Preconceptions are interesting creatures, and by examining them we can sometimes find things out about ourselves, as well as about the various objects of our attention we are trying to understand. When listening to a noise artist, operating under the name Yasuhito Fujinami, doing a split with classic Japanese noise artist K2, it would be convenient to immediately bring up that old, worn moniker “japanoise”. Trying to determine exactly how much the name and the history interferes with our understanding when we choose what definitions to use is almost impossible, though well worth a try. Throughout this 40 minute split cassette, where Fujinami takes up one side with three tracks of fairly equal length, and K2 takes up the other with a 31 minute monster of a composition, we get plenty of time to do just that.
Yasuhito’s work here is extremely complex. Each track uses a multitude of sound sources, and builds several different atmospheric models. Opener “Tragedy” is full of Western industrial notes, with drones and ambient melodies shaping a strong baseline, with which the harsher noise segments, which slowly insert themselves throughout, interact. Here our preconceptions once again come into play: from an objective point of view, this could well be stuff put out by Malignant Records or other Western industrial/death industrial labels. The same goes for the last track of the Y.F. side, “Elegy”. A somber, almost tender, ambient melody frames the entire piece, as broken glass, industrial rumblings and short bursts of harsh noise break off the naive harmony, pointing towards a higher form of concord.
All that being said, the middle track “Battle”, as well as the particular nature of the harsh noise involved in the two other tracks, could indeed be described as japanoise using some kind of objective standard. We’re talking a mix of high pitched screeches, brutal distortion, thundering bass and violent junk destruction – with quick and shocking cuts between each particular manifestation of sonic violence. It’s been done in other places than Japan, but it’s always been done best (and perhaps it was done first) in the land of the rising sun. Yasuhito Fujinami performs this type of harsh noise brilliantly. The forays into ambient and industrial do not water the noise down, but rather makes the total experience more interesting, both emotionally and intellectually. It should also be added that even the purest noise track, the aforementioned “Battle”, is supremely listenable, since the quick cuts are not annoying, but rather preformed in such a way so as to make even the harshest feedback noises digestible.
The K2 side is obviously also excellent. An enormous selection of different sounds and noises work together to form a quasi-structured harsh noise journey of high quality. This track is clearly more meandering, improvised and confusing than the more proper “songs” of Y.F.’s side. That takes nothing away from the total experience, though. Everything from heavily reverberated blips and bloops to in-your-face, distorted closed circuit feedback distortion marches by in an endless circus of atonal experimentation. I know nothing of K2’s technical solution for creating noise, but if this was recorded in one or a few takes with a single setup, it is extremely impressive. And either way, it sounds great.
In all, this tape sounds the way harsh noise, or “japanoise” for that matter, should sound, honoring the strange and ill-defined tradition of the genre, while simultaneously breaking just about every imaginable rule for how to make music. Limited to 99 copies, the physical cassette should be available at least for a while, otherwise the digital download is can be had for almost nothing.