Tangerine Dream Syndicate - III Violins for III Stooges
I discovered this album on Yahoo Auctions while searching for a copy of Kosakai Fumio and Takahashi Ikuro's Of Dogstarman album (which is good, by the way). The Tangerine Dream Syndicate, a wonderful portmanteau of La Monte Young's Dream Syndicate and the seminal German electronic group, consists of Kosakai, Ryuichi Nagakubo (who I know from C.C.C.C. and G-UN, mostly) and Fukuoka Rinji (of Overhang Party), all playing strings and taking on similarly portmanteauified stage names paying tribute to both the Ramones and the god of pythagorean scales, Tony Conrad. The album title, too, is also a seeming reference to Conrad's legendary "Four Violins"--besides, you know, Shemp Howard et al.
Musically, the album reminds me much more of the Taj Mahal Travellers than Tony Conrad, consisting of swirling, processed electric bowed strings, hanging around the same scales for an hour or so. That sounds like a critical evaluation, but I really do enjoy this sort of material. At a good volume in a dark room, it's very easy (and very enjoyable) to absorb yourself in the vibration. The music never really "develops" in the purest sense, but it certain mutates and iterates throughout. If you're a major fluxus freak, this is probably for you.
While this is the only album released by Tangerine Dream Syndicate, you can find a lot of live performances on Youtube and the like, some dating to only a few years ago. The recording quality isn't good, but sometimes that's what makes things great.
Keiji Haino & the Hardy Rocks - You're Either Standing Facing Me Or Next To Me
Keiji Haino is one of my absolute favorite artists, so whenever a new album of his releases I am always excited to hear it. This album, from 2022, is Haino's latest collaboration with Masami Kawaguchi's Hardy Rocks group, having already released an excellent EP (available here) in 2021. As with much of Haino's work, this album could be broadly categorized as "free(r) rock," but relative to Haino's massive catalogue this is fairly unique.
Like Haino's earlier Aihiyo project (also with Kawaguchi), Haino's work with the Hardy Rocks consists almost solely of covers, mostly pulled from 1960s American and British hits, though the performances on this album tend to hew closer to the originals than Aihiyo did. These are not to say that these are simple, straight covers--really, far from it. My favorite track on this album is "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which takes the guts of the Stones' original and splatters them across the concrete, transforming the original groovy riff into something more akin to Swans' Cop. Truth be told, I've never liked the Stones' version too much because it felt fundamentally dishonest; you take one look at Mick Jagger and you know that he finds plenty of satisfaction in all areas of his life. When Haino belts out "I can't get no satisfaction," you really believe it. Other stand-out tracks for me are "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Summertime Blues," both of which allow some of the most mythical parts of Haino lore--that his first instrument was the harmonica, and that his first band was a Blue Cheer cover group with Takashi Mizutani--to bear a little fruit.
The strangest thing about this project as a long-time Haino fan is how consistent the performances are. That is to say, you can find numerous videos of Haino and the Rocks performing these songs, and all of the performances are practically identical--they're structured, consistent, and almost entirely without improvisation. While Haino has performed many consistent songs throughout his career (most notable Fushitsusha tracks like "ここ"), these were more like ruminations on set structures and ideas than note-for-note rehearsed performances. Perhaps this is due Haino acting mostly as a vocalist, perhaps he just wanted to do something different from his normal output, I don't know. Has he done something this composed since the Lost Aaraaf days? Any Haino experts out there that can shed light on this?
I should also say that while I've focused most of this review squarely on Haino, it's certainly not fair to discount or ignore the work of the Hardy Rocks. These guys are not just "Haino's backing band" or something--in fact, it seems to me that they're the primary musical force here, and that Haino is sortof a fellow traveller. The musicianship on this album is really nice--I like the subdued, lumbering drums, and the guitar tone is suitably angular and harsh. There are a few guitar solos here, and while they never verge into pure freakouts they're definitely never too straight or boring. I would have liked to hear Haino's guitar work on this album, but it probably would have overpowered the rest of the music unless he really held back, which would be missing the point.
Overall I really enjoy this album. I think that if you're relatively new to Keiji Haino and his style of music, this could be a good entry-point. If you're like me and already familiar, it's a wonderful mutation and change of pace. I would easily consider this one of my favorites of his massive discography.
I was able to buy this album through Tower Records in Japan, but if you're somewhere else in the world I'm sure it's possible to find through some western retailer or another. Check it out.