Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Osamu Kitajama-Benzaiten; Antilles, 1975; LP

While listening to Benzaiten, Osamu Kitajama's brilliant 1976 release, Disaster Amnesiac is reminded of the Jello Biafra interview in RE/search's Incredibly Strange Music II, in which the renowned record collector speaks eloquently and at length about scores of records that he's collected. Jello's admission of being particularly enamored of releases that contain mixtures of Rock 'n Roll or Rock with the music of non-U.S. cultures applies here. The music recorded for Benzaiten features amazing mixtures of Kitajima's native Japanese Folk and Classical sounds with electric, and Psychedelic specifically, Rock influences.
Starting off with the almost Avant Funk of Benzaiten (God of Music and Water), a track that sets the general blended tone of the entire LP, Kitajama mixes thick bass lines with high pitched Japanese drums, flutes, and chanting to the sounds of Urban America circa mid 1970's.
Regal sho tones bring in Taiyo (the Sun), in which the listener is treated to a slow burbling mixture of drum machine and spaced percussion, along with beautifully strummed acoustic guitar and some seriously moving shakuhachi blowing that frames the chanting action of Kitajama. Wonderfully emotive and mysterious. His guitar playing is seriously cutting on this track, too.
More cutting guitars usher in the Heavy Metal/Noh fusion (eat your hearts out, Kiss, this stuff sounds so much better) of Tengu (a Long Nosed Goblin), whose Black Metal-like title is easily justified within its Japanese indigenous Folk and stomping, heavy Ace Tone Rhythm Machine pairing. The tune seems at times to sound as if Crazy Horse had gotten baked at Ryoanji and JAMMED, seriously spaced out within a Shinto mental matrix.
Side two, essentially on long Sino Psychedelic Noh Fusion suite, begins with Benzaiten (Reprise) and its great African, Mexican, and Japanese drumming, along with prickle-ey guitar, biwa,  and marshal Shinto chanting within its ritual space. This one gets down to some seriously swirling fusion music, a fusion of many different streams, all reaching a mysteriously enchanting ocean. This ocean drinks in the sunlight of Kitijama's musical thoughts and reflects pleasure onto the listener.
Benzaiten draws to a close with the wind swept live immediacy of Whoma (Immortality), in which a dramatic Kosmiche Gagaku sound is drawn from subtle guitar virtuosity that leads to really mind blowing shakuhachi soloing from Tatsuya Sano and punchy, high note percussive stabbing. Kitajama takes the listener out on waves of strumming that would not sound out of place at the Amon Duul commune or at Les Rellizes Denudes crash pad, while Sano beautifies it with purely Japanese tonalities. Disaster Amnesiac cheers right along with the audience, every time.
In the RE/search article sited above, Biafra bemoans the fact that more bands won't be brave enough to try and meld their own cultures' music with some serious ass kickin' Rock 'n Roll in order to develop new blends for the world's listening pleasure. A tall order, for sure, especially in light of all of the layers of obfuscation that lie between the creative act and the possible delivery of documentation of said creative act to a wider listening public. Disaster Amnesiac is thankful that, at some point in the early 1970's, Osamu Kitajama managed to conceive, document, and convince a label with good pressing plants to deliver the masterpiece that Benzaiten truly is. Some really enjoyable, real World Music can be found therein. 

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