Wednesday, February 28, 2018

High Rise's "II"

The music is rock when it is guitar, bass and drums at the center and they are played by musicians that know the language of the instruments well enough to be expressive with them while playing hard. It is a musically risky proposition; mistakes will be made. It is difficult; practice is required. With the band's individual musicians each aggressively supplying their element, the sound made together can become more than the sum of its parts. This surplus value is the jam, and if it's there in the performing then a rock band is effecting a transubstantiation nearly as sublime as any priest's.
- Joe Carducci, Rock and the Pop Narcotic

[In] the last five years there have been a lot of great tunes – but spiritually they have nothing to do with me. Great tunes are no longer really necessary. There were a lot of them in the past, but back then it was great tunes plus something else – and it’s that something else that I like.
- Asahito Nanjo, Opprobrium Issue 3 (November 1996)

Often compared (by people whom bandleader Nanjo would say don't understand) with Blue Cheer and MC5, High Rise's music is the handiwork of Japanese musos who came of age in the '70s and teethed on contemporary classical music, free jazz, psychedelia, non-idiomatic improvisation, punk, no wave, and movie soundtracks before applying their creative focus to high energy rock. While Nanjo claims (in the above-quoted interview, now reproduced on the Black Editions label site) that they didn't rehearse or have tunes, the music on II -- originally released in 1986 by vaunted Japanese label PSF, now out on sweet, sweet Black Editions vinyl -- is remarkably cohesive and powerful. In the same way doom metal hits like a detail from a Black Sabbath song in enhanced extreme close-up, the six tracks on II take the raw materials from White Light/White Heat, Vincebus Eruptum, and the MC5's A-Square "Looking At You"/"Borderline" single and push the intensity up beyond the red zone. Munehiro Narita wrests waves of pure electronic sound from his fuzz-and-wah-drenched guitar, while Nanjo lays down thudding slabs of bass and incomprehensibly mumbled bits of gibberish (reminiscent of, but not as clearly-recorded as, Gregory Raimo from France's Gunslingers), and Dr. Euro is all over the drums like a Mitch Mitchell-Rashied Ali combo platter. It's good that this is on vinyl now, because if I played it in my car, I'd lose count of the speeding tickets.


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