Breathtaking

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The other Man in Black of the music world, Japan’s Keiji Haino, provides one of this era’s most intense creative identities. His music, whether solo with his "rock" trio Fushitsusha or with other great improvisers of the world, extends notions of rock and improvisation, pushing the massive energy of Blue Cheer into Derek Bailey’s realm of spontaneous sound. Purple Trap, a studio meeting between Haino on electric guitar and vocals, bassist Bill Laswell and free jazz drummer Rashied Ali stands just this side of Fushitusha’s legendarily dark and heavy double live CD as a prime example of Haino’s unique presence. Besides showcasing Haino’s talents, this release demonstrates Laswell’s rising to the occasion (re: his excellent work in Last Exit, Massacre and Arcana) and Ali’s position as a true giant of percussive freedom (re: his journey to the outer limits of structure on Coltrane’s Interstellar Space).

Titles on this double CD are as unwieldy and twisted as the CD title itself. Though there are no lyric translations provided, judging from these titles they revisit Haino’s themes of warnings, fate, identity and other tropes of existential and philosophical dilemmas. The man gets his points across through his powerful scream and unsettling moan, a vocal style no doubt honed through his intensive study of hermetic breathing techniques. Listening sometimes can be excruciating, as Haino’s impassioned delivery can make listeners feel disruption in their own oxygen intake. Just as heavy is the music: spasms of hardcore sonic abstraction, vertiginous spirals of guitar neologisms and in all quite a sympathetic meeting of creative musical minds.

The often harsh and jarring nature of this music makes it difficult to recommend to more passive listeners. But then again, you don’t hire Franz Kline to paint your bedroom or Stan Brakhage to direct your television miniseries. For those willing to take a step into the musical beyond, your darkest guiding light is Keiji Haino.

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