Tetuzi Akiyama

Route 13 to the Gates of Hell: Live in Tokyo

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If anyone wants to know how unpredictable Tetuzi Akiyama is, just pick up his A Bruit Secret release Résophonie and this one. The first one is a collection of experimental studies in resonance, while Route 13 to the Gates of Hell showcases the guitarist toying around with the American vernacular. The CD is packaged in a luscious cover and accompanied by the story of a biker who searches for the gates of Hell, only to find that he cannot walk through them but must take the place of the guard of the gates and wait a few hundred years for the next person who will be looking for them. The setting -- riding on deserted streets in the middle of nowhere -- befits the music marvelously. This is a live performance in two parts, recorded on May 7, 2004, in Tokyo. The first set, subtitled "Soundtrack from an Imaginary Film: Route 13 to the Gates of Hell," flows continuously. Playing an amplified wooden guitar, Akiyama uses country blues as a springboard for personal explorations that take listeners from disembodied blues to twangy film music-like melodies and Central American improv. "Tried to Catch the Last Sun" is particularly poignant. The Japanese guitarist is not making fun of anything: he is completely embracing the ethos of biker road movies and makes it his own. The subtitle of the second set references his Idea LP Don't Forget to Boogie!, released in 2003, and some reviewers have been fooled into thinking that this is a reissue of that limited-edition LP. No, this is still from the May 7, 2004, performance. Akiyama has traded his acoustic guitar for his electric boogie guitar and is revisiting a number of tunes from the Don't Forget to Boogie! album, which approached rock & roll pretty much the same way country blues provided the drive for the first set. The music here is raunchier and more repetitive, but establishes a mood as strong and film-like as the first half. This rootsy avant-garde guitar music is surprisingly accessible, quite easy to love, and eons away from the "onkyo" scene Akiyama is mostly associated with.

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