The music of Junzo Suzuki is always a wonderful contradiction of simple and complex. It’s presented as a document with the minimum of fuss. Everything captures the raw immediacy of the instant. Sound fizzes and explodes with the physicality of the live performance, squalls of searing noise and fragments of grooves, rock shards, and blues atoms.
Bringing these elements together, Junzo frames sonic monoliths in a web of references to the books, films, and music he loves. Speaking to Junzo via email after the release of last year’s If I Die Before I Wake, I do a bit of digging through the wormhole of references lacing that album.
“A little bit of a Google reveals that the track Les Visiteurs du Soir is also a 1942 film in which a deal is made with devil, and follows an evitable battle between good and evil. And yet more Googling tells me that the track The Hidden Strokes of Elsa Bannister is the character Rita Hayworth plays in the 1947 film The Lady from Shanghai. And the film is based on a novel called If I Die Before I Wake…”
And last year, his wonderful La Course du lievre a travers les champs album had a sleeve occupying the sweet spot between Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air, Paul Simon’s second album, and Gary Farr’s Take Something With You.
Even the cultural naming conventions is mixed throughout his discography, alternating between Japanese characters, Suzuki Junzo, and Junzo Suzuki… not to mention other curveballs in his native Japanese as well as English and French.
All of these riddles aren’t essential to enjoying the music. But in the spirit of hanging out and listening, these conceptual signposts all point to an elaborate network of references, influences, and ideas (not to mention the odd red herring and dead end) to engage the listener.
Junzo’s latest album Shizuka Na Heya De Ashioto Wa, out on Utech Records this December, presents another cluster of ideas over four long tracks. The previous album plotted the music’s long, slow collapse into vast abrasive textures. This new disc seems to grow out the moment where the previous album concluded.
Surging in with a mangled violent phasing of Captain Patria’s Double Penetration, it’s almost three minutes before the weird groove and tripped-out drumming floats in. Junzo appears in the left channel muttering as the whole thing starts to burn. The effect is reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s “heavily spaced” moment near the end of No Man’s Land. Exactly what is being doubly penetrated is unclear, but this first 14 minutes clearly show a stereo image littered with strange overlapping elements. Things are at the very edge of falling to pieces.
While there is a lot that connects this series of albums, it’s just as clear this new album is another subtle shift in his approach.
So the clipped, bluesy chug of Stomping Silver Darlings comes as respite. Created in a similar bubble to Tetuzi Akiyama’s Don’t Forget To Boogie!, it loops endlessly and slowly corrodes. Blues has always been a genre I’ve seen as somehow over-elaborate, but here, the blues are presented as stunning, acid-dipped minimalism. This music should be played as loud as your neighbors will allow.
At a shade under nine minutes, The Sideswiper is the most concise track on the album. Similar to the previous track, a looping, flanged guitar warps, but this is even more of a meltdown. The surface of the sound is even more abrasive and clattering. As always seems to be the case with Junzo’s music, despite the spiky sound, it’s never unwelcoming or confrontational.
In some ways, much of what’s on display in these tracks is little more than solo guitar. But the guitar is allowed develop into something far more vast. John Cale’s Summer Heat , from his volume of early experiments, is perhaps the nearest cousin to these new tracks. Cale’s extended and heavy distorted solos exist in the same galaxy as this album. Tiny musical gestures strangely magnified to monumental trance-inducing events.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the entire album, though, happens as the final title track starts in almost silence, the gentle buzz of an amp and the pared-back strumming of notes. The impact of having space in the music is a revelation given the saturation of the previous 40 minutes: a strange synth pulsation married with drums as the track slowly develops. And tones that feel like throat-singing. Slowly everything builds up towards another pure block of sound.
Shizuka Na Heya De Ashioto Wa is a curious and welcome additional to Junzo’s expanding solo discography. While there is a lot that connects this series of albums, it’s just as clear this new album is another subtle shift in his approach. The rough minimalism is totally exhilarating. And the rabbit-holes opened up by the names of these essentially instrumental pieces beckons the listener to explore further.
Highly addictive and highly recommended.
Shizuka Na Heya De Ashioto Wa is available now on Utech Records.
Review orginally appeared in Brown Noise Unit December 2017