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Review on Normal Brain - Lady Maid

Released on WRWTFWW Records

Rereleasing Japanese records from the 1970s and 1980s is the thing at the moment and rightly so, as for the more of these records it means that the Western world (minus some notorious diggers) gets in touch with them for the first time. Swiss label WRWTFWW have been trendsetters with their stupendously successful reissue of Midori Takadas masterpiece Through The Looking Glass, now they dug deep again, found Normal Brains album Lady Maid from 1981 and here it is again. Normal Brain were kind of a band around mastermind Yukio Fujimoto who did only this one album that saw its first release on Vanity Records, a Tokyo label for stuff you might call ‘advanced’. Advanced enough “Lady Maid” obviously must have been back then, electronic music made with a minimal setup of the synths that were available: Korg, Kawai, Yamaha. Not only in Japan lots of people, underground and overground, tried these new democratizing technologies (“Jeder kann Musik machen”, Florian Schneider said), naturally with varying results most of them not standing the test of time, so of course, as it is with most reissues, the question of necessity appears: is it just visiting an obscure past for feeling hip while carrying the vinyl around on one of these streets (which is fair enough, don’t get me wrong) or is the music still relevant (‘good’ you could say)? In the case of Lady Maid the first seconds of M.U.S.I.C. instantly answer the question: it’s actually fantastic. M-U-S-I-C is a, well, shimmering jewel of a Neo Pop track, not far away from Kraftwerks Radioaktivität, yet a little more nonchalant, a vocoder voice spelling meaningful terms as “music” or “dadada” over sphärische synths and reduced beats, strangely dubby without any delay. And while the following tracks sometimes have the clanging metal-on-metal rhythms, the typical industrialesque flair of 1981, M-U-S-I-C sounds as universal as it will sound in 30 years, eccentrically elegant and beautiful.

Certainly the other tracks on Lady Maid should not be underrated and are good and interesting as well, the mutantly swinging K-300 or the confusing irregular rhythms of Frottage “SW” are avant garde sketches full of ideas and emotions, lacking the eras’ / genres’ usual cold and grave seriousness.

The last track again turns out to be outstanding in both form and quality. Fragment is a contemplative ambient piece, quietly evolving over 20 minutes, not so much intended as interior music, not particularly made to please, expressing the calmness of life in a Shinto shrine somewhere up north in Hokkaido where the air is fresh, the bells made of bronze and the sunlight partially taken by Ezo Matsu trees. Amazing.

Essential music from an especially fruitful era of Japanese music, Lady Maid is a must-have.

Written by João Geck
15.03.2019 - 19:07 – by Hendrik Warnke / hendrik@wordandsound.net

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