Ichiraku Yoshimitsu

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The concept of the "country boy" is one that shows up in just about every history of a musical genre. The fact that this frame of reference has nothing to do with country music at all is best demonstrated…
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The concept of the "country boy" is one that shows up in just about every history of a musical genre. The fact that this frame of reference has nothing to do with country music at all is best demonstrated by the career of this fine avant-garde Japanese musician who, like many similar country boys, developed his own musical concepts in an isolated environment, completely removed from the forces, both competitive and artistic, of the big-city music scenes. In this case, the big city was Tokyo, and while all manner of progressive and noisy music was being created there, Ichiraku Yoshimitsu slowly and peacefully created not only his own musical worlds but a unique instrumental setup from his home in Yagamuchi, a good 500 miles from Tokyo. His musical creations are well worthwhile even if he was just a typical modern percussionist, but the fact is that this musician has managed to accomplish something very few percussionists have managed; that being the complete integration of both acoustic and electric drums into a single setup, accompanied by a skill and grace with both types of drums that seem to have escaped the grasp of many others who have tried. A more typical pattern in drumming from the final decades of the 20th century involved drummers such as fellow Japanese player Ikue Mori, who abandoned acoustic drums completely when she began playing electronic percussion. And of course, there are plenty of drummers who thoroughly avoid electronics based on various aesthetic considerations.

Ichiraku is both an accomplished jazz and rock drummer whose playing has been compared to Jack DeJohnette, and a creator of electronic mischief whose recordings are as off-the-wall as any from the Japanese scene. These include the highly praised releases of the group I.S.O., as well as various collaborations with players such as Otomo Yoshihide, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, and the Korean saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan. But, up until the middle of the '90s, he had next to no contact with players from the international Japanese scene. This had changed by 1996 and 1997, due to his presence on a small pile of releases, and he quickly became one of the most respected players. His activities have included playing with the Korean trio Choi Song Bae, founding the band Happiness Proof along with the charming vocalist and songwriter Haco, working with both important groups (Ground Zero and Phantasmagoria) and various ad hoc groupings with visiting foreign players, the latter projects often undertaken in collaboration with guitarist and festival organizer Uchihashi. The percussionist also sometimes creates projects under the pseudonym of Surround Panner, a name that is as descriptive of one his performances as the witty compilation title Land of the Rising Noise. Ichiraku continues to live in the Yamaguchi region and, in the late '90s, expanded his involvement in aspects of the music business by opening his own record store.