The first in an exciting series of compilations exploring Japanese music is an enthralling collection of folk and rock songs
The inaugural release from Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series focusses on the country’s underground scene which developed during the late 60s and early 70s. Known as the ‘angura’ movement, these folk and rock songs are a far cry from the melodramatic Beatles-lite of bands like The Mops.
There are recognisable notes throughout the album which have been fed through the filter of life in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. Kenji Endo’s gently lulling Curry Rice is the perfect introductory song, sounding both familiar and distant. Other gems include the beguiling harmonies on Akai Tori’s Takeda No Komori Uta and Hachimitsu Pie’s six-and-a-half minute jam Hei No Ue De. Fluid’s Rokudenashi would sound just as at home in Laurel Canyon as it would in the folk clubs of Tokyo.
English lyrical translations are provided in the liner note but in some strange way close attention to them detracts slightly from the joy of not fully comprehending the subject matter. The extensive information provided on each of the artists is definitely welcome though, introducing heroes of Japanese music such as the idiosyncratic singer Fumio Nunoya and pioneers of the native-language rock scene Gypsy Blood (whose Sugishi Hi Wo Mitsumete is another highlight).
It’s strangely appropriate that the album ends with The Dylan II’s cover of their namesakes I Shall Be Released. By adding original lyrics to the song they perfectly highlight the common ability to take their influences into a more genuinely Japanese direction. All of the tracks on this compilation ably fuse elements of psychedelia, beatnik folk and protest songs with more traditional elements of their country’s own music. The result is a sound which is both familiar and authentic and a unique listening experience. We already can’t wait for the next instalment.
Verdict: Deeply fascinating and eminently listenable