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Far Out - Nihonjin CD (album) cover

NIHONJIN

Far Out

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.86 | 62 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While most of the psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s was a European and American affair oozing out of every nook and cranny of those continents, it's easy to forget that other nations like Japan had their own local scenes making an impact. FAR OUT was one of the many Japanese bands that took the influences of the English and American psychedelic scenes and added a new slant to them. FAR OUT only released one album "日本人 (Nihonjin)" (which means Japanese people), but continued on afterwards as Far East Family Band and not only released four more albums but was where Masanori Takahashi or better known as Kitaro got his start, so in effect FAR OUT is a pretty important band in the historical development of Japanese psychedelia and ambient music. The sole album of FAR OUT originally only contained two long sprawling tracks indicative of the excessive prog scene of the year 1973 when "日本人 (Nihonjin)" was released with ties not only to the heavy psych of the 60s but found themselves heavily smitten with the likes of Pink Floyd and other more progressive psychedelic and Indo-raga bands. While many of these bands were going for the jugular in terms of complexity was concerned FAR OUT took a much gentler approach and composed two lengthy tracks that utilized serene melodies as their vehicle of compositional style. The result was much like Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" which came out the very same year as the melodic development of "日本人 (Nihonjin)" isn't complex it all but it displays its magic in the ever changing dynamics that surround it.

"Too Many People" begins with a simple percussive beat sounding somewhat like a heartbeat and then gives way to a gusty wind as if the steady succession of rhythmic sounds were supplicating the gods to grant us an escapist's relief from the warmongering dimension called planet Earth. After a couple minutes a beautiful acoustic guitar slowly fades in as the atmospheric turbulence drifts away into the nether worlds. A beautiful chord progression builds slowly in a repetitive but highly melodic manner in a gentle nonchalant series of arpeggios. Finally after four minutes the vocalist joins in bringing melancholy and lament in the form of lyrics and then finally the tempo picks up ever so slightly. While vocals are utilized at different stages, the long 17 minute and 56 second track is mostly composed of instrumental passages that begin soft and easy and slowly ratchet up to staccato rock chords also including twangy Eastern influenced scales for enhancing the melody. In fact the mid-section reminds me a lot of "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes but of course this was 1973 long before Jack Black had music on his his horizons and never in the context of psychedelic rock . Close to the eleven minute mark the track becomes Indo-raga rock with a sitar twanging away as the lead instrument while the rock chords and tom-tom drum call continues to beckon the higher forces of the universe in some sort of ritualistic practice that induces a trance like state. At the twelve and a half minute mark it all comes crashing down and appears that the track has completed, but the acoustic guitar has different ideas and reverts to the opening arpeggios in slow speed while a Pink Floyd inspired guitar solo slowly eggs the track on to pick up steam again. The vocalist makes a reprise repeating the earlier lyrics and then the music plays for a while before the Floydian influences really take off towards the end as female vocalists do the oooo and aaah thing and ends with a huge power chord banter abruptly.

"日本人 (Nihonjin)" begins with gongs calling out as if a meditation practice were commencing in some Bhuddist temple in the Himalayas. This track sounds much more like German Krautrock as it begins with a hazy flurry of light drum activity and musical noodlings without form but a lone sitar steps in and steers the chaos into order as a tribal drum beat joins in and the two dominate the soundscape. As these two continue it sounds more like a classical Indian raga than anything related to psychedelic rock but they suddenly disappear, a guitar begins to strum a melodic chord progression and then power chords usher in the vocalist's English lyrics as the acoustic guitars gently rock back and forth building intensity slowly and surely until the Floydian guitar solos fly into the scene. Around seven minutes the Floydian influences suddenly acquiesce to a more jittery duet of guitars that transition the track into a slightly heavier feel with the tempo increasing a bit as well. A melodic solo carries the track on for a while but there is tension in the air as everything feels unresolved for quite some time keeping a very effective transitional stage on life support for a lengthy period but then at ten and a half minutes suddenly ends and is replaced by a more Japanese traditional sound which reminds me of a samisen type of sound but is obviously a sitar. Around thirteen minutes it suddenly ends the melodic dance and becomes drony. Then the vocalist starts to deliver a chant like vocal performance as the sitar becomes subordinate to his charismatic spell. The rock guitar and bass join in and add power to the chants as does backing drone-like vocalizations. The language is now in Japanese (previous English) and this musical style carries the track to its conclusion. The chants are repeated as if we have been transported to a bizarre cult ritual and are then suddenly in the middle of a rock concert as well. As all becomes a hypnotic trance of repeating lyrics that go from subdued to shouted, the guitar solos also flair up as do the back ground call and response type vocalizations. The intensity continues the 16:30 mark and then abruptly ends. This is where my CD ends but other earlier albums include an extra three minutes of unrelated music that sounds like a flute, a Hammond organ in a traditional Japanese musical fashion as if it's some outro. The impression with the abrupt ending version is that the gods have granted the praying beings their wish to be portaled up and away from the war ravaged Earth and allowed to spend their days in a more peaceful sector of the universe.

This album has been released many times. While the original release and some remastered versions such as the one i own contain only the two long epic tracks, there are some versions that contain seven bonus tracks. I have listened to these and they are of much inferior quality as the Pink Floyd influences are far too obvious and none of these tracks have the sublimeness of spirituality as do the two original lengthy tracks, so after having listened to all possible versions of this album, i have come to the conclusion that my 2010 Phoenix Records version is the best as it eliminates the extra three minutes from the title track and simple jettisons the inferior bonus tracks leaving the listener with the proper experience however if you're a purist go for the original. The bonus tracks are nice to hear but hardly essential. The two epic tracks IMHO indeed are.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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