Monday, August 22, 2011

Suishou No Fune (水晶の舟)

Formed in 1999 as a duo of female guitarist Pirako Kurenai and male guitarist Kageo, Suishou no Fune have been making some of the most charmingly chaotic dream music coming out of Japan. Their sound is not consistently melodic but focuses much more on the atmosphere of the songs, building upon oddly beautiful twinned vocals and distorted guitars drenched in echoing reverb.  Awash in waves of fuzz, Suishou No Fune's control of detail amidst chaos and heavy emotions is their deepest asset.
It's probably fair to place Suishou no Fune in context along with contemporaries like Aural Fit, Up-Tight, Miminokoto and LSD-March as a member of Japan's latest wave of psychedelic rock bands, but their heritage reaches some 35+ years back with the Stooges-on-acid sound of the legendary Rallizes Denudes.
Their sound contains subcutaneous elements of no-wave energy mixed with psychedelic rock á la early Fushitsusha, Kousokuya or Shizuka. The pure emotional power of Fushitsusha isn't quite there, but then again that's too much to expect from anyone. The prettiness and density are most reminiscent of Shizuka, perhaps even Bardo Pond and Ash Ra Tempel. But there's a uniquely Japanese style being explored here that doesn't seem to emanate from anywhere else.

Suishou No Fune - Suishou No Fune (Self Titled, 2005)
After an initial CD-R release and some compilation appearances, this is the band's first "real" album.  Most of the songs begin with beds of pretty guitar strumming, shimmering chords that float while brittle, picked notes slowly reverberate. The vocals are heavily soaked in reverb, plaintive cries that are often wordless calls into the distance. Moments of clear, quiet guitar picking intersperse with dense fuzz and dissonance on "Into the Light," while "Cherry" remains slower and more gracious, filled with beautiful moments of floating chords. Get It!!

This four-track cd-r, with a running time of just under an hour, lives up to its title. Flush with hypnotic, repetitive bell-tones and muted swirls of abstract sound very much like fog creeping across the ground at dawn; the pace is as glacial as it is inexorable, muted and reverential, eventually spiraling upward into piercing guitar wails and explosive bursts of interstellar, shrieking near-white noise, like sunspots emitting bursts of radiation. Get It!!

When Suishou no Fune lose the drums, their songs slowly slip free of any moorings, with Kageo and Kurenai’s guitars blurring into a reverb-drenched, delay-soaked abstraction. These more abstruse songs are indefinite, their internal workings shrouded and ghostly. Kurenai’s voice bobs and slides, her soprano wail cleaving through the calamitous scaffold constructed by Kageo on guitar and Tail on drums becoming a manifestation of an encroaching dread/unease. By the final track, “A rose bloomed”, the trio are reduced to a wilting, expired duo, the gorgeous, coal-black threnody slowly compelling itself to close. Get It!!

The Light Of Dark Night consists of one 42 minute long track, featuring renditions of three songs flowing together: "Till We Meet Again (You Returned Home To The Heavens)", "A Rose Bloomed", and "You Look At The Night Sea". It begins with  Kageo and Kurenai’s guitars gently droning out of an ambient gloom, bleak yet beckoning... as their music meanders moodily forth, there's stretches of quiet, crystalline beauty, graced with soothing melody and yearning vocals... at other moments the proceedings are also graced with heavy duty distorto crunch, guitars amped up into sheer sheets of flashback fuzz. Get It!!

Writhing Underground Flowers is their first release since Where The Spirits Are on the seminal label, Holy Mountain. Three very spacious, elegiac cosmic blues comedowns that combine the subtle guitar alchemy of early Fushitsusha with a ton of deep space. The guitar playing here is more minimal than usual, nudging single note runs into ominous shapes that suggest massive, subliminal forms while Pirako's intermittent vocals blend into the overall reverb-drenched atmosphere

Suishou No Fune - Prayer For Chibi (Holy Mountain 2008)
Starkly-serious; a mind-altering, psych-blues album dealing with the themes of death and sorrow. A contemplative soundtrack to grief that is far more reserved in terms of pure sonic power than their previous releases. Created as a memorial to their dearly departed cat, Prayer is tonally split across its two discs; the first focuses on gauzy, almost transparent guitar tones and textures, while the second digs much deeper to unearth more harrowing performances. The guitars are diffuse, stretching out into gauzy streams of consciousness that mesh with the lofting, intertwined vocals of Kurenai and Kageo. Prayer for Chibi opts for a sparser, more subtle path, allowing each string and bent-note to ring out as though gravity had lost its hold setting the music free to float in slow-motion amongst the haunting voices.  Get It!!  Disc One ~~~ Disc Two

Here the core duo of Pirako and Kageo benefit from an expanded roster of musicians making up a proper drum and bass rhythm section. While the augmented roster of personnel permits some pretty fierce psych forays (especially 'Entrance To The Labyrinth' and its bookending counterpart 'Exit From Labyrinth) there's still plenty of room for those cosmological blues jams these guys excel at: 'Fragments Of A Broken Glass' is a thing of remarkable and strange beauty, covered in dissolving guitar effects and complex harmonic interplay.  Get It!!

Suishou No Fune - Mystic Atmosphere (Cut Hands 2008)Mystic Atmosphere welcomes back the unpolished, raw around the edges side of these interstellar psychonauts. Slightly reminiscent of their first Holy Mountain album, Where the Spirits Are. Tail’s drums splashing like mossy boulders into the Pacific, primitive pounding Moe Tucker style. Mystic Atmosphere contains four tracks blessed with psych guitar panorama’s soaked in holy reverb, a slowed down monster jam sounding like a drone version of a Mainliner or High Rise track and their ever mournful, lost in life wailing." -Volcanic Tongue  Get It!!

Suishou No Fune - Phantom Of The Eternal Night (There 2009)
The one constant in the sound of Suishou no Fune is that they consistently make beautiful, deeply emotional albums, and their latest is no exception, although it may be their best yet, and certainly one of their most focused. This one is the work of a full band, not just the core duo of Pirako and Kageo -- they're joined this time around by Nishamura Takuya on bass and Kikukawa Takahisa on drums, making their eternally spacy sound a bit more grounded, especially on the opener "Let the Flowers Bloom," where the constantly churning bass and minimalist drumming (buried so far in the background as to be nearly subliminal at times) lend a persistent rhythmic pulse to the song's lovely psychedelic vapor. The group's dedication to minimalism really shines through in "Spring Night Butterfly," where a handful of repeated notes (and lots of reverb) over a rhythm section that sounds more like dust motes moving in the air than actual rock music form the cosmic backdrop over which Pirako's mournful voice and endlessly bent guitar notes rise and fall like piercing spears of pure radiant emotion. One of the band's most remarkable assets is their ability to call up deep levels of emotion and pathos through the most minimal playing, a profound and mysterious talent made obvious by this song more so than anything else on the album. "Endless Descent" is a moderately heavier (or perhaps a bit less ethereal) song that reminds me a lot of Kadura, with a sound that grows denser and more complex as the song evolves, while "Everlasting Journey" returns to the strummed guitar and spaced-out sound of the opening track. As with everything else the band has done, these are slow-moving tracks that take their time getting to their eventual destinations (this is cosmic rock, after all, and one should hardly expect a spaceship's journey to be short) and this is a good thing, because it gives you plenty of time to absorb the hypnotic rhythms and spiritual vibes.


Scifi Saint said...

I appreciate all the work you put into this blog. You seriously have the best blog I've seen. I was wondering if you'll be posting any EAI related releases? That would be the icing on the cake.

Scifi Saint said...

Oh, and you wouldn't happen to have I Throw a Stone Into the Endless Depths by Suishou No Fune by any chance?

Bron Jaswell said...

I appreciate you visit! Unfortunately you have requested the one release I am plain unable to find. But I shall keep my ears to the web and toss it up as soon as it is procured.

Right now I am on hiatus (semi-hiatus) until December, maybe January. But there's tons of music to delve into all around the internet.

Any additional feedback is always appreciated.

Sorry for responding in such an untimely manner.

j? said...

Thank you for this post and all the work you had to put in it! Keep up the great work! THANKS!!!

Zé Nunes said...

Great post, I was really glad I finally managed to get my hands on this amazing music by this incredible band, but unfortunately all the links are invalid or deleted... I know this is a really old post, but could you fix them? I'd be really grateful.

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