Be With Records / UK & Europe / 2020
Victor Cavini was the library music pseudonym of prolific German composer and musician Gerhard Trede. He was known for exploring instruments and styles from around the world (he played over 50 different instruments himself) and Japan is his collection of 14 musical sketches painted with traditional Japanese wind and string instruments. These are the sounds of traditional Japanese folk music re-interpreted through Western ears, with the occassional contemporary twist. Contemporary for 1983, of course.
These “Pictures of Japan” are hypnotic, sometimes frantic, but always beautiful. The first twelve tracks offer airy explorations of koto and flute, with other strings and percussion being added and then given their own space. Indeed “Pictures of Japan XII” is just drums.
And then “Pictures of Japan XIII” seems to come out of nowhere. But the subtle sleaze of its full band sound still doesn’t quite prepare you for the towering climax of “Pictures of Japan XIV”.
This is Japan’s undoubted standout piece, completely and wonderfully at odds with the rest of the album. It’s the reason this has become such a must-have record. It keeps the traditional Japanese instruments but combines them with shuffling funk breaks, electric bass high in the mix and a Godzilla-sized psychedelic fuzz guitar sound that might actually be a traditional reed flute pushed to its limits. Whatever it is, it sounds awesome.
Recalling both Rino de Filippi’s Oriente Oggi and Giancarlo Barigozzi’s Oriente, the track’s a real head-nod groove for b-boys and b-girls alike that sounds straight out of a late 70s Yakuza film. Indeed, if you were told The RZA or Onra had cooked this up in the lab this century, you’d be convinced. It’s crazy that this dates from 1983.
The audio for Japan has been sensitively remastered for vinyl by Be With regular Simon Francis to keep all the character of the original recordings. Richard Robinson has handled the careful restoration of the original Selected Sound sleeve. Essential.