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The Saboten - Beyond the Blue Heaven

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Artist: The Saboten

Album: Beyond the Blue Heaven

Label: God Mountain

Review date: May. 6, 2003

A Marriage of Synth-drone-jazz-noise?

God Mountain head and well-known producer Hoppy Kamiyama's latest project, The Saboten, takes his interest in experimental electronics and elaborates on it in a variety of different ways. The Tokyo-based project credits Kamiyama with such inventive gadgets as "slide geisha" and "ass hole box". His collaborators are Saguaro, on guitar and manipulation, including "psychic monitor with power pc," and DJ Force on turntable and "bum head squeezer." The second of this album's two long tracks features many guests as well, including Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida and a six-piece horn section.

"Helicoid Spume," the first half-hour track, is all low, ominous synths, tolling bell sounds, distant buzzes and scrapes, and slow symphonic swells, perhaps somewhat akin to minimalist Tangerine Dream. Halfway through many of the sounds recede, leaving bubbling bass synth in the foreground and clanking sounds in the background, like a steel foundry at night. Later, sounds of water trickle amidst bells and gently rumbling bass sounds. The song concludes with quiet ticking and grinding sounds, slowly fading away to nothing. It's all music for a dream of industrial landscapes, washed away gently by the insistent tides.

The second track, "NOK," is also half an hour, but otherwise completely different. It opens, surprisingly, with squealing saxophones and clattering drums (courtesy of Yoshida), then settles down into an old-style jazzy romp. As it progresses, the tune becomes more akin to the Miles Davis electrified fusion years. At times the group gets pretty incendiary, with wailing wah-fuzz guitar dueling with the saxophones and other horns. Sixteen minutes in, the band fades down, leaving a high-pitched electronic tone. More synths come in, creating layered sounds of space which get more and more dense and distorted, until by the end it's become a thick wall of sound, the textures blending hypnotically.

This is certainly an unusual release, and the combination of pure electronic drone with the unexpected jazz-band portion of "NOK" means that inevitably many listeners will polarize along the boundary between the two, which is too bad. Those who can hear it all as music and not as styles will enjoy the variety.

By Mason Jones

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