The Saboten
Beyond the Blue Heaven
God Mountain
2003{8.9}
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: July 7, 2003


Although he is not exactly a household name, God Mountain Records label owner Hoppy Kamiyama has been all over the largely Japan-centric electronic noise scene in the past quarter of a century. After a brief stint on a major label in the early 90s, Kamiyama formed his own imprint and began releasing a string of solo albums, collaborations, and releases with various bands. In the process, he is worked with everyone from John Zorn to George Clinton, amassing a tremendous back catalogue of recordings on his own label and others.

With the Saboten, his long-running collaboration with fellow noiseheads Saguaro and DJ Force, Kamiyama creates dense, hypnotic electronic-based music that he describes as Sun Ra meets Kraftwerk.・It is a fitting description for Beyond the Blue Heaven, the sixth Saboten album, as elements of noise, techno, and avant-jazz blend into a multifaceted river of sound.
The album is liner notes credit the three musicians with a baffling set of instruments (Ass hole box,・Psychic monitor,・Gram pot・, so it is next to impossible to tell who is playing what; the sound field is packed with a vast array of drones, rhythms, Saguaro is often-funky guitar, horns, and electronic accents, all weaving together into a towering whole.

The album is split into two massive tracks, the half-hour Hellicoid Spume and the 25-minute NOK,・which comprise the two opposing sides of the group is self-declared Kraftwerk/Sun Ra dichotomy. The former track is comprised almost entirely of bass-heavy drones and pulsating synth waves, slow echoes fading into the ether. Cyclic drones pan across the stereo field as sampled strings, clattering rhythms, and squiggly turntable scratches rise from the depths. It is a completely enveloping experience, verging on ambient but far too rich with detail and beauty to ever really sink into the background the way Eno is original definition of ambient stipulated. There is so much going on in any individual moment of this piece that it becomes nearly overwhelming, and yet the surface of the music is transparent, nearly tranquil, lulling you into a deep trance through seeming repetition that disguises the fertile variety of activity going on underneath. Entire undersea ecosystems lurk within the depths of this track, and it is well worth revisiting again and again to discover their intricacies.

If Hellicoid Spume・is the Kraftwerk side of the Saboten is unique musical equation, NOK・represents the Sun Ra side. Abandoning the cooler, subtle abstractions of the previous composition, NOK・opens with a massive explosion of chaotic free-jazz horns and frenzied non-rhythmic drumming.
This track is a continual up-and-down cycle, alternating between moments of tranquil jazz -- dominated by insistent bass and agile drumming -- and spurts of unrestrained blowing. The six-piece horn section flows throughout this piece, breathing absolutely gorgeous melodies up through the layers of rhythmic noise and electronic debris which here take a backseat to the jazz band. Squealing keyboard lines duel with harsh sax solos, but it is the drumming that ultimately comes up victorious. Tatsuya Yoshida (of Ruins) guests on the skins for this track, and his skipping rhythms and aggressive bashing forge the entire forward motion for the song. This is intense and invigorating music, unrelenting in its enthusiasm and breathtaking in its virtuosity. Towards the end, the jazz band becomes increasingly swallowed in the primordial stew of the Saboten is electronics, pierced through with high-frequency buzz and industrial clamor, returning the album to its initial state of electronic hypnosis.

Beyond the Blue Heaven is a startlingly good album, its two mammoth tracks acting as opposite poles along the electronic/jazz axis. The Saboten is music is certainly diverse, and yet their multiple influences and styles don 稚 sit uncomfortably against each other. Rather, on this album Sun Ra mates with Kraftwerk (and who knows how many other bands) in a bizarre, funky, beautiful dance of love.

  http://www.stylusmagazine.com/musicreviews/the_saboten-beyond_the_blue_heaven.shtml

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