Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jyoji Sawada - Base of Fiction (1994)

Blogs been up for a while, so I figured I'd give a special treat of the greatest album of all time.
To start, it's probably important to consider the "state of Japanese independent music" at the time of release. A huge style was the sort of "neo-zeuhl", rio-influenced kind of music largely championed by bands like Bondage Fruit, Koenjihyakkei, and a number of other greats. Heavy use of classical stringed instruments, largely technical music, operatic vocals, and other outrageous sounds highlight the genre. Along side that we had the "noise rockers": Ruins, Ground Zero, High Rise, etc. Anyone vaguely knowledgeable of the sort of "experimental" movements within Japan will know of this style. Thirdly, "Japanoise". Exhibited by Merzbow and Masonna, this brand of free noise has become largely acknowledged as some very "outside" music. And floating in and out of all of that, we have the avant-garde and generally humorous stylings that seem to be present in anything that comes out of Japan.
Enter Jyoji Sawada, a self taught bassist that builds himself off of classical composition, film soundtracks, and even a fair bit of Brazilian and Indonesian influence. After some experience with jazz improv and some work with Choro Club, he set off to combine his large vocabulary of sounds into wild, avant-garde compositions for a solo career. And as wide as influences are, Jyoji seems to want to condense the entire state of Japanese Independent music with his debut, Base of Fiction.
But for this seemingly defining piece, it isn't really a solo project. Although all is settled with Jyoji's vision, he combines his talents with some of the largest figures of Japanese music, including: Yoshida Tatsuya drumming on several tracks, the incomparable Otomo Yoshihide appears a few times, Seiichi Yamamoto lends his guitar, and the album is produced by the God Mountain head, Hoppy Kamiyama. This is almost more of a collaboration of Japanese music as a whole than it is Jyoji's band, although it's execution should be attributed significantly the the man that composed all but the first track.
That execution, you ask? Brilliant. Sonic insanity from the beginning to the end, with those previously mentioned styles all making appearences in one way or another. Largely dominated by Jyoji's obscure atmosphere, created from a mixture of a chambered string section and an overall menacing figure that looms from the noise and ferocity of his more rockish elements, this album takes us in and out of "reality", which Jyoji himself notes in the title for the 9th track (trans.) "Between strangeness and the reality of daily life" [please inform me if this is incorrect]. Schoenberg-esque, "spechstimme" comes in and out from female vocals, strings shift from dense soundscapes to more technical passages, maybe recalling Glass and his use of arpeggio (as in Einstein on the Beach), sampling is frequent and jarring (Jyoji explores the wide range of electronic expression) and even toy instruments make an appearance as we are left either frustrated or impressed (or both) and most certainly confused by the inner workings of Jyoji Sawada's mind.
To dissect this album is futile. At any given second, there is too much to consider, and at the next moment, you're taken to a completely different realm without warning. It's best to let this album wash over you, let it jerk you back in forth between signature changes, let it turn your mind into putty and watch the abstract figures that form as it splatters on the wall.

Buy.... good luck. Out of print. I was able to get a used copy (for a hefty amount that I will not disclose so easily), but it's a tough find, for sure
Download V0 | FLAC
official site | Myspace (The samples of music on here recall his more contemporary classical/ soundtrack styles that he explores on his later albums and film scores. Don't expect to find such warmness on this one)


  1. please tell me if a download is corrupt or whatever. I had a lot of trouble uploading these.

  2. I waiting for you to post this. ;\

    Love this album.

  3. Why are indentions so whack on this?

  4. Finally, you posted it. I always thought this would be the first album you posted lol

  5. I was waiting to get a flac rip, and when I was able to do that... I guess I just procrastinated.

  6. and by "get a flac rip" I mean rip it myself.