The fuzz, feedback and folklore of a legendary Japanese psych-rock band

With just fuzz, wah-wah, tape delay and insanely powerful amplifiers, the sounds Takashi Mizutani extracted from his electric guitar were seismic beyond belief. Never playing five notes when sticking to oblivion would do, his mastery of the guitar lay in the feel, texture and sheer, mind-blowing volume and vibration of his instrument. Listening to live recordings of Mizutani’s band Les Rallizes Dénudés is an often disconcerting experience, as there is an implicit threat that any moment could be overtaken by excruciating and heartbreaking commentary. It wasn’t a mistake, but on purpose: “The direction of our band was decided the instant my electric guitar reacted,” Mizutani said. music review writer Manabu Yuasa by fax in 1991, one of the only known releases from the notoriously allergic recluse to interviews.

Never completing a studio album and never legally recording his compositions, Mizutani’s sound art has long lived in the murky realm of unofficial live bootlegs, which have generated rampant piracy, myths and rumors about his life and work. After the belated announcement of his death in October 2021 via Les Rallizes Dénudés’ first official website – he died in 2019 – governing body The Last One Music has promised to finally deliver the truth that had been obscured by years of hearsay and legend. Now with a 50-year-old live recording titled The OZ Bands, The fervent fanbase of Mizutani can finally legally acquire the music of this totem of psychedelic rock.

The strange story of Rallizes Dénudés began in 1967 at Doshisha University in Kyoto. It was on the politically and culturally progressive Doshisha campus that Takashi Mizutani befriended the radical theater troupe Gendai Gekijo and, according to lore about the origin of the group’s name, adopted their “suitcase” slang. stripped” – its direct translation meaning “empty suitcase”, roughly equivalent to “airhead”. Incorporating a play on Japanese slang ‘rari’, which means ‘under the influence’ (which explains a popular alternative translation of the group’s name), he had a name that evoked the empty vessel his body had to become to channel the titanic currents of the audio onslaught.

Mizutani’s compositions center on hypnotic repetition and the rugged simplicity of the rhythm section, leaving ample room for his passionate, echo-laden vocals and maelstrom of wailing guitars to soar high. A voracious appetite for extreme sonorities on the borders of American rock and jazz has guided these unique auditory manifestations: the proto-punk of The StoogesThe seeds and The Velvet Underground; American pioneers of free jazz John Coltrane and Albert Ayler; releases on avant-garde, boundary-destroying label ESP-Disk’; the time-consuming, jaw-dropping jams of the Haight-Ashbury bands of the 1960s. Each skipped a flat stone across the surface of the Pacific, generating fractal rings that collided and combined in ways only Mizutani could imagine and embody .

In particular, the Fillmore West scene revolving around the Grateful DeadThe axis of was of unique interest to both Rallizes and the directors of OZ, the café and performance space that served as a temporary home for countercultural art in the Kichijoji district of Tokyo. When the venue neared its inevitable end, the OZ Last Days festival – from which The OZ Bands‘performances are drawn – was modeled directly after the Fillmore’s closing festival. Even the original private press compilation OZ Days Live reflected the commemoration Fillmore: Last Days vinyl set. But with Les Rallizes Dénudés only allowing one side of wax to hold their sprawling jams, the original version pales in comparison to the transcendent impact of The OZ Bands. Thanks to bassist and LRD producer Makoto Kubota’s sensitive remastering of the original tape reels, which miraculously remained intact in the care of OZ manager Minoru Tezuka, we finally have the opportunity to be at the center of the incandescent performance of the band into a glorious high-fidelity stereo field.

Kubota – musician, producer and longtime collaborator in many notable Japanese musical projects over the past 50 years – connects the late Mizutani to Temporal Drift. “Our relationship with The Last One Music begins with Makoto Kubota,” writes Yosuke Kitazawa, co-founder of Temporal Drift. After working with partner Patrick McCarthy on the reissue of Light In The Attic for Sanchiko Kanenobu Misora, a connection was established with Kanenobu’s personal friend, Kubota. Both Kitazawa and McCarthy were longtime fans of the band and, amid the launch of their new label, jumped at the chance to bring the official Rallizes Dénudés records to the world.

It’s fitting that The Last One Musique and Temporal Drift have released a unique, never-before-seen live performance as Rallizes’ first above-ground release of their campaign. A Rallizes Dénudés studio album never materialized during Mizutani’s lifetime, which has often been attributed to his crippling perfectionism, but ozThe uncut versions of “The Last One” reveal that a studio could hardly hope to contain or capture the colossal sounds it favored. Les Rallizes Dénudés were looking for a visceral impact, sometimes violent, carried by an unimaginable sound intensity. Playing with disco balls, stunning light shows, fog machines and strobes, the band’s live sets required no drug inducements to reach the psychedelic state naturally.

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This precedence of live performances over studio recordings once again links LRD to the Grateful Dead and the vibrant tapping scene that arose among its fans to circulate sound through time and space. A crucial distinction must be made, however: while the The dead graciously welcomed the candles to their shows and even helped facilitate band swap networks, Mizutani, according to Kubota, “hated the idea.” But with Rallizes records completely non-existent in Japanese record stores, many who were lucky enough to attend one of their infrequent gigs began bringing various audio recorders with them, capturing raw tapes and often incredibly saturated to take home and listen to religiously. Some dubbed and forwarded these illicit recordings to other fans, as piracy was the only way fanatics could turn against neophytes. And so it was that an underground community blossomed from the damp ground beneath the black booted feet of Mizutani, a legion bound together as adoring co-conspirators.

So word of this superlatively loud music spread in hushed tones of reverence, every white label cassette, CD-R and vinyl that survived its clandestine birth attracted a whole new clan of converts, eventually materializing as MP3 downloads on music blogs in the 2000s. “A lot of times the consumer has no idea that what they’re buying is contraband or that the artist isn’t really getting royalties from the sale,” McCarthy says. “That was certainly the case for many Rallizes fans, where it was rumored that someone from the band or even Mizutani was behind the exits. We now know that was not the case.”

As each new pressing sold out quickly without any publicity, the cult of Les Rallizes Dénudés grew, as did the number of bootleg record labels seeking to cash in without having to share a dime with the musicians themselves. Whether driven by pure economics or a more idealistic drive to release some of the most extreme music in the psychedelic rock canon, the result for Mizutani was the same: an insatiable international fanbase buying records he didn’t. never wanted to see out; his visionary work stripped from his hands without control or compensation.

The cycle continued until Mizutani’s death in 2019, when his entire catalog of recorded music – including many tape reels that had never been grabbed by bootleggers – was transferred under control. of his surviving family. With the help of Kubota and The Last One Music, work began to legally record the original compositions and recordings in an official capacity. Now, thanks to their collaboration with Temporal Drift, acquiring the music of Mizutani and his acolytes is finally an extraordinary affair.

“It’s incredibly important to me, and to Yosuke, that artists are fairly represented and compensated for their work,” McCarthy says. “Towards the end of his life, Mizutani spoke with Kubota and expressed his frustration with the way music had been pirated and presented over the years. They discussed plans to set the story straight and put a end to all illegally released albums, both physical and streaming. The fact that we are able to help make this wish come true makes us extremely proud.”

Next on the docket is a remastered three-CD set commemorating the 50th anniversary of the OZ Last Days festival (due this summer); The Last OneMusic hinted that this would be followed by the very first vinyl editions of the three archival albums that Mizutani sanctioned on CD in 1991, originally released by the Rivista label and long out of print (and, subsequently, widely pirated).

Takashi Mizutani left this world in secret, his existence so shrouded in rumor that even his friends and collaborators believed the obfuscation was deliberate. But also recent interviewsnumerous cover notes and official deadlines showed, it was both unintentional and undesirable. Rather than dispelling the magic of a dream, getting closer to the truth of Mizutani instead awakens a deeper connection with the man behind the ubiquitous black sunglasses. The OZ Bands begins the work of throwing all the inferior and grimy bootlegs into obsolescence, generating a fleeting new moment of communion with one of rock music’s most fascinating and misunderstood songwriters.

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