I’ve always had this silly prejudice—and I’m aware this makes me sound like a formulaic idiot—but there’s something that puts me off music that was made towards the very end of the ’70s through to the mid-’80s. Artists I love all seem to take nosedive as they navigated through these years.
A lot of music started to sound different, or just plain bad, around this time. I’ve often pointed my finger at smooth, plastic electronic production versus some misty-eyed notion of analog equipment and a “proper” sound.
No mention of Miyashita is complete without noting the body of albums made earlier in the ’70s.
So from the outset, I was at once excited and nervous about how Fumio Miyashita’s previously unreleased Live On The Boffomundo Show—a collection of live synthesizer pieces that straddle October 1979 to March 1980—might pan out. Would this be some throwaway flirtation with disco cheese, or a twisted development of his earlier brilliance…
No mention of Miyashita is complete without noting the body of albums made earlier in the ’70s. Miyashita was the vocalist, lead guitarist, and keyboardist in Far Out, which became Far East Family Band. They quickly and dramatically morphed from the moody, extended progressive rock of 1973’s Far Out to the more three-dimensional sounding Nipponjin in 1975.
What’s special about Nipponjin was it was mixed by a certain Klaus Schulze to underline the albums subheading—Join Our Mental Phase Sound. That the title track was simply a new version of the title track from the first album showed that the band had found its vocabulary, and is a wonderful example of spacey, hallucinatory rock.
We are now light years away from the other worlds described in Miyashita’s earlier work into something engaging, but colder and more sinister.
A strange melody fades in at the start of the three-part October 30 suite, abrasive static tumbling around with flute and birdsong. Together with the sound of a babbling brook, all the signifiers of new age music are presented, but the mood is dark and menacing. The insistent beat seems at odds with the naturalistic cues; it’s a Venn diagram of opposed sound pulled into the same aural space.
October 30 Part 2 starts with a much more industrial burst of sound and electrical humming… a painfully slow rhythmic element eventually emerges, developing in that bizarre way that has me imagining Takehisa Kosugi’s Catchwave remixing Vienna by Ultravox. We are now light years away from the other worlds described in Miyashita’s earlier work into something engaging, but colder and more sinister.
Although October 30 Part 3 seems to be made from similar elements, it’s immediately warmer. The natural samples are back and the electronic tones snake around to unexpectedly reveal a joyous vocal duet entwined with a looping cuckoo sample. Within the first 19 minutes of the performance, we’ve have covered a lot of odd ground.
Live on the Boffomundo Show stands as an invaluable document at the absolute knife-edge of two very different eras…
The 24-minute second piece on the album, March 18 1980 starts with the very same cuckoo and water noises, and for a moment it seems the album’s full palette has now been revealed. But this becomes far more dynamic. New layers of electronics switch around, slowly building, grinding into something new.
A guitar wobbles out of the watery looping in a way that reminds me of skewed Cosmic Jokers or Ash Ra Tempel. That weird groove comes from an effects-laden guitar that Manuel Göttsching mastered, also a contributor to several Far East Family Band tracks. This section isn’t at odds with what came before, but it’s an unexpected twist. The track dissolves into the bleeping weirdness of Popul Vuh’s Affenstunde before regrouping into a flanged-out strumming lullaby, and finally, silence.
Live on the Boffomundo Show is a truly odd and wonderful record, a mish-mash of styles and times that created it. Built up from relatively few discrete elements and captured from a live performance, it stands as an invaluable document at the absolute knife-edge of two very different eras… at once looking lovingly back and defiantly forward.