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Terza Rima

Luv Rokambo - Maze
CD-R (Morioka, Japan)

-crying oedipus
-the waste land
-only shadow / without human (I)
-only shadow / without human (III)
-who's in the kangaroo's pocket
-only shadow / without human (II)

Luv Rokambo: Toru Yoneyama & Osamu Kato
recorded at studio M, Tokyo 19/Aug/01

(All Music Guide) Recorded seven month after Luv Rokambo¹s debut album, Maze rights some wrongs. Toru Yoneyama and Osamu Kato didn¹t alter their course into freak-out free improv pastures, but they gained listening skills and some edge too. Whenever they add vocals to their dual electric guitars, it doesn¹t sound as cheesy -- their primal screams and drug-induced ramblings bring an extra dimension to the music instead of bringing it down. The use of toys is also better integrated. But what strikes the most is the duo¹s foray into noisier domains. ³Delay=Head² and most of all ³Maze² feature intense feedback guitar, building up noise like a more sedated version of Sonic Youth or Keiji Haino. ³The Waste Land² has a post-rock feel to it, while the three pieces titled ³Only Shadow/Without Human² are understated guitar duets of the lo-fi kind (think of the label Kranky¹s entire roaster). Home studio production values still mar the album, but this time Luv Rokambo manages to convince us of the relevance of its own existence. This CD-R is a big step ahead for the duo and is recommendable material for fans of freeform alt-rock. - François Couture

(Vital Weekly no. 325) Luv Rokambo are Toru Yoneyama and Osam Kato. The firstb is credited with "Tokai-Talbo, Toys, Junk Microphone, Vo' and the latter with 'Jazzmaster, Rapman, Per, Vo' - now that's what I call a bunch of weird instruments. It sounds like a guitar to me, with some occassional sticks being rubbed, a voice mumbling (likewise occassionally), which all come to you in a very lo-fi setting. Added with a small dash of reverb and delay, the two improvise in a very restricted manner, doing some random and occassional sounds. Quite sparse so to say. It certainly has it's charm, although they seem to be not really focussed all the time. There is however a strange atmosphere hoovering this release. At times I was reminded of some Keij Haino stuff, but it bears a definete stamp of their own. Japanese music remains a true mystery. - Frans de Waard

(Touching Extremes) Japanese improvisers Toru Yoneyama and Osam Kato are Luv Rokambo. This absolutely lo-fi CD captures pretty well the essence of their music, which in my opinion has solid foundations that need to be developed and carefully crafted. Through instruments and several toys - plus percussives - the duo ranges from almost silent and lulling atmospheres, based on plucked and arpeggiated strings, to distorted washes of echoing guitar and suffering, free-sounding vocals. I'd like to hear more of them, but above all I'd hope to listen to a better-quality recording to get all their details in full. - Massimo Ricci

(La Folia 7/02) This outing by Toru Yoneyama and Osam Kato is of the rambling, psychedelic, semi-improv genre. Imagine the seriousness of Mazzacane mixed with the goofiness of Chadbourne. If Bert Jansch took acid. Fans of the Legendary Pink Dots, the avant-garde side of Tim Buckley. If this weren’t on Public Eyesore, there’s a good chance it would wind up on Secretly Canadian, or, if produced by Kramer, on Shimmydisc. They play "tokai-talbo, toys, junk microphone, percussion and vocals," but the plucked instrument and the vocals are the key to the continuity of this disc. It doesn’t sound like toy-instrument randomness. Only the last two (of nine) tracks, by virtue of piercing, ringing string feedback, might be filed under noiz. Kato is listed as "jazzmaster" and "rapman"; luckily, no such evidence mars this delightfully weird disc. It’s in PE’s traditional thin cardboard sleeve which can be, if pressed (I roll the body of a pen along the spine, as I do for similar LP sleeves), inscribed with the title. I hate not finding my cherished weirdo discs on the shelf. Really nice job, boys. (I think they’re boys.) Nice circumstance: filed between Lutoslawski and Gloria Lynne. - Steve Koenig

(Music Magazine 8/02) Luv Rokambo "Maze" is including 9 tracks duo playing. This CD-R sounds with high tension as if Keiji Haino and early Pop Group played in their quiet session with each one's sympathy or antipathy but Luv Rokambo is not pretender. Their playing seems to apply the methods of contmporary music/noize music, folklore/trad and jazz. Though they do with passion. You must be able to listen to their real breathing and must be stirred up. Great! - Kazuhiko Namekawa translated by Osam

(ITDE) Surprisingly subtle and intricate recordings from two Japanese cats using toys (jazzmaster and rapman, most notably), junk microphones, percussion, vocals, and a "tokai-talbo" ??? This duo has really surprised me, and is definately worth you checking out, just for the sheer fact that your jaw will drop at hearing these usually untamable electronic noise-makers utilised in such a delicate manner. This is one of those occasional albums that smacks you in the face with a reminders as to why you got interested in experimental music in the first place. - DaveX

(Aural Innovations no. 23) Luv Rokambo is the Japanese sound art duo of Toru Yoneyama and Osamu Kato. The CD was recorded during August of 2001 in Tokyo and reviews on the Public Eyesore page indicate this is their second release. The music consists of experimental collages of guitar, electronics, percussion, and various sound and voice manipulations, the vocals being delivered in a moaning, whining style. Luv Rokambo can be mellow at times, playing sparse guitarscapes that focus on texture and the feel of individual notes. But they can also be harsh and intense. The album is a bit hit and miss, with some pieces being good examples of the possibilities of experimental sound art, and others being less than interesting and even careless in their execution. Among the tracks I enjoyed was "The Waste Land". The voice is somber, perhaps even anguished, but still somehow melodic. We're in experimental realms, but they are psychedelic ones with space guitar that straddles the border between Shoegaze and angst. On the more aggressive side is "Delayhead". The track begins with brain shattering noise-scapes which soon begin a give-and-take duel with the guitar and electronics. The guitar is more creative and fluid on this piece than others, making for interesting and considered variety. And for pure mind madness, "Maze" features sustained brain piercing tones combined with cosmic feedback and various other patterns that make for a cool Hendrix meets Heino freakout. Overall the album includes lots of good ideas and some very enjoyable moments, though Luv Rokambo don't consistently succeed. For example, some of the guitar on "Only Shadow/Without Human (III)", though focusing on somewhat minimalist patterns, has a rock guitar soloing feel (quite unintended I'm sure), which doesn't come off very well. I think it's this tendency toward aimless noodling that provides the albums weak moments. At the same time there are pieces that may not work completely, but are certainly interesting. In particular, "3" consists of moaning guitar and rapidly pulsating guitar textures combined with almost jazz styled drumming which took me a bit by surprise. Definitely enough good stuff to make this a worthwhile listen. - Jerry Kranitz

(Ampersand Etcetera 2002_10) Toru Yoneyama and Osamu Kato return and turn the album title from 32 into a group name and offer us a 'Maze' which emphasises the guitar and reduces the noise quotient. Powerful and mysterious, 'Crying oedipus' has noises emerging from silence – guitar voice single notes percussion brief rumbles and distant voices – more like some musique concrete. Nice guitar solos through 'The waste land' shifting from picked through slide echoed and percussed (probably a pedal steel or similar) spacious and melancholy, becoming almost harplike. Around this there is some soft voice and subtle computer. '3' takes a scraping guitar into shimmering drone as a base for a full drum foreground, again with light vocalisations; which appear in 'Only shadow/without human I' where a gentle toy keyboard and bells dance lightly. 'Only shadow/without human III' starts off like a folk song – picked guitar looping and male vocal becoming strident at times, supported by wood block percussion. Then a couple of parallel guitar solos – picked and drones – take over and carry through to a nice end. A scrabbly atonal guitar over single plucked notes emerges over a fuzz shimmer in the lyrical 'Who's in the kangaroo pocket' A looping distorted wah-wah guitar over organ-like tones in 'Delay=head' is joined by noise, and the two eventually work in parallel, pulsing in turn, edgy and harsh, some voices in, a fine solo winning the day. The second part, though third on the disk of 'Only shadow/without human II' is a lyrical solo with a little delay. And finally 'Maze' comes closer to the first album – guitar with computer then percussive with random guitar hits, feedback and pulsey with a high sine tone. More varied and approachable than their first album, following interesting lines of development, but still with an intense edge. - Jeremy Keens

(Indieville 2/3/2002) Upon first look at Luv Rokambo's liner notes, we see the credits. Luv Rokambo is Toru Yoneyama and Osam Kato (from Japan, obviously.) Toru is responsible for playing the "tokai-tablo, toys, junk microphone, vo." Osam, meanwhile, plays the "jazzmaster, rapman, per, and vo." But what does that all mean??? Through careful research, I have been able to deduce that the "tokai-tablo" is a brand of Japanese guitar, the "jazzmaster" is a type of Fender jazz guitar, and the "rapman" is an early-90s keyboard / microphone Casio machine [more here]. As for the "per" and the "vo," well, I have no idea. Maze is an interesting release from Luv Rokambo. Instead of going for the frantic, crazy sound that characterizes many other improv avant-rock performances, they've aimed for a calmer, more peaceful sound. So you can expect less noise and more simple guitar strokes and vocal hums. Tracks like "Crying Oedipus" and "Only Shadow / Without Human (III)" have a sort of meditative, moody sound. The quiet guitars and atonal, non-lyrical vocals work well to keep this mood going. Other track use more grating sounds but still manage to keep the calm mood. Altogether, Luv Rokambo's Maze is an excellent album for free rock enthusiasts. Though their seeming self-restraint may put off fans of more crazy Japanese improv, the soothing sounds of Maze will likely win over anyone with an open mind.

(Broken Face no. 14) Japanese labelmates [to Inu Yaroh] Luv Rokambo (Toru Yoneyama and Osamu Kato) are slightly more accessible although their quite unique blend of guitar duets along the early MazzaCane Connors axis, spiritual dreamscapes, microphones and toys moves over both calm and abrasive territories. "Delay=Head" is particularly loud, going as far in its billowing feedback attacks as to I recall Keiji Haino. But what I'll remember when it's time to call it a day is not the distortion but the guitar improvisations that expand into pastoral, multi-layered soundscapes. - Mats Gustafsson

(Eld Rich Palmer no. 11) Luv Rokambo is a true sound mysterium! It's not easy to fit a blend of improvised music, electroacoustic music and a cappella singing into a single pigeon-hole. For my own purposes I labelled the contents of 'maze' as 'noire music'. Where is anything 'noire' in this stuff? Well, it's in the gloomy, subdued atmosphere, lunar glimmer, because if there's anything that must be said about this album, it will be its atmosphere. Neither numerous moments of crescendo nor the drunkard-like singing can shatter it. I don't think many will second me. The group themselves might have aimed for something else and what is of greatest value to me here might seem to them merely a by-product. 'maze' is a very enigmatic and difficult album. Paradoxically, for hardly anybody meant it to so, it seems the essence of the label's profile. You've got here post-rock, bluesy guitar fiddling, improvised uproar and last but not least noisy billows. You have heard all of them so far, but separately, here they have been merged into one release. Instruments? Tokai-talbo, toys, junk microphone, percussion, vocals… employing these the artists produce incredible sonic contortions and depressing moods, discordance, feedbacks and not a scrap of ambient - only pure rite! I don't think I have listened to anything like that before. Can but warmly recommend it! - Krzysztof Sadza

(Blastitude no. 15) "Toru Yoneyama: tokai-talbo, toys, junk microphone, vo . . . Osama Kato: jazzmaster, rapman, pcr, vo." I wasn't super-hep on this duo's previous release in a previous ish; but I would call Maze, their second release for the Public Eyesore label, an improvement. I really like that guitar duo Delayed Sleep from Northern California, and that's basically what Luv Rokambo has grown into with their second release: a quasi-punk ambient guitar duo. They're almost playing songs now, instead of just 'ideas' or 'moods' (i.e. facile improvisations). Like track 5 ("only shadow / without human (III)") is really slow and stretched-out, with a very nebulous concept of songwriting, but it does have singing, and hooks that you actually realize you remember the second time you listen. Then they do another version of it ("only shadow / without human (II)") a coupla tracks later that's like an outtake by The Led C. (i.e. a Michael Morley/James Page hybrid) but you can still tell it's the same song. Loren Connors influence is worn well on the sleeve, which I've seen drag down a few bands/guitarists in my time. It's a lot harder to do that kind of stuff than it might sound (Mazzacane himself doesn't always pull it off), and there’s a fine line between doing minimalism and just not doing much of anything . . . but with Maze, Luv Rokambo manage to do just enough. And on track nine, without abandoning the ‘abstract dirge ballad’ template, they certainly break some new ground as far as ‘piercingly loud’ goes. (My cat wouldn't shut up and I had to turn down the stereo.) - Matt Silcock

(Neo-Zine) Very interesting. It is a sparse minimal experiment with fleeting vocal chants, masked human sounds, wavering stresslets, and an ambient noise freeform jazz freakfest. Real instruments used here, but captured in ways that the inventers never imagined. Chimes sound, slight melodies play like a mild breeze, unnamed noise worms work their way in and out of the fertile soil, and all the while you just don’t mind the fact that you are being odded out of your headphones. Beautiful sculpting of brilliant foreign soundscapes with real unique musical quality. A nice passive adventure with enough tweak to get the attention going, but never enough to be annoying. - CHC

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