Drums in the Hokkaido Surf

I’m neither Japanophile or -phobe, so it’s by chance this week that I’ve been reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and listening to Boris’s latest record, Pink. Which made me dig up their countrymen&women’s the Boredoms’ Seadrum/House of Sun, specifically the track Seadrum, a monstrous beast offering an outpouring of free piano, wordless singing, and two whirring, pounding drummers allegedly recorded kneee deep in the Hokkaido surf. Imagine Ministry (whom I hate, but useful here) covered by Alice Coltrane on piano instead of harp, especially with her monumental “Journey into Satchidananda” in mind. And yeah, that’s Pharoah Sanders.

Which gets me centered in the recent rise of Japanese psychedelia. Is it culture-wide? Kafka on the Shore, like most of Murakami’s work, has a surreal, otherworldly taste that so far, in the first 100 pages, works well: sudden group hypnosis a la Picnic at Hanging Rock, brain damamged humans conversing with cats and dogs, missing memory for a teen runaway, wartime mystery. And no one hates cellphones.

His short stories have become so predictably strange that they seem almost formulaic, and he’s let himself become ungrounded at times, but Murakami’s been mostly successful at tricking readers of Literature into reading fantasy fiction. Jonathan Carroll’s been doing it for equally as long or longer, but he suffers a lack of translation, or something, which keeps him unfairly genre-ghetto-ized, despite his leaving the USA for Austria long ago (or is he back?).

Oh, and here’s a taste of Boris’s Pink, if you know what I mean. In Japanese, but if it was in Uzbeki your pelvis would still understand:
Boris – Read

PS I’ve now heard two tracks from TV on the Radio’s leaked forthcoming, untitled-as-yet record, and this time, fortunately, they’re pretty swell tunes (‘Tonight’ and ‘Wolf Like Me’ but find ’em somewhere-not-here). Which is a relief, considering that all the promise of their debut EP was squandered on their dreadful debut long player, which I bought on vinyl and soon after was arrested trying to stuff it up the butt of an incontinenent rhino at the Bronx Zoo. The New sounds like they’ve been digging Brazilian drums, some afropop, some Guitar. I can imagine the reviews it’ll get: techno barbershop! Curis Mayfield sings for Aphex Twin! Tony Randall on Special K with his balls in the mouth of Bernard Hermann!

I just said that, didn’t I.

7 thoughts on “Drums in the Hokkaido Surf

  1. I think Carroll is a much better, more profound writer than Murakami, although M. has garnered the accolades and Carroll hasn’t. Murakami is like an Italian three ring circus, something out of Fellini, with all sorts of strange acts like talking giant frogs making lots of noise, resulting in an array of flash but ultimately easily forgettable. Carroll, on the other hand, always leaves me stunned and thinking hard about both life and my life after I finish one of his books. More often than not, especially in the more recent books, moved.

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  2. Did you ever read Jonathan Carroll’s daily blog on his website? One of the most consistently interesting blogs going.jonathancarroll.comMaria Frederic

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  3. Funny, never thought of it that way, but Carroll does seem to be more In Life than Murakami, for a fantasy writer; maybe Murakami seems more grounded to Japanese readers – example: Death masquerading as a motorcycle cop might be as nuts to Japanese readers as a talking frog is to us – but then Carroll has also done his share of anthropomorphizing (a word?), ie the pig in Sleeping in Flame, etc. And no, wasn’t aware he’d started a blog — saw his site a while back when he was posting new work excerpts. then left it til now. It’s a nice thing to know about, as well as knowing passionate JC fans persist. Anyone wanna buy my first editions? I hear his work goes for $$$, and my kid needs a college fund …

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  4. Am I alone in <>hating<> Murakami?“Fantasy” is no excuse for characters so thin they vanish when they turn sideways.And the use of language. Ugh. I can only assume it’s got more heft in the orignal tongue.

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  5. Followed your trail from 20JFG, thanks for the Boredoms and for Alice Coltrane, the first time I heard “Journey to Satchanandia” the hairs on my neck stood up. Sometimes you know you’re hearing something special.And as for Murakami, I loved “The hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world”, but “Sputnick Sweetheart” just bored me senseless. The dykey stuff just seemed pointless and unconvincing, but I’ve got nothing against 2D alienated characters.

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  6. 2D alienated characters – well-put. It’s a trick few authors can pull off well these days; no wonder murakami dug noir in his early books. & yw for the Alice C – the whole album is pretty good, too.

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