Four legends of the Japanese Avant-Garde: Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Reiko & Tori Kudo

Date: 6, 7 & 8 December, 2010
Venue: Cafe OTO, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston London E8 3DL
Tel: 020 7923 1231
Organiser: Cafe OTO

Maher Shalal Hash Baz kick off a three day stint at OTO featuring its enigmatic leader and cult figure in the Japanese underground Tori Kudo, his partner Reiko Kudo and musical mavericks Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M. The second evening will see all four play either solo or collaborate in different configurations. The final day will be led by Otomo Yoshihide & Sachiko M with special guests from the UK and beyond. A towering figure in the

Japanese underground music scene, Otomo’s projects – frequently incorporating Sachiko M’s banks of sine waves – embrace noise, minimal improvisation, free jazz and experimental rock.

Maher Shalal Hash Baz is the artistic alter ego of Tori Kudo, a Japanese naivist composer and musician. The name is taken from Maher-shalal-hash-baz in the Book of Isaiah verses 8:1 and 8:3, and translates roughly as “Hurrying to the spoil, he has made haste to the plunder” or “Be quick if you steal something”.

Tori Kudo has been cagey about details of his life before MSHB. He was once a member of a shadowy, revolutionary political party in Japan. However he gave up on politics since becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. He also works as a ceramicist in his hometown in the remote Japanese island of Shikoku.

In his childhood he played classical and jazz piano – learning from the local jazz-kissa owner – as well as playing organ in a Protestant church. His other musical influences included T.Rex and saxophonist Steve Lacy. He and his wife Reiko Kudo joined a band called Worst Noise when they moved to Tokyo; other members dropped out, leaving Tori and Reiko as a duo, known simply as Noise. Under this name they released an album called ‘Tenno’ (trans. ‘Emperor’).

The impetus for Maher Shalal Hash Baz came when Tori met euphonium player Hiroo Nakazaki on a building site, and found that they shared an interest in the music of Mayo Thompson and Syd Barrett. Apart from the core trio (Tori on guitar and vocals, Reiko as vocalist, Hiroo with his euphonium), the lineup has always been fluid frequently featuring untrained musicians who sometimes seem only to have the barest grasp of their instrument.

After a couple of self-released cassette albums, the Japanese Org label released Maher Goes To Gothic Country (1991) and the 83-track box set Return Visit to Rock Mass (1996).

The group’s profile outside Japan became much higher when Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels signed them to his Geographic label. They have released two albums on Geographic: the compilation From a Summer to Another Summer (An Egypt to Another Egypt) (2000) and the 41-track Blues Du Jour (2003); plus a number of EPs on various labels, including ‘Souvenir De Mauve’ (Majikick, 1999), ‘Maher On Water’ (Geographic, 2002), ‘Faux Depart’ (Yik Yak, 2003) and Live Aoiheya January 2003 (Chapter Music, 2005). Their most recent releases are ‘L’autre Cap’ (K Records, 2008) and the 171 track collection of musical miniatures ‘C’est La Derniere Chanson’ (K Records, 2009).

Tori Kudo has resisted defining the sound of his band, although in an interview with Tim Footman in Careless Talk Costs Lives magazine (August 2002) he declared “I am punk.” There are also elements of folk, psychedelia and free jazz; the band’s tendency to ask members of the audience to join in adds a sense of danger in live performance. Perhaps the best description comes from his own sleevenotes to From a Summer to Another Summer: “Error in performance dominates MSHB cassette which is like our imperfect life.”


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