Wild Mercury Sound

The sound of Japrocksampler

John Mulvey

I've been preparing myself today for tonight's Boredoms show at Shoreditch Town Hall by subjecting the office to a 105 minute continuous bootleg of their show with 77 drummers in New York from the summer. But it also seems like Japanese rock is much on my mind right now, since I've finally got round to reading Julian Cope's "Japrocksampler".

Cope's career is in a very strange place right now, so that he can release comparatively accessible albums like "You Gotta Problem With Me" to almost no attention whatsoever, yet write esoteric tomes like "Japrocksampler" and find them a biggish deal in the publishing world (my copy still has the "£3 off Foyles" sticker on the cover, which for some reason amuses me no end).

I must admit, "Japrocksampler" deals predominantly with bands I've heard of, but never heard. This morning on the bus, Cope's writing became so compelling that it occurred to me that I just had to hear what these bands actually sounded like. His subject was a particularly extreme outfit called Les Rallizes Denudes, whose mind-boggling story involves a bassist who hijacked an airplane, a leader who retreated to a remote cave, and absolutely no proper records whatsoever.

Cope's writing is a bit more academic and formal than in "Krautrocksampler", but there are moments when his gonzoid brilliance crashes through. This bit made me laugh, as he tries to explain the complex web of live bootlegs which make up the crypto-available catalogue of Les Rallizes. "If all this sounds a little cretinous," he notes, "then you'd better turn your attention to another part of this book and come back when you're feeling less tense."

Anyway, by coincidence, someone sent me a great link today to the You Are Hear podcast, which presents an hour of the music that Cope writes so eloquently about. It's a relief to discover that this stuff is as great as Cope makes it sound, not least Les Rallizes Denudes, whose incredibly ravenous feedback jam constantly threatens to collapse in on itself, but is somehow anchored by a devious, almost funky bassline buried beneath the spits and flares.

Office favourite today, though, is a cut from "Satori" by the Flower Travellin' Band, which is a kind of highly formalised gunk-metal that comes on like a ritualised Black Sabbath. I'm going to investigate this further. In the meantime, see you at the drum circle tonight.


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