Les Rallizes Dénudés were a legendary Japanese experimental noise-rock band, lead (controlled megalomaniacally might be more accurate) by visionary guitarist Takeshi Mizutani that were active between 1969 and 1996 (there is no evidence that they are officially no more) but only ever put out a few official releases, which were live albums anyway.
Their commitment to staying impenetrably underground and in the shadows (well, the wilds of Northern Japan) and refusal to play the game, marks them as a true cult phenomenon for me (and a few other lonely, socially inept men in their thirties and forties around the globe). That, and the fact that they released some awe-inspiring, way-ahead of their time, truly experimental and amazing music.
I first came across them about 6 or 7 years ago. I’d bought myself a Tokyo Record Shop Map Guidebook and was on a mission to visit as many shops in the book that listed their stock as at least 50% vinyl. I was in a tinyily tiny, ramshackle and cramped shop called Mother’s Records in a run-down area of Shibuya that was basically a very small flat crammed full of records; some in proper racks, some piled up any which way. They had a lot of rare Japanese 70’s psych and rock (at appropriately rare prices), including an album with a vivid and striking white, black and red cover by a band called Les Rallizes Dénudés called “Heavier Than A Death In The Family”, which seemed to be out of place in that it was a pretty new release. I didn’t buy it of course (my humble salary precludes any kind of rash impulses i’m afraid), but I went home and checked the internet to see what I could find out. At that time, not too much it seemed, except for a few clips of music that sounded incredible and some shadowy facts.
Fast-forward a few years and Julian Cope publishes an indispensable guide to experimental Japanese 70’s rock (“Japrocksampler”) with all the lurid details I could wish for. Genius black-clad recluse guitarist with ‘control issues’? Check. Refusal to do interviews and play the music biz game, including, you know, like, actually releasing records (although one brave soul did attempt to make a documentary a few years ago, which was eventually released on DVD, which I haven’t seen yet, it seems like Mizutani didn’t make it too easy for him!)? Check. Visionary pioneers of feedback and drone copied by everyone from Suicide to Robedoor? Check. Original bassist who joined an extreme left-wing underground political gang calling themselves the Japanese Red Army who hijacked a domestic airliner and flew it to North Korea as a gesture of solidarity with the embattled Communist state (they actually wanted to go to Cuba, but there wasn’t enough petrol!) and who remains there to this day?….err…WTF?!
As intimated above, the Rallizes have never done anything commercial like putting out records, that would only be selling out; they’ve never released anything recorded in a studio. However, there are countless unofficial and semi-official live albums that serve as proper albums for fans. In the wake of “Japrocksampler” a load of incredible (and incredibly rare) out-of-print Japanese early experimental albums have been re-issued, most notably by Phoenix Records, including ones by Les Rallizes Denudes. Which means that I have finally been able to get my hands on some ‘proper’ albums at normal prices. Although, I should also mention that there seem to be very few Les Rallizes Dénudés songs, just different versions of the same ones, repeated and tweaked and wrought in myriad different ways.
I fully understand that it’s a niche sound and an acquired taste in some parts, but here are a few tracks for anyone with an open mind and a penchant for long drawn-out atonal spooky sounds with shitloads of feedback. Or as Mizutani might put it:
“For those young people – including you – who live this modern agonising adolescence and who are wanting the true radical music, I sincerely wish the dialogue accompanied by piercing pain will be born and fill this recital hall”