Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


December 9, 2017
The Music of Keiji Haino in the Year 2017
Toward the end of the year, 1995, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House decided to learn HTML in order to create websites of their own. Their first project was An Unofficial Keiji Haino Homepage. (In 1995, home-made websites were called "homepages".) An Unofficial Keiji Haino Website is still maintained at the Poison Pie Publishing House today. The Haino discography currently numbers over 240 entries. One wonders if, after so many recordings, there is anything left to be learned from Haino, or if, on the contrary, the maintenance of the site and the hunting down of each new recording as it is issued has simply become a pleasant, but ultimately unenlightening, habit. In order to answer this question, we collectively review here the eleven recordings, which include a contribution from Haino, officially released or reissued in the year 2017. The recordings appear in the approximate chronological order in which they were released.

January 27, 2017
Keiji Haino, Jozef Dumoulin and Teun Verbruggen - Miracles of Only One Thing (Sub Rosa Records, SR 439LP, Belgium, lp, also available on cd,

Haino was born May 3, 1952. In 2017, he turned 65 years old. His hair, once black, while still long, is now white. Through-out his career he has made a point of continuously expanding his circle of collaborators. Many of his live performances, especially in Tokyo, are one-off ensembles, never to be repeated, much less documented on an officially released recording. In this capacity, he serves as a nexus in a network connecting experimental and improvising musicians. Following the music of Haino serves as a constant introduction to new musicians. This is one of the appeals of the Haino discography. Of course, Haino is not alone in this respect; many practitioners of non-idiomatic improvisation, especially relatively well-established ones serve a similar role. One need think no further than the vast and varied discographies of Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Joëlle Léandre, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and many others.

On Miracles of Only One Thing, Haino is joined by the Belgian jazz musicians, Jozef Dumoulin (drums, electronics) and Teun Verbruggen (electric piano). Here the term jazz is used in the broadest sense, to indicate a kind of music that no other conventional genre is willing to claim. Certainly, almost no one, upon listening to Miracles of Only One Thing, would opt, as their first choice, to describe it as jazz.

The work of this trio has not been previously documented. On this record, Haino is credited with guitar and vocals, as well as with flute and gongs. The record presents a collective improvisation that eschews traditional melody and rhythm. Of course, with the presence of a drummer, a rhythm exists in the music but is not confined to a steady pattern in which all of the beats in the sequence are realized. There is no immediate comparison in Haino's repertoire to say, "This records sounds like this other record." This is an inherent part of the appeal. The best possible outcome of the coming together of musicians who have not previously worked together is new creation, unpredicted by earlier, individual efforts, though certainly not unrelated.


March, 2017
Keiji Haino, Fushitsusha - unheard pieces of the late XXth and early XXIst centuries / vocations de l'ombre Haino Keiji une autre voix/voie du rock (les presses du réel, ISBN: 978-2-84066-811-4, France, cd+book,

"unheard pieces of the late XXth and early XXIst centuries" is a cd that came packaged with the French-language book about Keiji Haino, titled, Vocations de l'ombre Haino Keiji une autre voix/voie du rock, written by Bruno Fernandes.

The cd provides a listener with two twenty-plus minute tracks of solo Haino on electric guitar (1990) and on vocals and serunai, a Malaysian/Indonesian bamboo wind instrument (2001). The cd also contains three Fushitsusha tracks from a time (2002) when the ordinarily guitar/drums/bass trio was composed only of Haino on guitar and Yasushi Ozawa (1958-2008) on bass. This cd is a treat because it offers three different examples of Haino's work, including his "trademark" solo electric guitar sound, multilayered vocal improvisations, and Fushitsusha's experimental rock.

As for the book, surely it possesses its own merits, though, lacking any fluency in French, we are not competent to review them here.


May 24, 2017
Various Artists, including Keiji Haino, Fushitsusha - Tokyo Flashback P.S.F. - Psychedelic Speed Freaks (Super Fuji Discs, FJSP 270/271, Japan, cdx2,

Hideo Ikeezumi, the founder of the PSF label, which released so many seminal recordings of Haino, Fushitsusha and other artists of the Japanese underground, has died in early 2017. An obituary by Alan Cummings is posted in The Wire here and an obituary by Peter Kolovos and Steve Lowenthal is posted on NPR here.

Beginning in 1991, the P.S.F. label issued a series of compilations featuring its artists with the title "Tokyo Flashback". This 2017 release is a memorial to Hideo Ikeezumi and features twenty-two tracks contributed by artists who appeared on the label. In the original series, Haino appeared both as a solo artist and as a member of Fushitusha. On this release, Haino also contributes one solo track and one Fushitsusha track. The solo track features Haino performing on his beloved hurdy gurdy, an instrument with which he released, from 1995 to 2008, no fewer than four full-length albums of solo material. While the personnel on the Fushitsusha track are not given, it sounds like the "classic" trio with Yasushi Ozawa (bass) and Jun Kosugi (drums) that existed from the early 1990's through 1997.

Of course, as is the purpose of compilations, the highlights are not limited to one artist. A star-studded slate of musicians from the Japanese experimental underground contributed tracks to this tribute.


June 16, 2017
Keiji Haino - Watashi dake? (Black Editions, BE-000, (originally released 1981), United States, lp+mp3dl,

The label, Black Editions, acquired the rights to the P.S.F. catalog with the intent of delivering audiophile-grade vinyl remastered reissues. Haino's first solo album, Watashi dake?, is the first release from Black Editions. The original 1981 lp was not actually released on P.S.F. but was reissued by P.S.F. on cd in 1993. Earlier this year, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House wrote a review of this 2017 reissue and the simultaneously released retrospective interview, to which we direct the interested reader: here.


June 25, 2017
Yumiko Tanaka - Music Performance "KIYOH" (Ftarri/Meenna, meenna-986dvd, Japan, dvd,

Haino has been asked to sit in as a guest musician on a wide variety of records ranging from the debut album of Magical Power Mako (1973) to appearances on albums headlined by the likes of John Zorn (1993), Fred Frith (1991) or Peter Brötzmann (2013). Often his guest appearances are on the albums of lesser known Japanese artists such as Reiko Kudo (2008) or Yamada Chisato (1996). His presence often serves as an introduction for these musicians to new ears.

Yumiko Tanaka is a gidayu shamisen player active in the fields of contemporary classical and improvised music as well as traditional Japanese music. She has been part of the Japanese experimental music scene from the early 1990's, appearing on several of Otomo Yoshihide's Ground Zero albums. This dvd contains a forty-eight minute performance art piece, featuring Tanaka and including music from both Yoshihide and Seiichi Yamamoto. Appended to the dvd is one hour of video recordings of pieces from five different live performances. These include a duet with Haino (percussion, voice) and a duet with Kazuhisa Uchihashi (guitar).


Summer, 2017
Various Artists, including Keiji Haino - Music of the Polygonola (A Polygonal Flat Musical Instrument) (Applied Vibro-Acoustics, Inc., NSAVA-0001, Japan, cd,

It is unlikely that a compilation has ever come to be through a process similar to the one leading to Music of the Polygonola. A company in Japan was developing an instrument to determine if fruit were ripe by generating an acoustic vibration and then monitoring the resonance of that sound within the fruit. From this idea came an instrument, which over a period of years, was shared with select musicians, who now appear on this compilation, released not by a music label but by the company responsible for the design of the instrument. The instrument is particularly well-suited to Haino who performs with a variety of unusual percussive instruments.

As soon as the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House got their hands on this release, they wrote a review, to which we direct the interested reader: here.


October 6, 2017
Nazoranai - Beginning To Fall In Line Before Me, So Decorously, The Nature Of All That Must Be Transformed (W25.TH, W25-02, United States, lp+mp3dl,

Haino's fondness for the classic rock ensemble composed of guitarist, bassist and drummer is evident through-out his career. To pass the time in a harmless way, one day a couple years ago the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House composed a table providing an analysis of the g/b/dr trios documented in Haino's discography. They offered to share their analysis for this review. We have accepted the offer and updated the table to the present day.

bassist drummer releases
Fushitsusha* (1978-2015)
Yasushi Ozawa Jun Kosugi 10
Yasushi Ozawa Ikuro Takahashi 4
Chiyo Kamekawa Kiyasu 4
Jun Hamano Takashima 1
Aihiyo (1998-2000)
Masami Kawaguchi Ikuro Takahashi 2
Knead (2002-2003)
Hisashi Sasaki Tatsuya Yoshida 2
Sanhedrin (2004-2013)
Mitsuru Nasuno Tatsuya Yoshida 4
Seijaku (2010-2015)
Mitsuru Nasuno Yoshimitsu Ichiraku 5
Haino/O'Rourke/Ambarchi (2011-2017)
Jim O'Rourke Oren Ambarchi 7
Nazoranai (2012-2017)
Stephen O'Malley Oren Ambarchi 3
Haino/Kawabata/Yoshida (2008-2009)
Makoto Kawabata Tatsuya Yoshida 2
One-Off Guitar/Bass/Drum Trios (1994-2008)
Barre Phillips Sabu Toyozumi 1
Greg Cohen Joey Baron 1
Bill Laswell Rashid Ali 1
Jean-François Pauvros François Causse 1
Eddie Corman Bill (of Coa) 1
Mitsuru Nasuno Ishibashi Eiko 1

Table 1. Haino guitar/bass/drum trios appearing on officially released recordings through December, 2017. (All names provided in the Western convention with given names first, followed by surnames.)
Number of releases excludes all appearances in compilations.
*Excluded are all non-trio manifestations of Fushitsusha.
Sanhedrin releases appear under a variety of English translations; all have been combined here.
Excluding the first trio release, which is not a g/b/dr trio.

Of course, each g/b/dr trio is unlike another. Some trios are rock-oriented and others jazz-oriented. Some trios generate music that is sonically dense and others sparse. Some play songs and other extended sound sculptures. Even within a trio, great disparity exists from one recording to another. The Nazoranai trio consists of Stephen O'Malley on bass and Oren Ambarchi, an accomplished guitarist in his own right, on drums. At times, one of the musicians trades their g/b/dr instrumentation for an alternate instrument. In fact, on this third Nazoranai album, Haino's hurdy gurdy makes a welcome reappearance, for the first time, to our knowledge, accompanied by bass and drums. This Nazorani album could be generally described as a rock-themed, extended sound sculpture with periods of both sonic sparsity and density, but to describe music in this factually accurate way serves little purpose, so why do it at all?


October 20, 2017
Various Artists, including Keiji Haino, Fushitsusha - Tokyo Flashback 1 (Black Editions, BE-001/012, United States, lpx2+mp3dl,

As noted above, the P.S.F. label issued a series of compilations on compact disc featuring its artists under the title "Tokyo Flashback". This is a audiophile-grade reissue of the first of those compilations by Black Editions, the same label responsible for reissuing Watashi-dake?. The compilation includes tracks by both Fushitsusha and Keiji Haino solo, as well as six additional contributions from other groups active in the Japanese underground scene of the time: Ghost, High Rise, White Heaven, Kousokuya, Verzerk, and Marble Sheep & The Run-Down Sun's Children.


November 17, 2017
Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke & Oren Ambarchi - This Dazzling, Genuine "Difference" Now Where Shall It Go? (Black Truffle/Medama Records, Australia/Japan, bt030/mr08, lpx2,

This is the eighth release from the trio of Keiji Haino, Jim O'Rourke and Oren Ambarchi. This album is another example of a unit that is primarily a guitar/bass/drums trio with Haino on guitar, although the first album from this trio was the exception. Here, Ambarchi is the drummer/percussionist and O'Rourke plays bass and synthesizer. Haino is featured on guitar as well as vocals, electronics, flute and toy piano. Like the six preceding albums, this recording is taken from live performances at SuperDeluxe in Tokyo. No two albums from this trio are quite alike. Along with a variation in instrumentation, there are distinct differences in intensity, spanning from music that is calm and meandering to fierce, electronic onslaughts.

Side B of This Dazzling, Genuine "Difference" Now Where Shall It Go? contains high density feedback and rhythmic percussion slowly evolving over fifteeen minutes. Side C begins with low-volume, high-frequency toy piano, a new instrument for Haino to our knowledge. Initially, these two pieces seem related only by the fact that they were performed by the same trio of musicians on the same night in the same venue. Other than that, one struggles to imagine the similarity between them. Of course, we could simply accept the general conclusion that they are both manifestations of non-idiomatic improvisation. That is, until Haino's vocals appear on Side C, then we are reminded why we are here and what the commonality is.


December 1, 2017
Keiji Haino + Konstrukt - A Philosophy Warping, Little by Little That Way Lies a Quagmire (karlrecords, KR043, Germany, lp+mp3dl,

Just as the year 2017 began with a Haino collaboration with musicians (Jozef Dumoulin and Teun Verbruggen) new to our ears, so too does 2017 end. Konstrukt is a Turkish free-jazz quartet. This album documents a meeting of Haino with the quartet in Istanbul. Sometimes in an ensemble, Haino's esthetic dominates the direction of the group as a whole. In this case, he joins a quartet, who asks him to adjust to their own collective approach, first as a vocalist then later on guitar and other instruments. Of course, the vocals are distinctively Haino but they follow the melody and rhythm established by the musicians around him. Over the course of about forty minutes, the collaboration is able to explore a variety of sounds, including atmospheric, noisy and jazzy. In stark constrast to an Oreo cookie, Haino's approach is soft on the outside ends of the album and crunchy in the middle.


December 15, 2017
Keiji Haino + John Butcher - Light Never Bright Enough (Otoroku, Roku018, United Kingdom, lp, also available on cd, Since the 1980's, the saxophonist, John Butcher, has been a fixture in the English free improvisational scene. This recording documents a live performance with Keiji Haino in London in 2016.

The label took preorders with shipping expected in early November, 2017. The release was delayed, ostensibly until mid-December. We had hoped to receive the album before the publication of this review, however, as of yet, we have not received the album, though we have received an email from the label that the lp has been dispatched from the United Kingdom. Consequently, we can say nothing about the music on this release at the moment.

Update: December 18, 2017. The lp arrived from London on our porch today. We opened it and put it on the turntable and are listening to side A as we write this. Haino is playing a thrumming guitar. Butcher plays freely improvised saxophone. The two musicians seem very much aware of each other. There is a wind instrument, presumably Haino, since it intermingles with the saxophone. Then there are electronics which bring to a close all other instruments and usher in a percussion and saxophone duet. All very lovely and well worth waiting for. Side B awaits!


February 23, 2018
Keiji Haino & Sumac - American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous to Look at Face On (Thrill Jockey, Thrill-463, United States, lpx2 or cd)  
Before 2017 came to an end, there were already announcements for Haino records due in 2018. It appears that the first of these is a collaboration with a band called Sumac, which has been described to us as an American/Canadian metal band. We don't know anything about this record yet. We haven't heard anything from it. The band Sumac is totally unknown to us. As a result, we are looking forward to it.


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