A psychogeographical review of Les Rallizes denudes' Live 77
It is eleven in the sunny morning, not too bad for a silent weekday I think, "Enter the Mirror" emerging with coffee, I'm sitting on the crumbling window sill, taking it all in, drawing a mental map of the foreign land I will walk within a half-month, psychedelic cats, and emerald rats, and sure enough purple clouds, nothing like a minute of cryptogeography to wake the mind. I take the music with me and wander idly in the middle of the empty bleached boulevard, realizing it might just be Sunday after all, the X-rays are out and not a human in sight in the old town, French Sundays are no-man's land...
I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. The streets look all the same in broad daylight, and in the steamy Kyoto evening it feels like going through some dark marshland, some quasi-penetrable landmass. I back up towards the river for a double minute, looking for a way to get out of this dead-end cluster to the mountain. There is a distinct glow over the low houses, tonight Mount Daimonji is on fire for the end of Obon, the festival that temporarily welcomes the deceased back among the living. I have been trying to get away from the crowds to admire the gigantic bonfire, leaving one blaze for another one, and got lost in the maze of nameless, lightless, lifeless streets, listening to 77 live on my CD player, following the glow, eastbound on the trail of a distant blaze.
I put on "Enter the mirror" as I leave home at dawn, ready to break on through, thinking "let's climb some mountains", and I might ask one or two dead souls on the way if they know where to find Rallizes records, although those who knew the band first hand are most likely alive and merely forgot all about it. The brass and copper sky is the opening act tonight, the nubigenous shape of things to come. It is my first time listening to this particular album since I moved from France, back when I imagined it playing on every street corners when I got to the other side, all I can hear now in the morning is the damn crows fighting with living humans for a scavenged morcel from the river of trash pouring out from the city of boxes. Track two comes on; that's how you're supposed to play rock bass, the bottomest and laziest, wobbling stoned out of your twitching eyeballs. But I had it all wrong. It's all tits here, straight backs and no weed whatsoever, and even the dead don't catch a break, tonight the Main street hordes are out for sugar, their teeth rotting from sweet nonsense.
Truth #1 though: Japan is noise! people here keep a steady stream of decibels like a mirror-like barrier between the living and the dead. The Japanese afterlife must be a deafening blank tape, an eternity of hiss. White, pink, brown, blue, all shades of aural power hit me as I somehow come out onto a broad river of rumbling human mass, mistakenly removing "Track 3" from my ears for a second of senseless aural terror, thousands of megaphones and floodlights make me curl up foetally on my bike between polished facades; I turn back towards the darkness and funeral procession quiet of "Track 4", many more dead ends ahead, dead streets and dead minutes pass by the dozen until I experience a synesthetic blackout, a sudden rush of invisible light, I can almost smell the coffee, but it's only Track five and it's a long way to Sunday morning and the quiet life so I pedal faster until I come to a torii gate at the foot of the mountain. I get off my ride and continue on foot, the darkness is almost total, Track six pushes me up the slope in manic footwork, I almost fall, I am practically running along a dark path through trees, off my mind on treble, I wipe the sweat off my brow in vain with my sweaty hand, breathless, and I'm suddenly facing a middle aged cop flashing white light in my sweaty eyelids. I pull one earphone out, the contrast is so severe I lose my balance as I pull out the other; the cop looks at me in disbelief, hard for him to believe that I exist and that I'm listening to the loudest music in the universe. His Dad was a cop before him, clubbing students over the head at Rallizes shows; He appears to be debating whether he should see my I.D, choosing not to after all, it is the Festival of the dead and I must look halfway done for, he points me towards a fenced area, after which is the restricted netherworld where they have the bonfire. "The last one" and I crawl towards the edge of the clearing, I feel the heat of the inferno ahead and it is hot enough to melt my bones, but can only see it reflected on millions of tree leaves. Behind me lies the city in the plain, its scintillant electricity suddenly looking very dim next to the great fire of the dead, "The last one" ends in a wall of pure white noise and I begin the long journey back to the land of the surviving as "Enter the Mirror" starts over, my sweaty limbs, dried up, my face, sun-kissed, my feet ready to get lost another thousand times in the mirrorland where pure noise and pure silence are one and the same.
I make it home, a cup of coffee and slip into bed, ghosts in my ears.