Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PVLN [ピヴィレヌ] - One LP (1980)


Side A

Alfred ni Sagasu [アルフレッドに捧ぐ]
Computer Uranai [コンピューター占い]
Ayatsuri Ningyou [あやつり人形]
Mado da [窓妥]
Pop Music [ポップミュージック]
Garasu ni... [ガラスに···]
Obaasan no Oshiri [おばあさんのおしり]

Side B
Jidai no Chuusin [時代の中心]
Minna no Uta [みんなのうた]
Unyamunya [ウニャムニャ]
Nejireta Kankei [ねじれた関係]
Anataha Boku Janai [あなたは僕じゃない]
Mongolia [モンゴル]
Last Dance [ラストダンス]

Hiko (vocals, bass)
Makoto (vocals, guitar)
Kiyoto (vocals, keyboards, guitar)
Kasozu (vocals, drums)

Released: 1980
Record label: Electric Lady Land
Catalogue number: ELL-001
Format: LP

Lenght: 41:37
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Even though I dubbed the marvelous NAOKI ASAI LP posted below the most intriguing record found during 2011, the absolutely best score of the past year has to be the one and only release by PVLN. Actually, calling this the best score of the year is a bit misleading - the best acquisition is more correct seeing as I had to cough up more than a fair share of dough to get my grubby hands on it. Worth every penny though, and it would be even if it this record actually popped up for sale once in a while. Which it never does.

Hailing from Nagoya, PVLN consisted of four young dudes approximately in their late teens/early twenties who somehow belted out a LP which at least I'd consider to be the be-all, end-all of Japanese new wave. Or at very least really, really, really, REALLY good. The "One" LP also happened to be the first release on cult label Electric Lady Land/ELL. Starting out as a livehouse (still active to this day), ELL also released records for a couple of years during the early to mid-eighties - the most famous one probably being the "From Electric Lady Land '83" compilation. The label initially had a new wave-centric approach, but for some reason changed their focus around 1984 and from then on exclusively released metal records (a good few of them supposedly quite sought after, like the CROWLEY 8" for instance).

So, what do PVLN have in store for us then? Bubbling up at the beginning of the A side is the wobbly synthesizer ditty "Alfred ni Sagasu" (= "Tribute to Alfred" ...but which Alfred? Nobel? Hitchcock? Batman's butler?). After less than a minute we're mercilessly plunged into "Computer Uranai". Let me tell you; even if the rest of this records was total and utter dog shit, I might still be inclined to consider it one of the best new wave records based on the strenght of "Computer Uranai" alone. Even if the rest of this album isn't really comparable to this track, it still sets the tone somewhat for "One": clever composition, incredibly tight and passionate performance and, most importantly, a totally charming DIY touch. You get the feeling that just about anything could happen ...which is does just after the one minute mark. Even though I've listened to "Computer Uranai" AT LEAST a million gazillion times, the shit that goes down halfway trough still has me lost for words. Just ...wow! If you for some unfathomable reason would only to listen to one track from "One" - this is the one. Absolutely essential listening!

How about the rest of the album then? Well, fortunately this is definitely NOT a one-tracker. Perhaps their greatness may take a second to digest as it is of a more subtle kind (or, rather, because "Computer Uranai" is so astonishingly UN-subtle), but nevertheless - in my opinion each and every track FUCKING ROCKS! Even though the instrumentation for most of the following tracks is relatively subdued (keyboardist Kiyoto eschewing freak-out electronics for a more straightforward organ sound), all the songs have their own charm and peculiar personality, with plenty of quirks included. This is just excellent songwriting, pure and simple. Big thumbs up to PVLN for keeping their tracks at an almost Wire-like brevity (few venture much beyond three minutes) which means no frills or wankery - just a relentless focus on the songs themselves. Bravo!

Pointing out noteworthy tracks seems like a pointless exercise considering they are ALL noteworthy. So many fantastic, shiver-inducing moments - the overexcited refrain of "Minna no Uta", the lenghty atmospheric introduction to "Last Dance", the blissfully cheeky "Anataha Boku Janai", the all-out brilliance of aforementioned "Computer Uranai", and so on. The indirectly most amazing bit of the record is the last track on the A side. An amazingly heartfelt performance just dripping of bittersweet remembrance ...with the kicker being that it is named "Obaasan no Oshiri". Yes, that's right - the title of the song is "Grandma's Buttocks"! I've included scans of the lyric sheet in case anybody's feeling brave enough to attemt a translation. As for myself, I can only imagine this song to be about something akin to the epic tale told in a certain EFL rage comic...


To my knowledge, the "One" LP is the only documented work of PVLN, even though both the pictures in the accompanying booklet as well as the musical sophistication of the band suggest they played out on at least a pretty regular basis. After PVLN folded bassist Hiko started his solo project (HIKO'S) putting out an EP on ELL as well as appearing on the "From Electric Lady Land '83" compilation. I think he was also a member of GENBAKU ONANIES for a while. As far as the other members go - I have no idea if they ever went on to perform with other bands or not.

A final note about PVLN - the actual name of the band is ピヴィレヌ, but it seems like it's supposed to be romanized as just "PVLN" rather than the more literal transcription "Piviren" (which I initially though was what the band was called). This is all according to ELL founder Mohei Hirano (quoted in the book "PUNK/NEW WAVE JAPAN 77-86"), and I do get the impression that he knows what he's talking about. Also, if anybody has ANY additional information about PVLN at all, I would be very keen indeed to take part of it (not to mention grateful).

And lastly - HAPPY NEW YEAR! I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all my readers for visiting and wish you all the very best for 2012. More obscure Japanese stuff lined up, but for now please enjoy PVLN's "One" - it really is the best shit ever.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

NAOKI ASAI [浅井直樹] - Aba · Heidi [アバ · ハイジ ] LP (1988)


Side A
Aba · Heidi [アバ · ハイジ]
Otogi Hanashi Gamori Owarui [おとぎ話がもり終る]
Papillon [パピヨン]
Kugutsu-shi no Yume [くぐつ師の夢]
Yakan Hikou [夜間飛行]
Riroriro Ningyou [りろりろ人形]

Side B
Kiri wo Otsuete [霧を乙えて]
Sensha to Orgel [戦車とオルゴール]
Mahou no Shoujo [魔法の少女]
Candy [キャンディー]
Doro no Umi he [ 泥の海へ]
Marude Kajitsu Noyorini [まるで果実のよりに]

Naoki Asai (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, chorus)
Norio Haga (bass)
Takashi Matsuzawa (drums)

Label: Chesire Records
Catalogue number: CHESIRE-001
Format: LP

Lenght: 47:27
Bitrate: 320 kbps

A couple of months ago, this record caught my eye at an online auction. I'm not sure exactly what possessed me to enter a substantial (if not even comparatively ridiculous) snipe on it - was it due to the spartan sleeve design? The weird look of confusion on the young man's face adorning the cover? The fact that the label was Chesire Records? That it is called "Aba · Heidi"? Or maybe just because it was privately pressed (the fact that most privately released stuff is crap surely constitutes no deterrent to the serious collector). Were I to know then what I know now (that the matrix number i "ASAI-01") I would've surely bid even harder. Hey, it's called record nerd for a reason!

Luckily enough for me, none of my competitors seemed really up for the fight (their use of logic and caution when procuring records turned out to be their downfall) and I managed to grab it relatively cheap. Counting the days until it arrived, I could hardly wait to listen to this record. What kinds of untold marvels could possibly be contained therein? Would it be the Tomo Akikawabaya-ish discovery of 2011!? As it turns out - both yes and no. Yes in the sense that "Aba · Heidi" is certainly one of the most intriguing records to cross my path for this year - or even any year for that matter! No in the sense that there's a very real possibility that, unlike Tomo Akikawabayas output, the amount of people who'll actually enjoy this (excluding myself) could be pretty damn small.

Even though I'd already posted one track from it on the HoS tumblr, I was feeling hesitant to let loose the whole thing on the 'net, sensing that my unbridled (and maybe also incomprehensible) enthusiasm for this album perhaps differs a bit from other peoples reaction to it:

And frankly I wasn't very impressed myself when I finally got to give this a first spin. I remember trailing off to the kitchen to do the dishes about halfway through the first song - it just grabbed me THAT hard. Imagine my surprise when just moments after at last making my way through the whole damn thing, I found myself putting it on again. And again. And yet another time after that. What was going on? Had I finally become totally retarded; spinning the same bullshit LP over and over again?

The answer is of course that the subtle magic of Naoki Asai had at last begun to sink in.

I can't really pinpoint exactly what I find so appealing about "Aba · Heidi", but there's something intangibly dreamlike and surreal permeating the whole LP. There are several allusion made to Alice in Wonderland on the sleeve (just check out the record label) and this record does indeed have a fairytale aura to it. In particular "Yakan Hikou" evokes the mental image of an enchanted forest of some kind. This is the stuff you'd imagine finding filed in the Mad Hatters record library.

But for all the quaint stuff going on here, this ain't no Disney style fairytale - there are plenty of Grimm vibes to go around with some magnificently creepy shit lurking in the undergrowth. All of it probably unintentional, I should add. I get the feeling that our pal Naoki was aiming for softness but instead ended up with the disquieting and odd - his high pitched, wispy, lispy vocals slithering into your ear canal like a candy-colored snake crawling up your leg. Perhaps best exemplified by standout tracks "Papillon" (whose bizarre production is also worth mentioning) and "Candy". Especially "Candy". Jesus christ, talk about psychedelic gingerbread house moves. Lock up your infants!

"Kyandiiii... kyandiii..."

But the merit of this record doesn't all lie in it's accidental (?) strangeness. The songs are cleverly crafted and skillfully performed, and the production is both competent and charmingly off-kilter. Clearly a lot of work was spent on "Aba · Heidi" and the result is an aural journey through the wild flora and fauna of Naoki Asai's mind garden.

Too bad nobody ever seems to have ever given a shit about this record. I've yet to find any note of it of any kind (including records of previous sales) anywhere. And I don't think it's because all existant copies are filed away deep inside secretive Japanese über-collections, but rather because they are pining away in old and dusty Book Offs. Which is just too bad.

Maybe I'm overestimating it, but when push comes to shove, "Aba · Heidi" is probably the record I spent most time listening to during all of 2011 - and for reasons I can't fully grasp to boot, so maybe there's where the excitement lies for me? Unlikely to be everyone's (anyone's?) cup of tea, but even so - if even only one person out there can be converted into Asai fandom, I'd consider my work here done.

As for everybody else - I've said it before and I'll say it again:
next time I'll post something cool!


Embarrasing mistake update 23/01/2012:
As an astute reader pointed out, the proper title for this record is NOT "Eva · Heidi" as I first claimed, but rather "Aba · Heidi" as in "Abayo Heidi" = "Farewell Heidi". This fact makes parts of the review much weaker, but on the other hand lends yet another disquieting twist to the album. This record is certainly one that just keeps on giving.