Japan Blues - Sells His Record Collection LP
Japan Blues is the project of Howard Williams, an Englishman who has spent much of the past 20 years holed up in the low-ceilinged basement of 278 Portobello Road in London, working at the heart of the Honest Jon's distribution department. His Japan Blues Show or NTS Radio has been running for three years, though his love of Asian music dates back much further. In 2009 and 2011 he released Japan-themed mixtapes for The Trilogy Tapes. Sandwiched in between was Killing Melody, his compilation of music from Japanese "Pinky Violence" films.
The first Japan Blues album, Sells His Record Collection, isn't really an album at all. (It also marks the beginning of a new era for Williams, who has left Honest Jon's to focus on his solo projects.) Built around samples from his personal vault of music and decorated with field recordings, keys and (on one occasion) his own vocals, it's best regarded as a creative extension of his mixtapes and radio show. Williams calls it a travelogue, a love letter to Japanese music and culture, where samples of old gongs and flutes sit next to recordings of passenger announcements from train stations. He says the inspiration for the LP was "an imaginary geisha opium den," and he's succeeded in crafting something as evocative as that suggests.
With their ceremonial drums and vocals, tracks like "The Sun Goddess Steps Out In Old Asakusa" and "10,000 Forgotten Ghost Stories" conjure images of feudal, folkloric Japan. Some of the records Williams plays on his show date back to the 1930s, and here you can often hear the crackle of vinyl, creating that same smoky atmosphere you get with The Caretaker. Lapping waves, a deep drone and Gregorian chants lend "Tepco Shareholder" a theatrical air, before gentle keys settle things down. "The Land Of The Gods Under Concrete" blends the old and new—a wandering flute above, the rhythmic electronic beat below. The beat disperses, and in come live drums and the sound of men speaking with a musical lilt. A bustling market perhaps? The track, much like the entire album, feels like a window into one man's decades-long obsession.
A1 The Sun Goddess Steps Out In Old Asakusa 11:24
A2 Tepco Shareholder 6:38
A3 Everything Passes 5:24
B1 The Land Of The Gods Under Concrete 10:17
B2 10,000 Forgotten Ghost Stories 7:55
B3 Yakuza No Uta