Sunday, November 11, 2018

Keiji Haino + SUMAC “American Dollar Bill” (Thrill Jockey 2018)

Japan is a particular place to live in and to make art. One of the most conservative countries in the world, is also inhabited by some of the most hard working men in the world. They quite often use the so-called 'performative drugs' (like cocaine) to stay on business, but they don't talk that much about it since it's 'improper'.

On the other hand, Japan had met the powerful energy of the atomic bomb at the end of WWII, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A scar still vivid in the collective consciousness of the entire country. This combination of psychological repression and surviving a mass destruction created the conditions for developing some form of arts completely different from that of the other industrialised countries.

As an example, Japan didn't have post-modernity, that peculiar condition of having the right words but not the feelings, the remaining of the structures of speech without the subject that is typical of a Thomas Pynchon, but instead Japan had the interpenetration of life and death, as you can read in Yukio Mishima and see in Nobuyoshi Araki.

While the subject is fading in the Western world, it becomes hypertrophic in Japan. You can observe this phenomenon in music, particularly in free jazz during the 1960s: Yosuke Yamashita, Kaoru Abe, Masahiko Satoh, it's as all of them were screaming for coming out of the pain for living. And it's obviously the same for guitarist and singer Keiji Haino.

Haino was the frontman of the impronoise trio Lost Aaraff during the 1970s, but it was in 1981 that he became a true legend with the album Watashi Dake?, the japanese answer to Trout Mask Replica. During the decades, he refined his style coming to a sort of elaboration of the blues he called 'ahyhiyo'. You can listen to the result in the beautiful Black Blues from 2004.

Early this year, Haino joined the metal combo SUMAC, lead by guitarist and vocalist Aaron Turner to give life to this project called American Dollar Bill, which contains some of the best extreme music you'll listen to this year. The music is as abstract and destructured as hypnotic, nervous and anxious. There are some quieter parts here and there – but it's fire smoldering beneath the ashes – and full blasts of pure willingness of power.

In 1972 photographer Daido Moriyama gave life to his most uncompromising and experimental book, “Farewell Photography”, full of shots taken as trials to the setting of the camera, wrong framings, as the 'self' of the photographer was dyonisiacally going to pieces testifying his drift into the world, and this music is the perfect companion to those images.

More than simply extreme noise, this album is a good photography of our egos, repressed by the rules of society but still alive and ready to roar for a last call to our humanity. Is Japan the future for all of us? Maybe, it's still the present time, and it's our goal to say 'no' to repression. Music can be an act of resistance.

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