Various Artists

Japanese Avant-Garde

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Amidst the many compilation albums on Japanese experimental music, this CD is surely another kind of creature. First, the project stemmed from an event related to another medium. In March 2002, the Brussels Festival of Fantasy Film brought to Belgium Takashi Miike and Shinya Tsukamoto, two experimental filmmakers. Their works and the discussions that followed their presentation gave the Sub Rosa team the idea to put this album together over the notion of opposites -- after all, isn't Japan the land of 1,000 contradictions? So this CD presents a portrait of Japanese avant-garde music as an exploration of all extremes, from the harsh noise of Merzbow and the guerilla live collages of Ground Zero to the prettiness found in the music of Aki Onda and Haco. The track selection seems to be very personal, spans almost all of the '90s, and includes material previously released on Sub Rosa (Bisk, Multiphonic Ensemble), Softl (Yoshio Machida), and Gentle Giant (a Ground Zero 7"). One standout cut is Koji Asano's "Vs Calla," a rare, short piece from this master of the marathon and a typically disturbing processed sound file. Other points of interest include Merzbow's "Lux Automobile," Onda's "Fish Don't Know It's Raining," and Sachiko M's sine-wave piece "2808200," surprisingly gentle on the ear. The latter is the only example of the turn-of-the-century "onkyo" movement, which is surprising since the extremely quiet has never been explored this deeply. The last two tracks present excerpts from interviews with the filmmakers, in Japanese-English translations, along with an essay by David Toop. Japanese Avant-Garde provides an awkward, mixed-up cross section of its subject, much like Sub Rosa's An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music.

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