Agony Shorthand

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not much tops getting your face melted off by some hot new jamz sent to you by your pals, and that’s what happened to me in 1992 when LH expressed me a cassette tape of Japan’s HIGH RISE, a trio I’d never heard nor heard of up to that point. It was a tape of their new second record, “High Rise II”, and to say I was pleased with what I heard does little justice to the emotion. I couldn’t believe how crazed the guitars sounded, how high these guys were setting a new bar for garage psychedelia, how feedback had never sounded so over-the-top before – and that was just the 1-minute opening track “Cycle Goddess”. The mystery of this band from Tokyo & their “psychedelic speed freaks” mantra was irresistible, so I got in touch w/ them & actually conducted a mail interview for my fanzine at the time. English being a second language for these fellas, the interview revealed little, but I was already hooked on as a fan for life & remain so to this day.

Still, all told, “High Rise II” remains their masterpiece. The debut record “Psychedelic Speed Freaks” was also insane & wild distortion overload, but it suffered from a SOLGER-like sound that was more akin to a boombox recording than something you’d wanna bang your noggin to; the 3rd record “Dispersion” was just fine but leveled out the chaos a bit and branched the sound into the great improvisational beyond. Others built upon that one, but continued to be a bit less frenzied and more expansive than the first few. But this one – look out. Any true “punk” worth his punker stripes should be getting down with this record in a jiffy, because it’s one of the all-time howlers. The solos are so over-the-top distorted and the drums are caked with so much reverb, it’s a total maddening echo chamber filled with the ghosts of Greg Ginn, Davie Allen, Sterling Morrison, Stacey Sutherland and Ginger Baker. Vocals are pretty much an afterthought, but there are present on just about every track, it’s just that they're buried under the dense layers. There’s a 13-minute “Sister Ray”-meets-“Mother Sky” classic on here called “Pop Sicle” that became a staple of their live show, sort of their own “Black To Comm” & a knockout wailer you’ve got to hear. But mostly it’s just fast, fast, fast and rawer than raw. A stone classic disc that I’d recommend to anyone with a pulse and a tolerance for maximum volume.