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Fushitsusha - 1978

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Artist: Fushitsusha

Album: 1978

Label: PSF

Review date: Aug. 12, 2003

History isn't always pretty

First, in the name of full disclosure, I'll admit that I'm a Fushitsusha fanatic, to the point where I released a live album ("Gold Blood") on my label back in 1998. So when I heard that PSF would be releasing the earliest-yet recordings by the band, from 1978, I was quite excited. Unfortunately, again to be quite honest, I find the release somewhat underwhelming. It does, however, offer an interesting conundrum: to edit or not to edit?

Subtitled "Eien no ho ga saki ni te o dashita no sa" (loosely: "It was eternity that reached out first..."), the album shows the group in 1978 in trio form, as it has been for most of its existence. Founder and guitarist/vocalist Keiji Haino had then recruited Jun Hamano of Gaseneta on bass, and a fellow named Takashima on drums.

Perhaps what's most interesting and impressive here is how similar to Fushitsusha's recent sound this is. The consistency of Haino's vision from 1978 until now (the recent duo incarnation notwithstanding) is remarkable. The opening 14-minute piece here occupies nearly the same dark territory that Haino has called his own for all these years, with harrowing guitar splatters intact. His guitar work is sharper here, more jagged and less solid, with unusually spiky single notes. The bass primarily emits extended low passes, though Hamano and Takashima lock together to form a consistent rhythm more frequently than the later lineups generally have. Toward the end of this piece, the trio even nearly coheres into a traditional psych-rock form.

The second piece, 35 minutes long, spends several minutes with a minimal, plodding rhythm filled with feedback and skeletal, static-drenched guitar plucking. The occasional vocals demonstrate that Haino's vocal approach has changed even less than his guitar work. The emotive, intensely personal feel is the same, though perhaps slightly more approachable.

The nearly silent interludes, and particularly the extended bouts of feedback, aren't as endearing, and personally I found them annoying enough that I wish they'd been edited out. Perhaps Haino wanted them left in as part of the performance, which is understandable, but they represent a downside, particularly when balanced with the marvelously expressive, outlandish guitar evocations that are also present.

Seemingly free sections predominate, making me wonder if improvisation was a more integral part of the Fushitsusha repertoire at this point in time. It's always been difficult to tell with this band, though. In any case, segments of explosive guitar and vocal eruptions take the piece through peaks while areas of barren static occupy the valleys. The journey itself is no doubt an exhausting one, and it's nearly impossible to think of any other "rock" band in 1978 that could have mounted anything like this kind of assault on an audience.

As an historical document, then, this is no doubt a welcome release. As a listening experience, unfortunately, it's quite uneven. Subjected to a bit of judicious editing, it could have been superb – but would it have defeated half its purpose? To return to my earlier question: to edit or not to edit? Keeping the performance intact versus cutting out what feels like filler is an impossible question, perhaps, since either way you'll lose from one point of view. An effort to compromise could have been made by placing more track indices on the CD, thereby allowing for programming by selective listeners. But then again, Haino's not known for compromising – which, in the long run, has rewarded us all. So be it.

By Mason Jones

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