Various Artists

Amaterasu: A Musical Panorama of Japan

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The appreciation (one might almost say fetishization) of modern Japanese psych among Western audiences has turned up a number of strong compilations over the years. Amaterasu is a new contender, appearing on the French Fractal label, a home for a number of albums from groups from Nippon. This isn't a label sampler, however, but a collection of (mostly) brand new songs with an emphasis on longer numbers, and it's manna for those who just can't get enough of the many varieties of Japanese noise that have become more well-known over the years. Indeed; it's the variety that can be seen in the scene that has, in part, led to its fame, and there's no change here. "Sasori" by Overhang Party is a stately epic rock song that feels like a swelling sunrise captured in feedback; Kengo Iuchi's "Sunstar" sounds like it could be calliope notes pitched lower; Mineko Itakura's "Heart of the Flower," and "The Spring" are wistful, mystic, acid-folk. Chie Mukai's "Solo Improvisation" is an extended piece done on a Japanese stringed instrument called the ce-hu. Numerous familiar names appear throughout the two-disc effort -- unsurprisingly Kawabata Makoto takes a bow, concluding the first disc with "Beausoleil," one of his most doggedly minimal songs yet (it only breaks away from calm drone into ten of its 15 minutes). The compilation is at its most striking when it's at its most extreme -- a song like "Object A" by Nagai Seiji is all metallic wails and scrapes over murmuring drones, like a Harry Bertoia installation gone even weirder. Other songs, like "House of the Rising Sun" by Kuriyama Jun, and "Tsuzukete" by Miminokoto, are more demi, lo-fi, furry noise that's familiar enough but still okay listening.