Heretic / Hiro Kawahiro — Complete Works (Part 2)
Here is Part 2 of a career overview release called Complete Works by Heretic / Hiro Kawahiro. Check out Part 1 for a full introduction and reviews of the first half of the release.
Heretic — Drugging For M
Heretic's Drugging For M sees the official release of a track previewed on the rare Past In Future CD-R. The version there was recorded live-in-the-studio by Hiro Kawahara on his own, straight to a DAT recorder.
This version of the title track has Hiro-san's bandmate Robbin Lloyd on electric percussion. Hiro plays electric guitar, theremin, synthesizer, sampler, electronics, effects and computer programming. Alongside are guest musicians Kohzi Ishii on Chapman Stick and Masahiro Noda also on electric guitar.
They have produced a multi-sectioned long-form work. The extra musicians allow it to move more smoothly, and its arrangement feels more organic. The additional musicians add colour and energy. It makes the whole piece the most interesting of the Heretic tracks so far. There is Gamelan-like percussion, sweeping synths and fine guitar, amid seamlessly-integrated sections of ambience, industrial rock and electronica. It develops at its own pace but never feels slow, nor hurried. A mighty fine track.
The bonus track TD-7 is a short song of pulsing synths and off-the-beat percussion that gradually synchronises before it comes to an abrupt and dissatisfying stop. But to be honest this is overshadowed by the great title track.
Heretic's Drugging for M is especially worth a listen if you have any liking for Kosmiche electronica or are looking for a starting place in Heretic's back catalogue.
Hiro Kawahara and Heretic — Requiem (2022 Extended Version)
Hiro Kawahara and Heretic's Requiem (2022 Extended Version), is (it seems) a very personal recording for Hiro Kawahara. As well as revisiting his two previous recording projects Osiris and Astral Tempel, the original Requiem came out not long before the terrible tsunami of March 11, 2011. The re-release is dedicated to all the Japanese impacted by the tsunami. It is also dedicated to his friend and fellow musician Manuel Gottsching. The track order has been changed from the original 2010 CD version, and 14 tracks have been added.
The Osiris and Astral Tempel tracks on this extended release are selected from the cassette versions of Osiris' In The Mist Of Time (1980) and Astral Tempel live recordings, as they were Hiro-san's live project. So Requiem is a time machine for seeing how an artist's style transitions between projects.
With the track order, you can travel back in time, reliving Hiro-san's musical journey all the way back to his first project in 1980, Osiris and the live group, Astral Tempel.
But Requiem begins with two tracks credited to Hiro Kawahara. Spiral 1999 is a mix of keyboard-led ambience (Aki Kawahara guests on synthesiser) with guitar soundscapes and sustained controlled guitar solos. It switches around with thrumming bassy synths, floating electronics and guitar distortion. It works well and is one of Hiro-san's best.
The second track, Drugging For M: Edit Version 1997, is cleverly created from the 34-minute original. The same can be said of many of the tracks on the Requiem section of this release.
The reasons to have a listen to this though, are the early works. The Osiris tracks are a mix of short and rather good tracks. But with the unsettlingly-experimental Echo Troublant the wheels come off a bit. Parts work well, but overall, it doesn't hang together. The 1980s Osiris tracks are also worth a listen, miniatures of atmospheric melodies with some guest musicians helping, especially of note are the vocals of Akiki Yuki. Though none develop very far, they are eminently listenable in the way short soundtrack recordings are. Nine tracks are covered in eleven minutes.
With Astral Tempel there are two short tracks, followed by the near-20 minutes of Komische rock on Live (Gate to infinity - Steppin' Roll - Shadow Illusion). This was recorded in Kyoto at one of only five live gigs they did. Hiro-san has dedicated to this to his German friend, Manuel Gottsching (of Ash Ra Temple) who passed away in December 2022. Though the recording is only of average bootleg quality, it does demonstrate the power of the band (Hiro-san along with Ohtsuki on bass and Kojima on drums), and it wears the influence of Ash Ra Temple on its sleeve, which is no bad thing.
So, Hiro Kawahara and Heretic's Requiem 2022 Extended Version will be an enticing release for fans, as well as for the curious, containing, as it does, a mix of tracks that functions as a well-edited 'best of' and history lesson in one package.
Heretic — Live – Kyoto '85 And Tokyo '88 (2022 Remaster)
Heretic only managed to play live a total of five times, so this release is something of a treat for their fans. As you can see from the album title, Live – Kyoto '85 and Tokyo '88 (2022 Remaster), these have been languishing in the digital vaults for some time. These three tracks are previously unreleased.
On Ritsumeikan University Live (November, 4, 1985) the Heretic line up was the usual one of Tohru Ohta (synth, electric-guitar, guitar-synthesizer, electric-percussion), Robbin Lloyd (various acoustic-percussion, shakuhachi, keyboard) and the ever present Hiro Kawahara (electric-guitar, electric-violin, guitar-synthesizer, synthesizer, sampler and computer).
Unfortunately, for me at least, this hour-plus of music is another version of Do Heretick played live. Remastered from a mono source, Hiro-san has done his best to turn this into a reasonable bootleg standard recording. However, for me, the problems with this piece remain. It suffers from beard-stroking indulgence, it is boring and unengaging in its refusal to get any sort of groove or melody established. Between the meandering improvisations and the industrial thumping, guitar noise and violin scraping, my patience wears mightily thin.
The next two tracks are a rehearsal for and the Tokyo concert version of Do Heretick. Both of these versions, though not without some indulgent passages, have more structure and melody. Rehearsal Dor Tokyo Live (March 13, 1988) and Tokyo Live (March 19, 1988) feature two further musicians joining the core trio. On both tracks is Kazuya Takeuchi (sampler, electric guitar) and on Tokyo Live the bass of Chihiro S. gives some much-needed bottom-end to the recording.
On the Rehearsal for Tokyo Live Robbin Lloyd also plays a Japanese end-blown flute called a shakuhachi. This gives the opening section a warmer, organic feel and my got my hopes up that this would be more listenable. In the main it is, but I still don't think I will return to this track in the future. The shorter Tokyo Live manages to throw in some middle eastern harmonies. It is again overlong, but it does feature a more melodic coda.
Overall, Heretic's Live – Kyoto '85 and Tokyo '88 (2022 Remaster) is not a release to which I will ever return. A disappointing set of improvisations, one for hardcore Heretic fans.
Hiro Kawahara and Peter Frohmader — Hiro Kawahara and Peter Frohmader (Remaster 2022)
In 1998 Hiro-san collaborated with German multi-instrumentalist Peter Frohmader, who was a part of the German electronic scene from the late 1970s, founding and leading the dark electronic rock group Nekropolis. The line-up is Peter Frohmader (bass, synthesizer) and Hiro Kawahara (guitar, synthesizer, sound effects and 3D processing).
The collaboration was done, as this was the early years of the internet, via airmail and fax, with the work developed from CD-Rs sent by Peter Frohmader to Hiro-san. So, three of these four pieces were developed based on the tracks supplied by Peter Frohmader, with Hiro-san adding his trademark guitar and synth work to them.
The project went into digital limbo as Hiro-san effectively retired from music, moving from Kyoto to Tokyo, with his family and work taking up his time. With Peter F's sad passing he has made the effort to make these recordings available.
The first track, In The Mist Of Time, also appears on the album Past In Future. This track is anchored by Peter F's bass playing, thickening the sound. Here the synths sparkle, lines cross and weave until the tension breaks on the halfway mark. Gentle synths and slow, funky bass support guitar soundscapes with loud/quiet changes. This is a great track.
Unfortunately, the drummer on Sphinx Touch is uncredited. Like all the three remaining tracks, this is written by Peter F. It starts with a sample from a German TV programme or film that rises and falls in the mix throughout. It is joined by a slinky bass and drum groove, over which Hiro-san plays a fine guitar solo. A jazzy groove comes in later with Mellotron (or at least keys that sound like a Mellotron) and sweeping synth lines. It is engaging, spacey Komische.
Psyche overtones add to the gentle Komische of Virtual Nature's space-filled ambience. Hiro-san acknowledges that The Earth is a Peter P solo piece, with mid-paced drums, synth washes and bass developing a nice melodic ambience. The last track 9-13 features fast, sequenced synths, layered keys, squelchy bass and is a fine end to the album.
Hiro Kawahara and Peter Frohmader's eponymous album is one of the best in Hiro-san's back catalogue. Play loud.
Hiro Kawahara — Bonus Tracks
Finally, the last two tracks (out of 62) are released as bonus tracks. No details are provided as whether there are any guest musicians.
The first track is from Hiro-san's early project Astral Tempel, from 1980-82. Sequence (Shadow Illusion - Vista Under Light) is great slice of Komische rock. Bass and drums set this off, synths build, Hiro-san's guitar has a sax-like sound to it, switching from speaker to speaker. The guitar sound changes as it solos on, while voices fade in and out as the tempo increases. It fades out into the second part, Vista Under Light, introduced with cymbal washes, synths and drums. Keyboards lead the melody, as a beat grows in tempo. Again, Astral Tempel have a great Komische sound, and this is some of my favourite work in Hiro-san's back catalogue.
Next is Heretic's 1984-1998 Sequence, which offers various sections of other Heretic tracks focussing on the synth and guitar work (I think, at this point I'm a bit Heretic-ed out). This works well with its mix of Komische synths, a section of chugging guitars, ambient tonalities and melodic. Worth checking out.
Listening to someone's entire back catalogue, one with which I was unfamiliar, was quite a challenge. There are a number of works in amongst the 62 tracks of the Complete Works that are well worth listening to, and only a few that I didn't like. So please investigate and see what you think.