Blank Forms Editions / US / 2022
Kazuki Tomokawa—poet, soothsayer, bicycle race tipster, actor, prolific drinker, self-taught guitarist, and living legend of Japanese sound—catapulted into Tokyo’s avant-folk scene in the mid-1970s with his cathartic and utterly electrifying performances. Straight from the Throat, Tomokawa’s second album, released in July 1976 from Harvest Records, finds the musician in his truest form: as the “screaming philosopher” he would come to be called—cynical but fair, cheeky and melancholic, and looking at the world with truth-seeking eyes.
In Straight from the Throat, Tomokawa shrieks, wails, shouts, and croons with ritualistic abandon—his avant-folk stylings are tinged with psychedelia and, at moments, swell into ground-shaking rock. He speaks of adolescence, passing hearses, and wedding chapel cars in a poem to his younger brother, Tomoharu, and watches ice melt on the Mitane River with spring’s turn. Tomokawa’s sound is, as Kiichi Takahara would later dub it, “I-music”: revelatory and deeply intimate songs that turn to the quotidian, the domestic, and the interior. They are portraits of a man in search of meaning, who is taking stubborn control of his life. As he croons in “The Spring Is Here Again Song,” “I’ll drink till I’ve had my fill / And fall in love until I die.”
Kazuki Tomokawa (b. 1950) is a prolific singer-songwriter from Hachiryū Village (now the town of Mitane) in the Akita Prefecture area of northern Japan. Since his first release in 1975, he has recorded more than thirty albums. The 2010 documentary about his life, La Faute des Fleurs, won the Sound & Vision award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, and that same year saw the Japanese release of the book Dreams Die Vigorously Day by Day, a collection of his lyrics spanning forty years. His most recent albums are Vengeance Bourbon (2014) and Gleaming Crayon (2016), both on the Modest Launch label.