Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Les Rallizes Denudes - Great White Wonder

Disc 1: Field Of Artificial Flower / Inside Heart / Otherwise Fallin' In Love With You / Angel / Otherwise Fallin' In Love With You / You Were Known / The Last One

Disc 2: Strong Out Deeper Than The Night / Otherwise Fallin' In Love With You / Field of Artificial Flower / White Waking / A Memory is Far / Improvisation

Disc 3: Dream / Night of The Assassins / Field of Artificial Flowers / The Night Collectors / Flames of Ice / A Voice of Bird

Disc 4: Flames of Ice / Night of The Assassins / Strong Out Deeper Than The Night (Part 1) / A Memory is Far / Strong Out Deeper Than The Night (Part 2)

Thanks to those good bootleggers at Phoenix, we have this interesting to say the least early career spanning (1974-1980) set of four live shows - a Rallizes appetizer combo plate of a set.

Now im not going to speculate the hows or whys of this package originally on Univive was conceptually put together - the sound quality ranges from fair to fairly good on all the dates - all the shows having very good bits and some odd clunkers and tape flutters to say the least. I can only basically assume its meant to be a sophomore Rallizes fan's first deep initiation purchase - all good to great shows but nothing of the sustaining spectacular variety.

This has taken a few listens to get into - admittedly the first track on the first disk put me off of this thing for a while (a couple months to be exact) - real slop-o Rallizes (sub-Godz like in its execution - more on that later).

Enough intro splat you say - we'll lets dive in!

Disc 1 is from 7/13/1974 at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo - Mizutani, a rhythm guitarist, probably Hiroshi Nar on bass and a really decent drummer - almost 74 minutes in its length. The booklet that comes with the set has Moshe Idel of Toledo, Spain describe this set as "a fabulously aggressive performance" - I guess Moshe had some strong drinks before writing that as this is a fairly laid back set from Rallizes - really the start of their Electric Phoenix era (1974-1978) in my book - its barbed wire but CENTERED, whereas the truly wild Rallizes on their initial punque era are far left of center. He even goes so far to compare this to the Guitar Amp Tape version of Sister Ray - MOSHE WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? C'MON DUDE! Yes, there are some awesome solos but the band just aint that together man - its a transition year.

This seems to be an audience recording due to the chatter and hand clapping occasionally making an appearance throughout. This has the highest guitar highs of all the discs along with the lowest lows.

Field of Artificial Flowers stumbles in so mightily drunk (which is what stalled my earlier attempts - hotdog being thrown down a hallway loose - get me?)  - but for an early show this is pretty good fidelity - drums front and center although not especially driving on this version, the bass is prominent and the second out of tune guitar also audible. Mizutani sounds pissed - so pissed he's taking it out on his amp - a real ugly nasty fuzz on his solos leading the plod. The yell/shouted vocals give way about halfway though to the some really manic WL/WH Lou Reed-isms from Mizutani as the rhythm section finally starts to drive this thing into overdrive - eventually Mizutani's guitar becomes pure white heat until it falls apart as loosely as it came in.

Some garbled drip and drops until the rare Inside Heart strums in, a tough ballad if that makes any sense - a stoic Crazy Horse-esque force building in intensity until Mizutani steps on the awesome pedal and sends out those perfect solo notes that drift and melt away far above the metaphysical planes - burning the metals until he returns to the sacred strum of the verses again. A whooshing is heard throughout perhaps the second guitarist doing some Roxy Music-Eno style live manipulations with a phase-shifter? Wouldn't put it past them. Nor should you. Mizutani solo's the song to an end of feedback and some (gasp) mild applause and chatter?

Otherwise Fallin' In Love With You comes in all cloying and bright - upbeat in tempo compared to later versions. Mizutani is delightfully in tune and strumming like Hackamore Brick - there's even some fans clapping in time !!! WHAT! CROWD APPROVAL! WHOA! Mizutani takes the first solo all inside Sterling-esque (everything is an esque in my world). The tape speeds seems to be fluctuating which sends this minutely out of tune for sections - kinda like being drowsy but not asleep. The second solo from Mizutani loosens up and gets more out and noisy until it falls apart.

Angel comes strumming in way out of tune next - the rhythm guitarist flubbing chords - it takes about a minute for this one to come together ( in the purest MC5 sense - RIP Mike Davis) - about two minutes in Mizutani decides to take over and just stomps on the destructo box - SOLO TIME MUTHAFUGGERS!!! - it pretty much drowns out the rhythm guitar and just rises above the incompetence. Eventually, Mizutani comes in to tell us of his angel before taking flight again. Some really beautiful playing before the song falls apart again.

Whoops! Here we go again with Otherwise Fallin' In Love With You - a second set version? I guess no one will know - maybe Mizutani just had a perverse sense of humor - playing endless versions of the same ballad in the same set . . . This version is about as together and enjoyable as the first version but much shorter and falls apart in about half the time.

You Were Known comes gently strumming in - another manly tough ballad - reminiscent of Killer era Alice Cooper for some reason. Behind the tough tight rhythm section Mizutani cuts loose his second best solo of the night - truly stretching in its totality from tonal to atonal and back again - really killer speed freak guitar which pushes the rhythm section to drive it on home - an Oh Sweet Nuthin with Lou on guitar instead of Doug - until the whole thing drops out on tape.

At over 20 minutes, The Last One is appropriate enough here - the whole band starting in great unison with some great additional listenable feedback from Mizutani who is yelling out his story to whoever is brave enough to keep listening. Almost from the get go he is simmering with his best wild strummed solos - breaking into atonal single notes stabs as he leaves the rest of the band behind - really jaw dropping work as he ascends and descends the guitar neck - perhaps his most busy fretwork on record in my memory ( I will contradict myself in the future - rest assured). About halfway in the rhythm section attempts to jam it in a different direction but Mizutani kills it with stabs of feedback - there is a brief jazzy jam with the drummer which erupts the volcano of Mt. Destruction until the thick skulled among them bring back THE RIFF - Mizutani is really vocally pissed and expressing it! He steps into the final solo to end all solos - even with the tape drop outs and garbles this is really awesome mind expanding HIGH ENERGY ROCK - Mizutani screeching into the atonal beyond dragging the band back after 2 false endings into free splatter - definitely a top tier The Last One.

Disc 2 - is from 10/01/1975 at Shibuya Adah in Tokyo. Its Mizutani, a rhythm guitarist, probably Hiroshi Nar on bass and another very competent drummer. This recording sounds more like a soundboard recording than the '74 show - at half the length too. Moshe Idel describes this as being "more overtly psychedelic" than the '74 show - I don't really know what that means in this context - there is some slight echo in the drums I guess. If anything this is more Robitussin than the previous gig . . . songs are always wanting to fall apart. Perhaps the least affecting disk in the box.

We fade into the previously begun Strong Out Deeper Than The Night - the band is tighter than it was about a year earlier - Mizutani's guitar is in flight in a better balanced mix with all instruments on a level playing field.  Mizutani wafts in after his solo - upfront and in tune - deep in the vocal pocket as bursts of feedback and hiss pervade the song. About six minutes in they do this feedback gap where the band hits back in after a few seconds which really shows how deep into their groove they had developed by this point. This is a good slow burn version of the song which unsurprisingly tape cuts right into . . .

Otherwise Fallin' in Love With You - which happens to have the same intro guitar chord which is really confusing after the tape cut . . . This version is much more laid back in execution than '74 - there is a simpatico relationship between the roles of all the instruments - although its no Cable Hogue version, its very nice - tasteful soloing throughout by Mizutani until it falls apart.

Field Of Artificial Flowers rumbles in in mid-tempo anger (Rallizes don't get good at starting songs until a bit later) - all swagger on this version - the drumming being especially good. Mizutani is machismo in his delivery - until he unleashes the beast of electric thunder notes. The bass is very in the pocket in comparison to other versions which provides a more Seeds-esque rock groove that really pumps the drummer's violent fills and cymbals - a really powerful version from the ensemble until it cuts off.

White Waking comes strummed in - a nice version with a relatively laid back solo from Mizutani - nothing too special.

A Memory Is Far screeches in next through waves of feedback from both guitarists - to reveal its balladeering jaunt into the gooey sweet romantic center of Mizutani's mind.  Mizutani is pleading in his delivery, Dylan-esque in its almost snotty whine. The band almost looses the song about three and a half minutes in but recovers to let Mizutani soar for a bit on guitar in the ether. Again nothing too special until it cuts out.

An Improvisation closes the set out -  and what a weird high energy rocker it is - echo blasts from both guitars against a driving 60's bass riff - similar to the Laid Down '76 improv - really awesome skronk going through multiple tape transfers until it unfortunately cuts out - (WHY??????) So damn frustrating to dip your toe into the eye of a storm and to not have it electrically removed by a guitar shark  . . .

Disc 3- is from 7/22/1977 at Maison Franco - Japonaise in Tokyo , a few months after their masterpiece was recorded that year (Live '77). There is a good amount of tape hiss that pervades this set as well as some serious weirdo background noises from effects boxes and otherwise. It appears to be a three piece, Mizutani with Hiroshi Nar on bass and an energetic drummer. This is the second most consistent show of the box - it should be up there as 1977 was definitely a high water mark for Rallizes.

We enter with weirdly pitched tape garbles until the Dream arrives - one of my favorites in any configuration. Two note bass drone as Mizutani floats above in solo heaven - cymbals calling from another country. Mizutani's vocals are phase shifted into oblivion - robot laser Mizutani is more accurately singing, whispering into the feedbacking void as single notes pierce the swooshing veil. It pulses along its path until abrupbtly ending.

Night of The Assassins starts up all upbeat and bouncy. Those robot vocals are seemingly going to stick around the whole set, so I guess we should get used to them. Behind the undulating tape hiss, Mizutani delivers some great solos between vocal sedan deliveries.  A really good particularly driving upbeat version with a great outro solo.

Field of Artificial Flowers stumbles into being in a mid tempo haze - Mizutani taking his time at the bridge to start his solo - more deliberate in his phrasing - recalling Larry Wallis at points. Not as driving as other versions but also 5 minutes long.

Field feedback segues directly into The Night Collectors which picks up the pace as it grooves along, Mizutani picks up on the drive and leads them into a high energy tom tom groover, letting loose on some feedback drenched surf solos from Mars - exploding back into the main groove stronger than ever. High High Energy!!

Feeding off that energy that start into particularly swinging high energy Flames Of Ice with great phased soloing from Mizutani to start it off - only vocally intoning sporadically to contrast the amp destruction engrossing the room - jabbed at chords and detuned bridges fighting the fleet fingered skronk points hitting the atmosphere. The rhythm keeps building and building as Mizutani lays it down - even Keiji Haino was cowering in some shadow of the stage, waiting for his day as skronk king to come. Truly pulsars of guitar hemorrhage swallowing misery whole - Mizutani ends this version on his lonesome slashing out chords for the echo eternity. If there is a "manic" version of Flames of Ice this is it - 14 minuites of caveman abandon.

A Voice Of Bird (aka Cry of Bird) starts with some tuning and tape flips until the sad ballad begins in earnest - Mizutani delicately solo's us into the song - the bird flying above as bass swims below. Hushed vocals are as delicate as the guitar until it erupts between the gentle verse strums and feedback. This is one of the best downer ballads in the Rallizes songbook given a beautiful reading here - its first since the late sixties i believe and a fitting way to end the set - awash in the tape hiss and phase shifters . . . as we hear voices in the distance that mutate into tape flips and random soloing from Mizutani until we fade out.

Disc 4: is originally a bonus disc in the set - from 11/ 07/1980 at Kanagawa University. As tends to be the case, this show is the best fidelity of the bunch as its from a much later date. It features the awesome line-up of Mizutani, Fujio Yamaguchi on second guitar (lending that tasty two lead interplay version of Rallizes), Doronco Gummo on bass and some guy on drums. This show is also the most consistent show in the box and a long one at 72 minutes.

Flames Of Ice starts up from the lowest register of the bass with a true menace to it - Mizutani and Fujio in dueling guitar splatter splendor - trading electric stabs between the confident vocals. This version like most of the 80's material is about the deep cut groove, the bass front and center in the mix. Prickly guitars crawl around the jam, Mizutani's abstract with tasty blues licks from Fujio - imagine for a minute a shadow-world evil Wayne Kramer and Sonic Smith slinging atonal barbs at the MC5's most out - guitars oppose then meet, repelling off their harmonies into discordant feedback laced malevolent simmers. A sixteen minute meditational funk of the highest psychic order.

Next Nights Of The Assassins leads in with both guitars ascending into atonal bliss mountains as they tune up - Mizutani give a final blast of white noise and then Doronco drops the modified bass riff , moderately downtown subway tempo style. The band builds it up, Fujio embellishing the chords with bluesy scales - Mizutani is confident and in tune as he tells his story into his echo world. Both guitarists restrain themselves, dancing around the edges of the song (in a Quicksilver sense) until Mizutani lets it loose at the fourteen minute mark with Fujio responding with Sterling style riff bombs. After about sixteen minutes it falls apart into amp drone as the taper fiddles around a table and the guitarists tune up again - 2 minutes of concrete waiting that yells for an editor . . .

Finally we ease into Strong Out Deeper Than The Night (Part 1) - gentle strumming giving way for a truly narcoleptic trance of a song. Everything is gently gliding by with Mizutani guiding us via intonation - he continually lets loose gorgeous solos, flying above Fujio's grounding chords before returning to his intonations again - occasionally both guitars even ascending to the spaceways. Really lush and aching version with Mizutani leading the final outro solo. Great Long version.

Following on the heals is A Memory Is Far - slinking in the same fashion as Strong Out . . . even the chords are similar enough to through me off, gliding into a baked ether,  although the tape quality seems to continually degenerate for some reason, some nasty distracting audio fuzz starting around the 11 minute mark and growing until the song ends - a real bummer.

And the bummer continues as they start Strong Out Deeper Than The Night (Part 2) - hugely distracting tape fuzz overcomes the track - (HEY PHOENIX HOW ABOUT NOT PUTTING THIS TRACK ON HERE GADDAMMIT!) - Although its REALLY unlistenable until about 2 minutes in, I promise if you fight through it you get to a radically different version of Strong Out (although it could be taken as a jam) - a slowly grinding jam - gone off all traces of beauty we have a stranded at a late night midwest gas station motor riff condensed into terse statement of factory made desolation. Five notes combusting in the night with Mizutani pleading into his echo mind for sanity. The duel guitars screaming into space, building the creepy crawly tension until it of course fades out mid song - bummer.


So overall, this is a purchase for the initiated Rallizes connoisseur - Disc 1 having some manic guitar displays contrasting the drunk band, Disc 2 being the runt of the litter, Disc 3 having some manic jamming and energy and Disc 4 having the best overall and unique performance but also having those awful sound gurgles towards the end.

Individually i'd rate them as:

Disc1 - 1974 - 7/10
Disc 2 - 1975 - 5/10
Disc 3 - 1977 - 6/10
Disc 4 - 1980 - 8/10

All around its a 6.5/10. - PD

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