Anyone who stumbled into the Japan Blues nights at Cafe OTO over the last few years, as well as hearing a menagerie of scratchy old Japanese music, would likely have encountered Akari Mochizuki singing enka and minyo, with her backing tracks, or alongside Hibiki Ichikawa, the only Tsugaru shamisen master in Europe. After Japan Blues’ “Sells His Record Collection”, it was inevitable that the duo would end up in the studio to capture their sound, with a view to giving the recordings a light touch production. A handful of classic minyo songs were laid down, but with one thing or another, they lay untouched.
Having released benthic meisterwerk The Dengie Hundred’s LP Brackenbank last year on Ethbo, a loose collaborative JB/TDH partnership ensued, and it seemed a good time to take another look at the minyo recordings. With the invitation to release for the mighty Demdike Stare, we started work. The chopped and screwed result, the songs themselves often consigned to the other end of a Victorian railway station, or perhaps some new cosmos, only recently revealed by the James Webb telescope. Ichikawa’s bachi manouevres become a rising chorus, as if creating a new kind of rock music by accident, and all this done without a computer – a dirty finger in the eye of your AI.
In the bowl are blended pre-pandemic field recordings from Japan, and some closer to home: a mother gong; teacups; a drain; my Dad’s extractor fan; penny whistle like you never heard before; and Japan Blues trembling on the mic once again. Rounding off the set, singer Tamami Pearl, who recently debuted on Kashual Plastik’s tape, Lullabies For Sleepless People In A Tired World.
We took the set out on the road, a brief tour, taking in Spanners, Meakusma, and Sagome at Iklectik. Who knows, we might just appear in a town near you.