Monday, November 17, 2008
Hiroshi Hasegawa aka Astro (Live, Tokyo October 16, 2008) from JapaneseNoiseProject on Vimeo.
Hiroshi Hasegawa, performing under the name Astro, invited us down to Earthdom in Shin Okubo to catch one of his solo sets. With a simple table propping up his audio lab: an analog synthesizer set in half of a suitcase in addition to a small mixer and some effects pedals. Almost in a ritual-like fashion, Hasegawa started his performance by lighting incense cradled in a small dish. Hasegawa’s set was rather linear and structural with introductions of sounds, drones and pulsing waves that entered so appropriately, one could assume they were time, or planned. At slower tempos, improvisation can get a bit blurry however it was clearly in real time. Enthralled, enthused and focused throughout, when the incense burned out, the set ended.
We had a great, long talk after the set with Hasegawa about the origins and motivations for his music. Hasegawa continued by filling us in on what was going on around the time when he was growing up and experimenting with his first synthesizer (which he borrowed from Mikawa of The Incapacitants).
We’ll archive that for now, but we’ll show a little performance here.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
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Sunday, November 9, 2008
Sunday night at the quaint UFO Club in Koenji, West Tokyo. One of Tokyo’s smaller venues hallmarked by walls inked with psychedelic swirls, furniture faintly echoing mod and a deep red velvet (or velour) curtain which opens and closes performances. We were there to film The Incapacitants, a rather rarity these days in Tokyo or anywhere else for that matter. I've chosen to focus on the Incapacitants as one of the key figures in the Japanese noise and avante garde community not only because of their lengthy discography going back to the early 80s, but also because of what Toshiji Mikawa (member of Hijokaidan) and Fumio Kosakai (formerly of C.C.C.C.) work to achieve.
The Incapacitants are loud. The sonic spectrum which they command quickly vary from excerpts distorted polemics, electronic pulses and heavy drones with a rhythm all their own. The power of their performance forces grimaces of curiousity in the audience if not actual spasmic dancing- in them too. Questions like, “What constitutes music or What is noise? Is this noise? Does sound (or I as a listener) have a threshold?” can be plausibly raised. Thats not to say their highly dynamic performance isn’t ordered in such a way to bring such an organized stream of sonic chaos via their technical work. In fact, few moments of an Incapacitants performance see them wandering too far from their equipment.
Mikawa and Kosakai’s performances are something of a journey for the two- attempting to arrive at either some kind of sonic threshold or meditative “Zen.” Yes, it is perhaps an exhausted statement that extreme sounds, by virtue of their harshness, produce some kind of mental and spiritual vacuum for the performer (and listener) that can be often referred to as a kind of Zen. But I think there’s more to it. With The Incapacitants, notions of compositional structure, melody, harmony, rhythm and crescendo are paved over as if they were an obstacle along the way. But to where? Is it a place where those conventional notions of ‘music concrete’ evaporate? Even, Is this noise? Is this music? Is it an untangling of forces that bound them not only musically but personally and socially? For Kosakai and Mikawa, performance is more of a transgressive act- not just arriving somewhere but going past that. The two musicians, government employees in their 40s, seemingly deconstruct structural forces which dominate their lives. To what degree the duo is consciously, or arbitrarily, navigating in that hellish squall of sound, is one topic we touched on. Our post show interview with The Incapacitants had the two generously, and rather cheerfully, explaining their performance, thoughts on “noise music,” composition and attitudes towards loving and no-so-adoring audiences alike. With Part 1 complete, we move on to Part 2.
A bit more background about the group, the Incapacitants are one of the oldest and well-known vocal based performance acts in Japan forming in Osaka in 1981 (originally a solo project of Mikawa). While drawing attention, respect as well as admirers, their performances and tours in Japan (including the extremely rare ones abroad) have become miniscule. In 1999, they had their first performance abroad (the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels, Austria) and in 2007, they were invited to the No Fun Festival in New York, curated by Carlos Giffoni (Myspace).
Thanks to Flavio for taking photos. Video: Vicente Gutierrez. Editing: Olivier Farmarchi. For our next clip, we're now going through footage from our interview and performance encounter with Hiroshi Hasegawa- the man is deep.