Masahiko Satoh & Soundbreakers – Amalgamation (1971)

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Masahiko Satoh & Soundbreakers – Amalgamation
Label: Phoenix Records (ASH3040CD)
Originally released 1971 on Liberty (LTP-9018)
Reissued 6 Dec 2010
1 Side One1 15:50
2 Side Two 21:18

Composed By, Conductor, Arranged By – Masahiko Satoh
Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder
Produced by Creed Taylor

Part 1 recorded August 17, 13:00~19:00 at Toshiba Records 1st studio.
Edited September 18, 13:00~20:00 at Toshiba Records room A

Part 2 recorded August 22, 13:00~19:00 at Toshiba Records 1st studio.
Edited August 30, 10:00~20:00 at Toshiba Records 2nd studio & October 24, 10:00~18:00 at Toshiba Records 2nd studio.

It has almost begun to feel like a tradition that whenever something horrible happens in the world, I have to dedicate a post to the atrocity, tragedy, and heroism of the moment. Over the last week as I’ve followed the BBC World Service and listened to the death toll in Japan rise every day with estimates that the count won’t be over until it reaches the 10,000 mark or higher, I have felt myself grow mute, reverent, and cautious. Cautious not to add my voice to the clamor of pundits; reverent of the magnitude of entire cities lost, generations of families shattered, of spectral genetic memories of nuclear disaster and potential holocaust; mute in the face of the inability of the thousands upon thousands of humanitarian aid workers to do any more than they are doing. Unlike Haiti, this is unfolding in one of the most developed countries in the world, one that has been utterly prepared for such a disaster for decades and whose government, by most accounts, has done a pretty commendable job of dealing rapidly with the disaster. Mute in the face of such enormous human suffering that almost dictates that anything I might say will seem trite. I have no sophisticated, penetrating analysis or discourse to offer.

THE EARTH IS NOT OURS.

So why not leave it to music, once again, to say what I cannot. This album of experimental jazz and psychedelia was completely unknown to me until fairly recently and seems to resonate somehow with all of this. Recorded in Japan in the early seventies by none other than Rudy Van Gelder and Creed Taylor (who seem to have left it off their resumé or simply disowned it), with Detroit drummer Louis Hayes, the record is equal parts terror and beauty, violence and respite. Swells of organ that remind me vaguely of Larry Young engulf noisy blasts of percussion and saxophone and tape loops of what sound like either military exercises of street protests. More stunning still is the realization that this ‘free’ music is fairly tightly composed as well. At times the whole things sounds like it could fit comfortably in a Krautrock discography as well. I’ll include here a review from Julian Cope, because I like his writing more than the usual music-journalist dry filler.

Big thanks to my friend Cheshire for turning me on to this and passing it along.

This preposterous piece of psychedelic avant-jazz sounds like the work of aliens, each with only one foot in our universe. Propelled by cacophonous brassy blasts, volleys of machine-gunning, ecstatically ‘Light Fantastic’ rhythms and moments of Teo Macero-style ‘Mixing Concrète’ (during which the whole track becomes consumed by waves of new sound); the result is the most singular mash-up of inappropriate sounds any listener is ever likely to hear. Over two side-long tracks, shamen Masahiko Satoh sends us through a sonic mind-field, baffling our senses and our sense of gravity. Located at the centre of AMALGAMATION’s giddy sessions was the frantic Detroit drumming of hard-bop legend Louis Hayes, whose role it was to play the bubbling ever unfolding fundament on which Masahiko Satoh’s whole trip proceeded, as though the rhythm section were a magic carpet constantly being pulled out from under the feet of the other performers. Over this rhythmic shaking, Satoh scattered Hammond organ around and ring-modulated* his Fender Rhodes piano solos (*Roland built three especially for the record), added lead guitar from ‘super session’ legend Kimio Mizutani, trumpets and sax from Mototeru Takagi, scat singing from Kayoko Itoh, and strings from the Wehnne Strings Consort. As if to further disorientate us, the composer divided the single fifteen-minute track of side one into ten absurd titles (eg ‘The Atomic Bomb Was Not Follen’ [sic]), and the single twenty-one minutes of side two similarly (‘Here Me Talking to Ya’, ‘Ancient Tales of Days to Come’), though both tracks are intended as single pieces, being encoded thus on CD re-issues. Essential stuff. [Julian Cope]

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