Pop Albums: Various Artists Cosmic Kurushi Monsters Virgin TOKYO 1

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The Independent Culture
Something is happening to Japanese rock music, a form usually given over to the slavish aping of foreign pop culture. The groups featured on this monumental two-CD compilation of contemporary Japanese avant-rock sound as if they've immersed themselves in the entire corpus of Krautrock classics, which they probably have; there is much clanking and grinding in evidence, lots of overloaded, distorted guitar riffing, and a dazzling variety of squealing, shouting and mumbling, if that's the kind of thing that dazzles you.

Some of it sounds far too dutiful - the Zappa-esque musique concrete employed by Jyoji Sawada's Base Of Fiction, and the speed-metal art-riffing of Ruins are the main offenders - and much of it tends to charge hopelessly up an aleatory cul-de-sac; but there are some moments as sublime and startling as anything I have heard all year.

These come particularly in the splendid, tangled persistence of Optical 8's 13-minute "Halle Halle", fully the equal of any of Can's adrenalised improvisations. In the distance between that red-raw live performance and the evocative Julee Cruise-ing of Shizuka's delicate "Blood Stained Blossom", there is an entire new strain of garage art opening up here, and it's strange and otherworldly.

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