Les Rallizes Dénudés (裸のラリーズ or Hadaka No Rallizes )

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”

13 thoughts on “Les Rallizes Dénudés (裸のラリーズ or Hadaka No Rallizes )

  1. Hi Panthersan!!!

    Wonderful!!! It is amazing this is recorded so long ago!! I never heard of them before but I really like them. The story of the bass player is so weird!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    • It was big news at the time and even became an international incident. The worst thing for the Japanese longhairs at the time was that there were a lot of Americans on board the plane, which brought the CIA to Japan.

      The last thing any left-wing radical stoners need is US federal agents sniffing around, increasing their paranoia and twisting their mellow!

      Interestingly, Mizutani and his peers completely rejected the Americanisation of popular culture that had been enthusiastically welcomed throughout the 60’s. They compensated by reading Satre paperbacks and pretending to be French!

  2. This sounds fun. Can’t listen to it at the moment, but will definitely do so; I’m all in favour of ultra-committed left-wing bass players.

  3. I’ve been a Rallizes fan for many years so you are neither the first nor the only one on this board. You may not be aware however of the backstory surrounding Phoenix Records. This is a highly suspect label run by a bloke who basically makes his money from shoddy needledrop and unauthorized reissues of rare psych records. He makes no attempt to contact the copyright owners of the stuff he shovels out, much less come to a financial relationship with them. This is piracy, pure and simple.

    Now, in the case of Rallizes this may not be much of an issue since pretty much everything was semi-legit anyway. But Phoenix and its predecessor Radioactive have a long and undistinguished history of not paying musicians what is rightfully due to them. In my view they should be boycotted.

    • I wouldn’t claim to be the first or only of anything!

      That’s very interesting about Phoenix Records though, I certainly didn’t know, but I did wonder how they got so many records, so quickly. Hmmm…it definitely does make me think twice about buying from them again….thanks for the heads up and good to hear from a fellow admirer of the Rallizes!

  4. Okay, that was fun. My main complaint is that it was all too obvious most of the time that the bass player had his mind on other things – for some reason I find myself imagining what this lot would sound like with, say, Jack Bruce, so that the genius recluse guitarist isn’t the only one who gets to show off.

  5. I like to think that, having had long-term exposure to a certain band, I have ‘an open mind and a penchant for long drawn-out atonal spooky sounds with shitloads of feedback’.
    I like the guitar sound and druggy vocals but the bass and drums are very conventional on these tracks (or ‘obvious’, as Aba puts it). Did they ever let themselves go wholeheartedly?

    I don’t suppose I could tempt you to listen to listen to The Other One in my latest post from Casey, panther? I think its central section contains some magnificent atonal rock in which all the musicians participate fully. And it won’t damage your ears at high volume.

  6. Thanks for listening all and I think you are right Chris and Aba. More of a group input would definitely add something and take the tracks in different (perhaps, more interesting) directions.

    Chris – It’s a deal, i’ll put the tracks on the iPod for today’s commute.

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