Various Artists

Fractal Twin, Vol. 1: Amaterasu

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This double-CD compilation gathers a wide range of underground Japanese musicians around the figure of Amaterasu, the Goddess of Sun in the Shinto myth. But that's only a record label concept. The artists did not create their contributions in accordance to the theme and there's not much tying them together: their nationality, their devotion to creativity, genre pushing, resolutely non-commercial music, and the quality of their work. That's more than enough to turn this compilation into a very nice springboard for further investigations. The focal point of Amaterasu resides in the avant-psychedelic rock and acid rock sound generally presented by the labels P.S.F. and Fractal, but there are some highly noticeable side trips, including Tabata Mitsuru's electronic piece "Sundazed by the Mirrors" and a chunk of free improv on disc two (Masayoshi Urabe's self-describing "Alto Saxophone Solo Fragment," for instance). Fans of Japanese free rock will be glad to find the likes of Kousokuya, Jun Kuriyama, Overhang Party, Tsuyama Atsushi, and Totsuzen Danball (the latter a bit more oddball) in the track list. The Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makoto contributes an enlightened 15-minute guitar soundscape. Two delicate folk songs by Mineko Itakura occupy the central spot of each disc and serve as pivotal axes, the music shifting direction around them. All tracks have been recorded between 1999 and 2002, only one of them (Totsuzen Danball's "Konoyo ni nai Busshitsu") is identified as being taken from a previously available album. Amaterasu paints a large, inclusive picture of the Japanese underground (surprisingly, Keiji Haino and Kan Mikami are absent) while keeping ties to the rock scene that the popularity of the Acid Mothers has helped bring to a larger non-Japanese audience.

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