In his liner notes for the album, Michel Henritzi writes that these Gu-N recordings situate the group within a broader trajectory of free improvisation and collective sound within Japan – Taj Mahal Travellers, East Bionic Symphonia, Marginal Consort, each of whom sprung, in many ways, from the radical vision and creativity of Takehisa Kosugi. But there’s a unique spirit here that aligns Gu-N with these predecessors, while also marking out singular territory.
Kosakai’s background in noise, via his participation in Hijokaidan and Incapacitants, can be heard in the unrelenting oscillations and heavyweight drones that purr throughout each of these four tracks. Both Kosakai and Nagakubo were members of C.C.C.C., perhaps the clearest precursors to Gu-N in their psychedelic density, though Gu-N trade in C.C.C.C.’s volcanic energy for a more tempered, sensuous exploration of tone and time.
There’s also a brutish element to Gu-N’s improvisations – see the saturated spectrum, rumbling and phasing throughout the album, and the crushing, almost Amon Düül-esque drum tattoos that Takahashi pounds out on the second track (recorded in 1998), punctuating the music from deep inside its hallucinatory murk. Elsewhere, as on the third track (one of three recorded in 1994), Kosakai’s cello scrapes out armfuls of buzz-tone as Sawada’s bouzouki trills out, elastic and vibrant, across spindrift electronics and lung-spun winds.
What’s most impressive here, though, is the way each player, formidable musicians in their own right, defers to the might of the communal and the collective. The quintet broke up in 1998, leaving behind scant recorded evidence – just one, self-titled CD, on Pataphysique, released in 1995. This LP is a most welcome addition to the small but blissful body of recorded work made public by this mysterious quintet of spirit channelers.