Reiko Kudo first debuted on the Tokyo underground music scene in 1980 with NOISE, a duo which apart from herself under her then maiden name Reiko Omura on voice, guitar and trumpet featured Tori Kudo on organ. Their only album TENNO (1980 on Engel) is probably one of the most outstanding and uncompromising records of all time.
Like other pioneering female producers from Japan such as NON (of NON BAND), PHEW and HACO, who had all begun their startling careers in the early days of the japanese Punk era, Reiko Kudo can surely be regarded as one of the most unique, uncategorisable and daring voices in the entire field of electronic and experimental music ever.
RICE FIELD SLOWLY RIPING IN THE NIGHT was REIKO KUDO's second album under her own name. It features TORI KUDO (MAHER SHALAL HASH BAZ) and SAYA and TAKASHI UENO (TENNISCOATS) on various instruments. The recordings took place in 2000 at Reiko' s and Tori's house in the rural surroundings of Shikoku island.
All recorded music on this album sounds like it originates in a parallel dimension where time and key signatures simply don't exist, Some might describe this as outsider music, but this doesn't really begin to do justice to the quality of the tracks, there is nothing accidental or forced here, this is simply music created in a very different way. Yet again REIKO KUDO had conceived of something utterly beautiful.
"After producing the album "Souvenir de mauve" with Maher Shalal Hash Baz which we released on our label Majikick, the idea came to us, to release Reiko Kudo's work. For Reiko's work, we brought our recording equipment from Tokyo to Shikoku and recorded the entire album at her house.
The piano was positioned in a room with a high ceiling. We would set up our small recording equipment in the room and started to record. The basic tracks were recorded without any rehearsal and just a few overdubs were added on top of it. To have a distant sound on the recording, Tori played trumpet in the next room. The choir was standing outside the house, singing "Enya-totto, enya-totto" through the open window. It was early spring, I remember that it was still a bit cold and the members of the choir were freezing outside.
Reiko plays only at certain times of the day, so that we were able to complete only two or three recordings a day. Therefore we had plenty of free time. We went to a hot spring, to a cafe, or we tried pottery on a spinning wheel at Tori's workshop. It was a very rewarding time.
When this album was finished, we brought it to her to listen to. She said happily "I think this is the best work I have ever done." We felt that all our efforts were richly rewarded. Secretly, we thought the same, so we are delighted that this album will be re-issued." - Saya and Ueno (Tenniscoats), Tokyo 2018
currently the rediscovery of long forgotten japanese electronic, jazz and new age music is at a peak like never before. but although many re-issues already flood the record stores around the world: the large, diverse musical culture of japan still got some gems in store that are really missing.
for example, it is still quiet around the the work of japanese bass player, new-age and ambient musi-cian motohiko hamase. when the today 66-years old artist started to be a professional musician in the 1970’s, he quickly gained success as a versed studio instrumentalist and started to be part of the great modern jazz isao suzuki sextett, where he played with legends like pianist tsuyoshi yamamoto or fu-sion guitar one-off-a-kind kazumi watanabe.
he also was around in the studio when legendary japanese jazz records like “straight ahead” of takao uematsu, “moritato for osada” of jazz singer minami yasuda or “moon stone” of synthesizer, piano and organ wizard mikio masuda been recorded.
in the 1980’s hamase began to slowly drift away from jazz and drowned himself and his musical vision into new-age, ambient and experimental electronic spheres, in which he incorporated his funky medi-tative way of playing the bass above airy sounds and arrangements.
his first solo album “intaglio” was not only a milestone of japanese new-age ambient, it was also fresh sonic journey in jazz that does not sound like jazz at all. now studio mule is happy to announce the re-recording of his gem from 1986, that opens new doors of perception while being not quite at all.
first issued by the japanese label shi zen, the record had a decent success in japan and by some overseas fans of music from the far east. with seven haunting, stylistically hard to pigeonhole compo-sitions hamase drifts around new-age worlds with howling wind sounds, gently bass picking and dis-creet drums, that sometimes remind the listener on the power of japanese taiko percussions. also, propulsive fourth-world-grooves call the tune and all composition avoid a foreseeable structure. at large his albums seem to be improvised and yet all is deeply composed.
music that works like shuffling through an imaginary sound library full of spiritual deepness, that even spreads in its shaky moments some profound relaxing moods. a true discovery of old music that oper-ates deeply contemporary due to his exploratory spirit and gently played tones. the release marks another highlight in studio mule’s fresh mission to excavate neglected japanese music, that somehow has more to offer in present age, than at the time of his original birth.
Umeko Ando (1932-2004) was a folk singer from Japan. She was a representative of the Ainu culture on the Hokkaido Island in the north of Japan. “Ihunke” is her first album which was recorded with the Ainu musician and dub producer Oki Kano in 2000. It was released on CD in Japan only and is finally available on vinyl (2LP + linernotes, DL included). “Ihunke” is following last year’s single “Iuta Upopo” [Pingipung 58, incl. M.RUX Remix] which had been received with overwhelming enthusiasm and was quickly sold out. The 16 Ainu songs on “Ihunke” are delicate, natural gems. They are built on Oki Kano’s Tonkori patterns (a 5-string harp), over which Umeko Ando develops her repetitive, mantric vocals, often in a call-response manner. Oki Kano is one of very few professional Tonkori players who performs worldwide with his Oki Dub Ainu Band. The songs possess a mystical energy – when crows call accurately with Ando’s brittle voice in the first song, it seems like natural powers join in with her music. Her voice sounds like animals of the sky and the forest. Oki Kano: “It was a lot of fun to record with Umeko Ando. Many Ainu hesitate to break from tradition - if Umeko hadn’t been so flexible to work with the younger generation and recording technology, this album would never have happened. Our sessions were intense, and we were proud and happy about making such beautiful music.” Upcoming in autumn: remixes of “Ihunke” by Tolouse Lowtrax, M.Rux, DJ Ground, El Buho Mark Peters, Gama, Andi Otto, and Dreems.
Historical background: Only recently (in 2008) have the Ainu officially been acknowledged as indigenous people who are culturally independent from Japan. This record is an example of how their music has been passed on through generations in the underground Ainu communities while it was oppressed by the Japanese hegemony. It deserves a huge audience.
Black Truffle is pleased to announce Down On Darkened Meetings, the first solo release on the label from the quietly prolific Giuseppe Ielasi. Recorded at Ielasi’s studio in Monza outside of Milan over two days in February 2022, the seven pieces presented here continue the renewed exploration of the guitar that marks much of his solo work over the last few years. Emerging in the late 1990s as an improviser working primarily with prepared acoustic and electric guitars, the instrument became less prominent in his work over the next decade, ceding to loop-based constructs that would eventually split into abstracted takes on club music and hip-hop (including his work as Inventing Masks), on the one hand, and spectral electroacoustic explorations (such as the stunning triple disc 3 pauses), on the other. Returning to the guitar in recent years, he has approached the instrument as a source of shimmering metallic glissandi (Five Wooden Frames) or as the vehicle of elegiac double-tracked lines that feel almost like Frisell playing Feldman (The Prospect). Here the focus is on electric guitar filtered, looped, and splayed out into fields of irregular echoes through a bank of pedals.
Like many of Ielasi’s releases, Down On Darkened Meetings is structured as a set of short untitled pieces (here ranging between two and six minutes in length) that single-mindedly explore a single instrument or source throughout. The opening track immediately introduced the distinctive timbral world of fizzing, heavily filtered tones, chiming harmonics, and woozy looping bass figures inhabited throughout. At points it becomes near impossible to trace these sounds to the strings of an electric guitar; at others, as on the final two pieces, the instrument is unmistakable, as Ielasi builds up his shifting loops from snatches of almost unintentional sounding half-playing that give these closing tracks a hushed, private atmosphere reminiscent of Tolerance’s Anonym. While the repeating chords and hanging melodic figures present on many tracks call to mind earlier Ielasi classics like Gesine and Untitled, here the music feels less meticulously constructed than played: Ielasi’s lyrical guitar lines obscured by a battery of effects at times come across like a dilated take on the outer-fringe fretwork of improvisers like Henry Kaiser and Raymond Boni, and the muddy, asynchronous fields of pops and hiss at times wander into areas reminiscent of the hand-played dub techno of Vladislav Delay’s Multila.
Like much of Ielasi’s work in recent years, these seven pieces perform a delicate balancing act: between abstraction and immediacy, austerity and abundance. Imbued with Ielasi’s distinctive lightness of touch, considered approach to pacing, and subtly psychedelic approach to the stereo field, Down on Darkened Meetings is a major new work from a quiet master of contemporary experimental music.
Black Truffle is pleased to announce the first-ever vinyl reissue of Alvin Curran’s classic Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri, originally issued in 1978 on Ananda, the cooperative label run by Curran, Roberto Laneri, and Giacinto Scelsi. Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri (Light Flowers Dark Flowers) – its title inspired by an intersection in Milan – is the second in the series of four solo recordings Alvin Curran issued in the 1970s and early 1980s, preceded by Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden (1975), followed by The Works (1980) and Canti Illuminati (1982).
Each of these solo works combines field recordings with performances on synthesiser, various acoustic instruments, and voice, arranged in languorously paced, dreamy sequences. Far from the bracing pointillism of much musique concrete, the elements encountered on the meandering course followed by Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri – whether a frenetic piano improvisation, dense layers of Serge synthesiser and ocarina, or a monologue from Frederic Rzewski’s five-year old son, Alexis – often occupy the foreground of our attention for minutes at a time. As Curran explains, his approach is like that of a filmmaker in the editing process, working with “whole blocks of recorded time”. The purring of a cat, toy piano, a child counting, plaintive synthesiser tones, the cacophony of exotic birds at the London Zoo – each disappears into the next, until, on the LP’s second side, a solo piano performance takes centre stage, moving unexpectedly from percussive minimalist permutations to a halting rendition of Georgia on My Mind. A subtle yet stunning work that more than forty years on still seems charged with possibility, Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri arrives in a loving reproduction of the original sleeve, featuring Edith Schloss’ beautiful cover painting, remastered audio and with new liner notes by Alvin Curran and Francis Plagne.
Hailing from Hiroshima, Meitei, unveils the final chapter of his transformative Kofū trilogy. “Kofū III” marks the apex of a musical journey that began in 2020, unraveling an introspective exploration of the artist's psyche while delving deep into the essence of Japanese culture. This latest release invites listeners into the innermost sanctums of Meitei's existence — a passage filled with serenity, self-discovery, and the triumphant conquest of personal demons.
Meitei's journey has been deeply intertwined with his surroundings. His move from bustling Kyoto to the tranquil rural town of Onomichi in Hiroshima wasn't just a change of location but a profound shift in his life. Navigating through the ebbs and flows of mental well-being, Meitei found solace in the quiet, low-key energy of Onomichi, where he began creating his distinctive brand of "ambient" music dedicated to resurrecting ‘lost Japanese moods’.
"Kofū III" is not just a collection of songs; it's a window into Meitei's mind, where he reflects on ‘the Japanese mental landscape,’ as experienced during the period of his return to his hometown. This album stands as a testament to Meitei's evolution, from his tentative inner quest to a state of deep healing.
"Kofū” and its precursor, "Kwaidan,” germinated in the solitude of Onomichi, embodying the mysterious, vanishing essence of Japan that Meitei unearthed in the shadows of his hometown. With "Kofū III," this exploration reaches its zenith, weaving musical landscapes that transcend temporal bounds. Each track vividly paints bygone eras and vignettes, all while drawing on the rich tapestry of Japanese literature and mindscapes.
Meitei introduces listeners to the tranquil Hiroshima countryside in 'Reimei,' while 'Hiroshima' reflects upon the city's transformation. It explores Meitei's intricate relationship with the city and contemplates the ever-changing visage of contemporary Japanese progress.
Within the sonic fabric of "Kofū III," "Shisei" brings listeners to Japan's past, when tattoos bore the name "Shisei." Fueled by Junichiro Tanizaki's "Shisei" narratives, the song paints a sensual tale of a tattooed man adorning a woman with a spider tattoo.
Meitei's authenticity shines through in "Kofū III," where complex emotions metamorphose into a kaleidoscopic fusion of lo-fi bliss. In "Yume-jūya," Meitei recounts a peculiar dream and the lingering anxiety it left behind. Also, inspired by the famous Japanese writer Soseki Natsume's "Yume-jūya," Meitei's interpretation offers his own perspective on this comical and bizarre tale.
"Edogawa Ranpo" stands as a mind-bending loop track that pays homage to the genius of the lesser-known Japanese author Edogawa Ranpo, a pioneer of the mysterious and bizarre. This experimental piece melds folklore, electronic rapture, and distortion, echoing Meitei's fascination with Ranpo's work since his elementary school days.
At the core of "Kofū III" lies "Heiwa," originally titled "1945," encapsulating Meitei's profound reflection on peace education in his hometown and the weighty significance of acknowledging historical tragedies. Its renaming as "Peace" symbolizes his personal odyssey towards understanding and reconciliation.
As Meitei concludes his Kofū trilogy, global listeners are invited to embark on this voyage to unearth the hidden treasures of Japanese culture and the depths of the human soul. "Kofū III" is a meditation on the intangible threads that bind us to our past - a portal to Japan's veiled history, capturing the essence of Japan's elusive spirit through the enigmatic landscapes of Meitei's inner terrains.
"Kofū III" is slated for release on December 1, 2023, in 180g LP, CD, and digital formats via KITCHEN. LABEL. Both LP and CD format are presented in a debossed sleeve with obi strip and include an accompanying 32-page booklet. This album is mastered by Chihei Hatakeyama in Tokyo, Japan.
Hiroshima-based artist Meitei announces the reissue of Kwaidan on the 5th anniversary of his groundbreaking debut album. A collaboration between 2 labels – KITCHEN. LABEL (Kofū I & II) and Evening Chants (Kwaidan), the reissue sees the highly anticipated special 5th Anniversary Edition of Kwaidan with two previously unreleased bonus tracks. This will be released on long-out-of-print vinyl format in a new color variant, with an 8-panel insert and the first-ever CD version.
In 2018, Meitei shook the ambient world with the release of his debut album Kwaidan, a transposition of Japanese folklore into intricate compositions, capturing what he would coin as the “lost Japanese mood”. The album almost instantly received critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork, where it was included in their Best Experimental Albums of 2018, Bandcamp, calling it “different from some of the ambient music that has been coming from Japan in recent years”, The Wire and more.
Kwaidan (怪談) is a style of Japanese ghost stories. Meitei took it as a challenge of his skill as a musician to transpose the folklore into intricate compositions, capturing this lost “Japanese mood”. “The shocking elements in the horror have become a staple. It functions as entertainment. But I felt the mood and ambiance from Kwaidan is starting to wither – while the darkness is scary, the beauty is in the curious spirit,” explains Meitei.
Koizumi Yakumo is an important figure in the Japanese literary world, known for his legends and ghost stories. He left the world, leaving a masterpiece called Kwaidan, heavily inspiring Meitei’s album direction. Sazanami, Curio, Shoji and Mushiro are seen as a nod and tribute to his work. Other influences include manga author Mizuki Shigeru, who drove the sound for Touba and Jizo, intended to be a homage soundtrack for his manga Gegege no Kitarō. As an old-fashioned man, Meitei also draws from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. With this very eclectic mix of influences, the album Kwaidan possesses a prominent horror element, comedy, sentimentality and sorrow. He compares the ambiance as one would visually with wet moss, shrouded in mist.
“Music is an important human communication tool. Expressing a mood that is almost impossible to translate into language perfectly is interesting.” While most of the above might stem from influential Japanese art, Meitei was also attracted to the new wave of lo-fi hip hop, which he tried to weave into his music subtly. Something as easy as the wrong placement of a kick and snare on a track can divert the track away from the Kwaidan mood. Yet, Meitei found a delicate balance, resulting in a gorgeously crafted album.
Meitei releases Kwaidan 5th Anniversary Edition on 21 July 2023 via KITCHEN. LABEL and Evening Chants. Available on 180g smoke haze variant LP, CD and digital formats (LP arriving in Q3, 2023), This record is mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering in New York.