamash’ta from East Wind, in addition to Tsuneo Matsumoto [guitar], Daito Fujita [bass], Hozumi Tanaka [drums], and two guest vocalists.
‘Go’ [Island, 1976] is rated highly by many Yamash’ta fans, but I fail to see why, as I think as a whole album it’s among his worst and most commercial [exceeded only by ‘Go Too’ – see below]. It was intended as a supergroup kind of thing, and perhaps vaguely a concept album. The booklet accompanying the LP certainly made it all sound much more exciting and innovative than what it actually was – Yamash’ta’s most mainstream move yet. It featured Steve Winwood prominently. Along with Yamash’ta’s sudden dive in taste, Winwood largely shares the blame for ruining what this album could have been – apologies to Winwood fans but I just can’t stand him when he’s singing. Other musicians on the album include Michael Shrieve [ex-Santana], Klaus Schulze, Al DiMeola [Return To Forever], Rosko Gee and others; Yamash’ta plays synthesizers as well as percussion. The dreadful lyrics are by Michael Quartermain and Winwood. I find the best bits of the album are those when Yamash’ta and Schulze are going all cosmic and weird with their synthesizers. Apart from that, the main styles of the album veer between slightly funky stuff that is okay in parts but fairly forgettable, and cheesy loungy lite-funk-crooning AM sleaze with Winwood in control, that takes itself far too seriously. These latter bits set my teeth on edge and are what make me reluctant to listen to the whole album very much. Unfortunately many tracks segue together seamlessly making it hard to skip tracks on the LP. ‘Go Live From Paris’ [Island, 1976] was a live version of the ‘Go’ album which I’ve been told is not much different. ‘Go Too’ [Arista, 1977] in my opinion seemed to take all the worst, most commercial moves from the ‘Go’ album and distilled them into most of the album, leaving only a few slightly interesting moments – again, generally those comprising mostly of synthesizer work. Winwood had left before this album, but his legacy remained. All three albums have recently been reissued together by Raven, good news for the many people who love these albums [and who probably all hate me now!].
In 1980 Yamash’ta retired temporarily to a Buddhist temple, before re-emerging in the music world with a more minimal, cosmic and experimental direction. ‘Iroha’ [RVC, 1981] was a double album, featuring music for some kind of ritual theatre performance. The music was a really radical turn for Yamash’ta, being a varied high quality tapestry of experimental electronic music, percussion and ritualistic chanting from the serene to the weird. I’m not sure what Yamash’ta actually performed on this, as the LP notes credit Yamash’ta for production only, with the sole instrumental credit going to Sen Izumi for playing the synths, and there is clearly more than synths to be heard here [unless there’s a skilful use of samplers]. I’ve also seen a single-LP version of this album, with a different cover. Following albums I haven’t heard include ‘Iroha-sui’ [RVC, 1982], ‘Tempest’ [soundtrack, 1982], ‘Iroha-ka’ [RVC, 1983], ‘Sea and Sky’ , ‘Solar Dream Vol. 2: Fantasy of Sanukit’ [Kosei, 1990] and ‘Solar Dream Vol. 1: The Eternal Present’ [Kosei, 1993].
– there was only one album with this ensemble, the excellent ‘Floating Music’ [Island, 1972]. It was made in England with British musicians, the second side of the album recorded live at Queen Elizabeth Hall. At this time Yamash’ta was attracting rave reviews in the UK press. All instrumental, it’s hard to describe the different areas this album inhabits. Broadly it can be said to be a Japanese-tinged progressive rock with jazz rock leanings spread across 4 long tracks. There’s no guitar, but I hardly notice! Shortly after, Come To The Edge broke up, and drummer Morris Pert assembled a new [unnamed] trio including bassist Alyn Ross and Come To The Edge pianist Peter Robinson. Next, Yamash’ta made an album with this new group, plus other musicians and Red Buddha Theatre [see below].
– one of Stomu’s best groups, notably featuring ex-Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper. Yamash’ta played drums and percussion, Hisako Yamash’ta played violin, Gary Boyle played guitar [and had played on 1 track on ‘The Man From the East’ – see below] and Brian Gasgoine played keyboards. Their first album, ‘Freedom is Frightening’ [Island, 1973], is a great slab of progressive rock with Canterbury jazz and psychedelic influences – it could perhaps be said to reside somewhere between King Crimson and Soft Machine. Shortly after they recorded a very different album, ‘Soundtrack to the Film One By One’ [Island, 1974]. This featured the same members as the previous album, but with the addition of Nigel Morris and Mike Travis on drums, Sammi Abu on vocals, congas and flute, and Frank Tankowski and Bernie Holland on guitar. I believe the film was in some way about racing car drivers. Musically it’s pretty diverse, ranging from bass-heavy progressive jazz rock grooves approaching Isotope, a bit of Vivaldi, and some queasy crooning [hinting at the Steve Winwood-influenced days to come, with the Go band] to more experimental sound bites.
– Red Buddha Theatre were a Japanese theatre company formed in 1971; Yamash’ta was their producer, director and composer. In 1972 Yamash’ta brought them to Europe to perform. During this time he had been performing and recording with Come To The Edge in London [see above], and when the Red Buddha Theatre came to town in 1973 there was a collaboration between Yamash’ta, the theatre, some new musicians, and a new group including remnants of Come To The Edge. As well as performing the theatre piece ‘The Man From The East’, a partly live album was recorded, ‘The Soundtrack From “The Man From The East”’ [Island, 1973]. The 2 longest tracks [live in Paris] were done by a lineup including Pert and bassist Phil Plant from Come To The Edge, plus organist Maggie Newlands and 7 Japanese musicians [not including Yamash’ta]. Saxophonist Robin Thompson from Come To The Edge played on one track; the other tracks used Pert’s post-CTTE trio plus Yamash’ta. There’s also a guitarist, Gary Boyle, who only plays on one track but later played with East Wind [see above]. It’s a very varied album, and hard to describe [as with many of Yamash’ta’s better albums]. The music is a bit like that from the Come To The Edge album, but in my opinion not as consistently great. It ranges from sedate, eastern-tinged progressive, to more upbeat stuff, jazzy touches, accessible stuff hinting at what would come with his later Steve Winwood collaborations, and even some slightly symphonic prog reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’. After this, Yamash’ta grouped up with some more musicians [some new, some the same] for the band ‘East Wind’ [see above].
– this combo made one album that I know of, ‘Sunrise From West Sea Live’ [London, 1971], one of his rarest and [reputedly] best and most experimental. As well as Yamash’ta on percussion, it features Masahiko Satoh on electric organ, Takehisa Kosugi on electric violin and Hideakira Sakurai [see above for all] on koto, shamisen & percussion.
– the music on ‘Metempsychosis’ [Columbia, 1971] was composed by Satoh, and recorded with Satoh on piano, Yamash’ta on percussion and Miyama Toshiyuki & New Herd Orchestra on everything else. Being very rare and un-reissued I’m yet to hear it, but it is reputedly an excellent cosmic avant-garde journey – in ‘Japrocksampler’, Julian Cope called it “a bizarre hybrid of Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation and John Coltrane’s Ascension”.
– not really a Japanese thing, but mentioned here because it appears to be. Intended as a French/Japanese cross-cultural choreography project, Yamasuki was conceived by two French pop composers who went to the trouble to learn Japanese for it. They collaborated with a children’s choir and some conductors to produce the album ‘Le Monde Fabuleux des Yamasuki’ [Biram, 1971]. Although it sounds Japanese, with authentic Japanese language vocals and styles [to non-Japanese ears, at least], I don’t think any Japanese people were actually involved. The album is enjoyable but nothing amazing – largely orchestrated progressive pop rock with a cool/kitschy blend of cultural styles and innocent approach. It sounds kind of like a much more accessible version of Tokyo Kid Brothers circa ‘Throw Away the Books’. The album was recently reissued on CD by Finders Keepers. The Yamasuki, incidentally, was a dance briefly popular in France at the time.
– bass player who had been in The Mikes, Samurai, Friends [see above] and Free. He made a solo album while briefly back in Japan from the UK, ‘Tetsu’ [Columbia/Propeller, 1971 – some say 1972], reputedly consisting of hard rock with the occasional psychedelic touch – though others have said it’s mostly acoustic. Later, after Free, he joined The Faces.
– this keyboardist really got around! He was in Apryl Fool, Foodbrain, Masahiko Satoh & Sound Brakers, Love Live Life + One and Yuigonka, and also played on Shinki Chen’s solo album. In 1969 he was also in the band for the Japanese production of ‘Hair’. Throughout this time he was putting out solo albums with some of the same musicians, such as Kimio Mizutani [see above]. His debut was ‘Milk Time’ [Liberty, 1970], which has a cool photo of a stern-looking gorilla on the cover, done by the same artist who did the Foodbrain album cover. The backing band included Hiro Tsunoda from Foodbrain, Strawberry Path and Flied Egg [see above], guitarist Kimio Mizutani and electric violinist Hiroki Tamaki [see above], as well as flautist Nozumu Nakatani and bassist Keiju Ishikawa [ex-Fujio Dynamite – see Fujio Yamaguchi above; later played with Far Out and Akira Ito – see above]. The music is in part similar to Foodbrain, but more varied, with lighter, jaunty short tracks and some tripped out sounds.
This was followed by ‘Hiro Yanagida’ [Atlantic, 1971], with great cartoon psychedelic artwork. He’s again joined by Kimio Mizutani, and Joey Smith from Speed, Glue & Shinki [see above] sings on one track, a silly doo-wop ballad! The album as a whole covers slightly similar territory to that of ‘Milk Time’, though more accomplished, and some of the mellower keyboard-oriented stuff here is a bit more experimental and progressive. One track reminds me of Supersister and oddly, Stereolab from more than 20 years later! His 3rd album, ‘Hiro’ [URC, 1972], seems to be obscure and I can’t find any information about it. ‘Hirocosmos’ [CBS, 1973] was totally different to the first two albums, consisting wholly of excellent keyboard and synth dominated progressive fusion. There are a few more album which I know nothing about - ‘UFO’ [CBS, 1978], ‘Shichi Sai No Rojin Tengoku’ [label? year?] and ‘Ma-Ya’ [Substance, 2003]. ‘Milk Time’ was reissued on CD by P-Vine, but appears to be out of print; ‘Hiro Yanagida’ and ‘Hirocosmos’ have been reissued on CD by Showboat and are tricky to track down outside of Japanese retailers.
Yanagida played on J.A. Caesar’s ‘Matihedeyou Syowosuteyo’ [and probably other Caesar albums – see above], and also recorded some material with Tokyo Kid Brothers [see above].
– an obscure group who made at least one album, ‘Yasumi No Kuni’ [URC, 1971]. Their music was a kind of folky psych-pop with interesting textures due to a wide array of musical instruments used. It’s quite a nice album but nothing remarkable.This album has been reissued on CD by Prime.
– a hardcore heavy rock trio led by bassist/vocalist Taisuke Morishita. Unfortunately they made no albums, but later some low-fi live recordings from 1972 were released on the rarities 2-LP compilation ‘Underground Tracks ‘70’s’ [Dead Flower]. Morishita switched to guitar and formed Be in 1973, a country rock group whose only recordings – live stuff from 1975 – were issued on the same compilation.
– a well known quirky Kraftwerk-like avant-garde electro-pop group, often known as YMO for short; their albums are actually more stylistically varied than the Kraftwerk tag would suggest, and with a sunnier and cheesier disposition. They were formed in 1978 by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see above], Haruomi Hosono [see above] and Yukihiro Takahashi. Their first album was ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ . The next, ‘Solid State Survivor’ , sold very well and led to the band going on a world tour. Following albums include ‘Public Pressure’ , ‘Xoo Multiplies’ , BGM [1981; is this the ‘Background Music’ album – see below?], ‘Technodelic’ , ‘Service’ , ‘After Service’ , ‘People With Nice Smiles’ , ‘Naughty Boys’ , ‘Fakerholic’ , ‘Technodon’  and ‘Live At The Greak [sp.?] Theater 1997’ .
– this group made two albums. The first, ‘Elevation’ [Express/Toshiba, 1970], was arranged by Masahiko Satoh [see above], but I haven’t heard it. ‘Flute Adventure (Le Soleil Était Encore Chaud)’ [London NEWS, 1971] was a mostly excellent album mixing spaced psychedelic jams with fuzz guitar and flute, and swingin’ jazz pop. It was recently reissued on CD by King .
– a progressive rock band who are highly regarded by some. Their first album was ‘Hatachi-No Genten’ [Toho, 1973], the soundtrack for a film of the same name. Aside from some brief moments of great funky progressive rock and Floydian spaciness, it’s mainly gentle, dreamy songs with predominant vocals, acoustic guitar and/or organ. This has been reissued on CD as ‘Early Days (Hatachi-No Genten + Live)’ [P-Vine], though I’m not sure if these live tracks were part of the soundtrack, and they only amount to less than 20 minutes of music, including an excellent lengthy heavy rocker reminiscent of Deep Purple. Their second album – or first album, if you don’t count the soundtrack – was ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ (‘Explosive Situation’) [Tam, 1974]. In the Ultima Thule shop catalogue this album is compared favorably to Flower Travellin’ Band and Far East Family Band. Repeated listens have revealed traces of stuff that sound like only the worst side of FEFB [see my comments above for what I mean by that], and no trace of anything that reminds me of FTB except possibly bits of their last album. On the whole I find this album an uneasy mix of icky mainstream soft rock [hinting at yawn/cringe-inducing AOR] and occasionally an excellent blend of heavy psychedelic progressive styles. These good bits remind me perhaps of a ‘proggier’ Deep Purple, Yes, Utopia, and Sahara circa ‘Sunrise’. The album ends oddly on a smooth soul-funk groove! On the downside there are no songs that I thought were great all the way through – many of the tracks have great bits diluted with lots of stuff I would call mildly embarrassing. The album artwork is cute, the front showing a sloth with glassy red orbs of eyes smoking a pipe! This album has been reissued on CD by Hagakure.
These guys released some more albums which I know nothing about – ‘Golden Picnics’ [CBS, 1976], ‘Painted Jelly’ [Canyon, 1977], ‘Live ‘73’ [Toho, 1978], ‘Pao’ – which I’ve also seen listed as ‘Bao’ [Canyon, 1978], ‘Neo-N’ [Canyon, 1979], ‘Dance’ [BGM/Victor, 1989], ‘Live Full House Matinee’ [BGM/Victor, 1990] and Live 2002, which would seem to make it clear that this band is still active despite the break during the 80’s. There is a bootleg CD from Black Rose containing ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ and ‘Live ‘73’ on one disc. The Ultima Thule catalogue review of this disc makes comparisons to Cosmos Factory and Food Brain. Regarding ‘Ishoku-Sokuhatsu’ [see above] I can only detect slight comparisons to Cosmos Factory, and no comparison at all to Food Brain; ‘Live ‘73’ is largely live versions of stuff from the same album and also doesn’t display any likeness to Food Brain, except on one track.
– a respected bass player who made his own 5-string stand-up electric bass, and was renowned as a freeform player. He was apparently a leading figure in Japanese free jazz in the late 60’s and early 70’s, playing with monster guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi [see above]. He made many albums until his death, including numerous collaborations with others such as Masahiko Togashi [see above]. Early albums include ‘Inland Fish’ , ‘Outfit’  and ‘Cracked Mirrors’ [?/PSF, 1975]. The latter is a solo album with some collaborators in fellow freeform bassist Barre Phillips & Steve Lacy, and is reputedly great “bowed, flowing higher-key music for the spheres”. Amongst numerous collaborations, he played on the 2-LP ‘Epiphany’ album by Company, along with a variety of folks such as Keith Tippetts, Julie Tippetts, Derek Bailey and Fred Frith.
‘From the Faraway Nearby’ [Modern Music/PSF, 1991] is a solo recording with bass, electronics and ‘quadriplex’ multitracking. ‘Angels Have Passed’ [PSF, 1992] contains live improvisations by Yoshizawa, Takehisa Kosugi [see above] on violin, and Haruna Miyake on piano. It’s interesting, and sometimes entrancing, free improvisation but a bit too ‘free’ overall for my liking – albums like this just make me wish they’d settle into some kind of groove or melody for a change. Yoshizawa provided prominent backing on a 1995 album by Kazuki Tomokawa [see above]. ‘Uzu’ [PSF, 1996] is a collaboration credited to Barre Phillips and Motoharu Yoshizawa. The Forced Exposure website entry says of this album “Yoshizawa’s otherworldly circling electric soundscapes collide and fuse with Phillips’ mastery of acoustic human textures in an orgy of sensitivity, pure inventiveness”. ‘Okidoki’ [Chap Chap Records, 1998] was recorded between 1993-94, and contains 2 lengthy live jams with guests Barre Phillips on double bass and Kim Dae Hwan on percussion.
In the last few years of his life, he joined the group Gyaatees [see below].
– an avant-garde composer and electronic musician, and friend of Toru Takemitsu [see above], active since the mid-50’s. He had a side of music on the 2-LP ‘Orchestral Space’ [Victor, 1968], alongside Yuji Takahashi, Toshi Ichiyanagi and Toru Takemitsu. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 1’ [Omega Point, 2004] consists of two long pieces by Yuasa – the vocal musique concrete ‘Aoi No Ue’ from 1961, approaching the strangeness of The Residents’ ‘Eskimo’, and the electronic ‘My Blue Sky (No. 1)’ from 1975. ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 4 - Music For Theatrical Drama’ [Omega Point, 2004] contains two long works from 1959 [the extraordinary classical/musique concrete mash-up ‘Three Worlds’] and 1963 [the minimal electronics and tape manipulated instruments of ‘A Woman Named En’]. One of his shorter pieces, ‘Moment Grand-Guignolesques’ from 1962 [featuring Group Ongaku – see above], is found on ‘Obscure Tape Music of Japan Vol. 2’ [Omega Point, 2004], alongside music by Kuniharu Akayima [see above], as ‘Music For Puppet Theatre of Hitomi-Za’.
– an obscure psychedelic group led by Itsuro Shimoda from Tokyo Kid Brothers [see above]. They made one album, ‘Yuigonka’ aka ‘Endless Endless’ [Philips, 1971], apparently featuring Kimio Mizutani and Hiro Yanagida [see above]. It’s quite remarkable, if a little patchy, but the good bits are just so damn good. Overall it’s like a blend of early J.A. Caesar and Tokyo Kid Brothers styles [with the same penchant for folk ballads, fierce acid rock-outs, snatches of street recordings and evocative traditional Japanese music], but as though they had recorded with Dieter Dierks for the LSD-drenched Cosmic Couriers label. There are some tracks that are more like oldtimey singalongs, but don’t let that put you off hearing the rest of it. Some of the lyrics were contributed by Tokyo Kid Brother Yutaka Higashi and Tenjo Sajiki’s Shuji Terayama. This album has been reissued as a mid-price CD [Naked Line/Universal, 2007].
– formed in 1982 by vocalist Haco, After Dinner were an avant-garde progressive group inspired by Art Bears, and Haco’s vocals have been compared to those of Art Bears’ Dagmar Krause. They released three albums that I know of, ‘After Dinner’ [ReR, 1984], ‘Paradise of Replica’ [ReR, 1989] and ‘Tribalism’ [label? 1994]. I’ve heard only the first of these, which does have some broad similarities to Art Bears, but is more diverse and experimental, often downright odd! It has been reissued on CD by ReR with an album’s worth of live bonus material recorded between 1986-1990 [‘Live Editions’].
– formed by guitarist Kawabata Makoto [then 13] with friends, who were all non-musicians at the time and thus taught themselves by improvising from scratch, even making some of their own instruments at first out of necessity. The intent at the beginning was to fuse hard rock with electronics – eg. Makoto’s idea was Deep Purple + Stockhausen. Add to this that their music was improvised but groping towards form, we can only guess what they sounded like, although they were unpopular perhaps due to clashing with current trends. They played together and did gigs between Nara and Osaka for numerous years, in the process starting their own cassette label R.E.P. [Revolutionary Extrication Project] on which they released their own recordings. Their debut tape ‘Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai’ [R.E.P., 198?] was recorded in Makoto’s high school lab store room, using beakers and pots as percussion along with electronics; it’s reputedly a bit like early Nurse With Wound meets Amon Düül. This has only been reissued as part of the limited edition Makoto 10-CD box set ‘Learning From the Past’ [label? year?] and as an LP picture disc on the Italian Qbico label. Makoto has also made solo releases as well as with his famed group Acid Mothers Temple and other projects [see above and below].
– some kind of electronic progressive group involving Hiro Kawahara from Osiris [see above] & Heretic [see below]. They released three albums on cassette only – ‘Shadow Illusion’ , ‘Vista Under Arc Light’  and ‘100% Odd Lots Session’ .
– a progressive group inspired by Camel and Mike Oldfield. They released two albums, ‘Circle in the Forest’ [King, 1988] and ‘Brilliant Streams’ [King, 1990], before breaking up. They reformed recently as more of a chamber music ensemble, and released another album, ‘Bird Eyes View’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005], which is unfortunately only 25 minutes long.
– a symphonic progressive jazz rock group who have been making demos since the late 80’s, but only recently released an album – ‘The Awkward Age’s End’ . Guitarist Masahiro Noda had also been in Interface [see below].
– this group released an album ‘B.G.M.’ [Vanity, 1980] on the experimental Vanity label, and by extension may well be of interest. It’s been described as ‘minimal experimental techno pop’. However, there’s a Yellow Magic Orchestra [see below] album of the same title that I’ve seen dated as from 1981, and I’m forced to wonder if this is the same thing but with the date of release gotten wrong.
– a symphonic prog band inspired largely by Camel, featuring bassist Masahiro Torigaki from Ain Soph [see above]. They only have two albums that I know of, ‘Firefly’ [Made in Japan, 1987; reissued Musea, 1996] and ‘Delphi’ [Belle Antique, 1995].
– a progressive rock band formed in 1984, featuring the drummer of Interface [see below]. I’ve got no idea what they sound like. They’ve made numerous albums - ‘Tekkin Omnibus I’ [1987, cassette], ‘Yellow Sky/Long For Lan’ [1988, cassette], ‘Melodies Park II’ [BBM, 1989], ‘Yellow Sky’ [1989, cassette, remixed instrumental], ‘Benikarin’ [1990, cassette; reissued on CD – Horen, 2001] and ‘Long Into the Edge’ [Long-In, 1991].
– a legendary group formed in 1986, including 2 ex-Hanataresh members, Yamatsuka/Yamantaka/Yamataka Eye and Ikuo Taketani, as well as guitarist Tabara Mata [who soon left to join Zeni Geva – see below] and bassist Hosoi. Numerous line-up changes have taken place over the years, with Eye remaining constant, and these days the group is very percussion-heavy. Over the years they’ve mutated constantly, from avant-punk to disjointed psychedelic avant-punk-prog-rock to enlightened inner-space rock for the new era. Not counting cassettes, singles and EP’s, these are their albums - ‘Osorezan no Stooges Kyo’ [Selfish, 1988]; ‘Soul Discharge ‘99’ [Selfish, 1989]; ‘Pop Tatari’ [WEA Japan, 1992]; ‘Wow 2’ [Avant, 1993] (live in studio, supervised by John Zorn); ‘Onanie Bomb Meets the Sexpistols’ [numerous labels, 1994]; ‘Chocolate Synthesizer’ [100%/WEA, 1994]; ‘Super æ’ [WEA, 1998] clearly hints at the masterwork to follow, with lots of pure-vibed harmonious psychedelic stuff, as well as lots of cut-up and fucked-up weirdness reminiscent of their older stuff; ‘Vision Creation Newsun’ [WEA, 1999] (2-CD limited edition box set version); ‘Vision Creation Newsun’ [WEA, 2000] was the group’s masterwork in the opinion of many [although alienating some fans of the earlier stuff]. I kind of got the impression from listening to it on mushrooms that the group had collectively reached a state of enlightenment! It flows more or less as a unified thematic whole, very organic yet high-tech at the same time. It’s a pure-vibed white light psychedelic epic, largely undescribable but with occasional reference points [or perhaps tributes] to bands such as Hawkwind and Neu! Music for a new age [not a New Age!].
There are numerous ‘EPs’ in the ‘Super Roots’ series dating from 1993-1999, some of which are very short, others full-length releases which shouldn’t be called EP’s. There are also several remix albums of recent material, ‘Rebore Vol. 1’ [WEA, 2000] (remixed by DJ Unkle), ‘Rebore Vol. 2’ [WEA, 2000] (remixed by DJ Ken Ishii), ‘Rebore Vol. 3’ [Warner Japan, 2001] (remixed by DJ Krush) and ‘Rebore Vol. 0: Vision Recreation by Eye’ [Warner Japan, 2001] (remixed by Eye).
These days the group is known as V¥rdoms, and they apparently plan not to make albums but just play live. However, they recently released a new album as The Boredoms – ‘Seadrum/House Of Sun’ [Warner Bros, 2004], which I have been told was recorded a few years earlier. It features just two long tracks, the titles of which are found in the album title. Seadrum was partly recorded literally in the ocean[!], with the accent on percussion and whole-earth vibes, all treated and mixed in the more recent hallucinogenic Boredoms fashion. House Of Sun is more relaxed, meditative and cosmic – simply beautiful, like the very mellow side of early Ash Ra Tempel and Achim Reichel perhaps.
There are also countless Boredoms offshoots and side projects, sometimes venturing into radically different styles, of which only a few are mentioned elsewhere here.
– a keyboard-dominated progressive rock band with few vocals, who have been compared to ELP and ‘Relayer’-era Yes. Not to be confused with the US prog band of the same name. Their first album was ‘Chakra’ [Victor, 1980], produced by Makoto Yano from Moonriders [see above]. On ‘Satekoso’ [Victor, 1981] they were joined by Hideki Matsutake and Haruomi Hosono from Yellow Magic Orchestra [see above]; this album was reputedly more experimental. Their last album ‘Nanyo de Yoisho’ [VAP, 1983] was a mini-album, and the group was now only two people, using guest musicians to complete the recordings. By this time they were much more pop-oriented, and the group soon fell apart
– a kind of psych-pop group featuring Tori Kudo [Maher Shalal Hash Baz] and Chie Mukai. On ‘Live 1996’ [PSF, 199?] these folks play mostly slow, melancholic psych with [what I think is] viola and vocals that are often annoyingly out of key – though some people like them for this attribute and, presumably, don’t find it annoying. The bass and drums are well-played though, and the guitar is understated but perfect for the music. It’s all pretty accessible and structured, pleasant but nothing too great for my ears. There are two other albums which I haven’t heard – ‘Nazareth’ [PSF, 199?], which is live from 1981, and ‘A Journey’ [PSF, 199?].
– symphonic prog band formed in 1984 by university students; they had previously been called Clashed Ice, as a part of the university’s progressive music club. Deja-vu made one album, ‘Baroque in the Future’ [Made in Japan, 1988; reissued Musea, 1998]. They broke up in 1989 while making a second album. Keyboardist Motoi Sakuraba [see below] went on to a solo career. Ken Ishita [bassist on some tracks] also played with Ars Nova. Keyboardist Tomoki Ueno also played with Outer Limits, Gerard and Marge Litch. Drummer Genta Kudo also played drums and acoustic guitar with Due, Eiko Plus, Vermillion Sands and Kirche.
– some kind of electronic progressive group involving Hiro Kawahara from Osiris [see above]. They released four cassette-only albums – the imaginatively-titled ‘1’ , ‘2’ , ‘3’  and ‘4’ .
– a one-man group with one album that I know of, ‘Enema Project’ . It’s pretty diverse but mostly experimental and very good, veering between 80’s new wave [rarely] and stranger avant-electro stuff that occasionally reminds me of Phew’s debut, Snakefinger and Der Plan.
– a strange experimental group including Kimitaka Matsumae. They released one album that I know of, ‘Do The Expo!’ [GMO, 1987], which is reputedly comparable to a blend of Picky Picnic and Tipographica [see below].
– a progressive band of some kind who made at least one album, ‘Flying Teacup’ [Private, 1981]; I would guess from the name that they were inspired by Gong, and I hope so, too! More Gong-inspired bands can’t be a bad thing.
– a melodic symphonic prog band with lots of vocals and solos, and a slightly poppy touch; they’ve been compared to numerous UK neo-prog bands of the same period. Formed in the late 70’s, they initially featured guitarist Ikkou Nakajima [later in Pageant – see below] and keyboardist Toshio Egawa [Gerard, Novela, Scheherezade], though both had left before the first album. Fromage made three albums – ‘Ondine’ [Belle Antique, 1984], ‘Ophelia’ [Belle Antique, 1988] and ‘Tsukini-Hoeru’ . They broke up around 1993, and some members went on to Cinema [see below].
– a noisy free ‘psychedelic’ rock group formed in 1978 by permanently black-bedecked guitarist Keiji Haino [ex-Lost Aaraaff, see above]. What I’ve heard has been largely, to my ears, pretty much unlistenable [beyond a point] feedback-laden sheets of guitar noise, with barely a cohesive groove of any kind audible from beneath it all. However, Haino fans insist that there’s more to it than that but I can’t see why anyone would want to own more than one of these albums, and I find it hard to want to even listen to a whole Fushitsusha album all the way through before getting bored with the noisy monotony of it all. This group has released many albums, and all of the ones I’ve seen are almost [or entirely] all-black. Alan Cummings recommended their 2nd ‘Live’ 2-CD set released on PSF [year?] as a good starting point.
– an instrumental progressive fusion band with two guitarists and no keyboards; they’ve been compared to Brand X, Side Steps and Kenso [see below]. They made at least one album, ‘G.A.O.S.’ [1987; reissued by Musea Parallele, 2001].
– a symphonic progressive rock group formed in the early 80’s by keyboardist Toshio Egawa, who had just left Novela. They’ve been compared to Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Genesis, and have released quite a few albums – ‘Gerard’ , ‘Empty Lie, Empty Dream’ , ‘Irony of Fate’ , ‘Save Knight By The Knight’ , ‘Evidence of True Love’ [1994; a mini-CD], ‘The Pendulum’ , ‘Pandora’s Box’ , ‘Meridian’ , ‘Live at Marseille’ , ‘The Ruins of a Glass Fortress’ [Musea, 2000], ‘Sighs of the Water’  and ‘Power of Infinity’ [Musea, 2005].
– sometimes referred to as Japan’s Heldon, and admired by Heldon’s Richard Pinhas. Heretic were a highly regarded Kyoto progressive electronic rock band formed by Hiro Kawahara, ex-Osiris [see above], and influenced by Heldon, King Crimson & Ashra. They’ve put out numerous albums which I haven’t heard – ‘Interface’ [Sound of Poppy, 1985], ‘Escape Sequence’ [Belle Antique, 1988], ‘1984-88’ [Belle Antique, 1994 – compilation of previous 2 LP’s plus an extra track], ‘Past In Future’ [CDR, 1996], ‘Yayoi Dream’ [Belle Antique, 1996] and ‘Drugging For M’ [Belle Antique, 1997].
– a post-punk psych rock group with keyboards and jangly guitars, and a leaning towards shoe-gazing downer melancholy and plodding rhythms. Their first album ‘Original First Album’ [Org, 1989] is ok but nothing that great, and sometimes veers a bit close to dull indie rock, but overall it’s ‘progressive’ enough to possibly warrant some interest amongst some people. It’s been reissued on CD by Alchemy . This group may have released a second album.
– a duo of Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita, who played electronic music influenced by 70’s German pioneers. ‘1984 Pithecanthropus’ [3D, 1999] consists of live recordings from a 1984 gig, as well as some studio-quality demos from 1978 and a recording from 1998 at the end. The live stuff is often percussive and out-front, sometimes almost cheesily melodic like some Harmonia, whereas the other tracks are more ambient and cosmic. They have released at least one other album, ‘Music For Myxomycetes’ , which may have also been recorded in the 80’s.
– a heavy progressive band formed in the mid-80’s; guitar synth player Masahiro Noda had previously been bassist in Azoth [see above]. At first they played punky new wave and heavy rock, but soon they incorporated a strong King Crimson influence. Noda and stick player Kouji Ishii played on the Heretic album ‘Drugging For M’. Drummer Katsuyori Aihara is also in progressive rock band Benikarin. They’ve released at least 3 albums including ‘Interface’ [199?], ‘II’ [199?] and ‘III’ [Mellow, 2000].
– a progressive rock group consisting of guitarist Mitsuhiko Izumi [ex-Dada, After Dinner – see above], keyboardist Juju Kitaoka, saxophonist Kohji Itoh and drummer Takashi Yasuda. They released only two albums that I know of. Their debut was ‘Twinkling Nasa’ [King-Nexus, 1986], reputedly ‘spacey with mellotron’. ‘Kennedy!’ [Monolith, 1987; reissued by Musea, 1999] is live, and is mostly pretty driving stuff, obviously influenced by King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, though with [sometimes cheesy] 80’s new wave edges. They even cover a Mahavishnu song [‘Birds of Fire’], as well as an old Dada track [‘The Flying Ship’]. The album has a great cover, showing a network of golden radiant Buddhas!
– a progressive rock group who are still around now. Their music is generally a blend of jazz-rock-fusion, harder rock and symphonic prog, although their style and breadth has evolved considerably over the years. Their first album was ‘Kenso’ [Pam, 1980], followed by ‘II’ , ‘III’ [King/Nexus, 1985], ‘Music For Five Unknown Musicians’ , ‘Self Portrait’ , ‘Sparta’ , ‘Yume No Oka’ , ‘Sora Ni Hikaru’ , ‘Live 92’ , ‘Inei No Fue (Early Live 2)’ , ‘Early Live’ , ‘In The West’ [1997 – live] and ‘Esoptron’ . The earlier stuff, such as ‘III’, has more of a fusion basis, as well as prog influences such as Camel and Gentle Giant, whereas later stuff such as ‘Esoptron’ touches on more avant-prog influences such as Happy Family and Bondage Fruit [see below].
– an unusual avant-garde group with only three releases that I know of – ‘Bob’ [1986; 12” EP reissued in 1988 with bonus tracks], ‘Skip’ [1987; 12” EP] and ‘Irene’ [Absord, 1988]. Their music had some similarities to that of Wha-Ha-Ha [see below], but their own brand of weirdness was less chaotic and more low-key, with more straight/schmaltzy elements that are subverted into something altogether odd – excellent, but pretty hard to describe.
– a ‘psychedelic inner-space rock’ group formed in the late 70’s. They took a while to record an album, ‘1st’ [PSF, 1990]. I don’t know of any other albums except a collaboration with Masayoshi Urabe [who’s known for doing pretty full-on noisy stuff with saxophone and objects] – ‘The Dark Spot’ [PSF, year?]. I’ve heard one track by them from the ‘Tokyo Flashback 2’ PSF sampler, which was basically trudging, chaotic downer acid rock with fuzz bass and guitar all over the place, although mellower and spacier at the beginning. I imagine Terry Brooks & Strange might have sounded like this after 10 bong hits too many!
– these guys played a mostly sedate form of RIO that leans towards chamber music, but with a bit of an avant-garde edge. They’re often compared to Univers Zero. They released several albums that I know of, ‘Lacrymosa’ , ‘Budbear’ , ‘Gishin Onki’  and ‘Joy Of The Wrecked Ship’ .
– a song-based progressive rock group influenced by UK symphonic prog; not to be confused with the Basque group of the same name. They made one album, ‘Magdalena’ [Musea, 1987]. They broke up in 1988, and vocalist Megumi Tokuhisa joined Teru’s Symphonia [see below].
– a cult ‘avant-psychedelic’ underground band centered around guitarist/vocalist Tori Kudo. From the little I’ve heard they sound pretty sloppy, half-baked and uninspired, with the occasional shimmer of something beautiful. Their style has all kinds of elements to it and can’t be easily summed up. Some people attribute genius to this group – but some people would attribute genius to a child’s crayon scrawls if they were passed off as the work of an adult avant-garde artist. Maybe I’m being too unkind, and sorry to offend fans of Kudo’s work – but I wouldn’t hesitate to make the same comments about supposed genius when referring to ultra-crap group Reynols. According to PSF, “call Maher inept and you miss the point entirely”. Well, so be it…
Their releases include ‘M.S.H.B. Vol. 1’ [cassette; D’s Label, 1985], ‘Pass Over Musings’ [cassette; D’s Label, 1985], ‘January 14th, 1989 Maher Goes to Gothic Country’ [Org Records, 1991], ‘Return Visit To Rockmass’ [3-LP/3-CD; Org Records, 1997] and ‘From a Summer to Another Summer (An Egypt to Another Egypt’ [Geographic, 2000].
– formed in 1987. Apparently this group started out as a Blue Cheer-inspired psychedelic rock band, though they soon changed to a more jammy, accessible psych rock style reminiscent in parts of the Grateful Dead. They’ve released many albums, including ‘Marble Sheep & The Run-Down Sun’s Children’ [Alchemy, 1990], ‘Big Deal’ [Captain Trip, 1992], ‘Old From New Heads’ [Captain Trip, 1993], ‘Twiga’ [Captain Trip, 1993], ‘Whirl Live’ [2-CD; Captain Trip, 1994], ‘Psychedelic Paradise’ [Captain Trip, 1995], ‘Shinjuku Loft’ [Cold Spring/Captain Trip, 1995], ‘Circle Vs. Marble Sheep’ [Captain Trip, 1998], ‘Stone Marby’ [Captain Trip, 2001] and ‘For Demolition Of A Spiritual Framework’ [Captain Trip, 2003]
– a symphonic prog-metal group. Keyboardist Tomoki Ueno had been in Deja-vu [see above]. Their albums include ‘Rainbow Knight’ , ‘Star Light’ , ‘The Force of Trinity’ , ‘Mage Lich’ [sic.?] , ‘Prologue’ , ‘Fantasien’ , ‘The Ring of Truth’ [Made in Japan, 1992], the 2-CD ‘Crystal Heart in the Fountain’ [Made in Japan, 1995], ‘Fantasien’ re-recorded [Musea, 1998] and ‘Particulioh’ . Keyboardist Yuhki Nakajima joined after Castle in the Air [see below] broke up.
– another symphonic progressive rock group. They’ve released a few albums – ‘Beyond the Clean Air’ [Made in Japan, 1988], ‘Midas II’ [Belle Antique, 1996], ‘Third Operation’ [Belle Antique, 1999], ‘International Popular Album’ [King, 2000] and ‘In Concert (Live)’ [Belle Antique, 2002].
– this guy formed Far Out and the Far East Family Band [see above]. He studied acupuncture in the US in the late 70’s and returned to Japan in 1981 as a music therapist, releasing many albums of tranquil, meditative electronic music on his own label, Biwa. The best known of these are ‘Meditation – Meisou’, ‘Birth – Tanjou’ and ‘Peace – Yasuragi’, and many were released just as by ‘Fumio’.
– a symphonic prog band with jazzy and Canterbury touches. Their first release was an LP – ‘Eternal Jealousy’ . They made three albums – ‘Barren Dream’ [Made in Japan, 1986], ‘Dirge’ [King, 1990] and ‘Incredible Tour’ [Made in Japan, 1994; rec. ’89-‘91]. ‘Crystal Voyage’  compiled recordings from earlier, when they were called Sirius. Singer Hiroko Nagai was also in Pageant [see below].
– a symphonic prog band formed in 1978, influenced by Tony Banks, Genesis, Le Orme and The Enid. Their first album was ‘Symphonia Della Luna’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1984], followed by ‘Leda et le Cygne’ [Made in Japan, 1986], often considered their best. This album featured guests from Outer Limits and Pageant. The third album was ‘The Princess of Kingdom Gone’ [Made in Japan, 1988]. ‘Vento di Primavera’ [label? year?] appears to contain recordings dating from before the first album.
– an obscure experimental group formed in 1980 by Satoshi Katayama and Hiroshi Oikawa. Together they released one album, ‘Nord #1’ [Pinakotheca Records, 1981] in a limited edition of 300 copies. The Soundohm website says “side one is meditative, with repetitive electronic loops. Second long side is a terrific noisy space drone”. This isn’t quite accurate. None of the music is what most people would consider ‘meditative’. What we have here is slightly cosmic industrial experimental music and musique concrete, hinting at Kluster, MEV, Seesselberg and the like, some tracks also featuring noisy, fractured guitar scrapings. Side two doesn’t sound spacey to me, except perhaps in the last 5 minutes where it could be reminiscent of the sounds inside a space capsule with everything malfunctioning, warning beeps going off everywhere! The rest is pretty grating, sounding like a team of 200 people breaking a running steam train down to atoms using all manner of noisy power tools.
They went their separate ways in 1982, but both continued to perform individually as Nord. Oikawa recorded again with his newly-formed label, LSD Records. This Nord released ‘LSD’ [LSD Records, 1984] in a limited edition of 200 copies, which contains lengthy tracks of repetitive and meditative cosmic electronics; and ‘3/Ego Trip’ [LSD Records] in a limited edition of 100. There are also three live cassettes on the ZSF label, featuring Nord/Oikawa with Merzbow and [on one tape] K.K. Null of Zeni Geva [see below]. Katayama also issued a cassette as Nord – ‘Live Materials 1980-1993’ [Vanilla Records, 1994] – in a limited edition of 150 copies.
– these guys have been described as ‘techno-pop with a computer voice’! They released a flexi-disc mini-album, ‘Ready Made’ [Vanity, 1981], which is a bit more interesting than mere pop. Some tracks do feature a computer voice, which sounds like an early talking-computer spelling aid program for children. The ‘poppier’ tracks are weird electro pieces with repetitive rhythms, with a longer track that’s more in the cosmic synth vein. It’s all quite interesting for those liking experimental electro-pop.
– formed in 1979 as an amalgamation of hard rock band San Sui Kan and hard prog band Scheherezade [see above]. In their early years they were more progressive-rock styled; some have compared them to Renaissance, Genesis, Yes, Rush and Rainbow. In the second half of the 80’s they became more pop-oriented. Their albums include ‘Miwakugeki’ , ‘In the Night’ , ‘Requiem’ [1981; a mini-LP], ‘Paradise Lost’ , ‘Sanctuary’ , ‘Harmageddon Story’ , ‘From the Mystic World [1984; live], ‘Harmageddon Story 2’ , ‘Brain of Balance’ , ‘Land of Time’ [1986; mini-LP] and ‘Words’ . Guitarist Terutsugu Hirayama went on to Teru’s Symphonia [see below]. Keyboardist Toshio Egawa formed the group Gerard [see above].
– a symphonic prog band featuring mellotron and violin. I haven’t heard any yet, though the music is reputedly comparable to early King Crimson, PFM and UK. They released numerous albums in the second half of the 80’s – ‘Misty Moon’ , ‘A Boy Playing the Magical Bugle Horn’ , ‘The Scene of Pale Blue’  which is generally considered their best, ‘Silver Apples On The Moon’  and ‘Outer Mania’ .
– a symphonic progressive rock band who have been compared to Genesis, Yes, Renaissance and early 80’s Rush. Their albums include ‘La Mosaique de la Reverie’ , ‘Abysmal Masquerade’ [Made in Japan, 1987; reissued by Musea, 2000], the EP collection ‘Kamen no Egao’  which might be the same as ‘Abysmal Masquerade’, ‘Live and Rare’  and ‘The Pay For Dreamer’s Sin’ [Spalax, 1989]
– a spacey progressive band using traditional Japanese instruments along with modern instruments, including ‘80’s’ keyboards. They’ve been compared to Camel, Gandalf, Terpandre, Kenso and Pulsar. They recorded an album in 1984 that wasn’t released until later – ‘Paikappu’ [Mellow].
– a symphonic prog group formed in 1984, who have been compared to Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Keith Emerson. They made only one album, ‘Newtopia’ [Monolith, 1985]. It was reissued by King in 1988, and Musea in 2000. Keyboardist Motoi Semba was also in Teru’s Symphonia [see below], Kennedy [see above] and Shonen Knife.
– vocalist from Aunt Sally [see above]. Her solo debut ‘Phew’ [Pass Records, 1981] had a venerable backing of Conny Plank, and Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit. It’s an excellent album that has a propulsive electro groove much of the time, like a ‘No Wave’ evolution of the Moebius & Plank sound, but with Phew’s Japanese vocals added.
– a duo of Yuji Asuka and Kaoru Todoroki. Their very strange experimental electro-pop-rock was eccentric and playful, reminiscent of The Residents, Tom Recchion and other singular weirdos. Their discography consists of ‘Picnic Land’ [cassette, 1982], ‘Ha! Ha! Tarachine’ [Aka-Tak, 1985] and ‘Kuru Kuru World’ .
– formed in 1977, initially influenced by ELP, and broke up in the early 80’s. However they reformed in 1993 and have since made three albums – ‘Out From Quaser’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1994], ‘Remergence’ [Marquee/Belle Antique, 1999] and ‘Phase Transition’ [Flap, 2003]. Their music is reputedly European-influenced symphonic progressive rock that’s sometimes heavy. Guitarist Masmai Katsuura was also in Ain Soph [see above].
– R.N.A. Organism released one album, ‘Meets P.O.P.O.’ [Vanity, 1980], before transforming into EP-4. The music has been described as a kind of new wave heavy funk. EP-4 released numerous albums – ‘Seifuku Nikutai’ , ‘Multilevel Holarchy’ , ‘Lingua Franca 1’ , ‘The Crystal Monster’ , ‘Five To One’ [Hot Records (Australia), 1985], ‘Lingua Franca X’  and ‘Found Tapes’ .
– formed in 1985 by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, with a continuing line of bass players, Ruins have almost always been a duo. The main exception is the album ‘Symphonica’, which features numerous guest musicians with heaps of keyboards, and hints towards Yoshida’s later side-project Koenjihyakkei [see below]. Yoshida’s musical inspirations are basically complex progressive rock such as Magma, Area, Gentle Giant and ELP, but delivered with a blinding in-yer-face punk-metal-ish speed and fury. Like Magma, Ruins’ vocals are delivered in an incomprehensible language of their own design. Many of their tunes feature so many tight changes and fiddly runs it boggles the mind to imagine how these guys are able to learn to play this music. Indeed, live recordings demonstrate that there is no studio trickery involved – these guys really can play like demons possessed, with the complexity of mathematicians! Yoshida and some of the bassists he has played with have branched out into numerous other collaborations and special projects, some of which are mentioned elsewhere here [mostly in the next section].
Full album releases only [there are EP’s and other things dating back to 1986] are ‘Stonehenge’ [Shimmy Disc, 1990], ‘Early Works’ [Bloody Butterfly, 1991], ‘Burning Stone’ [Shimmy Disc, 1992], ‘II & 19 Numbers’ [SSE Communications, 1993], ‘Infect’ [SSE, 1993], ‘Graviyaunosch’ [Nipp Guitar, 1993], ‘Hyderomastgroningem’ [Tzadik, 1995], ‘Refusal Fossil’ [Skin Graft, 1997; a collection of live and unreleased out-takes], ‘Vrresto’ [Sonore/Magaibutsu, 1998], ‘Symphonica’ [Tzadik, 1998], ‘Mandala 2000/Live at Kichijoji Mandala II’ , ‘Pallaschtom’ [Sonore/Magaibutsu, 2000; reissued on Skin Graft, 2005] and ‘Tzomborgha’ [Ipecac, 2002]. ‘Symphonica’ was much proggier than usual, featuring keyboards and two female vocalists. ‘Pallaschtom’ contained only three tracks – a prog medley, a hard rock medley and a classical medley. More recent releases such as ‘Tzomborgha’ have toned down the clamorous assault slightly and brought in more diverse sounds in parts – Ruins just keep getting better! ‘1986-1992’  is a compilation of early stuff, some of it pretty rare.
– a largely-instrumental symphonic progressive rock group who made only one album that I know of, ‘Sagittarian’ [Aries, 1984]. It reputedly sounds a bit like Camel, Genesis and early Novalis. There is a CD reissue of this on Mellow.
– this guy made an EP, ‘Tenoch Sakana’ [Nippon Columbia, 1980], that’s an unusual blend of styles. Pretty hard to classify or even describe but fascinating throughout, it’s all instrumental and uses mainly synths, percussion and saxophone. It could be lumped in with the weirder, more eclectic end of the RIO camp. I’m not sure if he released anything else as a solo artists, but he was also in the group Wha-Ha-Ha [see below].
– a prog trio inspired by ELP and UK, and who have been compared to Ars Nova and Gerard. They made two albums, ‘MacBethia’  and ‘It Reminds Me Of Those Days’ . ‘It Reminds Me Of MacBethia’ [Musea] is a compilation of both albums.
– formed in 1976 by Shinichi Aoki [ex-Murahachibu] & Kengo, playing loud rock’n’roll. Their album ‘Kiss On Live At Shinjuku Loft ‘85’ has been reissued on CD by Captain Trip.
– Damo is an experimental vocalist perhaps best known for his years with German group Can; this stuff won’t be discussed here. After leaving Can, Suzuki became a Jehovah’s Witness and didn’t release any music for a while. The sojourn ended in 1984 when he joined the group Dunkelziffer, who have been described as ‘percussive space reggae’. They made a few albums with him – ‘In The Night’ [1984; reissued by Captain Trip], ‘III’ [1986; reissued by Captain Trip] and ‘Live 85’ [Captain Trip, 1997]. More recently, Suzuki has been playing with the psychedelic group Cul-De Sac, as well as the Damo Suzuki Band [featuring Jaki Liebezeit, and two ex-members of Dunkelziffer] and his own Network, groups of musicians all over the world who form a unique backing jam band whenever he comes to town to play.
– this group released the great album ‘Sympathy Nervous’ [Vanity, 1980] on the collectable experimental Vanity label, and may be of some interest. The music has been described as ‘rhythmic-based dark synth-pop’, but I wouldn’t call it pop at all. There was also a 2-LP release, also self-titled, which came out in 1996 on Nova Zembra; this might be a compilation.
– a musician and graphic designer, who was in a pop group in the mid-70’s called Plastics, but later turned to strange avant-garde rock influenced by the likes of Etron Fou Leloublan and Albert Marcouer. His albums include ‘H’ [Alfa/Yen, 1982], ‘Hm’ [198?], ‘Mr. Techie & Miss Kipple’  and ‘Bambi’ [19??].
– also seen listed as Tako, and should not be confused with the Yugoslavian prog band of that name. Formed by Harumi Yamazaki and Toshiharu Ozato, ex-Gaseneta. Their first album, ‘Taco’ [Pinakotheca Records, 1983], featured some backing from Tori Kudo [Maher Shalal Hash Baz, see above], amongst others. The music is a great mixture of punk, new wave, psychedelia, musique concrete and various experimental/avant-garde approaches. It’s a totally weird album, jumping from style to style, sounding relatively normal one minute and completely bizarre the next. Some comparison can be made to Decayes and H.N.A.S., and one track sounds like a J.A. Caesar ballad with crazed guitar soloing.
– a prolific composer, who has released many of his albums just as ‘Ayuo’. His first was ‘Silent Film’ [MIDI Inc, 1984], recorded in New York City, and featuring Takehisa Kosugi [see above] on violin and Carlos Alomar [from David Bowie’s group] on guitar; it was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto [see above]. ‘Memory Theatre’ [MIDI Inc, 1985] was a concept album based on a story by playwright Koharu Kisaragi; it featured Sakamoto and many others. ‘Nova Carmina’ [MIDI Inc, 1986] featured Maddy Prior and Peter Hammill. ‘Blue Eyes, Black Hair’ [Belle Antique, 1995] was a rock opera recorded live in 1989. It featured Takahashi’s band Rok Groupa, including drummer Masaharu Sato [see below; from Bi Kyo Ran]. ‘Heavenly Garden Orchestra’ [FOA, 1995] contains instrumentals and songs, some of which were made for films, theater and ballet. ‘Eurasian Journey’ [JVC Victor, 1997] again featured Peter Hammill, and contains music based on ancient Asian and European melodic forms. ‘Eastern Tradition’ [Belle Antique, 1998] focuses on just traditional Japanese music, and was mostly recorded in 1991. ‘Izutsu’ [Tzadik, 2000] is an opera based on a Noh play, and features koto, voice, hurdy gurdy, sitar, guitar, Celtic harp and other traditional instruments. ‘Earth Guitar’ [MIDI Inc, 2000] features a great host of musicians, again including Peter Hammill. ‘Red Moon’ [Tzadik, 2005] is credited to Ayuo and Ohta Hiromi.
– a female vocalist using dark atmospheres, reputedly a little comparable to Nico. Albums include ‘Y de Noir II’ [1983; reissued Belle Antique, 1995], ‘Yume no Kirigishi’ [1985; reissued Belle Antique, 1995] and ‘Teneshi Kou’ [Belle Antique], which I’ve also seen listed as ‘Tenshi-kou’. Synthesist Pneuma [see above] played on all of these albums.
– a lush symphonic prog band who have been compared to Marillion, and later, The Enid, Outer Limits, Mr. Sirius and Pale Acute Moon. They have released many albums over the years – ‘Teru’s Symphonia’ , ‘Egg the Universe’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Human Race Party’ [King/Nexus, 1989], ‘Fable on the Seven Pillows’ [Made In Japan/Symphonia, 1991], ‘Clockworked Earth’ [Made in Japan/Symphonia, 1993], ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Camel’ [Musea, 1997] and ‘The Gate’ [Musea, 1999].
– this group released two very rare albums, ‘Anonym’ [Vanity, 1980; seen listed as 1979 also] and ‘Divin’ [Vanity, 1981]. The first is strange experimental electroacoustic music, and is probably the reason the group were mentioned on the well-known Nurse With Wound list of influences. The second album is quite different, being wholly electronic and making much use of repetitive electro beats in a compelling music that is still experimental but in parts clearly pointing towards ambient techno to come.
– a lush symphonic prog band who are renowned by fans of the genre. Their sound has been compared to that of Renaissance and Camel. They only made one album that I know of, ‘Water Blue’ [Made in Japan, 1989; reissued by Musea, 1999].
– a hard, energetic symphonic prog band formed by guitarist Yukihiro Fujimura [ex-Gerard – see above]. Their music has been compared to that of Gerard. They’ve made four albums that I know of – ‘Overture’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Step Into...’ [King/Crime, 1988], ‘Progress – Last Live’ [King/Crime, 1989] and ‘Unknown’ [Protect, 1998].
– a totally nutty experimental fusion band of the post-RIO variety, reputedly with some inspiration from Frank Zappa, though overall much stranger and not really like him. Very diverse, weird and difficult to describe, their music was a bizarre hybrid of all kinds of stuff, only occasionally showing their jazz rock roots. Some touching points for comparison are the Residents, Albert Marcoeur, Supersister, Samla Mammas Manna, Snakefinger, H.N.A.S., Flying Lizards, Sun City Girls, Vas Deferens Organization etc. The group included Akira Sakata, Shuichi ‘Ponta’ Murakami [see above for both], Shigetoku Kamiya, Shuichi Chino, Mishio Ogawa, Takafumi Fuse, Kiyohiko Semba and Tamio Kawabata. They made only three albums – ‘Shinutokiwa Betsu’ [Columbia/Better Days, 1981], ‘Getahaitekonakucha’ [Columbia/Better Days, 1981] and ‘Live Dub’ [Columbia?, 1982]. I’ve only heard the first two, which are both excellent. At least the first two have been reissued on CD by Columbia, and there was also a compilation on ReR from 1982.
– a well-known psychedelic rock group formed in 1985, with a style derived from US west coast psych rock [including Blue Cheer and San Diego band Iron Butterfly] and a guitarist obviously obsessed with John Cippolina. Later on they became more progressive-rock oriented, though still psychedelic. From the little I’ve heard, their style is similar to the more accessible side of Ghost [see above], and fittingly there have been other collaborations between members of the two groups [see Cosmic Invention below]. White Heaven also included guitarist Michio Kurihara [from Ghost, Marble Sheep, The Stars, and solo], at least on the first album. Albums include ‘Out’ [PSF, 1991; rec. ‘86], ‘Electric Cool Acid’ [Noon, 1995] – which contains live recordings from 1987-88, ‘Levitation’ [Now Sound, 1997; rec. 1988] and ‘Next to Nothing’ [Noon, 1994].
– a hard progressive rock group who have been compared to Novela [see above]. I’ve been unable to find out anything about them, except that they released at least two albums – ‘The Gate of Fate’ and ‘The Land of Dilettante’.
– formed in 1987 by guitarist Kazuyuki K. Null [K.K. Null], with Mitsuru Tabata and Eito Noro. Their sound is generally chunky, fierce and aggressive industrialoid punk-metal with an experimental/progressive flavour buried within the sonic assault. They had no bassist, instead using down-tuned guitar. Their albums were ‘How to Kill’ [Nux, 1987], ‘Vast Impotenz’ [Nux, 1988], ‘Maximum Money Monster’ [Pathological, 1990], ‘Total Castration’ [Public Bath, 1992], ‘Nai-Ha’ [NG, 1993; a mini album, reissued by Skin Graft, 1996], ‘All Right You Little Bastards’ [NG, 1993], ‘Desire For Agony’ [Alternative Tentacles, 1993], ‘Freedom Bondage’ [Alternative Tentacles, 1995] and ‘10,000 Light Years’ [Neurot, 2001]. K.K. Null has also made solo albums which are generally more experimental and abstract than his work with Zeni Geva, but reputedly declining in quality over time.
– a band/collective formed in 1996 by visionary self-taught free rock guitarist Kawabata Makoto, ex-Ankoku Kakumei Kyodotai [see above] and numerous other groups. He wanted the band to bring to life the kind of totally wild psychedelic music that he had always wanted to hear but never been able to find. They are also known as the Acid Mothers Soul Collective.
The first album, ‘Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.’ [PSF, 1997], played all as one track, which makes it tough luck if you can’t handle the total onslaught and want to skip to a mellow bit! There are two main vibes going on here – totally insane acid noise guitar & electronics freakouts over simple and repetitive grooves, and delicious mellow spacey interludes in which to catch your breath. The former feels like flying into the sun on LSD, and seems to get more and more intense as the album plays; the latter gives a bit of a nod to Gong, as does the style of lettering on the track-listing. ‘Pataphysical Freakout Mu!!’ [PSF, 1999] was a bit less intense [and that’s still pretty intense], and a bit shambolic like they’d fried too many nerve-endings with their too much-too soon high-octane overdrive, but still a good one. ‘Troubadours From Another Heavenly World’ [PSF, 2000] followed in a similar vein. ‘La Nòvia’ [Eclipse, 2000] supposedly explored the lost folk music of Occitania, and musically, most of the album is one long track sometimes reminiscent of Soft [see below] circa ‘Shamanic Waveform’. It’s a beautiful and uncharacteristically restrained mellow psychedelic jam, occasionally building to some mind-boggling harder freakout sections. The CD issue has a few extra tracks in a similarly mellow druggy mood. ‘Absolutely Freak Out – Zap Your Mind!’ [Static Caravan/Resonant, 2001] was a double album with lots more variety and spontaneity than on previous albums. ‘New Geocentric World’ [Squealer, 2001] was a little more accessible [only a little!], following a similar grouping of styles to the first few albums, but with more focus in places. Other albums include ‘In C’ [Eclipse, 2001], ‘Electric Heavyland’ [Alien8, 2002] etc etc. These guys release so much stuff it’s hard to keep up!
– formed by two brothers who both play guitar. Their music is fairly concise, jazzy progressive rock influenced by King Crimson, Jethro Tull and John McLaughlin. They’ve released three albums, ‘Blood and Instinct’ , ‘Adachi Kyodai’ [Musea, 2003] and ‘Xianshi’ [Musea, 2005].
– a duo of Tatsuya Yoshida [Ruins – see above] and Atsushi Tsuyama [see below, and Acid Mothers Temple above]. They played a really weird kind of freak music that largely sounds like the work of two crazed loons with Attention Deficit Disorder. The music on their debut EP – ‘Akaten’ aka ‘I’ [Magaibutsu, 1995] – bears some resemblance to early Boredoms, and at times a more chaotic take on very early Ruins. They’ve made several other releases – ‘II’ [Magaibutsu, 1995], ‘III’ [Magaibutsu, 1996], ‘IV’ aka ‘Junmaiginjyou’ [Magaibutsu, 1997] and ‘Chateau du Akaten’ [Magaibutsu, 2001] – all of which are EP’s. I’ve only heard the first, but they reputedly get even less structured and serious as the years go by.
– an offshoot from Ground Zero [Otomo Yoshihide’s band]. They play a kind of progressive rock that has been described as a mix of King Crimson, Boredoms, free jazz and psychedelia; Frolk Haven have been compared to Altered States, if you’ve heard that band. They’ve released many albums – ‘Altered States’ [Zenbei, 1992], ‘Lithuania and Estonia Live’ [Trigram, 1994], ‘Mosaic’ [God Mountain, 1995], ‘4’ [Zenbei, 1996], ‘Café 9.15’ [Phenotype/Disk Union, 1996; with Ned Rothenberg], ‘6’ [Zenbei, 1997] and ‘Plays Standards’ [Eyewill, 1999].
– a duo consisting of Yoshiyuki Nakajima [keyboards, synths] and Yoshihiro Yamaji [guitar, bass, vocals]; Yamaji is also in a band called Tyrant. There are drums to be heard, though I presume they’re programmed on a synth because no drums are credited. Their first album was ‘Amygdala’ [Soleil Zeuhl, 2004], followed by ‘Algemeine Angaben’ , but I couldn’t find any mention of them on the Soleil Zeuhl web site. I’ve only heard the first, which is full of excellent complex instrumental progressive rock with a clear zeuhl influence, sharing elements of Magma, Present and Happy Family [see below].
– a pretty good all-female psychedelic/progressive group formed in 1989 or 1990 by Mine Nakao and Mineko Itakura. They’ve released numerous albums – ‘I’ [Alchemy/Subterranean, 1991], ‘II’ [Alchemy, 1993], ‘III’ [Alchemy/Circular Reasoning, 1995] and ‘IV’ [Alchemy, 1999], and have had the honour of opening gigs for Gong and Hawkwind, by whom their form of space rock is influenced by, with comparisons to Temple and Sensation’s Fix also being audible. Although often spoken of as though they’re solely gentle and ethereal, they do actually rock a fair bit of the time. Guitarist Fusao Toda, who joined after the first album, is half of Christine 23 Onna [see below].
– a composer and keyboardist who is well-known for his work on anime soundtracks, particularly in the 80’s. He’s also performed with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, and wrote the theme music for the ’85 expo in Japan. In 1999, he started his own label. His first album was ‘Kyrie: Canto Cybernetico’ [Apricot Systematic Recordings, 1999] contains a unique mix of symphonic prog, cosmic synthesiser music, drum’n’bass etc. with operatic female vocals. His second album was ‘Exclusive Sequences’ [Apricot Systematic Recordings/CD Baby, 2001].
– formed in 1983, with numerous line-up changes ensuing. These three ladies play progressive rock very much inspired by keyboard-fronted old-school classical prog such as ELP and Le Orme, but with a bit of their own touch. Their music [based on ‘Android Domina’, the only album of theirs I’ve heard] sometimes pretty intense and impressive, sometimes pretty cheesy, and largely instrumental. Their first album was ‘Fear and Anxiety’ [Made in Japan Records, 1992], followed by ‘Transi’ [Made in Japan, 1994], ‘Goddess of Darkness’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1996], ‘Reu Nu Pert Em Hru’ (‘The Book of the Dead’) [Made in Japan/Musea/AMP/Black Widow, 1998], ‘Android Domina’ [Musea/Black Widow, 2001] and ‘Lacrimaria’ [Made in Japan, 2001].
– a mellow symphonic prog group led by keyboardist Yoko Royama from Vermillion Sands. Their first album was ‘Seeds of the Dream’ [Musea, 2000], and includes numerous guests including Akihisa Tsuboy, violinist from KBB [see below]. The music has been compared to Renaissance and Vermillion Sands.
– a virtuosic progressive acoustic trio consisting of Source Adachi [Adachi Kyodai – see above] on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Akihisa Tsuboy [KBB – see below] on violin, and Yukihiro Isso [Solo] on recorder and dengakubue. They have at least one album, the excellent ‘Kasa Kasa’ [Poseidon/Musea, 2003], which is mostly instrumental and bridges folk, jazz and ‘world music’ in an original, complex and dazzling way. One track is a Jethro Tull cover, ‘Mother Goose’. It sounds to me like a blend of Radio Noisz Ensemble, Shakti, Sirocco, Bären Gässlin, and the dense instrumental style of early Comus.
– a trio formed by guitarist Issei Takami. Their album ‘Junaokissei’ [Musea Parallele/InterMusic, 2004] is reputedly intense and adventurous instrumental music inspired by Hendrix, Zappa, King Crimson and Brand X.
– an RIO-progressive group who have been compared to Henry Cow, Hatfield &the North, National Health, Kenso, Happy Family and Lacrymosa. Their first album was ‘Il Berlione’ [Belle Antique, 1992]; the follow-up, ‘In 453 Minutes of Infernal Cooking’ [Belle Antique, 1994], has been described as disappointing compared to the debut, focusing on more of a boring fusion style.
– a dark progressive group with symphonic and jazz touches, as well as lots of synths. Their first album was ‘Dominion of the East’ [Independent, 2001], followed by the even darker ‘Death Collection’ [Independent, 2001] and ‘Unscientific’ .
– an excellent progressive band formed in 1990, who have been described as a cross between Happy Family and Kenso. They are often pegged as a zeuhl band, but that’s only one of the styles they utilize in creating their own original style, which also takes in ethnic music in a similar way to French group Babel, as well as experimental and psychedelic prog leanings. The original core members were Kido Natsuki [guitar; ex-Deforme], Yuji Katsui [violin] and Otsubo Hirohiko [drums], with the later addition of vocalists Saga Yuki and Aki Kubota, as well as Ohtsubo Hirohiko [bass], Tamara Kumiko [vibes] and Okabe Yoichi [percussion]. Not sure who played bass! They first released a home made live compilation tape before establishing their own label and releasing proper albums. The first was ‘Bondage Fruit’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1994], followed by ‘II’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1996], which is sometimes said to be their best album. After this the vocalists left and the band turned to more instrumental improvisation with the live album ‘III - Récit’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1997]. ‘IV’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 1999] was another wild affair with weird psychedelic avant-blues, and freaky dense jams that pointed towards what Battles would be doing later, as well as hitting many other points of unique creativity. ‘Skin’ [Maboroshi No Sekai, 2002] and ‘Live at IPMF’ [year?] are the only others I know of. Natsuki has also been a member of P.O.N. and Korekyojin [see below], and Kubota was in an early lineup of Koenjihyakkei [see below], as well as singing on Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ album [see above].
– a slow, heavy experimental group influenced by The Melvins but even more stretched-out and minimal – some have compared them to Sleep in their general approach. Their first album was ‘Absolutego’ [Fangs Anal Satan, 1996], followed by a split album – ‘Boris/Abones’ [Fangs Anal Satan, 1997]. Their next was a collaboration with Keiji Haino – ‘Black - Implication Flooding’ [Inoxia, 1998], followed by ‘Amplifier Worship’ [Mangrove, 1998]. Next was another split album - Boris vs Choukoku No Niwa – ‘More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape’ [Inoxia, 1999]. On ‘Flood’ [MIDI Creative, 2001] they had mellowed somewhat, with one 70-minute semi-acoustic piece. ‘Heavy Rocks’ [Fangs Anal Satan, 2002] reputedly embraced ‘stoner rock’ and 60’s garage band styles. Another two collaborations with Merzbow were next – the doomy ‘Megatone’ [Inoxia, 2002] and the more active and psychedelic ‘04092001’ [Inoxia, 2005], which was released on LP only. Other releases to date include ‘Akuma No Uta’ [DIW Phalanx, 2003], a mini-album; ‘At Last – Feedbacker’ [DIW Phalanx, 2004]; ‘The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked’ [Kult of Nihilow, 2004], an EP; and ‘Mabuta No Ura’ [Catune, 2005], a movie soundtrack which is reputedly pretty mellow.
– a group consisting of members of Six North, led by bassist Hideyuki Shima. Their album ‘Budderfly’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005] contains live jams and reputedly varies between jazz-rock, jazz-metal and spacey excursions.
– a symphonic progressive metal group, who have been compared to Novela and Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. They made only one album that I know of – ‘Castle in the Air’ [Made in Japan, 1999]. Keyboard player Yuhki Nakajima joined Marge Litch [see above] after Castle in the Air broke up.
– a duo formed in 1994, with Maso Yamazaki [Masonna] and Fusao Toda [Angel in Heavy Syrup – see above], seemingly paying homage to 70’s German electronic rock and 60’s exploitation psych. ‘Space Age Batchelor Pad Psychedelic Music’ [Insignificant, 1996] was their debut, and came as a clear pink LP. ‘Shiny Crystal Planet’ [Alchemy, 2000] is a heady blast of modern electro-noise psych with a retro edge, featuring raw electronics and guitar with breakbeat drums, dense but surprisingly varied and textured. One track reminds me quite a lot of The Spoils Of War, but this isn’t typical to the album. Although a long way from Masonna’s usual noise chaos, this is still a pretty noisy record by normal standards. The cover art ripped off Ash Ra’s ‘New Age of Earth’ logo, and the version of that album’s cover which showed Manuel Göttsching and Rosi looking hipper-than-thou. The only other album I know of is ‘Acid Eater’ [Midi Creative/Noble, 2002]. As a live band they have appeared as a four-piece.
– a symphonic prog band with English vocals and violin. They have been compared in various ways to Genesis, Tony Banks, Camel and UK. They have only two albums that I know of, ‘Cinderella Search’ [Made in Japan, 1993] and ‘Stories of Luminous Garden’ [Made in Japan, 2001].
– a progressive rock group formed by ex-members of Fromage [see above]. They play in a symphonic/classical prog style, with violin, viola, cello, bouzouki and ocarina in the brew. Their first album was ‘The Seven Stories’ [Belle Antique/Made in Japan, 1995], followed by ‘Into the State of Flux’ [Belle Antique/Musea, 2000] and ‘Mindscape’ [Belle Antique, 2002; reissued by Musea, 2004].
– the only recording I’m aware of by this obscure new-ish psychedelic rock band is the live ‘Fade Out’, on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 4’ PSF sampler. It’s a great jammy track that sounds simple yet fairly complex at the same time, building to a Neu-meets-Hawkwind-meets-Simply Saucer-like climax.
– an electronic group using a great array of analog and midi synths, and computer processing. The band is actually just one person, Toshiyuki Fujita, although he calls himself Fujita Satoshi here. Coral Caves is named after a lyric in Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’, and is influenced by 70’s progressive rock and New Age music. The only album that I know of is the debut ‘Voice From a Distance’ [Musea Dreaming, 2000]. The Exposé web site referred to it as being in “the space between Yanni, Kitaro and [Rick] Wakeman”. Others bring up comparisons such as a more rock-oriented Vangelis, and 90’s Tangerine Dream.
– a short-lived ‘supergroup’ formed by Masaki Batoh [Ghost – see below], Michio Kurihara [White Heaven – see above] & Futoshi Okano [Subvert Blaze], with other members of Ghost, Overhang Party, Kakashi & Yura Yura Kingdom. Their album ‘Help Your Satori Mind’ [The Now Sound, 1997] is a varied and enjoyable one, seemingly some kind of homage to their 70’s psychedelic heroes. The title track sounds like Flower Travellin’ Band jamming with Foodbrain! Some of the album ventures into heady 70’s Miles Davis psychedelic jazz rock territory pretty effectively, as well as some out-there space rock explorations with a nod to Pink Floyd. Some tracks are in the Ghost song-style, and as such there are commercial touches here and there which in my opinion slightly damage the album’s credibility. According to the liner notes, track 5 is written by Boz Scaggs!
– a four-piece group who [based on the track I’ve heard on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 3’ PSF sampler] played a kind of atmospheric free-form psychedelic music. They sound to me like a more basic Taj Mahal Travellers kind of thing, but with acoustic guitar and semi-spoken narrative vocals.
– apparently a hardcore blend of zeuhl, RIO and jazz styles, featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins, with Hoppy Kamiyama on keyboards and Nasuno Mitsunu on bass. The first album was ‘Improg’ [Poseidon/Musea, 2003], which has very long tracks [between roughly 14 and 22 minutes]. Recently this was followed up by ‘Into a Blind Alley’ [God Mountain, 2004].
– an excellent progressive group formed by Hoppy Kamiyama, best known as an extravagant cross-dressing personality who is behind the God Mountain label, as well as many varied bands such as Optical*8, Pink, Saboten, Pugs, Bubbleman, O.N.T.J., ESP and eX-Girl. However, I don’t think he actually played on their album, ‘Demi Semi Quaver’ [God Mountain, 1993], which featured Toru Terashi [guitar], Hidenori Yokoyama [bass], Koichiro Naka [drums], Genya Kuwajima [keyboards], Steve Eto [percussion], and Emi Eleonola [piano, accordion, vocals]; Eleonola also sang on the Ruins album ‘Symphonica’. The music on their album is like a blend of Happy Family, Bondage Fruit, Korekyojin and Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’, and would appeal to anyone into that stuff.
– an electronic rock trio led by Hiroyuki Nagashima, with Masateru Terai and Hisahiko Horiuchi. Their excellent album ‘Telecoma’ [Creativeman Disc, 1997] also used guest musicians to provide conventional instruments and vocals on some tracks. While the first track of the album could be described as ‘cyber prog’, much of it is more purely electronic, and is very diverse and creative as a whole. Some of the music reminds me of Strange Garden [see below], Download and Dome.
– a large collective using massive percussive grooves combined with electronic fucking-around and free-jazz sax. Their album ‘Live at the Uplink Factory November 3, 1996’ (with Nerve Net Noise) [Zero Gravity] also features a jam with noisy electronics group Nerve Net Noise, as well as a track with Nerve Net Noise by themselves. Dub Sonic Roots also sometimes play as Dub Sonic Warriors or Dub Sonic Starship Arkestra [as well as probably other names], depending on the mood.
– an offshoot of Dub Sonic Roots, perhaps simply the same group. I find their album ‘For Psychobuddhfaridrumachinespace Age’  much more varied and enjoyable than the other Dub Sonic Roots albums I’ve heard. It’s a pretty weird trip, running through trippy experimental jazz grooves, dijeridu and electronics mystical dronings, and further percussion/sax/double bass/electronics freeform workouts. This CD is pretty hard to find, and the copy I bought didn’t even come with a cover insert or any information!
– a heavy progressive band that has been compared to Dream Theater, or prog such as Banco crossed with metal such as Metallica. The only album that I know of is ‘Antibiotic Rhythm’ [Castle Records, 1999]. Keyboardist Yoshihiro Kataoka was previously in Round House [see above].
– a symphonic prog group including Hiroyuki Ishizawa and Masahiro Uemura from Dharani. Formed in 1988, they soon broke up with some members forming the group Io [see below]. A few years later they got back together and made an album, ‘Hesperia’ , before splitting for good. Uemura went on to make computer game music and formed the project Kalo [see below].
– an instrumental progressive jazz-rock trio, who have released one album so far - ‘The Waves’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005]. Their style has been described as being a mix of Gong, King Crimson, The Enid, Pat Metheny, Erik Satie and Side Steps [see below].
– a psychedelic folk group with female vocals, consisting of Kawabata Makoto [Acid Mothers Temple – see above], Tetsuya Kaneko and Yuki; they formed in 1998. Albums so far are ‘1st’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1998, CD-R; reissued on LP by Eclipse, 2000] and ‘2’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1999; CD-R] – both of which were reissued together on 1 CD [Black Plastic Sounds, 2002].
– a frantic progressive band using Chapman stick, bass, violin, banjo, synths and drums. Their album ‘One Locus Consisting of Three Fragments’ [Musea, 2003] is reputedly great, and very complex and unique.
– an experimental/avant-garde musician. I think his first two albums were ‘L’arret de Mort’  and ‘MacBeth’ [SSE Communications, 1993]. ‘(X).X Is Not a Man Or X Is Mortal’ [Staalplaat/God Factory, 2000] was recorded live in 1998, and is reputedly dark ambient industrial orchestral music. Following this was ‘Othello as Noise Opera’ [Les Disques Du Soleil et de l’Acier, 2001]. ‘World As Will’ (with Zbigniew Karkowski) [Staalplaat, 1998] and ‘World As Will II’ [23Five, 2003] are reputedly intense works with electronics and elements of Wagner. On ‘Autrement Qu’être’ (with Sumihisa Arima and Pneuma – see above) [DSA, 1995] Furudate provides guitar, violin, sampler and voice; Arima provides computer, sampler, keyboards and piano, with Pneuma on electronics, percussion and bowed string. The Forced Exposure web site describes it as “doomy sound patchworks, utilizing subtle collage techniques and the massive layering of modern Euro classical bents (Penderecki, etc.)”. Some of it reminds me of Igor Wakhevitch circa ‘Les Fous D’Or’ and ‘Nagual’. It was recorded live in Tokyo in ’94 and ’95, and is really out-there! There’s also a part II of this on the same label.
– a great progressive band who have only one album that I know of, ‘Gomorrha Vs. Khan’ [Phalanx/Disk Union, 1999]. It’s a whirling dervish experience, blending doomy metal with middle eastern melodies and space rock. Some people have mentioned a zeuhl influence to the sound, but if so, they’ve kept it subtle and created their own sound that is barely reminiscent of Magma. Some of it sounds like Ozric Tentacles circa ‘Strangeitude’ and Gong circa ‘You’, but much heavier and more furiously rocking like Praxis [the Bill Laswell group, not the Mexican prog band]. There’s also a much more conventional quasi-ballad thrown in, which sticks out like a sore thumb – I usually skip it. The album is split into the “Orient (Khan) Side” and the “Psy-Phy (Gomorrha) Side”, with the second being a bit more heavy than the first, but otherwise not terribly different in style.
– formed in 1984, originally playing just free improvised music. By the time they began recording they had also incorporated composed and structured material. Basically they’re a psychedelic band with folk, rock, progressive and experimental facets. They utilize a wide range of instruments including acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, banjo, hurdy gurdy, keyboards, electronics, wind instruments etc. The music often has a fairly serious, mystical and spiritual feel of a kind. This appears to be in line with the intentions of the group for their expression in music. All of the albums also have moments where the band do more ‘commercial’ sounding songs, and these bits [which by and large I don’t like] are the only thing holding me back from declaring myself a fully-fledged Ghost fan.
Their first album was ‘Ghost’ [PSF, 1990], followed by ‘Second Time Around’ [PSF, 1992], ‘Temple Stone’ [PSF, 1994], ‘Lama Rabi Rabi’ [Drag City, 1996], ‘Snuffbox Immanence’ [Drag City, 1999] and the double album ‘Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet’ [Drag City, 1999], which ended with a very lengthy, experimental and tripped out slab of brain-melt. The recent double album ‘Hypnotic Underworld’ [P-Vine/Drag City, 2004] is arguably Ghost’s best yet. It runs the full gamut of their styles in top form, often venturing more into progressive rock and trippy jazz rock territory. There are still a few more ‘commercial’ sounding songs which I don’t like, but the rest comes highly recommended.
– a side-project of the Lacrymosa [see above] leader Chihiro S. Their album ‘Golden Avant-Garde’ [Belle Antique, 1994] was recorded between 1988-91; it is reputedly complex RIO-progressive fusion with electronic effects and samples, that they described at the time as ‘cyber-rock’.
– a talented musician who played all the instruments on his first album ‘Soundscape’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2005]; however, everything is reproduced by synthesizers, which is all he plays. The music is reputedly a blend of jazz-fusion and symphonic prog.
– a psychedelic group formed in 2001 by Dead K and A [both ex-No Rest For The Dead, a grindcore band], later joined by bassist Benjian. They proudly proclaim themselves to be “the new wave of progressive rock”. Their first release was the CD-R ‘The Shape Of Rock To Come’ [Ancient, 2001], followed by ‘Birth of the Neon Trip’ [Ancient, 2002], also a CD-R, which introduced keyboards and trumpet into the mix. By ‘He’s Crying “Look”’ [Beta-Lactam Ring, 2003], their first ‘proper’ full-length release, Benjian had been replaced. This album received a lot of attention, and it’s a really good release [as well as the only one I’ve heard so far] containing lengthy and varied tracks of largely-instrumental psychedelic rock and spaced-out explorations. ‘A Day In The Planet Orange’ [Ancient, 2004] was a CD-R demo containing one lengthy [41:25] track – but why release a demo at this point? Their latest album was ‘City Calls Revolution’ [Beta-Lactam Ring, 2005].
– a psychedelic avant-jazz group, reputedly sounding like a mix of Passport, Sun Ra and James Blood Ulmer. ‘Atlantis’ [Mellow, 1998] and the live ‘Digitalive’ [GT, 2000] had more of a fusion approach; ‘Melatomania’ [Mellow, 2001] leans more towards progressive ‘art rock’.
– a group consisting of mentally-handicapped priests [yes, I’m not just saying that] with guest musicians. They apparently make some kind of spiritual freeform music. They released 2 albums – ‘1’ [Captain Trip, 199?] and ‘2 – Gyaatees Meets Mani Neumeier’ [Captain Trip, 1999] – before they were joined by bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa [see below] for ‘3 - Welcome/Last Live’ [Captain Trip, year?]. A few months after the recording, Yoshizawa died. Gyaatees recorded only one more album that I know of, ‘4 – Live at Show Boat’ [Captain Trip, year?].
– side project of the bassist from The Boredoms [see above]. He’s released numerous albums, including ‘The Golden Age of Heavy Blood’ [Alchemy Records, 1992], ‘Hanaden Bless All’ [Alchemy, 1993] [double], ‘Narcotic Guitar: Imaginary Movie Soundtracks’ [WEA Japan, 1996], ‘Astral Pygmy Wave’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997], ‘Acoustic Mothership’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997] and ‘Doobie Shining Love’ [Circle Sunshine, 1997]. Of these, I’ve only heard ‘Acoustic Mothership’, which is really excellent, tripped-out experimental electronic rock that is processed almost beyond recognition as having any rock basis. It doesn’t really sound like anyone else that comes to mind.
– one of the best newer Japanese progressive bands, these guys played a complex and meaty, mainly instrumental music that is heavily influenced by Magma and heavy King Crimson. Not counting 2 early cassettes (‘Happy Family’  and ‘Flying Spirit Dance’ [live; 1994]) they only released two albums, ‘Happy Family’ [Cuneiform, 1995] and ‘Toscco’ [Cuneiform, 1997]. Some folks might be put off by the cheesy keyboard sounds, which are only dominating in a couple of the shorter tracks, though apart from that the quality of the music is very high indeed! Perhaps most enjoyable to people who like the idea of Koenjihyakkei [see below] but find them a bit too demented and relentless to get into. I love ‘em both! The band seems to be defunct although there’s always the hope they might put something new together.
– a symphonic vocal prog artist who has been compared to Fromage and Shingetsu [see above]. There are four albums that I know of – ‘Kan Oke Jima’ [Arc, 199?], ‘Sekai-nante Oari-nasai’ [Arc, 199?], ‘Lass Die Welt Untergehen’ [Arc, 1996] and ‘L’ile Aux Trente Circueils’ .
– a saxophonist who has made at least one interesting and enjoyable album, ‘Minga’ [Tzadik, 2003]. Broadly speaking it’s kind of ‘modern jazz’, but it encompasses a great range of styles beyond regular jazz, with an accessible experimentalism, which is why it’s mentioned here. The album starts and ends fairly conventionally, but in the middle there are plenty of surprises.
– a complex, dynamic progressive rock band with two keyboardists. They reputedly have zeuhl, Canterbury and jazz rock overtones. They have one album that I know of, ‘Tokusen Burari Tabi’ [Poseidon, 2003], but they’ve apparently been playing together since the early 90’s.
– the only recording I’m aware of by this group is ‘Strings Quintet No. 1’ on the ‘Tokyo Flashback 4’ PSF sampler. As their name suggests, they’re a string quintet, but they play an intriguing improvised-sounding avant-garde chamber music with excellent musicianship and a great ability to create a moody and psychedelic atmosphere from such a conventional-seeming group format.
– a synth player and member of Acid Mothers Temple [see above]. He’s released at least three solo albums of cosmic floating synth music, as very limited edition cd-r’s - ‘He No He No’ [AMT, 200?], ‘Ikkan No Yo Yo’ [AMT, 2001] and ‘The Day Before: Psychochemistry’ [AMT, 2002].
- a mostly-instrumental progressive rock quartet, with symphonic and jazzy leanings. They include violinist Akihisa Tsuboy [from KBB – see below], and have been compared to UK, Outer Limits and Pageant [see above]. Their only album so far is ‘Interpose+’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2005].
– an obscure prog band consisting of some members of Fairy [see above]. They made on album, ‘Glass Castle’ , which I know nothing about.
– a space rock group with the fairly unique use of a zurna [a double-reeded horn]. They made only one album that I know of, ‘From the Depths of the Other Space’ [Charnel Music, 1997], which is pretty good stuff, although I would only call some of it ‘space rock’ as such – regardless, the vibe throughout is definitely psychedelic, be it earthbound or floating through the cosmos. Some of it reminds me of the Greek group Vavoura Band [circa ‘Ethnic – Soundtracks For Films’] blended with something like instrumental Angel’in Heavy Syrup [see above].
– a broadly symphonic prog group which is a project of keyboardist/guitarist/programmer Masahiro Uemura [ex-Fairy, Io – see above]. Kalo has one album that I know of, ‘Spiral Dream’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2004]. Apparently it lacks a particular style or direction, dabbling in a bit of everything proggy.
– formed in 1992 by guitarist/violinist Akihisa Tsuboy. They play instrumental progressive rock with prominent violin and improvisation, and symphonic and fusion elements. The only albums I know of are ‘Lost & Found’ [Musea, 2000] and ‘Four Corner’s Sky’ [Musea, 2003].
– a progressive rock group with lots of mellotron, apparently comparable to Genesis and Anekdoten [though not as dark]. They’ve made one album that I know of, ‘Hakootoko’ [Vital, 2003].
– the ex-singer from Shingetsu [see above]. I haven’t been able to find out much of anything about this person, who has at least one album that came out as by Makoto Kitayama with Shingetsu Project – ‘Hiraku Sazanami’ [Musea, 1998]. It reputedly contains symphonic progressive rock with some comparisons to King Crimson, and was recorded between 1972 and 1996.
– a side-project formed by Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida to play full-band stuff that’s more ‘proggy’ than other Ruins stuff – particularly in the zeuhl mold. The first two albums featured keyboardist/vocalist Aki Kubota from Bondage Fruit [see above], who also sang on Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ [see above]. ‘Hundred Sights of Koenji’ [God Mountain, 1994] and ‘Nivraym’ [Magaibutsu/Infinite, 2000] are both really dense, complex and over-the-top intense [Nivraym more so – ‘Hundred Sights’ is more varied and has some respite from the assault on the senses]. The only other albums I know of are ‘II’ aka ‘Viva Koenji!’ [God Mountain, 1997] and ‘Angherr Shisspa’ [Magaibutsu, 2005], which is more diverse and quite excellent.
– another Yoshida side-project, with guitarist Kido Natsuki [Bondage Fruit] and bassist Mitsuro Nansuro [Altered States, Ground Zero]. Their debut ‘Korekyojin’ [Tzadik, 1999] is a full-band [trio] outing, sometimes slightly reminiscent of Ruins’ ‘Symphonica’ album, though more stylistically diverse and leaning towards RIO prog. It still has that Ruins jumpiness, but the music is a little bit more accessible [only a little bit!]. Pretty hard to describe, but recommended highly! More recently came the albums ‘Arabesque’ [Magaibitsu, 2004] and the live ‘Isotope’ [Tzadik, 2005].
– a light, melodic progressive rock group with jazzy leanings. They have one album, ‘L’Esprit de l’Exil’ [Musea/Intermusic, 2005].
– a heavy Canterbury-inspired progressive group with a jazz-fusion edge, formed in 1997. Comparisons include Soft Machine, Nucleus, Passport and Zappa fused with Happy Family or Korekyojin. Their first album was ‘Machine and the Synergetic Nuts’ [Alibaba, 2003], followed by the even better ‘Leap Second Forward’ [Cuneiform, 2005].
– a Tokyo trio playing noisy underground psychedelic rock. They’ve been compared to White Heaven but also clearly show a love for US and UK rock from the late 60’s and early 70’s. Their first album was the cassette-only ‘Miminokoto’ [Gyuune, 2002], followed by ‘2’ [Austin Record, 2003], ‘Live’ [Last Visible Dog, 2003], ‘3’ [Siwa Records, 2004] and ‘Green Mansions’ [Alchemy Records, 2005]. ‘Orange Garage’ [Last Visible Dog,2005] is their second live album, recorded at the Orange Garage, hence the album title.
– a complex, original symphonic prog group with one album so far – ‘Mizukagami’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003]. It’s been compared to Vermillion Sands and Shingetsu [see above].
– a folk-jazz group with progressive leanings, taking in ‘ethnic’ folk music styles from all over the world. There is one album that I know of, ‘Ethnic Fusion - Super Ethnic Flavor’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2004].
– a symphonic-fusion progressive band who have been compared to Kenso, Ain Soph [see above], UK and Dream Theater. They have only one album that I know of, ‘Doppler 444’ [Belle Antique, 1997].
– perhaps classifiable as an experimental ‘post-rock’ band, their first two albums were ‘Under the Pipal Tree’ [Tzadik, 2001] and ‘One Step More and You Die’ [Rykodis/Arena Rock, 2003]. They recorded ‘Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined’ [Fujipacific Music/Virgin, 2004 – rec. 2000-2001] with a string quartet and Steve Albini [though I’m not sure if he plays on it or just helped them with recording – the relevant part of the liner notes is obscured on a dark background and is partly unreadable]. The music on this album is beautiful, slowly unfolding instrumental stuff [kind of modern symphonic avant-prog in slo-mo], occasionally building to clanging furious guitar climaxes. They have at least one other album out, ‘New York Soundtracks’ [Human Highway, 2004].
– a progressive jazz rock group with some free jazz leanings. Their album ‘Heap’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003] is reputedly comparable to Soft Machine, Henry Cow and Passport.
– an ‘avant-prog’ group influenced by Ruins, Boredoms and John Zorn’s Naked City, amongst other things. Their first album was ‘Musical Aluminum’ [Tzadik, 1999]; I’m not sure if they’ve released anything else yet.
– an ‘avant-jazz’ trio using keyboards, trombone and drums; the drummer also plays in P.O.N. [see below]. Apparently broadly comparable to John Zorn’s Naked City, I’m not sure if this band has any albums out.
– ex-Taj Mahal Travellers member who released an album, ‘Electronic Noise Improvisation’ [Doppelganger, 1999], which in the words of Julian Cope is “a wild journey through a ring-modulated primal swamp infested with treated pianos, insane drummers, boiling bubbling synthesizers, ring-modulated mandolinists, and strange ever-upwardly shifting electronic FX”.
– an experimental electronic musician, active since the mid-90’s, who runs 2 labels – Transonic and Zero Gravity. He features in some groups on his labels, as well as releasing his own solo performances. The most predominant of these are ‘The World of Electronic Sound’ series, which go up to volume 4. Of those that I’ve heard, basically what you get is lots of electronic fucking-around with no real direction or attempts at musical coherence. It can be quite enjoyable if you like electronic music of all kinds but I find these albums get a bit samey by the time they’re about half way through playing. All of the Zero Gravity releases have very distinctive and effective artwork – hard to describe, but a web search should pick up some examples. Those perhaps of more interest to psychedelic/progressive electronic freaks are mentioned above and below [Dub Sonic Roots, Strange Garden, Trio Rakant]. Many of the other releases are either fairly quiet and minimal, or high-frequency and fucked-up. Some of it’s quite good, but if I start listing every Japanese electronic group or artist I’ll be here forever!
– a Tokyo progressive rock group formed in 1998 by bassist Satoshi Kobayashi and flautist Kazumi Suzuki; they’re also known as Naikaku-No-Wa, but they seem to have dropped the last bit more recently. They have been compared to Jethro Tull and King Crimson, with some metal and jazz rock leanings. Their first album was the self-produced ‘Wheels of Fortune’ , followed by ‘Shell’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2006].
– one of Keiji Haino’s [see above] side projects. Their debut was ‘Nijiumu’ [PSF, 1990], followed by ‘Era of Sad Wings’ [PSF, 1993], which comes recommended by Alan Cummings as a “contemplative fusion of electronic washes, ethnic instruments and deeply echoed vocals”.
– a psychedelic group formed by Kawabata Makoto [see above] and Asahito Najo from High Rise. I’ve only heard one track by them, from the ‘Tokyo Flashback 2’ PSF sampler, and no longer with Makoto in the group. Starting out as a hypnotic inner-space groove reminiscent of live Can, the track [‘Thin City Part 2’] soon morphs into a blistering acid guitar freakout. They have at least one album, ‘Mort Nuit’ [Fractal, 2002].
– I haven’t been able to find out much about this band, who certainly don’t have a name that allows for easy internet searching! They have made at least one album, ‘O-U’ [Poseidon, 2003], reputedly containing a complex mix of RIO, jazz rock and classical music with an avant-garde approach.
– formed by guitarist and vocalist Rinji Fukuoka. From the little I’ve heard they play a kind of psychedelic rock occasionally a little reminiscent of the White Heaven I’ve heard, but heavier and less commercial. Their albums are ‘Overhang Party’ [private?, 1993], ‘2’ [Pataphysique, 1994], ‘Live at Show Boat 8/22 1994’ [Pataphysique, 1995], ‘4’ [Pataphysique, 1998] and the 2-CD + 7” ‘Otherside Of’ [Pataphysique, 2000].
– a Japanese/Australian group who played a weird kind of experimental quasi-industrial music blending samples, turntables and tapes with hard-core avant rock. Their sound is comparable to Bill Laswell’s Praxis, some Mr. Bungle and perhaps John Zorn. I believe their first album was ‘Peril’ [Dr Jim’s Records, 1993], which featured Otomo Yoshihide [turntables, guitar, tapes], Tony Buck [drums, samples, machines, composer of most of the music], Kato Hideki [bass, voice] and Michael Sheridan [guitar]. I think their second [and last?] album was ‘Multiverse’ [Sound Factory Records, 1993], which saw Hideki replaced by Thierry Fosmale.
– an instrumental prog band with two keyboard players, and a heavy symphonic approach. They’ve been compared to Magma, Happy Family and ELP and are reputedly great. They’ve released two albums so far – ‘Pochakaite Malko’ [Infinite, 2002] and ‘Laya’ [Tutinoko, 2004], which features Akihisa Tsuboy from KBB [see above] on violin.
– formed as an offshoot of Ground Zero [Otomo Yoshihide’s group], with the guitarist Kido Natsuki being from Bondage Fruit [see above]. Using sax, drums, bass and guitar they play a highly complex kind of progressive rock with RIO and zeuhl influences, a bit like a blend of Koenjihyakkei, Happy Family, PFS and Trap. They only made one album that I know of, the excellent ‘P.O.N.’ [Double Trap, 1995].
– a trio led by guitarist Takumi Seino, also of Six North and Budderfly. They’ve made at least one album, ‘Light is Decomposed Into Fragments’ [Musea, 2001]. The music is reputedly abstract jazz rock with progressive and improvisational aspects, and has been compared in part to Pat Metheny.
– a heavy guitar-fronted progressive fusion band with one album that I know of, ‘Pryme Tyme’ .
– another Ruins side-project, consisting of Tatsuya Yoshida and Hisashi Sasaki from Ruins, Seiichi Yamamoto from The Boredoms and Atsushi Tsuyama from Acid Mothers Temple [see above]. The album ‘Close to the RH’ [Tractor, 2003] contains frenzied interpretations of prog and psych songs.
– keyboardist from prog band Deja-vu [see above]. He made some contributions to the v/a Italian prog tribute album ‘Pazzo Fanfano di Musica’ [Crime, 1989], also featuring Outer Limits, Teru’s Symphonia, Mr. Sirius and Kanon [which consisted of members of Outer Limits]. ‘Gikyoku Onsou’ [Made in Japan/Musea, 1990] was his first solo album. Around this time he also started composing and recording music for video games, and there are many CD’s available containing this music. ‘Force of Light’ [Musea, 1998] is instrumental and was adapted from one of his computer game soundtracks. It has been described as mechanical, maniacal and bombastic, although with some moments of calm. By this time he was also making music for TV shows and anime.
– ex-drummer from Bi Kyo Ran [see above]. His first solo album ‘Tappi’  was made with Bernard Paganotti [ex-Magma, Weidorje, Paga Group] and others. It’s reputedly progressive rock with jazz and eastern influences.
– an experimental/electronic musician and composer who also plays double bass, amongst other things. He’s made numerous albums, perhaps the best known being his third, ‘Enfant Terrible’ [Sonore, 2000]. It’s apparently a ‘futuristic fairy-tale’ inspired by travels to tropical lands, with sounds including Brazilian music, chamber music, jazz, gamelan, tape collages and electronics. ‘Base of Fiction’  was more rock-edged, although utterly unlike normal rock, with members of Ruins, Boredoms and Ground Zero playing on some tracks. It’s an excellent and radically inventive album at times sounding like Univers Zero and Bondage Fruit, but with lots of rapid style changes and unusual moods that make it very hard to sum up or classify.
– an interesting Ruins/Acid Mothers Temple [see above] side project, being a chaotic experimental psychedelic rock band consisting of Tatsuya Yoshida [drums, percussion, oboe, bouzouki, keyboards, voc.], Kawabata Makoto [guitar, violin, sarangi, hyoutan syamisen, keyboards, voc.] and Tsuyama Atsushi [bass, guitar, drums, violin, keyboards, kazoo, voc.]. Their album ‘Out Takes ’66-‘78’ [Fractal Records, 1996] and the crediting of the tracks [eg. 1. live recorded at Avalon Ball Room, San Francisco, 24th May ‘67] gives the impression that these are long-lost live archive recordings of a previously unknown vintage band. If that were the case then history would need some re-writing, but it later becomes quite clear that all of it was recorded as improvisations in 1996. Why the misleading album name and notes when they give it away anyway, if you read the notes properly? Beats me. The music is pretty good, though!
– I’ve been unable to find any info on this band, and I’m not even sure where they fit chronologically, but they made at least one album – ‘Process’ – which is reputedly a lot like Far East Family Band [see above].
– an avant-garde jazz big band, led by Daisuke Fuwa. Shibusashirazu roughly means ‘never be cool’, and their sound likewise avoids modern trends and focuses on diversity and musical inspiration, with lots of inspiration. Their live shows are also multimedia events to feast the eys as well as the ears. They’ve released many albums – ‘Shibusamichi’ [Chitei, 1993], ‘Dettaramen’ [Chitei/Nutmeg, 1993], ‘Something Different’ [Chitei, 1994], ‘Be Cool’ [Chitei, 1995], ‘Shibusai’ [Chitei, 1997], ‘Shiburyu’ [Chitei, 1999], ‘Shibuhata’ [Chitei, 2002] and ‘Shibuboshi’ [Chitei, 2004]. The latter included Marshall Allen, Michael Ray and Elson Nascimento from the Sun Ra Arkestra. Of these, I’ve only heard ‘Dettaramen’, which is a bit like a blend of Chicago, Globe Unity Orchestra, Sun Ra, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Operation Rhino and Centipede.
– an instrumental progressive fusion group formed in 1990, who have been compared to Kenso [see above] and Brand X. They’ve released at least 8 albums, including ‘Steps on Edge’ [1994; reissued Musea, 2003], ‘Out & Out’ [Musea, 1998], ‘Points of View’ [Musea, 2001], ‘Alive’ [Musea] and ‘Verge Of Reality’ [Musea, 2005] – I’ve found it pretty hard to discover anything more about their discography.
– an unusual progressive group who have been compared in part to Weidorje and Mr. Sirius [see above]. They are led by bassist/composer Hideyuki Shima. Their debut ‘I’m Here In My Heart’ [Stream Line/Musea, 2000] is apparently a unique symphonic progressive album with elements of jazz-fusion and RIO. The next album ‘Prayer’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003] was reputedly spacier, and features Dave Sinclair of Caravan guesting on one track.
– a great experimental psychedelic band, formed in 1993 in Kyoto. Their first album was ‘Shamanic Waveform’ [Inoxia, 1997], which plays more or less as one long piece, although it’s broken up into numerous tracks. It flows from serene cosmic meditations to frantic, over-the-top heavy rock outs and psychedelic weirdness. Other albums, which I haven’t heard, include ‘Sunbox’ [Comma, 1999], ‘Bonjour Bonshanfarm’ [Comma, 2000] and ‘Otodama’ [Comma, 2001]. The band features someone named Sab on Moog – I wonder if this is the same Sab or SAB mentioned above?
– a symphonic hard prog band, comparable to Teru’s Symphonia, Marge Litch and Novela [see above]. ‘Song of Silence/Wish’ [Musea] is a reissue of their 1992 album and an EP from the same year; I’m not sure if they released anything else.
– one of the more interesting groups on the Zero Gravity label. Their first album, which I haven’t heard, was ‘For Speaker System’ [Zero Gravity, 199?]. The only other album I’m aware of is ‘Mumbo Jumbo (Ritual of the Back Yard)’ [Zero Gravity, 1997]. It’s a really interesting record of varied electroacoustic experimental sounds and moods, very unusual and very listenable if you like things that are offbeat. The first track for example goes from an off-kilter sax/bass/percussion/electronics workout into a deep trippy section with treated throat chanting monks, exotic percussion etc. giving the feeling of being ferried to some mysterious place through an underground channel. Six band members are credited, as well as “some strange people”, utilizing bass, alto sax, percussion, kalimba, synthesizer, rhythm machine, electronics, effects, tapes, sampler, kazoo, bell, key and drill. The saxophonist on this [Masahiko Okura] also plays on the Trio Rakant album [see below].
– a project of Six North [see above] mainman Hideyuki Shima. The live ‘The Encounter’ [Musea, 2002] again has jazz-fusion, classical prog and RIO influences but is reputedly quite different to Six North or other Shima projects.
– a psychedelic rock group formed in 1989 by Junichi Yamamoto. In 1991 the guitarist was replaced by Masoki Batoh of Ghost [see above]. As far as I know their sole recorded legacy was ‘Live At Your Cosmic Mind’ [Now Sound, 1993], which I think was released after the band had broken up. It’s a great enthusiastic live album, swinging between extremes of fast hardcore punky stoner rock-outs and mellower, heavily stoned Floydian space grooves.
– a 2/3 Japanese trio consisting of Kato Hideki [ex-Peril – see above] on a weird miniature electric bass, Ikue Mori on drum machines, and the well-known Fred Frith on guitar. What I think is their sole album, ‘Death Ambient’ [Tzadik, 1999], is a spell-binding array of weird but very listenable abstract free-form experimental ‘rock’ music. Pretty hard to describe, ranging from gentle exotic melodics to chaotic, tripped-out sound collages.
– originally inspired by progressive jazz rock such as Miles Davis and Weather Report, this band made two albums – ‘Time Strings Travellers’ [1995, cassette] and ‘Second Action’ [1996, cassette] – before becoming a more original instrumental group for ‘Still Songs’ [1999?]. They describe it as ‘neo popular music’ with an Asian feel and pop stylings – though it’s also been described as hypnotic and exotic spacey prog!
– formed in 1986 by guitarist Tsuneo Imahori, who composed all the material. Their music was highly complex and convoluted progressive rock in a mind-boggling RIO vein. Comparisons include Henry Cow, Cartoon, Samla Mammas Manna, Picchio dal Pozzo and Frank Zappa. They released a few albums that I know of – ‘Tipographica’ [God Mountain, 1993], ‘God Says I Can’t Dance’ [Mellow, 1994; reissued Pony/Canyon, 1996], the live ‘The Man Who Does Not Nod’ [Pony/Canyon, 1995] and ‘Floating Opera’ [Sistema, 1997] – all of which are highly regarded. They broke up in 1998.
– a cosmic-avant-folk group formed by synth player Pneuma [see above], later taking on a little Third Ear Band influence. They have numerous albums, including ‘Four Pictures’ , ‘Music For Aerial Sculptures’ , ‘Fu-ka - Anthem to Raise the Dead’ , ‘Bottom of Empty’ , ‘Tower’ [Heresie, 1997] and [as Akira and the Trembling Strain] ‘Dwelling of Telescopefish’ .
– an instrumental jazz-rock-fusion group, a little progressive with some RIO leanings. They have a couple of albums, ‘Quartet ‘99’ [Musea/Poseidon, 1999; reissued 2004 – or, recorded in ’99 but released for first time in ‘04] and ‘Duo ‘03’ [Musea/Poseidon, 2003]; they are a trio on neither of these, although they were when they formed!
– an electronic experimental duo who released only one album that I know of, the wonderful ‘Kokorosususu’ [Zero Gravity, 1997]. Along with Strange Garden [see above] Trio Rakant were one of the better groups on the Zero Gravity label, in my opinion. This album is a lengthy collection of deep inner-space electronic weavings with acoustic elements expertly spun in, including guest musicians on sax, bass, and treated guitar loops on some tracks. At times meditative, at other times dissonant and challenging [a bit like some Interstellar Cementmixers, and sometimes with the vibe of latter-day Taj Mahal Travellers getting a look into cyberspace].
– formed in 1994 by Kawabata Makoto & Hiroshi Higashi [from Acid Mothers Temple – see above] with drummer Nobuko Emi. They have a strong cosmic/spiritual intent in their deep, droning soundscapes. Albums include ‘Tsurubami’ [Tenkyo No To, 1995 – cassette only], ‘Tenkyo No To’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 1998 – CDR], ‘Kaina’ [Last Visible Dog, 2000 – CDR, reissued on CD in 2003], ‘Hanshoh No Omoi’ [Acid Mothers Temple, 2001], ‘Tsukuyomi Ni’ [Riot Season, 2003] and ‘Gekkyukekkaichi’ [Strange Attractors Audio House, 2003]. The latest album that I know of [and the only one I’ve heard so far] is ‘Shohjohkisshohtan’ [C3R, 2004], which swings between noisy free rock jamming [not unlike Acid Mothers Temple but without the electronics], amorphous cosmic ramblings that are almost free jazz [though minus the instrumental talent that free jazz usually requires to actually be good], and more ethereal spacey dronings.
– guitarist/bassist/vocalist member of Acid Mothers Temple [see above], who used to play with Omoide Hatoba. He’s released some solo albums, of which I think ‘Starring as Henry the Human Horse’ , an LP release, was the first. ‘Atsushi Tsuyama’ [AMT, 200?] was a limited edition cd-r that came in a gorgeous elaborate paper package that looked like what I imagine the envelope to a fancy traditional Japanese wedding invitation might look like. The music was great too, and totally tripped-out, taking in meditative cosmic synths, full-throttle guitar onslaughts, psychedelic rock and stranger points of experimentation. ‘Is This a Pencil Or a Sheep?’ [AMT, 2001; cd-r] was also great stuff, though a bit more restrained and less diverse, residing mostly in a tripped-out psychedelic folk/rock bubble. Tsuyama has also collaborated with Ruins’ Tatsuya Yoshida in the duo Akaten [see above].
– an Acid Mothers Temple offshoot with Kawabata Makoto, Higashi Hiroshi and Ayano. They reputedly play German-influenced cosmic psychedelia with just electric guitar and vocals. There are two albums that I know of, ‘Uchû’  and ‘Buddha…’ .
– a guitar/bass/drums trio playing complex space rock with comparisons to Ozric Tentacles and King Crimson – or, a solo project of ex-Tipographica [see above] guitarist Tsuneo Imahori, with guest musicians, in prog-jazz-drum’n’bass realms like Squarepusher, depending on who you believe. I haven’t heard them yet, myself. I’ve been unable to find much information in English, but there are at least two albums – ‘Unbeltipo’ [Sistema, 1999] and ‘Joujoushka #1’ . The first featured guest musicians on flute, trumpet, sax, bass, turntables, percussion, drums and programmed drums.
– a symphonic prog-jazz group formed in 1992 by bassist Keizo Endo. Apparently they are Mongolian, but they sing in Japanese and they are often thought of as a Japanese band. Their music has been described as Pageant-meets-Kenso [see above]. They’ve released three albums – ‘Yamataikoku’ [Air From Mt. Fuji, 1996], ‘A Myth’ [Musea, 1998] and ‘Gappa’ [Musea, 2004].
– an electronic music composer based in Los Angeles, born in Michigan. ‘Stages’ [Think Tank Media, 1999] is a compilation of material recorded as soundtracks for live theatre, that has been compared to Kitaro, Yellow Magic Orchestra [see above], Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno.
– a chamber rock group comparable to Tipographica and Lacrymosa [see above] in style. They have one album that I know of, ‘Zypressen’ [Belle Antique, 1996].