Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden were a revelation of the first half of this decade. Born after the break-up of deservedly regretted Tipographica, DCPRG were a bold idea of part-time Ground Zero reed player Naruyoshi Kikuchi. For the early sessions he brought along the legend of Yoshihide Otomo, who officiated on the first two CDs. But DCPRG were much more than another Otomo-related project. Far from the polymetric intricacies of Tipographica, the large-scale orchestration sought inspiration in electric Miles period of early 1970s, heavy funk music and South American fusion. If that concoction could sound almost conventional 30 years on, it was anything but. The innovative use of samples, the enterprising gravity of the swashbuckling rhythm section and efflorescent production set DCPRG apart from other bands keen to capitalize on the unexpected funk revival.
In the later productions, Otomo was absent and DCPRG expanded its horn section, entering a futuristic jazz-funk territory for adventurous ears. It is hoped that the band will return to studio at some point.
There is something about the greatest of all records. This “something” is how they begin. The eponymous “Faust”, the third Motor Totemist Guild, Area’s “Arbeit macht frei”, Lussier-Lepage “Chants et danses du monde inanime”, Volapük’s “Where Is Tamashii?” are among them… The unforgettable shock of our confrontation with the sudden agglomeration of ideas compressed into several short sequences… “Report from the Iron Mountain” rings up in this shortlist. The spine-chilling “I’m Something Special” thrown into our earlobes by a clueless princess so poorly adapted to life in the real world provides for a startling auditory jolt from which no English-hearing listener will recover throughout this engaging collection. But the band does recover: an electric piano and a dense percussive equivalent of a musical coral reef will carry us through a lazy, unquenchable funk. Listeners compare this percussive overgrowth to electric-era Miles Davis and especially his more oriental moments. There no little doubt that Masaki Yoshimi’s cavalier tabla is the main culprit here. The groovy figure on the leading electric piano (most probably the leader Naruyoshi Kikuchi) operates at a contrived delay to the reigning rhythmic compressor: tabla, sizzling electronics, bass, drums. The sampled, clueless voice of a spoiled American female recurs with abandon. In response, a wild, dingy alto sax lashes out obsessively. The electric guitar interferes with long sustain, but the futuristic machine advances on a perfectionist tripod of drums, electric bass and the ubiquitous tabla. Yoshihide Otomo’s solo guitar is slightly gritty, located somewhere in the 1970s transpacific tradition, almost independent of the obtrusive rhythmic, orogenic compressor. After 6 minutes of this delectable progression, an explosion of free noise alerts us to a different serving from the guitar/organ duo (Kohki Takai/Masayuki Tsuboguchi). The monstrous rhythm section rushes forward, with opportunistic decoys calling on. But the machine can be easily immobilized: short drum solos interfere, immersed in sudden, disorienting silence. After another free noise avalanche, it’s one of those classic guitar moments. “Tell me when it’s over” declaims the clueless lady. It is over, though.
Play Mate at Hanoi
What a relief. After this hard-driven deal, this next track welcomes us with a Latin rhythm clanked up on woodblocks. The synthesizer improvises on top, heavily dependent on pedal-generated bass lines. Tinny cowbells add accents off the main beat and the radiant organ doubles, but not quite harmonically. Only when twangy guitar à la Reggie Lucas pays a visit, does the entire rhythm section fall into a “samba falsa” groove. Soprano sax is too shrill to compare it to David Liebman’s, but its electronic amplification and slight echo are certainly redolent of the mid-1970s drug-enhanced Davis combo. Here, the saxophone is very agile and blends perfectly while retaining inductive projection. When we suddenly jump into a funky line – almost Isaac Hayes’s “Shaft” – Kenta Tsugami’s soprano saxophone goes cyber-jazzy. Finally a 15-note theme appears on reeds and synthesizer. The wayward soprano departs from the groupthink as soon as it has rejoined. In full flight, a Korg/guitar duo takes over the first 7 notes from the resampled theme. Gosekky’s tenor saxophone will supply here a more ‘modern jazz’ color, but the richly chromatic rhythm section (Masaki Kurihara, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, Nobuo Fujii, Gen Oogimi, Itoken), thickens the texture, especially when reinforced by electronic reversals. Two guitars (Y.Otomo & K.Takai) improvise separately against Kurihara’s repetitive bass line. The tabla re-appears, and then we are exposed to a cheesy Korg plunging into a high range hijacked from children’s TV programs. By now the groove has grown into an excellent dance piece. If Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” was remade today, the final dance hall scenes would surely require the participation of Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden.
This enigmatically entitled track is a bossa nova for electric guitar and a groovy clavinet. I find it astounding how often Japanese avant-garde musicians relate to this musical format. From Toshiaki Yokota’s “Flute Adventure”, through After Dinner’s “Sepia Ture” to Yoganants’ most recent “Bethlehem”, the relaxed musica da praia has enthralled the Japanese artists. The cultural affinity is always there, introduced by Stan Getz’s classics 45 years ago and reinforced by the special relationship between the two countries and their reciprocal migrations. The rhythm section here exhibits none of the density and fibrous precision of the rhythm section as we knew it in the previous tracks. The bossa nova is sensual and breezy and whenever it hesitates, it restarts form a sample. Organ and soprano provide a rarefied melodic content for a fleeting love story. Suddenly, two fuzz guitars change the setting, with the help from Masayasu Tsuboguchi’s groovy clavinet. The compact rhythm section is with us again. The guitar and keyboard improvisations are atonal and a-rhythmic, but so much is happening within the rhythm section that one could wonder who grabs in the limelight. When the percussive forest disappears, a screaming guitar and tabla break through. After a short break the bossa nova returns. Lambent flute and an empathetic rhythm section are with us this time, unhurried and old-fashioned in their modernism. We could just as well join a party at Rio’s Museu do arte moderna… Only some lustful synthesizer squeals in the background, disturbing the reverie…
Circle/Line ~ Hard Core Peace
Electric piano commences in an almost “progressive” vein, only to yield to range-bound rhythm guitar, electronic pulsation and the 4-man strong percussive tropic back in action. When the electric piano theme returns, the pulsating orchestra adopts a mantle of a full-bodied framework for a soprano saxophone. The interplanetary keyboard is quickly drowned out by a fuzz guitar, but the clatter of the drum-percussion section is never really far. When the soprano returns, the tinny clacking of Latin percussion will be at the ready, in full swing. The soprano sax will harvest here the cleanest line yet. By now, the brass section has entered a bop mood, surrounded by the unlikely tabla and sibilant aqua-color from the synthesizer. If you bring back the memories of early 1970s, then a mix of Funkadelic and Miles Davis, with a pinch of British progressive orchestration would have yielded the basic recipe before you could fast forward 30 years and find Date Course… The band realizes this, swinging big time with the guitar playing the chords that back then would have fallen on the reeds. DCPRG’s evolutionary bravura reaches its apex when the real reed section charges through the percussive, keyboard. Kurihara’s bass rumbles nimbly and a keyboard solo leads onto another brave horn section and then overlays and some. The ultramodern big band’s panache reaches here Ellingtonian enthusiasm.
Cheesy 1970s electric keyboard makes an entrée, but is this Bill Roberts’ composition? At first, it does not quite seem so. Rather, it sounds like a clavinet galore, pushed forward mercilessly by the keyboard/rhythm combo. The bass rumbles lower than usually. The inserted turns are of heavy funk heritage, taking us back to the plopping, racy flux. At the next turn, the heavy part is almost hard rock, softened by the plastic Korg sound. Only after 6 minutes, do we recognize the terms and conditions of “Hey Joe”, the familiar. Tsuboguchi’s organ is wheeling and dealing out consistent elements from the unforgettable hymn. Later, the guitar will improvise within the scale, mostly in the higher register, but more with Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee-like sense of urgency than with Hendrix’ corporeal pyrotechnics. Either way, the swirling organ will smelt the exchange until the very end. An easily digested morsel…
Remember Mirror Balls hanging from the ceiling of 1970s discotheques? I can’t recall if this theme relates to any of the era’s soul-funk topics, but the atmosphere is of an early morning dancehall closure. Yes, it is funky, but intellectually so, in almost Stevie Wonder. The dented notes remind us of his clipped vocal manner from the novel arrangements of the 1970s. The horn section and the quacking keyboard loom up in unison to give us a jubilant, vivacious, almost catchy stimulus. The flute makes its second appearance, slaloming between the rhythm section poles. But when a polite guitar lays out the same program, we realize that this is little more than a collective tribute to the overall effort, with final statements by each musician.
The DCPRG’s discography is somewhat confused. Early stage repertoire was presented on positions 1 and 2 and reprised on 3 and again on 4. Remixes from 1 and 2 can be found on 3. In turn, 7 presents other versions of tracks already known from 5 and from 2. That basically means that you should seek out 1, 5 and 8 as the best introduction to the band and then explore further the variation on the theme(s).
1. DCPRG: “Report from Iron Mountain” (2001)
2. DCPRG / ROVO: Sino / Pan American Beef Stake Art Federations (2001)
3. DCPRG: “General Represantation Product Chain Drastism” (2002)
4. DCPRG: “Musical from Chaos” 2CD (2001-2003)
5. DCPRG: “Structure et Force” (2003)
6. DCPRG: “Chaos 2” (2003-2004)
7. DCPRG: “Stayin’ Alive/Fame/Pan American Beef Stake Art Federation 2” (2004)
8. DCPRG “Franz Kafka’s America” (2007)
Kikuchi’s constellation seems to be still active and new dvds occasionally surface from more recent live exposure. In case you heard of new studio recordings, Sonic Asymmetry would like to learn about them…