by TAGAWA Tadasu
SHIMODA Nobuhisa, who plays bass on this CD, is none other than the Xebec Hall event planner I've worked with a number of times over the past few years. But this was the first time I had ever met Shimoda-san the bass player. On the other hand, I had met the cellist, Tom CORA, in New York during an uproar in Chinatown in the summer of '89. I first realized that something was happening while I was in Washington D.C. I was riding the subway when a bunch of Chinese-Americans got on wearing ostentatious clothing and white headbands. "What is this?," I thought as I went back to the hotel and turned on the t.v. to see everyone saying something or other about Tiananmen. That rally I had seen was a reaction to what had happened in Tiananmen Square. And naturally, in New York a few days later, there were other "alarming" indications in Chinatown. That's why I'll never forget seeing Tom Cora's unit in nearby SoHo .
I already knew IMAHORI Tsuneo after being introduced by an old friend's son, a young man named SATO Gen, who says that Typographica is the most exciting band around. (I know, it's about time I found out.) These are the things that were going through my mind when I first got a tape of this CD from Shimoda-san. That was because I didn't actually know anything about Haco until then. But her music. Even so, I thought if I was going to write about it, I had better meet her for myself. Otherwise, it would be hard to write something based only on the images I got from the music.
I just happened to have been going to Osaka, so before coming back to Tokyo, I met her near the Shinkansen entrance. When it comes to doing free music and working with people from different countries, I can't help thinking of my old friend, TENKO. I've known her since the days of Mizutama Shobodan (the Polka Dot Fire Brigade), and seen her perform many times.I thought Haco might be that sort of a person, but she was a bit different. There was no facade of fearlessness. If anything, she was nonchalant, yet doing exactly what she set out to do, and she had that truly Kansai-like lack of pretense. She told me about how it had taken a few years to finish the CD (this too seemed Kansai-like), how she had collaborated with each of the musicians, and about her band, After Dinner, which I hadn't known about. On the whole, these things make the CD quite different from what is usually called "making a record." Even when it doesn't involve renting a studio for a set period, getting together with the other musicians, and shouting, "1-2--1-2 -3-4!," it's still fairly common to spend some time together with other people making an album. But in her case, there had been almost nothing like that. She had made one song, then another, and each in a variety of ways. About the only song that you might say was performed together in the studio was "In a Cold Shower." And even then, Shimoda-san, Imahori-san, and Haco had added their own improvisations to a tape Peter HOLLINGER had sent from Berlin one after another, so it wasn't very conventional either.
Then there was "Sunday Virgins," which Haco had done freely after Samm BENNETT had composed and recorded his part in New York. It was the opposite with "ICE"--Tom Cora had added the cello at his house in New York to a tape of vocals and piano Haco had sent. In that sense, the making of the CD itself was quite free-form. I've been thinking a little about how her music fits in with the rest of the music scene. As for clarity, it is a work with a high degree of it. It's not only her voice, everything has a certain clearness about it. This is what she has in common with older members of the Japanese pop world like YANO Akiko or YOSHIDA Minako, or others like ONUKI Taeko and EPO. But of course, Haco's music is basically freestyle, so other than clarity, there isn't much about it that resembles her "peers." Haco's live performances were described abroad in the English music paper, Melody Maker, as "a little undercurrent reversing Japan's usual massive importation of Western mega-pop," and that's exactly right. Her "peers" can't seem to bring themselves to deviate from Western pop ,but she (it appears) has deviated from it with the greatest of ease. This is what strikes me, as someone who is always interested in deviation, as interesting.But there is one danger--how to avoid the "curse" of being trapped in the improvisational music scene. That is to say, I worry that free musicians like those on this CD, and others such as John ZORN and Carl STONE who visit Japan almost every year, will fall into the same pattern: performing different forms of live improvisation.
However, in the areas of vocal music and female musicians, the presence of Haco is definitely a welcome one. I haven't been able to make very good use of all of the explanatory material I was sent on her (some of you might be asking what kind of review this is without it), which only seemed to complicate things for me. Still, it goes without saying that in contrast to tons of other records that are churned out each day to be "hot sellers," this one is refreshing and a pleasure to listen to. I want all of you who have embraced the music scene, the pop scene, of today, and all of you thinking that nothing new is happening in music to hear this CD. I think you will find that the songs have something that you don't normally hear. What would really be great is if a hundred or two hundred more albums like this were released in Japan, but...
(MIDI Creative) on sale October 21 (\2,800 including tax) Featuring: IMAHORI Tsuneo, Samm BENNETT, Tom CORA, NAKAGAWA Hiroshi, Peter HOLLINGER and others
Art Direction: FUJIMOTO Yukio
Concert Tour: HACO with Samm BENNETT, IMAHORI Tsuneo, YOKOGAWA Tadahiko
Guests: SHIMODA Nobuhisa, NAKAGAWA Hiroshi November 13 (Mon.) Taku Taku, Kyoto
November 14 (Tues.)Shinsaibashi Muse Hall, Osaka November 16
(Thurs.)Shibuya On Air West, Tokyo Doors open: 6:00pm Show begins: 7:00pm