Japan, 1974, avant-folk / chamber folk

山谷初男 & はちみつぱい山谷初男の放浪詩集: 新宿 (Yamaya Hatsuo no Horo Shishu: Shinjuku): What happens when a clueless north-country boy comes to the big city and gets swept up in its charms and its filth, when the sake flows like a Tokyo river and the romantic relationships are as entangled as the metropolis’ seedy backstreets and as obscured as the invisible stars? You get a wonderful album that’s as much theater as it is music, peppered with just the right amount of found sounds and narration. Genre-wise, it’s all over the place, and that’s just what it should be: but that sole, mournful, dark-cabaret violin holds it all together. This album is basically one long love poem to Shinjuku, taking the good with the bad and embracing it all. And if you ever visit Shinjuku, you’ll understand.

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