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Psychedelic music  

First, this is presuming that your local record store has a psychedelic section. Because if it does - and happily so - that is where you are likely to find these collections of reissued material by the contemporary Japanese group Nagisa Ni te and by the late 1960s Swedish group International Harvester. These two recordings differ so significantly from one another that they beg the question of how meaningful it is to link them under the banner of psychedelia -- a genre often regarded as strikingly narrow, rooted in the music of a scant few years in the mid-to-late sixties.
     International Harvester were very much of their moment. Originally known as Pärsson Sound, ultimately known simply as Harvester, this drone-prone collective simultaneously embraced the minimalism of Terry Riley (guitarist Bo Anders Persson took part in a Stockholm performance of Riley's In C in 1967), bludgeoning hard rock, free improvisation, and Swedish folk forms. Photos of the group from this period show them flanked by friends, lovers, and children in a manner reminiscent of The Band's Music from Big Pink -- the difference being that The Band's decision to pose with several generations of their families was a deliberate affront to hippie generational solidarity. Sov Gott Rose-Marie, originally issued on the Finnish Love Records label in 1969, juxtaposes much shorter, fragmentary works (eleven tracks on the first side of the original LP) with two sprawling group improvisations on the second side. The notes to this reissue compare this montage-style approach to album making to Godard's sixties works, but it's also a time-honored psychedelic strategy that you're just as likely to find on the Red Crayola's 1968 God Bless the Red Crayola and All Who Sail with It as on The Tower Recordings' 2001 Folkscene. Song titles include "Ho Chi Minh" and "The Runcorn Report on Western Progress." Much as this sounds predictably like what you might expect of a vanguard rock group from Stockholm, 1969 vintage, the music remains sufficiently powerful and distinctive to warrant a recommendation, if your tastes run in this direction. You might even marvel, as I do, at Sov Gott Rose-Marie's fleeting, premonitory echoes of Black Sabbath and The Fall circa "Repetition."
     By contrast, Nagisa Ni te weren't necessarily made for these times. Or even for those times - they would likely have been out of step with their peers even if they had been active in the psychedelic era that seems to serve as their wellspring. Songs for a Simple Moment compiles recordings commandeered by Osaka-based songsmith Shinji Shibayama, bringing together previously released tracks from two of Nagisa Ni te's four albums, a smattering of live recordings, and pieces dating back to the Hallelujahs, his group from the mid-eighties.
     The music is serene and resolutely unhurried, perhaps best exemplified by the bravely programmed second track on the record, the twenty-minute live recording "The True Sun." (This follows a forty-three second opening piece.) Nagisa Ni te are possessed of a beatific quality in which they come across as a gentler, more otherworldly confident Crazy Horse - even as sour passing notes abound in a climactic guitar solo. It's a quality also glimpsed in their more reckless Kansai companions Maher Shalal Hash Baz, also the subject of a Geographic compilation - last year's stunning, sadly underrated From a Summer to Another Summer (An Egypt to Another Egypt). Nagisa Ni te are a group who are likely always to be discussed in neither / nor terms; notes by Maher Shalal's Tori Kudo place them "somewhere between underground hi-fi and lo-fi overground," presumably meaning between the sophistication of free improvisation and the charm of somehow "off" songwriters. I wince occasionally at those infrequent moments in which Nagisa Ni te veers too squarely into the realm of the precious, but in general their confidence and serenity and single-mindedness are a thing to behold.
     Where does this leave us vis-à-vis psychedelia? Probably with how the term can best be utilized - subjectively, inconsistently, somewhat illogically, often impulsively. Not restricted to a genre? I use it as a term of approbation.

Nagisa Ni te, Songs for a Simple Moment (Geographic GEOG11CD)
International Harvester, Sov Gott Rose-Marie (Silence SRSCD3614)


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