(Touching Extremes) Try figuring a monstrous cross of Peter Hammill, David Sylvian, "Space Oddity"-era David Bowie and Marc Bolan improvising stoned melodies with typical Japanese intonation. Imagine a slightly out of tune guitar strumming VERY few chords a la "Wish you were here" or in some kind of twisted bluesy rhythm, sometimes blasting out apocalyptic distortion that completely cancels any harmonic content. Put all this in a large room at medium to low volume and listen to the result; also thanks to a "transistor radio" recording quality, it will instantly become one of the strangest things you've heard in a while - all those open detuned strums working wonders...I can't believe myself - but I liked it. - Massimo Ricci
(Neozine) I feel like doing one of those radio DJ things where they ask people to call in and help out. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed anything like this. Strangely, it’s simply an acoustic guitar and solo singer. What kind of music is it? I really don’t know. It’s slow and mellow, very heartfelt, and well done. I guess it’s a bit dark, but that isn’t the overt feel here. It’s almost got the kind of mood that you get from listening to the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack or a sad old Mary Robins album. It’s nostalgic and sentimental stuff. The thing is, the middle of the songs get all noisy and experimental!?! The songs are really long, but you can hardly tell through the newness and honesty of the material. C.H.C.
(Ampersand Etcetra 7/2005) December 2002, Masami at the microphone with a Fender 12 string Stratocaster. Playing gentle electro-folk lines he comes close to crooning the vocals of the three part suite (providing a contrast to Ayami Yo-ko) but gets more overtly emotional as the feedback builds in Part 1 but eases back again. The second part follows a similar trajectory - but then the third provides a cathartic climax where the gentle strum/play gives way to denser guitar and emotional delivery before returning to the light. I can¹t really think of an equivalent performance to these two singer/guitarists - it may be a development from a more traditional Japanese form. Vocally I was reminded of Scott Walker, and for some reason Supertramp! A more restrained torch song trilogy, that provides a diverting half hour. - Jeremy Keens
(Dead Angel 7/2005) This is a live recording of a solo performance by guitarist Masami Kawaguchi at Penguin House in Tokyo on December 21, 2002. Kawaguchi sings and plays a Fender twelve-string Stratocaster on three long, heavily repetitive tracks. The recording is okay, but the performance is great (although some may find his vocals unnerving), and he gets a great, shimmering guitar sound, a lonesome sound that calls up images of wandering lost in the woods after dark. I would assume these are Japanese folk songs of (judging from the intensity of his singing) an intensely personal nature, although as the pieces wear on, he has a tendency to drift into passages of experimentation and unusual chords. It frequently sounds like folk music from another planet (which I suppose Japan is, in some ways). Somber and contemplative stuff that requires a fair level of patience to process (at least until you get to the third song, which opens up in a quite noisy fashion). The one area where I suspect American audiences may have a hard time hanging with Kawaguchi's vision is in the tortured, near-operatic vocals, but that's just too bad -- the man has an individual sense of vision and style, plus (as the last track proves) he's capable of being a totally crazed solo guitarist. Nifty, nifty, nifty. Just be prepared for that unsettling voice, okay? - RKF
(Broken Face) More Japanese guitar music comes from Masami Kawaguchi on Live in December and I guess this could be seen as the mellow side of the same folk-induced coin. Shimmering acoustic chords wrestle gently with Kawaguchi’s unsettling voice, forming a surprisingly mellow and contemplative mix. The organic flow and rural touch of these recordings are difficult to describe but there’s a timeless quality to it all, which makes it sound like a modern form of ancient Japanese music. Either way, it has enough to offer to keep my ears swimming in contentment for the rest of the year. - Mats Gustafsson