Boomkat Product Review:
A jaw-unhooking followup to Japan Blues’s recent album for DDS that runs at nearly twice the length of its predecessor, this astonishing tape is a fantasy regression session that folds resonant gongs and dense field recordings into snatched shamisen twangs, smudged enka and minyo recordings and gurgling, hypogean noise like some early C.20th Japanese answer to US folk blues. If you weren’t already spun out by the first one, this companion piece is guaranteed to unravel your proprioceptive senses and leave you with the uncanniest sensations of motion sickness of time travel, unchronic nostalgia or déjà entendu, haunting like The Caretaker and Chris Watson in an endlessly oblique matrix of reverb, echo and delay.
Howard Williams’ 5th Japan Blues excursion delves deeper into recordings made with singer Akari Mochizuki and Tsugaru shamisen master Hibiki Ichikawa for Demdike Stare’s DDS label. While the original album was already a deeply disorienting and heady experience, this addendum pushes the envelope farther into an oblique hall-of-mirrors where lonesome, plangent traces of Akari Mochizuki’s vocals ricochet down long corridors of layered field recordings and etheric folk-dub.
Elements that seem airy and identifiable in the first few minutes bleed into waterlogged environmental recordings and Mochizuki's sonorous song, before Williams' own words nudge into the foreground. A ghostly sonic vapourtrail curls around his words like smoke, and the extended piece takes a rickety rail into Sheol, zooming into the grit and muck, letting dissociated echoes pop and crack in place of a melody. By the final moments of the first side, we're left with isolated gong tones pulled from their usual context and placed alongside drowned percussion and mossy whistles.
The album's second side is more angular and rhythmic. Mochizuki's voice sets the scene again, disintegrating into woodblock percussion, birdsong and buried organ vamps. Again Williams uses a spoken word segment to signal a stylistic sea change, his words blurring as tempestuous growls intersect vibrations and off-world drills. We're not submerged completely this time, Williams and The Dengie Hundred keep a few limbs outside the murky blackness, letting Mochizuki's voice echo out and into drums that lead us into an abrupt, ritualistic end.
Intensely tactile music, 'Compainion Peace' is an exercise in cultural exchange that's impressionistic, compassionate and completely unforgettable.