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12 Jun 2017

Taj Mahal Travellers"August 1974 "1975 Japan Experimental,Avant Garde,Psych









Taj Mahal Travellers"August 1974 "1975 Japan Experimental,Avant Garde,Psych

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This double CD reissues the legendary Tokyo improvisational group's Columbia LP from 1974. Like European experimental ensembles A.M.M. and M.E.V., Taj Mahal Travellers were dedicated to sonic experiments beyond categories of free jazz or avant-garde, and throughout the '60s and early '70s challenged musical norms the world over. Lead by Fluxus member and avant-garde composer Takehisa Kosugi, the ensemble featured instrumentalists Kyo Koike, Yukio Tsuchiya, Beiji Nagai, Tokio Hasegaw, Kinji Hayashi, and Hirokeszu Sato. The group adapted traditional instruments and electronics, yet saw no hierarchy in what could and couldn't be adapted into their battery of experimental instruments. Any number of devices were employed in making this massive and noisy drone piece. Recorded live in the studio, this music adapts methods from avant-garde, electro-acoustic, and ethnic music, and often takes the form of magnificent clouds of treated acoustic sound. The double-CD length is a compelling and thorough retrospective of the group, who recorded just two albums in the '70s. A vital and influential document of the Japanese avant-garde this was a hallowed artifact of the underground for many years. Made available in retrospect, it gives an insight into the early beginnings of an improvisational style which would be of incredible significance to the experimental music of later years.....by....by Skip Jansen .........

2012 repress. Gatefold 2LP version. Originally issued as a double LP with each of the 4 tracks being roughly the same length as the side of a record, August 1974 presents the Taj Mahal Travellers at their most sophisticated. Although their stunning cosmic music was always improvised, the band, formed in 1969 by "six meta-music creators and one electronic engineer" played regularly throughout Japan and eventually found their way to Europe where they met up with avant-garde musicians such as Don Cherry. 1974 would be the band's last official release as they went their separate ways the following year with all but Takehisa Kosugi, leaving music behind them. Each track is distinct from the others, with several beginning with clearly-defined structure before departing into the realms of the abstract, with violin, harmonica, bass, tuba, trumpet and mandolin dueting in a subliminal and obscure manner. "Voices" both subhuman and supernatural, resonate with a universal inner voice. Includes original insert. Hand-numbered limited edition of 1000; on 180 gram vinyl.................

 I thought I'd save my second review for one of my all time favourites. This appears on the famous 'Nurse With Wound' list of which I've heard about 90%. (The list contains around 275 of the most obscure, out there and and experimental bands you could hear before 1981). This certainly belongs on it. It sounds very similar to mid eighties Zoviet France who I imagine listened to this for inspiration.
There are no guitars, bass or drums. All instruments (mostly hand made and stringed) are fed through filters and effects creating a droning, swirling and weirdly surreal sound. 'August '74' doesn't sound dated at all and reminds me a lot of the atmospherics of Current 93, Schloss Tegal and Lustmord. It's really creepy and dark particularly when the dulcimer and vocals appear.

Beware! - I put this on whilst camping in a tent with my girlfriend in 2002 and it backfired badly. We only got 10 minutes into the cd when I was told it was far too scary for a dark night on Arran in Scotland beside an ancient graveyard! She then went in a big huff. Ah well, women eh?

It's definitely their most accomplished work and a lot better than the dreadful 'Oz Days' album where the The Taj Mahal Travellers sound completely out of place with the other bands. This is a definite 5 star album in my books and probably in my top ten albums of all time. You'll probably have a really hard time tracking this down though - it's incredibly difficult to find nowadays.... by Dobermensch ......................

For them, everything is an instrument. For them, everything is alright. For them, everything is forever. TAJ MAHAL TRAVELLERS is such an outfit in Japanese psychedelic scene.
I suggest for them the words "recording" or "stage" should not be suitable. The recording work should follow their occasional play itself, and the stage should be the ground where they happen on bearing sounds. (That is, if they play to surf and ripples by chance, the seashore can be their stage I think.) So each of their "songs" cannot be copied again even by themselves - a once-in-a-lifetime one.

Anyway, their play is always lazy but perfect. Guess they should make "equivocal" arrangement before playing but once they set out on a performance, each plays free and improvised without any theoretical thought. (Well I always wonder why they play improvisational sounds together steadily and completely...are their minds only one?) And their performance itself can let them fall into a trance and fly higher and higher. The percussive stairway of Side C is exactly a typical example. In the latter half, loud and aggressive low tone noises motivate them massively. On that moment, TAJ MAHAL TRAVELLERS should go on a trip for the psychedelia beyond expression. There is nothing special or nothing persistent - only air or space is there!

They are not musicians. They are artistic creators. Listening to this "art" can notify you of this fact without any suspicion.... by DamoXt7942 ............

 The Japanese answer to Tangerine Dream's "Zeit". As the most famous German album, it's made of four tracks, one per side of about 20 minutes. The difference is that Taj-Mahal Travellers didn't spend their time in finding exciting title tracks. They are just "Side A" to "Side D".
Very spacey sounds, minimalistic but not dissonant as many psychedelia. So if psychedelia and space rock are two different things, they belong mainly to the second.

Listening to Side A you can imagine astronauts exploring a cave on an outer planet, or an abandoned starship encountered in the deep space. It's a music that could fit very well as soundtrack of a SciFi Thriller movie. Better than "Birth of Liquid Plejades". Something similar to a sitar, God knows what instrument it is, reminds us of the band's name. Also the percussions in the second part of the track add some indo flavours. Close to the end, some elephants or other wild animals scream in the jungle. We have suddenly been transported from Space to Earth, or at least on a planet full of wildlife.

Side B is spacey again. The "elephants" are still present, but the keyboards countinue their travel in the deep space. A string instrument, probably a mandolin takes the role of giving the rhythm if it can be called rhythm. It's a very unusual way to use a mandolin. The other sounds are mainly electronic plus something similar to a didgeridoo (electronic of course). Again, they remind me to Zeit.

Side C opens very low-volume, with percussions still in indian style but with "violins" and bells, too. there are positive sensations. It's like waking up before the day becomes too warm. The Asian flavour permeates the music. Closing my eyes I can see the Indo river flowing...well I didn't take anything, I just like creating mental images when the music is evocative. The bells have also a bit of "Barong" so instead of the Indo it could be a temple in the island of Bali. Then we move north to Tibet. It's like viewing postcards of the Far East. Sometimes it becomes a bit more chaotic, but still very evocative.

Side D starts with didgeridoo and voices, that means electronic sounds, with some percussive noises which lie low in the background. Edgar Froese's "Aqua" is a good reference. This is the base to which sometimes a keyboard adds and removes sounds. We are looking for small variations on a repetitive base. Going to the end, the repetitive base is replaced by percussions and a wind instrument. Here it comes back from space again and fits into psychedelia, but just for a while. The final part of this suite is very Floydian and reminds me to the minimalistic parts of Intertellar Overdrive, Saucerful of Secrets, or also some parts of "More".

My rating is between 3 and 4 stars, because not ALL the proggers are keen to have this kind of music in their collections, but this applies also the the early Tangerine Dream and to some krautrock, so I round it up to 4........by octopus-4 .......

 TAJ-MAHAL TRAVELLERS formed in Tokyo, Japan back in 1969, while this particular double album was recorded in 1974 but released in 1975. They were a seven piece band with lots of percussion along with harmonica, violin, timpani, synths, double bass, electronics, mandolin, tuba, vocal expressions and trumpet. Despite all the instruments this is a sparse sounding recording with lots of space for the sounds to breathe for the most part. Sounds drone continually yet they somehow keep this interesting. It's hard for me to explain how they keep my attention throughout, but all I know is that I loved this right from the first listen. A big thankyou to Guldbamsen for his review of their debut which caused me to check these guys out. We get four side long tracks all clocking in around the 20 minute mark.
Side A drones in and out with different sounds coming and going throughout. Again I can't really explain the appeal for me other than it is relaxing and it makes me feel good. I do think this band had a gift when it comes to Psychedelic music. You would think the start of Side B was a continuation of Side A until it becomes fuller after a couple of minutes. Check out the vocal expressions around 6 1/2 minutes and 8 minutes in as the mandolin and so much more continues. A calm before 9 minutes that really continues to the end as it becomes dark and at times haunting.

The second album begins with Side C and we get percussion-like sounds to start and it's not long before spacey synths drift in floating over top along with other sounds. The synths stop as it becomes quite sparse with not a lot going on until before 7 minutes when the sound seems to build slowly. Some interesting sounds that we haven't heard yet after 8 minutes that continue to change and evolve the rest of the way. Side D starts slowly with percussion before we get some electric violin and electronics. Sounds eventually echo and without question the violin is featured here more than on any other song. It just doesn't sound like a normal violin and that's pretty cool. Check out the sound before 16 minutes. Nice. This continues for some time then it calms down some with vocal expressions late.

Transcendent is a word that is associated with the music of this band a lot and I have to agree. A lot of German bands like CLUSTER and the like from the early seventies certainly come to mind when I listen to this recording......by Mellotron Storm ....................

One of the most experimental groups to emerge from the 70s Jap-rock milieu, Taj Mahal Travellers eschewed the prog leanings of many of their contemporaries to focus on ambient noise and free-form improvisation. Led by artist Takehisa Kosugi, this collective existed primarily to create improvised live music in as many unusual settings as possible. In 1972, they set out on the road in a cramped, VW Minibus covered in scrawled runic symbols. Their epic tour, more of a musical/spiritual odyssey, took them from their native Japan to Scandinavia, Rome, Greece and Istanbul, and then on to the Middle East, via Iran, Kabul and Pakistan, finally arriving in front of the Taj Mahal itself where they, naturally, played a gig.
Existing almost entirely outside any concept of the music industry, the Travellers lived the hippy ideal of playing just for the joy and love of sound itself. Their motto was "play wherever there is a power-source." Their 1972 tour was captured by film-maker and musician Matsuo Ohno, whose documentary, Taj Mahal Travellers on Tour (find it on YouTube), sees the band playing in areas of transcendent natural beauty, such as cliff-tops and beaches, as well as museums and holy sites - anywhere off the beaten track where they could give their music to people for free. On the way they hooked up with legendary jazz musician Don Cherry, step-father of Neneh Cherry, a fellow free-spirit who would later collaborate with The Slits.
Born in Tokyo in 1938, Kosugi graduated in 1962 from the Tokyo University of Arts. A member of international artist network Fluxus, which also included Yoko Ono, Kosugi understood how art and music could be used to lift people's consciousness out of everyday humdrum existence, and that this would work best if they were confronted, immersed even, by music in situations and environments where it was unexpected. Inspired, he formed his own version of Fluxus in Japan, Group Ongaku, to perform improvised, multi-media happenings. In 1969, he put together a collective of younger musicians, all of whom embraced a hippie-living ethos which went starkly against the mores of post-war, ultra-repressed Japanese society.
Together, they played any instrument they could lay their hands on, from electric violin and harmonica to double bass, tuba and mandolin. They also embraced synthesizers and early electronic equipment. Unlike the celebrated prog bands of the day, who used synthesizers for showy flourishes in-between interminable guitar soloing, Taj Mahal Travellers were part of an early vanguard which included Germany's Kraftwerk, Cluster and Tangerine Dream, who explored the expansive, ambient possibilities of synths. In contrast to Kraftwerk, whose Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express hymned technological advancement, Taj Mahal Travellers used machines to enhance their communion with nature, to tune into its rhythms and pulses. In this way, they were even further ahead of their time, anticipating the post-rave chill-out sounds of The Orb and The KLF.
Taj Mahal Travellers' second and final official album, August 1974, has come to be viewed as something of a cult early classic of experimental drone music, and is generally considered the best of the group's output. Inspired by US avant-garde composer La Monte Young, considered by many to be the father of drone music, the eight-strong band used a mathematical approach to layering frequencies, using heavy electronic processing to add distortion and delay to instruments.
It seems a little pointless to break each track down, especially since the whole album is actually a continuous jam, only broken up to fit onto four sides of vinyl. However, each offers something different: the first track, 'I', captures the band easing slowly into the groove, making use of silence and space. It features low droning, moaning sounds, feedback, hiss, echoing whistles and cries and lonely, wailing harmonica. The sound of simple, childlike xylophone playing drifts over the sonic abyss. Early Pink Floyd and Sun Ra at his most abstract are useful touchstones here. 'II' introduces a tense, horror film-style rhythm, tapped out repeatedly, yet muffled under trembling, nerve-edge strings and distorted, unearthly vocal sounds. It's like being trapped in a Jodorowsky-directed, psychedelic, head-fuck zombie movie.
The third track, which is untitled, is, in my opinion, the most accomplished and beautiful. Calming, Eastern-style percussion and strings ebb and flow, creating a serene, transcendent ambience, as if you are sitting in a sun-drenched Japanese garden with just a slight breeze to disturb your surroundings. Only the scratchy, atonal playing of a violin, probably by Kosugi, sounds a note of warning somewhere in the distance. As the string sounds fade out, echo envelops the percussion and a distorted electronic beat comes to the fore, heralded by whistles, clattering bells and smothered shouts, creating a miasma which becomes almost unbearably intense.
Also untitled, the fourth and final track is the most electronic and has an almost Medieval sense of foreboding and murkiness about it. Over drones, moans, head-squeezing synth pulses and simple, clanking percussion, Kosugi's violin scrapes out a weeping elegy, buzzing in and out of the fog like a hellish insect. The focus on the violin makes this the most musically conventional piece on the album, recalling sections of King Crimson's debut, In the Court of the Crimson King. Listening to it you can see why, following August 1974, Kosugi went on the become a classical composer.
August 1974 is ambient music par excellence. Sure, with each track lasting around the 20-minute mark, it's a commitment to make it all the way through, and I wouldn't dream of recommending it to someone who isn't already into this kind of stuff. But what a treat if you are! The music here will take you off to other worlds, simultaneously ancient and futuristic. The sound-world Taj Mahal Travellers created remains just as profound, startling and - here's that word again - transcendent nearly 40 years later as it was when they created it, seemingly from nowhere. So do yourself a favour and take a trip with the Travellers. You won't regret it.......soundblab........................

Takehisa Kosugi is a hippie become avantgarde composer. Born in Tokyo in 1938, and graduated in 1962 at the Tokyo University of Arts, Kosugi founded the Japanese equivalent of the Fluxus movement, called "Group Ongaku", a group devoted to improvisation and multi-media performances. In 1969 he formed the Taj Mahal Travellers, a psychedelic-rock group that played lengthy improvised jams that can be summarized in three principles: a Far-eastern approach to music as a living organism, an intense electronic processing of instruments and voices, a semi-mathematical overlapping of frequencies. Basically: LaMonte Young on acid. Kosugi mainly played violin. He was on the road with this group between 1971 and 1972, traveling in a Volkswagen minibus from Holland to the Taj Mahal itself. Two albums were made out of that experience: Taj-Mahal Travellers (Sony, 1972), also known as July 15 1972 (reissued in 2002 by Drone Syndicate) and performed by a seven-unit line-up, and Taj Mahal Travellers (Denon, 1983), also known as August 1974 (reissued in 1998 by P-Vine), four tracks over two LPs performed by eight players, plus one side (two tracks) of the legendary double-LP bootleg Live At Oz (Oz, 1973 - OZ Days, 2001), which also includes live performances by obscure Japanese musicians Acid Seven, Minami Masato and Hadaka no Rallizes. Thirty years later the Live Stockholm July 1971 (Drone Syndicate, 2001), a two-hour long jam, also resurfaced from the vault.
The four sides of August 1974, each about 20-minute long (the length that fit on an LP side), present the Travellers at their most sophisticated. The first jam is a concert of cosmic hisses that ebb and flow, distortions that scour the abysses of the psyche, sinister wailing and rattling that create a metaphysical suspense. At first, it straddles the line between Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine and Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht, but then it becomes more and more abstract, recalling Sun Ra's extraterrestrial jazz-rock. Percussions are used sparingly. Violin, harmonica, bass, tuba, trumpet, synthesizer, mandolin duet in a subliminal and obscure manner. There is no melody, there is no logic. Just "voices", both subhuman and supernatural, that resonate with a universal inner voice. The second jam is a cacophonous gathering of timbres and gamelan-like tinkling, over which Tibetan chanting and droning intone a demented psalm. Halfway into the piece, the band seems to lose interest in playing, so the rest of the track is a rarified wind of tenuous sounds. The third track continues this silent journey into the unknown, with odd percussive patterns and random dissonance. As the chaos increases and exuberant voices join in, the bacchanal turns into a surreal pow-wow dance.
The last jam continues the program of eerie noises and unlikely counterpoint in an atmosphere that is both dreamy and austere. We are transported to a floating zen garden, traveling on a flying saucer. A wavering harp-like melody invites to meditation, and, for a while, the spiritual mood prevails. Then the percussions break the spell, introducing the usual element of indeterminacy and heresy, and the trip ends, one more time, in the resonating depths of distant galaxies.

Kosugi later became a classical composer, in particular composing scores for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and presenting sound installations at a number of international art festivals. His early solo works, Improvisation (Iskra, 1975), Catch-Wave (Sony, 1975 - Showboat, 2002 - World Psychedelia, 2008) for electronically-processed violin, both considered among his masterpieces (and not too different from Tangerine Dream's contemporary works), and Distant Voices (Columbia, 1976), were in the vein of the jazz improvisations of the time (Anthony Braxton, Derek Bailey, etc).

His style became to approach the classical avantgarde with Violin Solo 1980 N.Y.C (P-Vine), released only 20 years later, New Sense of Hearing (ALM, 1980), Perspective (Flowerdogs, 1981), Kosugi (Bellows, 1981), En Ban (Fukyosha, 1983).

Melodien (Kunstverein, 1986), Global Village Suite (FMP, 1988), Violin Improvisations (Lovely, 1990), Music for Merce Cunningham (Mode, 1991), Echo (Apollo, 1992) are his mature works.

Improvisation Sep 1975 (Iskra) documents a session of drone improvisations by Toshi Ichiyanagi (Yoko Ono's former husband), the Taj Mahal Travellers' founder Takehisa Kosugi and Stockhausen's percussionist Michael Ranta..............

Line-up / Musicians
- Takehisa Kosugi / electric violin, harmonica, voice
- Ryo Koike / electric double bass, suntool, voice
- Yukio Tsuchiya / bass tuba, percussion
- Seiji Nagai / trumpet, synthesizer, timpani
- Michihiro Kimura / voice, percussion, mandoline
- Tokyo Hasegawa / voice, percussion
- Kinji Hayashi / electronics

Guest musician:
- Hirokazu Sato / percussion, voice


Songs / Tracks Listing
1.Side a (19:51)
2.side b (21:27)
1.side c (23:29)
2.side d (23:27)

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