Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Friday, August 15, 2003

Hello lads and lasses. Review number two! Excelsior! (Exclamation overuse = sure sign of impotent writing and total lack of imagination.)

Hard Rock Transonic
Musica Transonic
2002 - Fractal Records

Japan's Musica Transonic is practically an all-star power trio of some of Japan's finest improv/psych rock musicians, with Asahito Nanjo (High Rise, Mainliner) on bass, Makota Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple) on guitar, and Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins) on drums. Of those other bands, the closest point of comparison is High Rise. The music here is full speed ahead hard rock, like some lost 60s classic. Kawabata's playing is all over the top wah-wah damage, perhaps not as good as High Rise's Munehiro Narita, but no less inspired. His playing is not complete amelodic screeching as that might suggest, however (like his guitar insanity becomes at times on Mainliner's Mellow Out), as he understands the value of a killer riff. Nanjo's bass isn't as prominent as usual, but still quite powerful and driven. But the real star here is Yoshida, whose expert playing keeps things together, while still being as expressive--if not as complex and polyrhythmic as his work with Ruins--as the other players. A lot of improvised music can fall apart under its own weight, with each musician trying to have their say. Here, thanks in large part to Yoshida's playing, it is kept tight and the music is all the better for it.

The songs themselves do not vary in arrangement much (start with the basic riff, change gears into soloing, return briefly to riff, and the end abruptly), but that doesn't take away from the music at all. If I had to complain about anything, it would be that the songs aren't nearly long enough. These are musicians who have the ability to stretch things out without becoming boring, and it's kind of a shame that they don't do it here. But that is nitpicking, really. Overall, this is a great hard rock album on the order of classic power trios like Cream or Blue Cheer (just played faster and with more reckless abandon). Actually, it would also do well as an introduction for people interested in the Japanese improv/psych/noise scene (one of the most vital going now and probably for the last 30 years), as it's one of the more accessible records in the genre. Highly recommended.

(And if that's not enough, there are pictures of naked Japanese women scattered about the CD booklet!)