27 April 2009

Some archival stuff to start things off first: Hototogisu

The first few posts are actually write-ups and interviews conducted with a few top-notch underground acts from 2007 to 2008 which were published on the Flux Us website which closed down last year. These are crucial nodes in the current alternative music/cultural landscape in this increasing meaningless world of ours. Hopefully they continue to produce quality works and as well as being the beacons of resistance to most of the bland/re-hash/facsimile bands/acts out there. I am starting with Hototogisu, a band, if you are familiar with burns with so much fervour in their music which fuse the free-wheeling vibes of psychedelia, the power riffing of the experimental end of Black Metal with the mystical aura of pagan Albion. Read on.


The name of this great, great act is actually taken from a type of Japanese flower (or is it the Japanese name for a type of flower?). Trying to lure all those compulsive record collectors of anything Japanese Psych/Underground into thinking that the band was some long lost treasure recently unearthed and re-issued on vinyl and CD, Matthew Bower and Marcia Bassett quickly discarded this ‘concept’ and get it down heavily with some of the best musical moments captured on plastic in recent years.

Matthew Bower who is also the mastermind behind the equally great Skullflower and Sunroof! has been around since the early 1980s when he started Pure, a “power electronics” project with a cassette release, “Fetor”, for a while before transforming into Total in 1982 and Skullflower in the second half of the decade. Both projects were on-going concurrently for most part of the 1990s until 2000 when Total released its last album, “Solid Objects Cast As Goblins”.

As Skullflower, Matthew Bower has produced some of the most ear-bending guitar based noise on earlier albums like “Xaman” and “Lost Shot At Heaven” in the early 1990s but it went dormant after 1996. Matthew started Sunroof! in 1999 to re-channel his creative vibes into something more “blessed out” but still as powerful sonically. The latest album by Sunroof! is “Silver Bear Mist”, a double CD set of glorious guitar noise pile-up released in 2006.

Matthew re-activated Skullflower again in 2003 with the CD “Exquisite Fucking Boredom” and since then it is just one great album after another: “Orange Canyon Mind” and “Tribulation”. With his laptop, guitars and effects, Matthew as Skullflower is a one-man army of devastating juggernaut of ten thousand riffs crashing down on you wave after wave relentlessly.

Hototogisu, on the other hand, is the collaboration of Matthew Bower and Marcia Bassett, another great artiste who has been very prolific with her involvement as a key member in Double Leopards, GHQ and Zaimph. She was in the semi-legendary band, Un, a 1990s group specialized in proto-free folk/psych, paving the way for the current explosion of the free/freak folk scene in the USA. Together with other prominent female noise/psych/free folk artistes like Heather Leigh(formerly from the Charalambides now solo/Taurpis Tula), Christina Carter (Charalambides), Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers) and Carly Ptak (Nautical Almanac), Marcia Bassett is setting the flame blazing in the international underground scene with her own distinctive sonic vision.

Hototogisu’s three recent CD albums, “Green”, “Prayer Rug Exorcism” and “Chimarendammerung” are just some of the crème of pysch/noise genre. Harsh but beautiful, Hototogisu is not to be missed by anyone seriously into music.

Interview -

For Matthew:

Q 1. How did the re-issue of your Pure project's Fetor CD come about
after so many years existing as a cassette only release?

A: Mat: a UK label suggested doing a career overview comp and sent me loads of old cassette releases, this one greatly pleased me, the others much less so...so i went w/ a reissue of just that one.

Q 2. You have been creating harsh but beautiful music in the guise of
Pure, Total, Skullflower, Sunroof! and Hototogisu. How would you
describe your personal musical development since the early 1980s in all these
amazing projects of yours?

A: Mat: just keepin’ it harsh and beautiful, going in circles but nothings the same again....

Q 3. Do you think the world has finally caught up with you with the
recent increased interest in Hototogisu, Skullflower and Sunroof!?

A: Mat: Gah, yes and no, what’s the world? What’s keepin’ up? Everything’s always wrong about the context and history, I don't mean factually, I mean the spirit, the important thing that happened/happens disappears, and is in the music, maybe slightly in the object/package/ perception of its authors, but that’s the side gets blown out of proportion, because of languages inability to discuss the core, rather than just being little labels for everything.

For both Matthew & Marcia:

Q 1. What are your main musical influences?

A: Marcia: right now, I've been listening to a lot of Turkish and Indian music. historically Velvet underground & minimal music --La Monte Young, Tony Conrad. AMM was big influence on me, so was Xenakis, and I was really into early Royal Trux, the Dead C, Throbbing Gristle...ummm the list just sorta grows out from there.

Mat: right now: satanic black metal, old Floridian death metal.
historically: English prog. lou reed. Wagner/Mahler

Q 2. How did the Hototogisu collaboration between the two of you

A: Marcia: Matthew asked if wanted to collaborate and i sent him a recording of
E-bow guitar. That became our CD--'Befriending Demons/Nepenthe'

Mat: id thought we might end up with something tinkly, more pleasant,
so I suggested Hototogisu which had, up till then, been a sunroof! offshoot, more pastoral if anything. so our original path was pretty unplanned, the noise just blossomed...

Marcia: yeah, Matthew did ask for something 'tinkling' and i did set
out to do that but I ended up with a looming guitar piece.

Q 3. Do you view Hototogisu as part of the so-called international
"Noise/Underground/Psych" scene championed by Volcanic Tongue and Tony
Herrington at the Wire? What do you think of this "scene" in question?

A: Marcia: No we're not really associated with any scene. we've been on bills curated by David K. at the CCA and also Barry Esson has curated a some stuff over there. Those bills are usually really electic in their focus. actually, most of the festivals we've been involved with are a smattering of this or that. No Fun is the most focused on a 'noise scene'. I think Carlos really goes for his influences in his own music plus a lot of American underground noise, so you get record labels or individuals curating a downstairs stage on a particular night and upstairs on the main stage is what Carlos has handpicked. I don't know, it is like you said, Noise/Psych/Underground; it's all out there and some of it is really great and some is really terrible. It's just a matter of tastes when you get down to it and judgment, there is always seems to be an audience for both.

Mat: no i don't view us as part of a scene, i see it come and go,
English 80's noise scene, us and Japanoise mid 90's, laptops....blah the scene in question is probably worse than previous times because history’s ended, we're in a loop, and i'm kinda bored too... this could just be a personal response, and I'm not a good barometer.

Q 4. What are some of your favourite bands/musicians at the moment
besides the Skaters?

A: Marcia: I don't pick favorites, plus with the volume that people are able capable of releasing today, I'd say I'm more selective to narrowing down to recordings/releases that come out. I may be really amazed by one release by a person/ band and really not interested in subsequent one.

Mat: Katharsis, Funeral Mist

Q 5. What are the essential qualities the 2 of you are looking for
when you are creating music for Hototogisu?

A: Marcia: a melding unifying force.

Mat: a rending destroying force.

Q 6. How did your collaboration with Prurient & Burning Star Core on
CD come about?

A: Marcia: uh, we're friends with those guys, saw similarities, liked what we heard and their approach towards music....

Mat: yup some strong similarities of form/approach. i was blown away
firstly by Spencer on record, and also when we first played live with Dominick.

Q 7: Anymore upcoming releases like this which we can look forward to in the future?

A: We just released the tour CD-R 'Spooked Summer' and about to have a
vinyl release on the Nashazphone label titled, 'Robed in Verdigris'

For Marcia:

Q 1. I have been very intrigued by Marcia's musical output in Double
Leopards, Hototogisu, GHQ, etc for the past few years. How different
are all these projects to you?

A: Well some are more active than others, right now, it is GHQ, Hototogisu and my solo project Zaimph, which occupy most of my time. Sonically the bands are different but there is actually a lot of the same influences going on.

Q 2. Do you see yourself in the same vein as Kim Gordon of Sonic
Youth in the current "scene"?

A: I don't know, I found a 'Mother's Against Noise' mug in her cupboard so I don't really know what's up her sleeve.

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