Boomkat Product Review:
A holy grail (soz) of Japanese improv resurfaces on a first legit reissue, yielding a stunning recording by a trio of experimental titans - American percussionist and Stockhausen collaborator Michael Ranta, influential Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and Fluxus legend Takehisa Kosugi. It’s now mercifully made available for less than a grand (the current 2nd hand price) as part of the Metaphon programme, expertly curated by Timo Van Luijk and immaculately salvaged and restored by Jos Smolders from an unplayed original vinyl copy (master tapes remain undiscovered). A psychedelic, meditative séance that’s highly recommended if yr into Conrad Schnitzler, AMM, Jim O’Rourke, Tony Conrad, Kluster
In the summer of 1975, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Michael Ranta and Takehisa Kosugi assembled to perform an open-air show in Sapporo. Afterwards, the trio were desperate to recapture some of its magic, so headed to Tokyo and booked a session at the NHK Studio. "Improvisation Sep. 1975" emerged from that session's soundcheck - a 50 minute session that’s weighty, dazzling and dynamic.
The recording can broadly be described as meditative, Ranta, Kosugi and Ichiyanagi create a sound that teeters between cultures and disciplines. Flutes and percussive hits are processed through the ensemble's vortex of real-time effects - tape echo, ring modulation and phaser - and acoustic elements are wrenched into electronic realms without warning. It veers from ancient ritual music to electro-acoustic experimentation and into kosmische psychedelia, eventually erupting with discordant assymetries of the sort spied by Roland Kayn, roiling like a robotic assimilation of no wave industrial jazz into more curious interzones of folk-wize percussion and psychedelic raga swirls.
By the time the session was recorded, Ranta had been a member of Stockhausen's ensemble, performing at the Osaka World's Fair, and teaching music history at Taiwan's Gwang-ren Academy. Ichiyanagi had studied composition with John Cage and lived in New York City, moving back to Japan in 1960 and founding avant-garde music collective New Direction, along with Takehisa Kosugi and others. Violinist Kosugi meanwhile had been introduced to Fluxus by Ichiyanagi, collaborating with Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman before heading back to Japan and founding the Taj Mahal Travellers in 1969.
To put it bluntly, "Improvisation Sep. 1975" is a stand off between three of the era's most inspired avant-garde improvisers and thinkers - a delirious meeting of minds that's studied, and poetic.