26 June 2009

PSF Records: The Greatest Record Label of All Time?

I was pleasantly shocked to find 4 great CDs on 70% discount when I was overseas recently:

Vajra - Sichisiki
Vajra - Sravaka
Kan Mikami - 13/4,900,089,658
Cinorama - Three Lies And A Ding-A-Ling Five

These might not be the top selection from PSF Records but anything, to me, released by this reverent label is better than most releases out there then and now. A one-man operation since the beginning (with the help of a couple at the retail shop front Modern Music), PSF Records has defined what it means to be no-bull shit music selection, no consideration for commercial logic and no compromise in quality. It first started out as a record label to release High Rise's first album, a power-amped up trio who combined the raw energy of the Stooges, Motorhead and Peter Brotzmann into one mind-swirling unit which kickstarted this label to international notice by underground geeks, obsessive collector types, chin-stroking intellectual music buffs and sheer nihilistic sonic freaks. What followed after this album in the mid 1980s were hundred over LPs, CDs, DVDs, videos, magazines and a book for the past 20 over years. Keiji Haino (something on him will, hopefully appear in this space in the near future) and his numerous outfits like Fushitsusha, Nijiumu and Vajra (an outfit with another legendary folk hero of the Japanese politico-folk scene from the 1970s, Kan Mikami), Acid Mothers Temple (the unit which turned many a psych fan from the west to the over-the-top sounds from the Japanese underground), Ghost (now anestablished psych-prog act which play major rock festivals all over the world), and numerous other bands under the radar but above the bar in their music.

Then I also ordered some recent releases from PSF as well:

High Rise - Psychedelis Speed Freak Live 1986 DVD
Maher Shalal Hash Baz with Masami Shinoda - Koshi Kudake No Inu DVD
Satoshi Sonoda - Everything Lies Beyond The Burning Summer Grasses: Early Works Of Satoshi Sonoda 1977-1978 CD

Two DVDs which further consolidate the overall aesthetics of the label in question:
High Rise's short archival DVD from mid 1980s is worth all the money with approximately 25 minutes of playtime but it packed some of the most cortex-melting free form/psych rock ever to put on scene. The power trio of Asahito Nanjo, guitarist Munehiro Narita and drummer Ujiie Yuro first start with some crunchy heavy garagey rock moves and within seconds tear through the chords and form and blitz through the set with so much vitriol and invention that the boundaries of rock has been stretch to its very limits and barely pushed back to shape thereafter. Blistering.

Maher Shalal Has Baz on the other hand showcase the other side of rock with a small group orchestra under the leadership of Tori Kudo, one of the prime movers of the late 1970s/early 1980s Club Minor scene in Tokyo (with other underground luminaries like Keiji Haino, Asahito Nanjo, Michio Kadotani, etc.)recorded live during the 1980s in the first years of this established band of shambolic, naive, outsider primitivo rock combo. False starts and informal rehearsal like gestures and communication fill the DVD: it feels as if we are peeping into the usually hidden mechanisms of a slick rock gig common today, with little regards for showmanship but everything to deal with sincerity, innocence and sheer exuberance towards music making. Fey melodious tunes, small group renditions of jazz, showtune and cabaret like pieces litter the whole enterprise but with surprising ripping guitar solos, Sun Ra-like keyboard stabs and inspired Eric Dolphy like sax from Masami Shinoda, who sadly, passed away in the early 1990s when he was still in his 30s.

The last item, the archival CD release by Satoshi Sonoda is commemorative album for the recently deceased Fushitsusha (Keiji Haino's greatest contribution to rock music) bassist cum all-rounder underground mainstay in the Jap Rock Underground since the 1980s, Yasushi Ozawa. Recorded during the embryonic days, Sonoda, together with Ozawa and others attempted several sideway glances and experiments at re-inventing garagey free-form punk-inspired rock, European Free Improv imformed sound scraping and even at moment Velvet like chord moves. A timely memorial for one of the foundational musicians of the scene.

If you want to check out some of these stuff go to:
PSF Records
Coming up I will be writing some stuff on John Zorn as well as some comparative retrospective on one of the most talked about concert in rock history, Altamont Freeway Free Concert, headlined by Rolling Stones which I had the fortune to view at National Museum of Singapore last weekend, 27 Jun 2009. Watch this space.

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