CD REVIEW  Mandaï Distribution special March 2012, Part 1 : Acid Mother Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Ruins Alone – Joy As A Toy / Germanotta Youth Hollywood Burnouts

First of two specials on releases distributed by Mandaï (which got its spot in my list of favourite Belgian “labels” by now) which I hope to complete in March (and mind you, I only got the stuff halfway the month, with plenty of other things still demanding my attention as well), and it so happens it has two Japanese acts, both of which have quite an impressive activities sheet which, in fact, partly overlap each other (more about that later).

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Band : Acid Mother Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Album title : The Ripper At Heaven's Gates Of Dark
Label : Riot Season
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution
Release date : 31/10/2011 (Mandaï= Dec. 2011)
Release : CD/ LP

This Psychedelic Rock band is one of several carrying the “Acid Mothers Temple” prelude (henceforth shortened to AMT) in their names, all of which are led by the enigmatic guitarist Kawabata Makoto. Actually, the bandname comes forth from the Neo-Hippie community by the same name, which had several houses throughout Japan where the members could travel from. The “community” got some notoriety when in 1995 religious cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in the Tokio railways to cause 12 deaths and over 1,000 casualties, because some of the cult's members were staying at ATM houses. As a result, the houses were closed.

But 1995 was also when Makoto (a former member of Musica Transonic, Mainliner, and Toto Sara) founded what was to be known as ATM (originally Acid Mother's Temple) from the ashes of the original ATM Soul Collective, formed by Makoto with the intent of creating “extreme trip music” by editing and dubbing previous recordings, influenced by Progressive Rock. The band erected its own (and eponimous) label, and in 1997 released its first two cassette tapes under the ATM & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Monicker, and in November of that same year the band's self-titled debut album was released through PSF Records. It was selected by leading UK magazine The Wire for their list of 50 best albums of the year. 1998 saw the band travel outside Japan's borders to tour overseas (US, UK & Europe). March 1999 saw the release of the band's 2nd album Pataphysical Freak Out MU!! on the PSF imprint, and later in the year the band released their soundtrack to the Russian underground movie Wild Gals A Go-Go on their own label. Along the way new members had joined the collective, and the line-up would eventually stabilize somewhat around 4 core members (besides Makoto, whom also sings, you'll find synth player/ singer Higashi Hiroshi, bassist/ singer Tsuyama Atsushi, and drummer Shimura Koji). Exiting members wouldstart their own offshoots such as Floating Flower, Nishinihon, and Tsurbami, while Makota himself started his own offshoot Kawabata Makoto & the Mothers Of Invasion to pursue a more Jazz-geared musical direction (they released one album in 2002, and ATM & tMPUFO released no less than 4 albums and 2 EPs in a 3-month period during that same year). In 2003 an alternate incarnation of the band (playing experimental Free-Jazz) called ATM mode HHH was formed to tour Europe, and that same year a collaboration with Gong came into being as Acid Mothers Gong. In 2004 ATM & tMPUFO again released 4 full-lengths in a 3-month period, but also a collaboration with Afrirampo under the name Acid Mothers Afrirampo, and after ATM mode HHH changed its name to ATM SWR, they released their own album as well.

To commemorate the band's 10-year anniversary, a new act under the name ATM & The Cosmic Inferno was formed, and besides starting a European tour, they released several albums. AMT SWR toured that same year as well. In 2006 another ATM offshoot was formed under the name ATM & The Incredible Strange Band. In 2007 Makoto and one of his fellow AMT members (Tsuyama Akiko of ATM & TISB) joined forces Manu Neumeier of Guru Guru to form Acid Gurus Temple, whom swiftly changed their name to Acid Mothers Guru Guru. And then, there's another band using the AMT prefix to its name, known as ATM & The Pink Ladies Blues and playing a Traditional Blues with psychedelic touches. The peculiarity is that Makoto is no member of this band, but the 3 who are have all been members of the band in its formative years. In 2002, the band organised the first of an annually returning event, appropriately named Acid Mothers Festival.

Over the years all projects have had their albums on a variety of labels outside of Japan, with extra live albums being released through the band's own label. In essence, the list is fàr tóó long to put down here, as it would take up a couple of pages all on its own. For more details, check section “AMT Label Catalog” on the band's website (www.) acidmothers.com. As far as AMT & TMPUFO is concerned, I've counted a total of 35 (thirty-five) albums, 8 EPs, and 10 live albums! Enough to make any fan of the band go nuts! Enough also to make record collectors sigh rather deeply! Look for music by AMT on the Internet at either (www.) myspace.com/acidmotherstemple and their page at Last.fm. There's also plenty of (live) videos at YouTube. You may not find anything off this new album, but the posted material will sure give you an idea of this freak-out act! Goin' back to their current album, I must say I found the track “Back Door Man Of Ghost Rails Inn” to be strongly reminiscent of the Doors in their improvisation mode. The ensuing Shine On You Crazy Dynamite” is more than just a reference to Pink Floyd, the music being of a same mind as some parts of the live part of Ummagumma! And whereas most of the lyrics in “Back Door...” are done in English, I doubt that the ones for “Shine On...” (and the other 3 songs on the album) were done in an actually existing language. Otherwize, great spacey synths, nice repetitive guitar melodies (occasionally Asian-styled) with the necessary changes, and a great rhythm section which moves more than a mere rhythm section should. With an album length just under 73 minutes for only 5 tracks (one of which only being just over 4 minutes in length), this is the ideal freak out or chill-out band!

98/100

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Band : Ruins Alone
Album title : Ruins Alone
Label : Skin Graft
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution
Release date : Dec. 2011
Release : CD/ LP

If this band's name sounds somewhat familiar, it's because it used to be called Ruins, and as such has been in existence between 1985 and 2004. Originally, the band was founded with the intent to have a power trio, but as the guitarist failed to show up on the first rehearsals, founding member Yoshida Tatsuya (drums & vocals) decided to continue as a drum and bass act. Under the name of Ruins a total of 2 EPs and 17 full-lengths were released (through several labels, including Ipecac, Skin Graft, Tzadik, and Magaibutsu Ltd – the latter bringing the bulk of the output) as well as 10 collaboration albums, with Tatsuya as the constant (and also main composer – he actually writes the music in score form! - the group went through 4 bassists until 2004, when Tatsuya decided to continue solo as Ruins Alone).

But in that same time, Tatsuya also did several solo albums, and collaborated with other artists under his own name. On the side he also had several other bands, such as Koenji Hyakkei (8 albums between 1994 and 2008), Akaten (if I'm not mistaken, made 5 albums between 1995 and 2001, and with Tsuyama Atsushi – one of the core people of ATM & TMPUFO, see above – as his partner), Ruinzahtova (not sure if more than the one 1994 studio album was released, but there's apparently also a live one), Daisanmyaku-X (2? albums in 1995 and 1997), Korekyojin (4 studio albums and 2 live ones between 1999 and 2008), and Daimonji (3 albums between 2003 and 2006). Besides, he was also (or still is?) one of the trio in Acid Mothers Temple SWR, and has performed drums on a host of albums by other artists/ bands (for a complete list of all the albums the man is featured on, check the discography Ruins' own website at (www5e.) biglobe.ne.jp/ruins. Ruins Alone was handpicked by Matt Groening to perform at the May 2010 All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, England.

What made Ruins so special, was the complex compositions, and the fact that the vocals were based on an imaginary language, something which was inspired by the French Progressive Rock act Magma. The music is often described as inaccessible, and has had tags like “Prog Rock” and “Math Rock” put to it! Ruins Alone continued in the same vein (why, indeed, change a musical direction one is comfortable with?). Since then Tatsuya also re-started his bands Koenji Hyakkei and Korekyojin...and he was also active with AMT SWR (ànd Acid Mother Gong too, apparently!!!), let's not forget that!

In between all the busy activity, we would forget that meanwhile it had been almost 10 years since the last Ruins album. Tatsuya also suddenly remembered, and therefore recorded no less than 23 songs (with a length between 54 seconds and 3:50, they total up for a 53-minute album). Expect odd time signatures, an overall Jazzy feel (Free Jazz style, dude!) on top of a Math Rock basis, added horns and keyboards (programmed stuff, I guess), and off course the use of that strange language of his, with lyrics which are at one moment brought in a style close to soprano, then as a frantically fast-spoken frenzy, occasionally as a brought by a mental case, and in between as nicely sung melodies. Stuff which will definitely not leave lovers of more complex music untouched! You can listen to two songs (the slightly “calmer” “Stonehenge” and the somewhat more frantic “Glaschenck”) off the album (and a host of songs off Ruins albums) at the “MP3 Download” section of (www.) skingraftrecords.com. Now, stop bugging' me for a moment, and let me continue to enjoying the album once more in its entirety before I have to turn my attention towards another review, okay!?

98/100

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Band : Joy As A Toy / Germanotta Youth
Album title : Joy As A Toy / Germanotta Youth
Label : Cheap Satanism Records
Distributor : Mandaï Distribution
Release date : Jan. 2012
Release : 10-inch

To commemorate its 2-year existence, Brussels-based label Cheap Satanism is releasing two split EPs, the first combining Brussels based Joy As A Toy with the Italian Germanotta Youth. Both bands, or rather all four bands when taking n account the still to come second split EP, will be releasing their second albums during this same year.

Actually, JAAT's sophomore album Dead As A Dodo (recorded with Patrick Vervloesem of X-Legged Sally and Flat Earth Society fame) should be out on the streets any day now, and it so happens that it comes almost exactly to the day two years after the release of the band's debut album Valparaiso.The band was formed in 2009 by the trio of Gil Mortio (bass, vocals, clavinet), Clément Nourry (guitar, vocals, cello) and Jean Philippe De Gheest (drums, vocals, m-16), whom describe their somewhat funky movie soundtrack-ish music as “Vampire Rock” and “Tennis Pop”, and have known it put forth in media as something for fans whom miss Stereolab and Mr. Bungle (Pop Matters review). Well, the thing is that the trio also gets additional help from guests such as Lyenn, Els Vandeweyer, Mai Lev, and Pierre Vervloesem (whom add the sounds of saxophone, horns, vibraphone, and possibly other instruments, where needed). Usually, the guys start out from relatively melodic openings and work their ways to something more frantic and psychedelically chaotic.

On this split 10-incher, JAAT start off by bringing their own interpretation (which follows the original rather closely though) of “Profondo Rosso”, an instrumental track written in 1975 by Italian Progressive Rock band Goblin (known for their soundtracks for Dario Argento movies, of which Profundo Rosso was the first). Second track “The Monster” is a song, with more angular melodies. At any rate, these two tracks are enough to inflame my curiosity, and I'm already looking forward to being enabled to listen to the band's full-length.

We already know Italian trio Germanotta Youth from their debut album The Harvesting Of Souls (review posted 23/02/2011, and still available for your fact-finding needs), released through Italian label Wallace Records in October 2010 and distributed in the Benelux by Mandaï in January of last year. Just like JAAT, the Italians have chosen to bring one original track (preceded by an intro entitled “Prelude”, which cannot be separated aurally from the ensuing “Wardenclyffe Tower” anyway, except for the fact that it's less energetic) and a cover related to the horror movie scene. Can't get any more horrific than with “Helloween”, I guess, and that's the theme GY covered, giving it a (sped-up) touch of their own.

Both bands, as well as France's DesiCobra, UK's Necro Deathmort, and America's Umberto, will be playing at the 2nd Zombiff Night at Brussels' Magasin 4 on April 7. None of the music off this EP being available on the Internet, you might as well check out the bands in live conditions...providing of course you're from that neck of the woods, euhm...Europe! To rate this EP...seen as two out of the 4 songs are covers I know the originals of...would be “politically incorrect”, yet that won't stop me from putting the EP into my “Best Albums Of 2012”-lists (should be entry N° 5, or so!).

Tony.

Just in case you hadn't noticed, all three of these releases were put in my year-lists! Nice work, Mandaï!