リサイクル risaikuru is Linear Obsessional’s first vinyl release, an elaborate package that includes two photos and copious liner notes. It’s the best release the label has ever offered (out of 56 releases), and due to its subject matter, it’s an important one as well.
The typical news cycle is incredibly brief, no matter the magnitude of the situation. Some stories are kept alive longer than they deserve (for example, celebrity crime), but others fall by the wayside as soon as their apparent immediacy has ended. The 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns took 16,000 lives, caused $235 billion in damage, and fell swiftly from the public’s eye. So, Japan’s fine now, right? No – but the nation is recovering, and the residents remain hopeful.
2008’s Kabuki was Longstone‘s first expression of love for Japanese culture. Three years later, Sakura was a direct reaction to the disaster, with proceeds donated to a local charity. The band – typically Mike Cross and Mike Ward with a handful of friends – has now completed an “accidental trilogy”.
Over the past sixteen years, Longstone has remained consistently avant-garde, using everything from found objects to Speak and Spell in its performances. This has kept them fresh and uncategorizable. Previous works have been dotted with drone, sampled dialogue, and even dancefloor glitch. risaikuru means recycle, and fits the approach. Ward toured the affected provinces and snapped some photographs, two of which became the inspiration for this project. On their own, these photos are unremarkable, seeming simply to portray dirt. But delve deeper, and one learns that these are images of the rubble line and of the soil that is being used in the recovery process. Each member of the band then recorded their own musical reaction to the photos, and their individual contributions were melded with local field recordings to form this panoramic pair of pieces, subtitled “Onagawa” and “Enoshima”. The otherworldly nature of the recording is a direct result of the sound sources and the composition process.
Are we defined by disaster, or by our reaction to disaster? Art generated through tragedy leads one to believe the latter. Longstone uses recycled guitar boxes, “junk percussion” and previously recorded Black Tailed Gulls to mirror the work of the recovery process: salvage what is still usable, and stitch it together. While listening to the album, one can imagine those tiny discoveries – a tea cup, a child’s toy, and of course, a photograph – becoming part of artistic endeavors, while a plank, a carton and a hammer are used in physical endeavors. One of the most moving stories to come from post-tsunami Japan is that of thousands of wallets being returned to the families of the owners, money intact: an incredible show of respect that may not be limited to Japanese culture, but that surely defines it.
The tsunami itself is suggested by the atonal chords that silence the gulls near the beginning of the opening track and are echoed a few minutes into Side B. After this, a quieter period, marked first by ominous, extended tones and later by tentative percussion. While the percussive noises intimate the sounds of recovery, the Sho chord woodwind and bells intimate something deeper: the recovery of music, and along with it, hope. Add the tempos that emerge at various times, culminating in a final electronic segment on Side B, and one begins to view the disaster through a different lens. The world may have forgotten that Japanese recovery efforts are still going on; but it has also missed out on the indomitable spirit of the survivors, who have managed to stay positive in the wake of physical and emotional devastation.
Authentic, heartfelt and wondrous, risaikuru is one of 2014’s essential releases. We recommend the physical edition, as it provides the full scope of the project, along with additional reading material. (Richard Allen)