Thursday, November 26, 2015
Rovo are an instrumental electronic space rock band from Japan. They also describe themselves as Man driven Trance (MDT) .I can’t remember where I first heard of this band but it was some years ago. They have rarely ever played outside of Japan (NYC, a few festivals in Europe) until 2013, when they made a collaboration with System 7 (Steve Hillage and his wife). Few outside of Japan had heard of them. They were formed in 1996 by former Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto, Bondage Fruit electric violinist Yuji Katsui, and synthesizer/effects technician Tatsuki Masuko. In addition, they have two drummers ( Yasuhiro Yoshigaki and Youichi Okabe. The bass player is Jin Harada. The line up has been very stable and the band has developed its own unique style over the years. This is the first time I have ever written an article describing a bands entire history and music catalog.
The bands first release Pico (1998), was a quite experimental piece of work with lots of experiments in electronic percussion, space soundscapes, etc. The basis for the direction the band would head later is evident later in the record but this is almost like trance techno but real drums and bass playing a very repetitive Neu like groove over which there is some spacey violin mixed in. Very cool stuff. A 12” record was released prior to the CD with the tracks Vitamin and Cisco on it. I have never seen this in real life.
In 1999, the band released the Imago CD. Horses and Kamara fromMattah starts off with some bells. At 3mins the track takes a radical change with a repeated guitar and bass line that slowly evolves as some synths bubble and gurgle in the background. IT devolves into some strange stuff as far as the drums and the mix. Trippy and a long track over 18 mins long. Numa is a very trippy track with all sorts of strange stuff going on but one very melodic flute like track (violin?) running through it.. The CD ends with Kamara. This is probably the bands most experimental album with some drum and bass like elements.
The band was pretty active in 2001 with a split release with DCPRG, the new studio album Sai and then TONIC, a really excellent double live CD from 2001 and takes the best songs from their two concerts in New York City. It was mixed by Bill Laswell. The opening track on CD2, Cisko is just amazing space rock and reminds me of my own band, Øresund Space Collective. Sai has 4 tracks in 40mins and starts off quite spacey with some wind, violin but still some intense percussion as it slowly glides and takes form and the lots of spacey sounds shooting around the soundscape as the violin takes the lead on the opening track.. Vida starts with some percussion and then suddenly at about 3mins really kicks in full strength with violin and rest of the band. Great bass playing on this track as it goes through two phases where it comes back to where it started with just percussion. Rano starts with a synthesizer loop and some windy static as some other sounds slowly layer in and get mixed around in the soundscape. The last song Seer, is nearly all percussion based with some really intense cymbal playing and the occasional entrance of some keyboards or guitar or violin.. it is hard to tell but quite experimental. I never heard the split release with DCPRG, so I can’t tell you about that one..
In 2002 the band released the Flage CD as well as another live CD, Live At Liquid Room 2001.05.16 (I finally managed to get this one!). The band has released at least 5 limited live CDs from their concerts over the years. Anyway, Flage was a long CD with 6 tracks spread over 70mins. It starts off with Canvas as it starts slowly with some beautiful violin and then the drummers kick in and there are some super cool spaced out synthesizer sounds. That track was 14mins. Sukhna has some really amazing violin playing as the band just really build up the track.. Great stuff and cool spacey synths at times also. Canoa is slow and has a lot of funny sounds as a synth line repeats over and over. No intense drumming on this one after that last mindblower.. Spica starts off quite relaxed with some nice violin over the layers of synthesizers. The drums keep a normal slow rhythm until about 2 mins when the bass player kicks in and the track takes a left turn in a totally different direction, almost like dub music but not quite. Na-X is a very slow, relaxing and beautiful track and there are no drums until 6 mins and then a really cool bass line takes the track in a sort of strange funk-dub weirdness direction. It stays pretty spaced out though. Mov is very floating with no drums, just synths, some bass, and the violin comes in around 7mins and around 9 mins it starts to build up and the percussion come into the picture and things get a bit more intense but still not real drums but then it all fades away around 15mins. Overall this album was a bit more relaxed and spacey.
Then Mon, came out in 2004. This CD had a really cool cover and contained 6 tracks. Urma starts off like a spaced out piano jazz track with the fender Rhodes piano taking the lead, even though one is not listed. Later Yuji takes over with the violin. The track stays quite jazzy but also some spacey sounds mixed in here and there and the drummers also take some solos. Perhaps he is using the Yamaha DX7 for this Fender Rhodes sound? I like the fact that the two synth players list the instruments: Roland SH09, Roland SH100, Juno 106… Around 5 and half mins it is time for Seiichi to unleash some guitar as well as it really becomes like a jazz improve jam. Cool stuff. Loquix is one of the rare tracks that starts with a guitar but then becomes what I would call the regular high energy Rovo track but then this disintegrates around 5mins into a very spaced out section where the drums and synths are the main focus and then bam, straight back into a high energy piece with floating synths and violin. Haoma starts with a really cool synthesizer, very sci fi movie like. The bass and drums come in next with the violin as the track slowly grows. After a beautiful violin solo the track devolves into an almost tribal drum jam, which is really cool. Nov starts with some delay guitars, intense drumming and bass before a rather short 6min track takes off. Saraca starts with some almost new age like synthesizers. After a long violin solo the track dies down to just some spaced out sounds and fast drum beats, could be synthesized or real, a bit tribal. It all starts to build again with another violin solo as the rest of the band raises the tempo once again. The track ends gently around 10mins. Reom is the last track and starts with a nice repeated guitar line and then some intense drumming as it takes you on your last journey. A really brilliant CD.
The band came back to Europe in 2004 and played in Belgium and this was released in 2005 as the Live At Magasin 4 - 2004.06.04 Brussels, Belgium CD. This 4 song CD has a quite raw sound but what a massive performance. There is a lot more guitar playing on this live show than nearly anything Rovo have released. Seiichi is just awesome and the 17min version of Cisko that ends the CD just blew my mind. Very powerful and psychedelic! I highly recommend hunting this one down despite the more raw and less produced sound.
The next studio album was Condor in 2006 in a beautiful digipack format and contained 3 interconnected pieces. The band was now down to a 6 piece after the synthesizer player, Koji left the band. The first piece is called Aires. It starts off with a simply strummed guitar and beautiful violin. A synth slowly makes its appearance with a sort of annoying high pitch that is sustained and then the bass comes in and the synths get really spaced just as the drummer enter the scene. This is a very easy going but beautiful track that slowly builds as all the players come together to create their magic. Some of it is a bit jazzy the way the guitar and keyboards are played over the slow rumbling bass and steady drums, with the violin mostly taking the lead. I like the way the space sound builds towards the end as the track remains very melodic. This track was quite long, nearly 20mins! The 2nd track is n’Popo. This one starts off with the bass taking the lead as some bells ring in, some synths slowly grow from very low in the mix to more dominant and everyone slowly works into their place. I don’t know but I am guessing a lot of their songs are recorded live in the studio with not that many overdubs! At around 3mins it becomes pretty funky but in a very slow way. Cool guitar and bass. Around 7mins the track fades out into space and all sorts of stuff goes on and is experimented with before the track bounces back to life as it leads directly into the 3rd and last track of Condor. This track starts off and is quite relaxed like the opening one and very melodic. A cool album and a very different vibe than Mon. Very different.
Also in 2006 the LIVE at 京大西部講堂 2004.07.18 CD/DVD was released and this was really amazing. This was recorded in a club on a very hot night and featured most of the tracks from the Mon CD as well as two from Flage.. It also has an extra track, one of my favorites, Cisco, from their show in Belgium from 2004. They for sure improvise live as Seiichi plays a lot more solo guitar that on the records. Sounds is great and it is well filmed but as they use mostly all close ups you don’t get to really appreciate the cool visuals but you can see how much the band is sweating. It looks like it was really hot. Great show.. The video and the sound of the extra track, Cisco from Belgium is quite low quality compared to the dvd and take from the video camera audio and not a mulittrack recording but what a cool and great song.
In 2007 the band made another collaboration and this ended up as the release: Rovo with Alejandro Franov, Fernando Kabusacki, Santiago Vazquez - LIVE at 東京キネマ倶楽部 7／7 2006 (2xCD) (2007). This CD is just one long track that lasts 39 mins. The extra musicians are from Argentina. Alejandro plays additional keyboards, sitar, sanshin and Irish flute, while Fernando adds another guitar and Santiago percussion and singing. The piece starts off very slow and building with some wind, percussion and people testing the ground, so to speak. It is remains quite dreamy as the keyboards and violin slowly enter and the drummers creep up behind the others and the first hints of the sitar appear around 4mins. A really cool guitar kicks in around 6 mins and the vibe changes a bit. By 10mins a solid groove is going and around 13mins Santiago starts to sing a bit. Around 20 mins it is like a sort of jazz piece the way the piano is played the interplay with the musicians. Around 30mins, they have this really cool slow groove going with great percussion and Santiago starts to sing again for a while. The track has a slow spacey ending like the beginning. I really enjoyed this CD.
2008 brought the next studio album, Nuou. This CD comes in a very beautiful digipack. The CD features 5 tracks and some new instruments are introduced. For instance, Jin, the bass player plays didgeridoo, harmonica and kalimba. Yuji plays viola as well. I found it a bit funny that they say all songs written by Rovo, except tracks 1, 3, 4 and 5, where they credit specific musicians in the band. They should just say track 2 written by Rovo and then credit the specific people for all the other tracks. This is just a funny detail on the difference between English and Japanese. Anyway, Koo starts things off with a simple guitar riff and then some synths start to bubble up here and there as the rest of the band start to join in. It is funky but is a strange way with some cool delays on the violin. This is a really psychedelic track and the funky vibe just increases with the guitar playing while the others just space out. Ouo starts with the keyboard as the drummers slowly appear and other synths sounds bubble up behind. A bit later the guitar comes in an around 3mins Jin plays the harmonica! A very cool groove is going now and this track lasts over 12 mins and slowly fades out of the last minute and directly into the track Melodia. This one is slow, melodic and features some beautiful playing by Yuji. The drums build up to be quite intense as we soon reach the 10min mark, while the melodic beauty of the track is retained. Agora brings back some more intensity but around 4 mins it gets very spacey and quiet and then takes off one last time. Cool dynamics in this track. Cado is the last song on the album and again quite some funk and dub thrown into the mix. There is some really great stuff on this record.
Also in 2009 the band released another DVD from the MDT festival in Japan from May 2008. This is an amazing DVD. They start playing before it is dark at this huge outdoor amphitheater and it slowly get dark and the lights and projections are just amazing for this concert and the band has a great energy. The set is more of a mix of tracks from Nuou and older and nothing from Condor for instance. Great sound on this as well. I like this DVD a lot.
When 2010 rolled around the band put out the album Ravo. Tanger starts things off with a more intensely mixed synthesizer than normal and a cool smooth mid pace groove. The violin playing is also very melodic and playing into the sounds of the synth. Quite groovy.. About 7mins in there is an intense solo that could be harmonica, violin or guitar depending on how you want to hear it!! At the end of the solos it devolves into a drum-percussion jam and then the violin comes back again. Great track and 13mins long. Eclipse is next and starts quite smooth and with great drumming and playing with the keys, violin and guitar all slowly noodling away and finding the space in the great growing rhythm and it reaches a peak at 5 and half mins and then comes down and changes directions. Baal has an almost techno like synth and Moroccon like violin line and a bass line that is challenging the track to take off. This is a super cool song with many layers. The drums are no so complex and driving the track, letting the other instruments especially the violin move the piece forward. It is not that often there are long keyboard solos in Rovo songs but that was a great solo that followed the violin. I wish there were more guitar solos on the records but he plays more live! Amazing song and you can hear it below. RMD is next and this starts slow and spacey. As the track grows there is a lot of guitar on this track, which is nice and Seiichi takes a long solo with some nice delay guitar. As the track passes the 10min mark, the track is really uptempo with the violin really leading the way but lots of cool spacey synths in the background on this one. Sino+ ends the CD with a slowly repeated bass, guitar and keyboard line as it slowly gets a bit faster and faster. Every record these guys make is pretty interesting.
In 2012, the band released the dub version of Ravo, simply called Ravo Dub. It came in a larger than normal size heavy cardboard sleeve with the CD inside and no booklet or much information. The synthesizer player Tatsuki and violin extrordinare, Yuji, mixed the dub versions of the tracks 1,2 and 5. Guitarist Seiichi mixed tracks 3 and 4 at a different studio. They did a pretty cool job on this and it is pretty psychedelic with a lot of long delays primarily on the percussive instruments and messing about with some of the synths as well.
In 2013, the bands next studio album Phase was released. It
In 2013, the band released a CD single collaboration with Steve Hillage and his wife (System 7), called Hinotori and it featured 5 tracks. Some of it was System 7 remixes of Rovo songs (Hinotori and Eclipse) and others were just Rovo tracks including the edit version of Hinotori as well as the awesome track Batis from the Phase CD, I just reviewed above. The last track on the single is a 3rd version of Hinotori remixed by Evan Marc. This was not the last of this project though. In 2014, a full length record called Rovo and System 7- Phoenix Rising was released. As you might expect this album is quite a bit more electronic. It is basically Rovo performing material written by Steve and Miquette except the interpretation of the Mahuvishnu Orchestra track called Meeting of the Spirits. Sometimes there are some techno beats mixed into the live drumming but mostly it is pure Rovo with some additional guitar from Steve and synths from Miquette. I found the CD to be very cool and enjoyed it a lot and yet something fresh and different from the band.
This also saw the band return to play some concerts in Europe and the UK for the first time in many years. I was so unhappy I missed the London show in March 2015.
The band has laid low in 2015 and not released any new albums and played a few shows (see the clip below). There is a video of them performing at the MDT Festival (See below), where the 2008 DVD was filmed and the band has some shows coming up in Japan in December. I am sure they will have a new record in 2016, which I very much look forward to hear. I would love for my band, Øresund Space Collective, to get a chance to play in Japan with Rovo! On a tour or at their MDT festival in Tokyo! We play all instrumental space rock and I think the fans over there would love it! A good chance for Rovo to turn on their fans to a new band. A dream would come true for me as I love Japan and also Rovo!!
1st 12'EP「VITAMIN!/CISCO! (1998)
PICO! CD (1998)
2nd 12'EP「HORSES!/KMARA! (1999)
Imago CD (1999)
PYRAMID CD (2000)
ROVO / DCPRG Split CD (2001)
SAI CD (2001)
FLAGE CD (2002)
Live At Liquid Room 2001.05.16 (CD) (2002)
Live At Hibiya-Yaon 2003.05.05 - Man Drive Trance Special- (2xCD/DVD) (2003)
MON CD (2004)
Live At Magasin 4 - 2004.06.04 Brussels, Belgium (CD, Album) (2005)
CONDOR CD (2006)
LIVE at 京大西部講堂 2004.07.18 CD (2006) (Also on DVD)
Rovo with Alejandro Franov, Fernando Kabusacki, Santiago Vazquez - LIVE at 東京キネマ倶楽部 7／7 2006 (2xCD) (2007)
NUOU CD (2008)
LIVE at 日比谷野音2008.05.05 ～MDT FESTIVAL～ DVD (2009)
RAVO CD (2010)
TOKYO session 2009.9.22 (2010)
LIVE at 日比谷野音2007.05.05 ～MDT FESTIVAL 2007～
RAVO DUB CD (2011)
Phase CD (2012)
Rovo And System 7 - Hinotori CD single (2013)
Rovo And System 7 - Phoenix Rising CD (2014)
Monday, November 23, 2015
I arrived early to help the organiser Kasper, with the multitrack recording of the bands. The sound guy was very cool and helpful and the group Tau was doing some soundchecking at the time. IT was quite cold and after a while I realized were actually inside a large freezer! The venue is a place where 100’s of pig carcasses were probably hanging many years ago…
Anyway, I set up the hard disc recorder and all seem to be ok. Jürgen (from Holland), Sabine and I went out to get something to eat at Warpigs. We had some BBQ and a really nice beer. The Bearvertown Neck Oil IPA is so excellent.. When we got back, the Kungens Män guys had arrived and were soundchecking. I had to make some new tracks as now we needed to use 24 tracks as the sound man had spread the channels out he was using, even though the total was only about 14.
Kungens Män started on time at 18:50 and played a 40min set of 3 tracks. The first two were quite spacey and the last one was more heavy and like the stuff they played in Stockholm with ØSC the weekend before. Really nice guys and great set and sound. Only about 30 people saw them play though. They had the new record for sale and it looked cool. I had no money to buy it though.
A new Danish band called Wizards of Love was next and there were quite a few people for this band. Someone described as like Jesus and Mary Chain but they were more slick and people said they sounded like Oasis. I did not like them at all. The opening track the was just the guitar player with a very cool sound and singing with some basic drums and that was pretty interesting but then it was like mainstream 80s rock music. Nothing to do with psychedelic rock at all.
The UK band, the Telescopes was next. They were apparently started in the later 80s but everyone in the band except the one guitar player were for sure born in the 90s!! They were not hanging out at the festival at all as I never heard people speaking with an English accent. When their time was up, they emerged from the basement and took too long to set up and played over time as well, which was annoying but what a hell of a noise did they make. Very wild and the singer and both guitar players spent a good amount of time playing out in the middle of the audience. They played about an hour of wild noise rock with the occasional vocal or screams. No guitar solos, just a lot of guitar torture. It was far out…
It was a great first night with a lot of diverse bands and only one that did not really fit at all. Sadly, there were issues with the electricity supply (dips in power) that were affecting the hard disc recorder and the light guys computer and the soundguys outboard gear. I hope they can solve that tomorrow. We only had partial recordings from most of the bands.
We arrived about 5mins after 18 and ET Tumanson was already started. I rushed to set up the hard disc recorder again and managed to get most of his set. He was great as usual. Very passionate performer of raw, nasty, real blues music. Deep from the soul of Iceland! I enjoyed that a lot and there were about 30 people here.
The next couple of bands were not that interesting at all. Keine Fear for Flanger. This was not really my thing. Two guitar and drums One guy playing a 60s psych guitar sound and the other more normal strummed guitar. There were more people today and the guy doing the visuals was mixing in some movies into it and it looked really cool.
Fuji Dream was just a guy playing guitar and singing along to programmed stuff on a computer. We were very bored with this and it was not my kind of music and not psychedelic. Not that many people showed a lot of interest. There were also not that many people yet, perhaps 40. They had closed the door today so it was much warmer inside despite being colder outside.
They had changed the order around so the Portuguese band, 10,000 Rusos would end the night and The Myrrors would play earlier. The Myrrors were awesome. They played like 2 long jammed out tracks. The audience and everyone, even the band was high from their great performance. Wow.. Hard disc recorder was working well today so only a few mins of Fuji dream was missed so far.
10,000 Rusos were really nice guys and we had a chat with them outside. I did not get to see at the Reverence Festival this summer, where they played. Anyway, there were a three piece with a drummer that sings. He plays this sort of snare, floor tom rhythm much of the time while he and the bass player drive the music hard and this left a lot of space for the guitar player to just freak out and make a lot of crazy noise at times and at other times, a more riffs. They were really good to build up to near climaxes but they never climaxed which was strange and disappointing. I just wanted them to go into a great guitar solo so many times when they had pushed it to a quite intense moment and then they never did. We were right in the front and enjoyed the show a lot… The Myrrors stole the show today though. Wow. They were great.
A lot of people with headaches today as we all stumbled home at like 2:30. It was fun though..... The snow was very intense when we packed up the car with the gear and merch. Very nasty, cold and windy with a mix of rain and huge snowflakes. Very wet!!
Agusa was next. They have played at nearly all the Copenhagen psych event. It was great to see the guys and talk about our gig together in Athens. Such cool and nice people. Chino (3AM, La ira de Dios) and his wife had arrived and it was really great to talk and meet him again after all these years… Anyway,.. Agusa had great sound after they sorted out the flute issues. They played a cool show but they were very unhappy with the stage sound. It was an omen for ØSC later.. Great concert.
The multitrack recorder seem to be working well today, so far, but this would not be the fate..
Next up was a Swedish band called Dead Vibrations. They were a young good looking four piece with a female drummer and a lot of energy. They had a lot of energy and put a lot into their performance but musically you could hardly tell one song from the next and besides using a few effects pedals to make it a bit more psychedelic, it was mainly just noisy rock and roll with a lot of attitude and no guitar solos.. People liked their short 30min set.
Øresund Space Collective, my band was next and we had a lot to set up. I have no idea how long it took to set up and we could not get the sound right. Monitor situation and the electronic percussion stuff was a mess. No one could hear him and the first half of the show the guitar players could not hear each other and Mogens and I were having the synths going in and out and I had some serious issues with my modular making noise and I could not sort it out as the sound was a mess.. We played a very intense show though and people really liked it. Jacob, a new guitar player was awesome.. Very cool… It was well received and many people said we were the best band and we saved this day from being quite lame… Listen to the show below and you an decide... Sadly, our multitrack recording was fucked...
Thanks to Kasper, Daniel (visuals), Stefan, all the amazing volunteer staff, the hard working soundman, etc.. for making this a fun event inside the meat locker!!!!
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Yesterdays Breed is a new 60’s inspired duo of Claus Rosenblad and Sigurd Djurhuus, who between then play all the instruments, with Claus handling all the lead vocals and drums and Sigurd all the guitars and bass. Both guys play keyboards. The album features 12 songs ranging from 1 ½ mins to 4 ½ mins in length. Clouds of No Time starts things off and takes you back to 1966! These guys are so amazing and taking you back to the 60s with lyrics, the style of the tracks, the sound of the drums. Hints of Love, the Monkeys, 13th floor elevators, the Doors, etc… flood through the veins and instruments of these guys. Love me leave me is a really short track at 1:27 mins in length.. Over before you know it and into Shades of Night, which features a sort of guitar freak out at the end. Thoughts of You is a really fantastic song. Love the organ, vocal and vibe on this track.. Morning speeds things up and has a nice fuzz guitar. The Morning After changes the vibe a bit and has this very nice bouncing bass line. I Found out is a short organ drive piece to end side A. Side B starts off with the fuzz guitar track, Watch out Tomorrow! What will you do has a sort of darker vibe and a really nice guitar on this track. Stand up Tall reminded me of Jefferson Airplane. Stop and Realize reminds me of LOVE.. That is it…. Side one is the more rocking side while side B is the more moody side of the 60s.. Ok.. these guys are not doing anything new but they have written a collection of great songs that make you happy when you crank them up. Made me smile. Check them out!