Record Review: Masami Tsuchiya – “Rice Music” UK LP

masami tsuchiya rice music cover art
Epic | UK | LP | 1982 | EPC 85935

Masami Tsuchiya: Rice Music – UK – LP [1982]

  1. Rice Music
  2. Se! Se! Se!
  3. Haina-Haila
  4. Tao-Tao
  5. Neo-Rice Music
  6. Kafka
  7. Rice Dog Jam
  8. Secret Party
  9. Silent Object
  10. Night In The Park

It was while investigating the Arcadia album last week that I came to the very painful realization that I have owned Masami Tsuchiya‘s “Rice Music” album from 1982 ever since visiting Ron Kane in 2014 and rifling through his discard pile! [which was larger than most people’s record collection] The facts in Discogs did not lie. No, instead they mocked my pathetic inability to enjoy music I already own. So last weekend I was determined to do something about it! With the three day weekend in America, I made sure to digitize and denoise the LP and now I can report back with my findings.

Like many, I first came across Tsuchiya when he was the guitarist enlisted to play on the final JAPAN tour; memorialized on “Oil On Canvas.” His aggressive, metallic tone enlivened that recording. What would I find on his solo album, which had been recorded in Britain and Japan at roughly the same time? I knew one thing for certain. The guest list here was beyond impeccable with Bill Nelson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Percy Jones, and Mick Karn and Steve Jansen of JAPAN along for the adventure. The attention to Art Rock detail was such that Bowie’s lensman Masayoshi Sukita shot the cover photos.

The title track featured Japanese instrumentation like koto and traditional percussion with modern accoutrements woven into the mix like Nelson’s eBow and Tsuchiya’s guitar duetting along with Karn’s fretless bass. The resulting track was like a more cheerful late period JAPAN instrumental. Much more angular was the frantic “Se! Se! Se!” with Percy Jones laying down languid clouds of fretless bass over the hyperkinetic music bed that saw Tsuchiya puncturing the New Wave vibe with roaring, metallic solos.

It opened up with thin, metallic synth loops and chirps before the traditional drums and bamboo percussion and Karn moved the track into a far more organic place. The female backing vocals, incorporating trills, whops and whistles, made this one seem to be very close to the vibe that Ryuichi Sakamoto would explore with “Okinawa Song – Chin Nuku Juushii” on his “Neo Geo” album on 1987. The loping rhythm track was punctuated by stick percussion and piccolos. And when it ended, the long ambient coda was largely bass and piccolo.

“Tao-Tao” was exploring a similar space to where Nelson was also investigating on his “Chimera” EP of the next year. The frantic programmed drum track was almost a peek into the drum-n-bass of the future but Nelson’s eBow was never a part of such hijinx. Tsuchiya’s English vocal here had almost a rockabilly feel to it that painted this track into a unique space.

Side two opened with the unique “Kafka,” which seemed to be a Sakamoto track flown in whole cloth to the otherwise Tsuchiya album. The writing and instrumentation was pretty much down to Sakamoto here. The odd filtered vocal loops made for what counted as a rhythm track as the melodica and Tsuchiya’s rhythm guitar attained a Funk groove [complete with handclaps!] as Sakamoto oplayed all of the rhythm here as well.

The Funk kicked into overdrive of “Blind Dog Jam” which had Jones hanging back behind the beat on the fretless bass yet still matching the fast and furious tempo here. The squealing guitar harmonics jabbing into the mix would make this cut a more than a match for the sort of work that Adrian Belew was committing to wax around the same time on “The Lone Rhino.” The channel shifting and doppler mix on the guitar only served to crank up the velocity of this one. The loops of a dog barking throughout were the one light hearted touch here.

“Secret Party” opened with Polaroid SX-70 magazine percussion by none other than photographer Sukita. One of his two musical credits for 1982 on Discogs! [The other was on Haroumi Hosono’s “Philharmoony”] Steve Jansen was playing a drum pattern so close to the one from “Visions Of China” such as to be an unauthorized sequel. But the processed vocal soundbites were miles away from the croon of David Sylvian. Later in the song Sukita’s Olympus OM-2 motor drive served as a percussion fill. The lyric “gentlemen take Polaroids” fairly leapt out of the dense mix following that. Leading me to think that any similarities here to the JAPAN oeuvre was strictly intentional. Surely anyone craving more of that “Tin Drum” flavor would get it in spades here. In hindsight, one of the leading lights here was probably Hideki Matsutake of Logic System on programming. Some of the more berserk pacing on cuts like this, “Se! Se! Se!” and “Blind Dog Jam” were probably down to his participation. I enjoyed the Logic System track I’ve heard on “Terpsichore?/Silly Not To!” and I should probably add him as well to the endless want list.

The placid and beautiful “Night In The Park” brought the eclectic album to a close. If not for the fretless bass, it almost had a Be Bop Deluxe ballad feel. Tsuchiya’s elegant, sustained guitar solo was certainly up to the Nelson standard. In fact, I wish it were longer. I loved the sax solo in the song’s coda, though it was uncredited.

It’s good to see that Tsuchiya has kept busy in the time following his band Ippu-Do, beginning here. His history has intertwined with that of the JAPAN members with further linkups with Jansen + Barbieri, as well as Karn and Sylvian. In 2001 Tsuchiya formed a project [The d.e.p.] that was completely beneath my radar. I wish I had not waited seven years to play this record! Tsuchiya made an album that mixed Japanese and British Art Rock royalty together into a delightful fusion that I should have been all over like…white on rice in 1982. It would behoove me to investigate his body of work more closely. Watch this space. Hopefully not seven years later.

-30-

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11 Responses to Record Review: Masami Tsuchiya – “Rice Music” UK LP

  1. Echorich says:

    I enjoy Rice Music. Post Japan I began collecting all sorts of music that had even peripheral connections to the band. There’s a muted guitar hero in Masami (my Japan friends and I immediately began referring to him by his first name once he was a member of Japan). I feel like Nelson was an important foil to Masami. It’s also nice to hear Percy Jones playing, as he is the man who introduced Mick to a fretless world. I think Kafka is my favorite track and I like the Extended mix.

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  2. james1955dean says:

    I had this album when it came out and loved it. One of those things I’d like to find again

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  3. JT says:

    If you like this one, track down its follow-up *Life In Mirrors*. More of the same, but with a tad of that slightly slicker middle-1980s sound. His 1988 release *Forest People* is nice but less impressive.

    But you simply must track down the admittedly scarce work of his band Ippu-Do. This band’s trajectory was a little bit like Japan’s, in that their first two records are more guitar-driven, then they moved to a sound very similar to that of the band named after their home country. Ippu-Do were Japan’s answer to Japan.

    Their first two albums (*Normal* and *Real*) land sonically somewhere between early D E V O and very early XTC with maybe a little first-album B-52’s thrown in. Sort of twitchy manic new wave with a goofy edge. The third record *Radio Fantasy* gets a little artier, mature, and more electronic, moving toward the Japan territory. A best-of called *Lunatic Menu* adds one new track, and was the end of the band for a bit while Tsuckiya and bandmate Akira Mitake went off to do solo records (and/or tour with the band Japan). Ippu-Do came back in 1983 with *Night Mirage* which is basically *Tin Drum II*, featuring extensive contributions from Jansen, Barbieri, and Percy Jones. Then they did a live album and called it a day.

    Their *Magic Vox* boxed set contains everything you need, but it ain’t cheap, nope, not at all…
    https://www.discogs.com/Ippu-Do-Magic-Vox-Ippu-Do-Era-1979-1984/release/1823249

    Strapped for cash a while back, I ripped my copy to a hard drive then sold it, along with my gold and silver Split Enz boxes and my Wendy Carlos box. Honestly, I miss owning the Ippu-Do box the most of the four.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – When you invoke D E V O, B-52’s and early XTC I can only make the leap to The Plastics or even Melon in response! So that means I really need to spin my copy of “Normal!” It was obtained at the same time from Ron “The Man” Kane in 2014.

      I’m aware of the Ippu-Do box and its premium aftermarket price, but if you go to the Masami Tsuchiya website I linked to in the post, there are copies of four Ippu-Do CDs, that are the same masters as in the 2006 box as re-issued separately in 2014. They are for sale on the website for about $25/each. And he includes a 4xCD bundle for $98. Was considering communicating to ascertain if these are in fact still available for purchase.

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      • JT says:

        The Plastics are another good comparison for early Ippu-Do.

        Oh, and their song “TV Scene” is basically a shameless cover-mutation of Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless”… but then they go into some surf and rockabilly stuff and a song called “Chinese Reggae” that sounds *exactly* like what you might imagine. These first two records are really all over the map, but it’s quality stuff.

        Oh, and while I’m giving you hot tips about Japanese acts, you mentioned Sandii elsewhere recently… her “Immigrants” record features some Sylvian guest vocals and is worth hearing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. jsd says:

    Thanks for posting this. Of course I was familiar with Tsuchiya’s playing on the Arcadia record, and it is of course quite excellent. But I had never heard any of his solo stuff! I am listening to Rice Music on Apple Music right now and it’s great! I love this kind of weird 80s art rock stuff and this is pure musical comfort food for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – Wow! Apple music has this? I wonder just how thorough the streaming market is at any given time. I wish I could check and see that’s on the streaming platforms without having an acouunt. I’m morbidly curious.

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      • jsd says:

        I work at Apple… (not on music, although I did join as part of the Beats Music acquisition, and I did work on the streaming product there). If you have any questions about the service or catalog, fire away :)

        And yes I am often surprised by the weird/rare/obscure nuggets that can be found.

        If you don’t want to subscribe, you can still explore the catalog and even listen to 90 second previews, without limits, for free… just visit https://music.apple.com in a web browser.

        You could also sign up for a trial with a “burner” account and cancel before it ends.

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  5. critterjams says:

    Sounds like I need to track down a copy of this. I’ve always dug Ippu-Do, even though they’re sort of second-rate in that scene, they have a lot of tunes I really like. Amusingly Radio Fantasy is actually quite cheap on Discogs – I would have expected it to be one of those that goes for like $50+

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