June 2, 2009

Hanadensha – Narcotic Guitar : Imaginary Movie Soundtracks (1996, WEA Japan)

Hanadensha is one of many side-projects of Boredoms, the psychedelic super-group from Japan. In this case, it is a project of Hira, the bassist, and four other Japanese dudes, including Yojiro Tatekawa who has been drumming for the recent Boredoms tour-group V∞redoms. Hanadensha's early albums were more fuzzed-out, grungy metal rock that reminded me of The Melvins, but their sound was totally redefined for “Narcotic Guitar” and the subsequent EP trilogy produced in '96-'97. The vibe is experimental and a bit noisy, but mainly on the ambient end of the spectrum, with a strong shoe-gaze influence, to my ears. Repeating melodic riffs, laid-back and even jazzy rhythms appear at times, with some very indistinct mumbled/whispered vocals, but mainly this is an instrumental disc with a wild mix of electronic and organic instrumentation and sonic effects. Production quality is impressively high, predating Boredom's shift to kraut-rock tribal experimentalism, and in spite of some slightly piercing, noisy passages, the album as a whole is very listenable, as well as hallucinatory and constantly shifting. The cover also caught my eye at the time I was in Japan, as it is printed on reflective metal foil. Hanadensha followed up “Narcotic Guitar” with a series of 3 EPs in '97, each in a distinct style. My personal favorite is “Astral Pygmy Wave”, featuring two 20-minute long tracks of voyaging ambient tones, chanting pygmies and tribal drumming, excellent. The “Acoustic Mothership” EP is on the acid-noise end of the spectrum, and a bit abrasive, but well-produced. Finally, the “Doobie Shining Love” EP features more straight-forward, short song-form tracks, complete with vocals (“doobie love, love is a doobie, shining...” over and over), and oddly including the previously-released track “Star” from “Narcotic Guitar”. For a while these CDs were available by mailorder in the US, but they are long out of print now and admittedly may be pretty tough to find, but if you search hard enough you will find them! I was pleased to find today that EYE from Boredoms has allowed “Narcotic Guitar” to be put online for free download!