October 23, 2021

Japanese avant-folk anyone? From 1976?

Someone, somewhere has decided to produce and sell a boxed set focused on the work of an avant-folk Japanese musician from the 1970s.

As you do.

The musician is Kazuki Tomokawa.

The boxed set contains three albums:

  • Finally, His First Album, 75 
  • Straight from the Throat. 76
  • A String of Paper Cranes Clenched between My Teeth. 77

I’ve had a listen.

In summary, its a Japanese take on 1970s rock and folk.

In the way of rock n roll, I can hear the Rolling Stones, The Mamas and the Papas, and Santana like guitar riffs and mini-solos.

Its soft and mellow in places. I’m often reminded of Turkish folk music. I can see hippies sat with crossed legs, sat down in fields, swaying.

At other points Tomokawa is full of angst, pain and despair. His voice quivers. Sometimes he rages. Like Monkey Magic. Like an angry drunk in the gutter.

His ranting often segues into psychedelic guitar solos. An unexpected juxtaposition, that makes me chuckle. But that’s where Japanese avant-folk was in the mid 70s. Its a path, that to my knowledge, few have trodden since.

The boxed set will be released in conjunction with the release of each record in LP format in 2022, and the publication of the musician’s memoir, Try Saying You’re Alive! (Blank Forms Editions, 2021).

Facts and stuff:

Kazuki Tomokawa (b. 1950) is a singer-songwriter from Hachiryū Village (now the town of Mitane) in the Akita Prefecture area of northern Japan. Since his first release in 1975, he has recorded more than thirty albums.

The 2010 documentary about his life, La Faute des Fleurs, won the Sound & Vision award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, and that same year saw the Japanese release of the book Dreams Die Vigorously Day by Day, a collection of his lyrics spanning forty years.

His most recent albums are Vengeance Bourbon (2014) and Gleaming Crayon (2016), both on the Modest Launch label. 

In spring 2022, Blank Forms Editions will release his three albums as part of a boxed set, and each record as an individual LP, available now for pre-order: Finally, His First AlbumStraight from the ThroatA String of Paper Cranes Clenched between My Teeth.

Pre-order

Listen to some of the tracks here, here and here.