150 X TRANSPARENT YELLOW
350 X BLACK
Good things come to those who wait. It’s a yellowing cliche but it also applies handily to the life, death, and eventual rebirth of Tokyo’s Gaseneta. Formed at university in 1977, the volatile quartet barely lasted long enough to compose four perfect songs, none of which were released during the band’s two-year existence. But the music’s influence on subsequent generations of punk, psych, and avant-garage rockers belies such inauspicious beginnings. Jun Hamano’s prickly, high-velocity guitar sprayed enervated solos and no wave treble across the late Toshiharu Ōsato’s melodic basslines and the machine-gun patter of a series of drummers. At the heart of this spastic ecstasy slouched the rubber-limbed singer Harumi Yamazaki. With his tongue askew and his body convulsing, he barked abstract, hilarious, and oddly poetic phrases like some rabid auctioneer in the thralls of electroshock therapy.
After parting in spring 1979, Gaseneta’s brain trust scattered to important corners of the fertile Kanto underground: Hamano joined an early iteration of Keiji Haino’s Fushitsusha before withdrawing from the public eye. Yamazaki hatched the arty, conceptual Taco with assistance from Ōsato, who would ultimately work as a professor and write Gaseneta Wasteland, a cerebral but immensely entertaining memoir that was recently translated and republished for global consumption.
But whatever happened to those four perfect songs? Until now, they’d been exiled to a succession of frustratingly unavailable CD-only retrospectives, most notably a 10-disc box set from 2011. Illogically extensive, that bewildering anthology excavated take upon relentless take of rehearsal and live performances—audio quality and consistency be damned. Priced similarly to an illegally harvested vital organ, the collection swiftly sold out its lone pressing. (Excerpts would surface on a best-of compilation and a limited-edition seven-inch, both difficult to obtain internationally.)
So what’s a young analog enthusiast to do? To solve this dilemma, Ektro’s Full Contact imprint has distilled the strongest selections from the Gaseneta box into a tidy self-titled LP. The group’s signature tunes show up in three versions each, among them a previously undiscovered, nine-minute rampage through “Tōchan no Pō ga Kikoeru” that’s exclusive to this record. A bilingual lyric sheet, courtesy of Japanophile academic Alan Cummings, attempts to clarify the chaos. Completely authorized and mastered from Ōsato’s lo-fi cassette archive, the majority of this material is finally making its debut on vinyl, where it always belonged.
To boot, Yamazaki has resumed gigging around Tokyo. His resurrected Gaseneta features drummer Jun Inui (from the original ’70s incarnation as well as punk heroes the Stalin) plus guitarist Mitsuru Tabata (of Boredoms, Zeni Geva, and Acid Mothers Temple fame) and bassist Chiyo Kamekawa (from Yura Yura Teikoku). The deafening crudeness and minimalist absurdity of the initial endeavor remain very much front and center.
Unsurprisingly, the word “gaseneta” isn’t particularly easy to explain in English. Loosely speaking, it means something akin to “disinformation”—or, less politely, “bullshit.” The revelatory racket of this album, however, resonates more like a universal truth.
Jordan N. Mamone, New York City
July 24, 2018