Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friction, ATSUREKI

Pass, 1980; reissued at least twice, most recently by Pass; available

10 tracks, 40:40

Friction was formed circa 1978 as a sort of Japanese answer to no wave. Bassist/singer/occasional guitarist Reck was in an early Teenage Jesus & the Jerks lineup and drummer/saxophonist Chiko Hige performed with the Contortions, so they definitely knew what they were doing! On their debut LP (which means "friction" in Japanese) Reck and Hige are joined by guitarist Tsunematsu Masatoshi. Sounding closer to Theoretical Girls or the Contortions, this is the more accessible side of no wave. That being said, this is a great listen and a unique take on the no wave aesthetic, with hints of Captain Beefheart and European post-punk. Every song offers something unique so the album never gets boring. It's also neat how the drumming sounds influenced by the motorik beat; Friction can lock into a groove and not let go, while at the same time adding plenty of skronk. The vocals are a mix of Japanese and English. Standouts include the manic "Cycle Dance" (with excellent drumming and sax; Hige must have double-tracked), noir-ish instrumental "No Thrill", and the epic (almost seven minutes!) closer "Out", which sounds like a collision between Soft Machine circa THIRD and Sonic Youth's first EP. The sound is perfect, thanks to producer Ryuichi Sakamoto(!). Good luck finding this, but snag it on sight! Friction is still going strong, with Reck and Hige stil on board. All of their material is consistently good, but the early material is best. A few equally intriguing live shows from '78 and '79 are out there, featuring rawer versions of ATSUREKI's tracks.

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