VIDEO: Susho No Fune live at the Higashikoenji U.F.O.CLUB
As Suishou No Fune took the small stage at P.A.’s Lounge a week ago Tuesday, all the high-voltage warning signs were there: the long string of meticulously arranged effects pedals, the Marshall amps humming ominously, mysterious guitar-wielding Japanese figures dressed in black. And there was still electricity in the air when, after drifting through a languorous, bluesy verse-chorus-verse intro, Pirako Kunerai and Kageo (with drummer in tow) unleashed the full, searing force of their twin-guitar wall of sound. Even with earplugs firmly in place, it was exquisitely and transcendently loud.
When Pirako and Kageo first met, in the Tokyo rock club Freedom in 1999, it was an encounter of kindred spirits. “We are both the kind of person who casts a dark shadow,” Pirako e-mailed me from Japan as the duo prepared for the tour that brought them to the Boston area for the first time. “We realized that we were companions who occupied the same mental space.”
The two formed Suishou No Fune soon after this meeting. Choosing a name that translates as “Crystal Ship,” they began to make music that doesn’t so much rock as drift and float, buoyed by oceans of reverb and delay. Although they may be part of Japan’s fertile psychedelic underground, they’re less ferociously ecstatic than many of the scene’s best-known exponents — High Rise, Acid Mother’s Temple, or even Fushitsusha, with whom they’re most often compared. Their songs are defined more by melancholy. Pirako sings her Japanese lyrics (translated in the liner notes) with a keening wail that recalls early blues, evoking ecstasy and anguish in equal measure.
Yet these two are no shrinking violets when it comes to the luminous glory of feedback and the possibilities of high volume. Loudness isn’t essential to what they do, Pirako argues, but it helps. And Suishou No Fune take no chances, playing through multiple amplifiers to ensure a richly textured wall of sound. “Performances at high volume blur the lines separating the self and its perceptions,” Pirako explains. “This is possible at lower volume, but we prefer high volume. Unfamiliar sounds are gifts created out of the chaos. To us, it is proof of life and joy. We could well be sound junkies.”
If so, their addiction is a fruitful one. Suishou No Fune have just released their third album, Writhing Underground Flowers (The Lotus Sound), and they have another pair of releases due this fall. On Writhing Underground Flowers, Pirako and Kageo deliver three sprawling tracks of mournful psychedelia that develop and unfold with the wayward logic of a dream. As always with these two, the songs were created through improvisation, which Pirako describes in quasi-spiritual terms. “From the beginning, we were not interested in creating a specific type of music. We played the music according to how we felt. However, people started to categorize our music as psychedelic, avant-garde, noise, or minimalism. Our music isn’t the type of music you write self-consciously using your brain. The music and lyrics are not born from within ourselves, but rather we are like shamans, receiving inspiration from outside.”
This emphasis on intuition extends to their live performance. “Our shows are basically freestyle, since our spiritual states are different every time. Even if we perform a specific song, it often changes through improvisation. Using the image and color of the day as concepts, we often choose our songs depending on how we feel that day.”