Suzuki Junzo: If I Should Die Before I Wake

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Was Ist Das? Cassette

This tape from ‘cosmic bluesman’ Suzuki Junzo could, conceivably, be described as a split tape with himself. Side A is pure hell-trip dirge terror as Junzo lays down three new rip-roaring tracks in the studio with drummer Takahashi Ikuro, while the flipside is a 2014 solo set from San Francisco.

Fans of guitar heaviness will dig the opening salvo on that that first side in particular, in which the duo comprehensively banish the ghost of Kawabata Makoto’s string histrionics and tear the universe a new one, going hell for leather in a kind of sacrificial flurry of feedback-drenched shredding and tom and cymbal battery.

After that things arguably get even more interesting, Junzo and Ikuro retreating to a ghostlier mood. On Les Visiteurs Du Soir they call up the people hiding underneath your bed for a nerve jangling séance of broken notes and increasingly tense, eerie chimes. Spreading out over its ten itchy minutes, the duo mixes the idiosyncratic scuffles and scrapes of free improv with more familiar apocalypse rock moves.

And if you liked that, you’ll love the pitiless maw of the title track, which seems to dispense with any actual music altogether for a an almost gestural tapestry of looming bass tones and elongated, siren-like drones, with cymbal rushes and more chimes ensure your hackles are well and truly raised. There’s something of Keiji Haino’s masterfully nightmarish Next, Let’s Try Changing The Shape about this – there are no vocals, of course, it’s more the way in which the duo’s desolate playing seems to call out across a vast subterranean space, the mouldering dark much more presence than absence.

Side B’s solo performance is just as deep and heavy, the broken chord fingerings of She Kissed Their Graves but They Hit Her with Their Ashes mewling like Dean McPhee trapped in a deep well. But any chance to vibe on Junzo’s death jazz trip is harshed out by sudden bombardment of fuzz and squeal, with his guitar sounding loud enough to tear off the top of your head and fry the brains inside.

As Junzo starts into the pulsing feedback wail of In the Lair of Norma Desmond, I reckon being at Fortress Callosum in SF must have been a lot of fun that night. The overwhelming tidal force that Junzo summons from his guitar is like some Hendrix-style ultimate guitar burn, which, instead of being unleashed as the climax of his rock action to blow the minds of gesticulating flower children, instead becomes the totality of his all-engulfing workout. It’s a storm in heaven, both alpha and omega, an altered state that summons up the molten fury of a sun being born and dying in simultaneous abandon.

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More info and tracklisting here.

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