The earliest sign of recorded collaboration between these two giants of Japanese avant-garde go back to Keiji Haino’s guest appearance on Musica Transonic’s “Gashô keshin”, also known as “Incubation”. This was in 1997, and little at that time indicated that the shock of titans, mediated by Makoto Kawabata and Asahito Nanjo was anything more than accidental.
Instinctively, Yoshida’s topological drumming technique should not sit comfortably with radical mood swings that Haino had been infusing with quanta of kinetic energy for nearly three decades. And yet, when the legends met again in 2000, sparks flew.
Whereas in other duet formats, Yoshida tends to dominate the proceedings thanks to his intuitively mathematical memory, in his collaboration with Haino, the distribution of outcomes suggests equal repartition of rights and duties. Despite moments of premeditated asynchrony, the musicians achieve a measure of multi-climactic exaltation. They never seek full symbiosis, but nor are they content with mere cohabitation. Instead, we witness metathesis and occasional cross-mutation of ideas. And what does bring these very different souls together is the essentially haptic nature of their musical practice.
In the trio format, their collaborations are more than the sum of the three. Haino’s gitara picaresca transfers the center of gravity, turning the polymetric Gordian knots into veritable jewels of avant-rock. As Knead, they were joined by bassist Hisashi Sasaki, formerly of Ruins. On Sanhedolin, Sasaki was replaced by Mitsuru Nasuno.
As a duo, Haino and Yoshida often go beyond the electric assault and roam unplugged, bringing back the memories of itinerant troubadours, equipped with acoustic string and membrane instruments from Hindustani, Bengali and Berber traditions.
Please note that the record described here, originally published in Hong Kong, is also known under English and Cantonese titles: “Until Water Grasps Flame” and “Deng shui zhua dao huo wei zhi”, respectively.
Thunderclaps of blitz guitar crash in before Yoshida’s multi-directional impetus disturbs the distant discharges and drag the guitar distortion much closer into an echo-less, closed space. Haino’s axe transforms his a-melodic shrapnels into heavily infused, compressed, pyroxenic seams. It is Yoshida’s feet that rule here, jabbing the low-pitched drums with determined rolls. His busy cymbal work is disactivated whenever the guitar fizz evaporates.
Nadaraka na shiyôgo no ketsui
A very different duo of the same pair of hands. Haino appears first on a wonderfully sentimental Mughal sarod. Yoshida joins the misty sunset scene on darbouka. Haino’s irreverent glissandos turn his sarod into a mantric oasis of short cycles, but his hedonistic style will take a while before accelerating. Yoshida handles a multi-effect Korg X5D, here in liquid bass role, but with a trousseau full of other percussive sounds: glockenspiels, cog rattles and flexatones. As the effects accumulate, the atmosphere becomes very dense. The clamor of the electro-bass has almost distracted us from Haino’s riffing race to nirvana.
Yokka to yutta to tan
A more familiar setting of chuckling jazz guitar and brushed percussion. Haino, who had played with Derek Bailey four years before, hesitates here between the master’s non-speculative anti-documentarism and a peculiar stutter perfected by Davey Williams. Although Haino does sound less angular and more rounded than either, he does not fall into the full-bodied, leathery nostalgia of his duets with Loren Mazzacane Connors. Or perhaps, Yoshida just would not allow him to. The track progresses by fits and starts, with aptly mobile drumwork evolving in parallel, and never in competition with the guitar. This is rock improvisation for jazz sounds. In the dry, clipped “rock” context, Haino’s sound is closer to Sonny Sharrock’s than Eddy Marron’s. After another swell of nonmetric drum patterns, Haino desists again, contenting himself to punctuating Yoshida’s most defining beats. Eventually, an eruption does arrive, embodied in higher riffing gear and more constructive buttressing from the drumkit.
5Hz e no kansha no in
Here Haino picks up guembri, a three string lute of Berber origin. He will exploit the instrument’s vascular, hollow sound with restrained, kindly pentatonic plucking. Yoshida’s skin rumble is perfectly adjusted, color-wise. The duo achieves a tribal asabiyya even before Haino hurls his first howl. Yoshida’s bass drum rejoins, balancing the contributions adequately. Soft drum rolls coarsen whenever Haino’s howling masks the delicate articulation on guembri.
Setten wo yowayowashiku shite shimau itteki
High pitched, wailing notes from Haino’s guitar are quickly corrected by Yoshida’s multiplicative drumming. Henceforth, Haino is reduced to playing some combinations of quarter notes and 8ths, with irregularly interposed rests. Their junctures create unexpected filling effects.
Tokku ni kanatte iru hazu no LHNZ to iu kekka na no ni
Haino is credited here as playing “gothan”, a low-resonance string instrument of unusual tuning. His strikes (probably plectrum) recall false, additive raga accelerations. Yoshida operates mostly on brushes, mixed deep, but with very short reverb, and a clearly audible large tomtom on the right. When silence falls, Haino intones an East Asian-sounding “melody” from his instrument – a slowly flourishing dance with bizarre dragon interjections and shouts.
‘Mochiron kare dake no tame’ to iiwake wo suru
Deep, tunnel-like echo buries the unlikely duo of bowed esraj and Korg X5D. The esraj, a fretted Bengali instrument related to sarangi, gives off an eerie, heterotropic image. No temple possesses such long-decay acoustics as applied here, but the atmosphere certainly is one of meditative concentration. Yoshida’s clicking electro-rhythm does not distract, but the gesture of his rhythm-keeping differs radically from his physical drumming. This is a novelty and a plus. Later, the Korg’s bass function is switched off. Scrapers, graters and microtonal rattling correlate nicely with an angrier accumulation of distorted meend from the esraj. When Yoshida elicits vitruous effects from the low-end rumble, memories of classic Jon Hassell flow back.
Owatta shôko misetagaru seimon
Although the track begins with Haino’s stammering guitar technique, so perfectly displayed on his first Aihiyô recording, it later settles into a more familiar, almost ‘jazzy’ mode. At various intervals, the narrative sequence recurs: presentation, silence, resolution and release.
Kioku wo tadotta toki ni nankai ka atama ni ukabu akarasama to no sôiten
This is mostly Yoshida’s show. He opens with his cocky vocal retributions, strongly in the improvised Zamla tradition, not nasal enough to be truly ‘tongue in cheek’. The guitar sound is warm, welcoming, running scraps of medieval scales. The drumming is unabashedly aperiodic. When Yoshida defaults into his falsetto, Haino’s guitar veers off into a herbal, fruity terrain. Quite unexpectedly, we are confronted with one of the more intriguing moments on this record. From the fragrant orchard emerges an attempt at ‘melody’. Granted, it is a mere “attempt”, but sustained as a perennial promise, not frustrated by an abstract collapse or a cacophonic break-out. Instead, the promise is being subsidized with a conclusive dialogue between the two musicians, each caressing his miraculously sonic object.
Sabetsu to mitomerareta anna fun’inki
A duo of two darboukas. Haino does well by not trying to compete with the world’s best drummer, but nor does he fall into non-pitched melodism of his percussion solos. Rather his fingers nimbly send hurricanes across the darbouka’s membrane, keeping up with the vertiginous pace posited by the master. Yoshida’s excitement is noticeable when his trademark vocalizing fuses with nonsensical glossolalia. They rush through these minutes, barely touching the ground.
‘Masaka’ to omotta toki no naka ni fukumareru natsukashisa wa nan paasento?
The record culminates here with over 12 minutes of determined guitar and drum mayhem, not unlike Fushitsusha’s mid-period volcanism. Chord progressions repeat but each time at different length. Some guitar incisions sound almost groovy (or is Haino poking fun at Kurihara?). The drumming is also more obviously ‘rock’: Yoshida’s avalanches of irreversible tremors are nothing short of impressive. He perfects his craft whenever Haino’s riffing goes free. And when Haino returns to his staccatos, Yoshida’s drumming suddenly becomes regularized. It is Yoshida who takes the lead to pull the duo each time off the edge of repetition. Haino’s anthemic moments are short-lived. His guitar suffocates with a mere droplet of fuzzing pathos. Then a brief, abstract section follows, filled by drumming in search of perfect architecture. But it is a riff galore that will end the track.
Kiete yuku kono yôna kanashimi hô
Haino meows surreptitiously to Yoshida’s Korg and an astonishingly simple meter. As if unaware, a detuned string instrument (banjo?) rambles on with a corrugated effect. There are surprises – the Korg imitates tabla’s left-hand drum with a deeper, variable pitch. The ‘banjo’ melodically shadows the polyrhythm. Haino swoons into monosyllabic chanting, peaking mid-phrase (here’s the regularity) and varying the release (here’s lack thereof).
For a bold listener in search of avant-rock improvisation, there are excellent moments on each of the recordings listed below. My favorites remain 1 and 2. I have never heard position 4. Material on 7 and 8 partly overlaps.
1. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Mizu ga honô wo tsukamu made” (2000)
2. KNEAD: “Tokete shimaeru shiyawase mo. Melting Happiness” (2001)
3. KNEAD: “Knead” (2002)
4. Keiji HAINO, Tatsuya YOSHIDA, Mitsuru NATSUNO, BUS RATCH: “Live at Cafe Independants” (2004)
5. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “New Rap” (2005)
6. SANHEDOLIN: “Majoicchi wa mukô” (2005)
7. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Uhrfasudhasdd” (2007)
8. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Hauenfiomiume” (2008)