A big part of music is discovery. Point to any album in a passionate listeners collection, and the chances are good that they’ll give a detailed account of why it’s there. Where it was bought, how they found out about it, and how the music or players fit into an overall sphere of interest.
Hiroyuki Usui’s An Anthology was an enthusiastic recommendation by dear friend of OBLADADA – Junzo Suzuki, only days before his serious accident in Toyko in February 2022. Thankfully Junzo is now making a slow recovery from a very perilous situation. He often shared recommendations that were rarely anything other than amazing. An Anthlogy is just the latest (and thankfully not the last), in a long line…
Whilst Hiroyuki Usui is a new name to us, he’s featuring in projects like Ghost, Fushitsusha and Marble Sheep – so his fingerprints are clearly littered throughout loads of music we have loved for years. As the title suggests, An Anthology groups together various tracks, both demos and unreleased, from a whole host of projects over the last 3 decades. Despite the fact all these tracks come from different places, the overall effect is of a cohesive but vast and sprawling psychedelic masterpiece.
The opener Hiro 3 – Track Two is little more than a fragmented restless drift, whilst Ghost – Awake In A Muddle forms into lilting acid folk complete with kosmic flute. Azul – Gnya Gnya Blues and Azul – Ocean both float around in soft ripples and a woozy cavernous production.
Niseaporia – Carve a wish in the voice of the end is like a feverish jazz dream whilst Hiro 3 – Track One slowly collapses into avant jazz fragments.
However, as the sublime 16 minutes of No Nothing Thank You Session pans out, it’s clear this album is pure gold. A plodding groove tugged at with buzzing amps and brain rippling digeridoo. The track locking into a cycle that’s part La Monte Young, part Trad Gras och Stenar. Music that rides a corroded standing wave of absolute glory.
Next up L – Vigil rolls around for 28 incredible minutes, moving through episodic blocks of lysergic burnt-out rock, blurring textures, odd chanting and menacing Faust infused grooves. Quite what is going on never quite becomes explicit, but the track opens out into a suite of moody but exhilarating ambience.
By now Usui is showcasing music that is stripped back, so everything extraneous is removed, that knife edge of just enough dynamics to keep everything moving forward. L – Theme is a groove that easily taps into the same alchemy as Les Rallizes Denudes best efforts. A guitar and drum swagger where everything sparkles with a head nodding bliss, this time just the size of an atom at 5 and half minutes but the truth is, it’s almost possible not to loop at least a few times every single listen…
Azul – A Short Stop Along The Way is a gently drifting ballad, L – First Flower People is a nebulous cloud of warm tones, slide guitar and vocals that seep out like a gas leak. Peace Frog Band is a screwed anthem swamped in huge digeridoo reverberations. The entire collection ends in the electronic and patterned abstraction of The Stoats – [In Progress] and Hiroyuki Usui – Dreaming-Oku wo.
Collections like this often reveal some common theme at the heart of an artist’s approach or taste. However, An Anthology 1988 – 2021 spans over 3 decades of work citing Usui as a creative force thats continually delighted in never simply approaching anything in some standard or mannered way. Taken simply as an overview of another vital, if possible overlooked player in the vibrant underground Japanese scene, An Anthology is hugely recommended.
Whilst No Nothing Thank You Session / Vigil / Theme forms a magnificent almost 50 minutes centre piece, the whole collection is essential listening for anyone remotely interested in this fertile seam of adventurous and unique psychedelic music.
That it is available as a name your price on Bandcamp totally contradicts the absolutely blistering quality of Usui’s output. Opting to pay a little, we even got sent a beautiful handmade CD package from the great man himself. There is surely no excuse now for anyone new to his magic – this is a stunning doorway to head for immediately…
An Anthology 1988 – 2021 is out now and available digitally and on CD here