This may be Black Editions’ best release yet, a work of crafted devotion.
The latest in Black Editions’ ongoing reissue campaign of the catalog of Japan’s legendary P.S.F. Records, Tokyo Flashback P.S.F.: Psychedelic Speed Freaks is yet another surprise release from the label. Ducking expectations (and pleas) to focus on P.S.F.’s marquee stars like Fushitsusha and Ghost, Black Editions has instead focused on showcasing the sheer breadth of the late Hideo Ikeezumi’s talent acquisition. An updated companion piece to P.S.F.’s own Tokyo Flashback (reissued by Black Editions in 2017), this mammoth, 4-LP set, compiled by Masaki Batoh, is a testament to the hotbed of avant-garde talent that P.S.F. put on the map.
Rest assured that the usual suspects are here. Acid Mothers Temple (whose own P.S.F.-produced debut got a reissue along with this set) open things with a truncated version of their epic standard, “Pink Lady Lemonade.” With its elegant curlicues of guitar introducing the track and the subsequent descent into absolute chaos as feedback, synth warbles and howled vocals collapse together, “Pink Lady Lemonade” sets an ideal pace for the compilation’s wide oscillations in beauty and dissonance. Punk stalwarts High Rise turn up with “Outside Gentiles,” which somehow manages to open with a sophisticated, cock-rocking guitar solo and still sound raw and primitive. When the band settles into the song’s groove, they do not so much coalesce into a riff as screech and roar around one, shaping their noise just enough to resemble structure. Keiji Haino appears both solo, with the elegant and unnerving glissandi of “Tozakariwashinai,” and on a caterwauling Fushitsusha jam named “Omae.” The latter is one of the most accessible tracks in the Fushitsusha discography, a churning bruiser that only unleashes the expected Haino hellstorm in its closing stretch.
Elsewhere, things are not quite so immediately satisfying. Free improvisation guitarist Kazuo Imai appears with “Delay 160715,” a 10-minute work of bent strings, jittery atonal sprints and clanging sustain. Like all free improv guitar, the track is at once dizzying and spare, though Imai’s use of delay pedals to slowly draw out each strum until the track builds into a sheet of undulating noise. Keiko Higuchi replaces guitar overdubs for colliding vocal recordings, playing snippets of speech, hardcore blurts, operatic wails, even a few grunting, human approximations of animal noises into a musique concrète choir. Fans of Mike Patton’s most outré vocal experiments will find much to love here. Niseaporia’s “Sora No Ao Ni Somazu Utau” shows off the key role that free jazz played in shaping Japanese underground rock; ostensibly a lilting, almost tranquil track is sliced to ribbons by discordant saxophone and free-improv shards of guitar that lacerate what otherwise feels like a torch song.
Through it all, there are moments of softer elegance. White Heaven’s “Out” is a floating, spacey ballad in which brittle guitar patterns ebb and flow, and even the intrusion of a distorted riff is more elegiac than vicious. The lead guitar slowly crests into a bluesy solo that chimes and moans, almost a vocal line in its emotional phrasing. Ché-SHIZU’s mournful “Emperor/Notify” rides a decaying loop of Chie Mukai’s er-hu in its first half before morphing into something akin to one of Can’s more sedate jams, trippy vocals weaving in and out of a drum beat that manages to be loping and aggressive at the same time as it churns underneath splashes of guitar and flute. Acoustic guitarist Hideaki Kondo even shows up with a Bach rendition, playing “Sonata #1 in G Minor” with a Spanish flavor that closes out the compilation with delicate filigrees.
Even for those with some awareness of P.S.F., it is bewildering to see how wide a range of sounds passed through the label, and Batoh’s careful selection and sequencing for Black Editions shows the great care of a fan as much as a member of P.S.F.’s roster. Where else can the cosmic surf rock of Overhang Party’s “Now Appearing! Naked Existence” immediately be followed by the twinkling, pulsating accordion dub of à qui avec Gabriel’s “has come”? The affection and gratitude toward Ikeezumi’s weirdo haven is palpable, and the compilation even includes a namecheck in the form of Maher Shala Hash Baz’s “ikeezumi-san,” a live jam that sounds like what the band on the Titanic might have sounded like if they kept playing even as they went underwater. Oddly, despite already issuing a few of P.S.F.’s key masterpieces, this may be Black Editions’ best release yet, a work of crafted devotion on the label’s part that goes above and beyond its already crucial mission statement to reintroduce the Japanese company’s oeuvre.