Sunday, April 8, 2012

re-up'd: Les Rallizes Dénudés - Heavier Than a Death in the Family [1977]

Les Rallizes Dénudés (「裸のラリーズ」"Naked Rallizes" in Japanese) are more or less a contrarian underground rock fan's wet dream: from Japan, gigged fairly steadily for three decades, released virtually no official material (but are extensively bootlegged), contains a lot of guitar noise, had a bass player commit some kind of radical leftist plane hijacking -- I could go on but it would belabor the point. With 'backstory' like this surrounding such a reclusive band, there are many who come in with expectations that are somehow not met by the music. So here's the straight dope on this band.

The sound concept is fairly simple -- repetitive rock and doo-wop bass mantras washed over by massive guitar surges, punctuated by Takashi Mizutani's vocal yelps and stretched out to 10 minute(+) sonic endeavors. The insanity is tempered by the electric folk balladry that formed the skeleton of the music when they came together in the late 1960s. Many of the songs were originally developed alongside experimental theater/performance pieces. The vibe is a combination of kosmische punk, dub, and soaring damaged pop greatness. Think of '67-'68 Velvets guitar supernovae out at the far corners of the universe, and the cosmic feedback that such cataclysms would emit. Mizutani's guitar makes the sound of the sky falling, only to rise through the stratosphere at the next moment.

Heavier Than a Death in the Family's tracks are mostly pulled from performances in 1977 (some of them appear on the Rallizes double-disc ur-text '77 Live), one of a number of high points in the band's existence. However, possibly the best piece on here is the ten-minute "People Can Choose," recorded in 1973. It's a powerful motorik beast. Also, for those hundreds of you who downloaded the Dirty Beaches album I posted in my end of 2011 post, you might like to know that this is the stuff that guy was channeling/sampling on "A Hundred Highways."

Basically everyone from Keiji Haino, to Asahito Nanjo (High Rise, Mainliner, etc.), to Acid Mothers Temple, to anyone who claims to play 'shoegaze' takes cues from these guys. It's not so much word-of-mouth as it is word-of-amp. And for some reason, a lot of people are into it. I'm personally hooked. I wouldn't expect everyone to like this -- but for those who do, this is a golden god of Rock.

Rallizes remain largely unacknowledged, both in and outside of Japan. The only people I ever met in Japan who knew of them were record store owners, and even they weren't aware of the recent vinyl reissues being put out in the UK and US. However, with the age of the internet upon us, they are being gradually introduced to the masses, lifted from the depths of the underground and into your auspicious ears.

Les Rallizes Denudes fan site (日本語だけ)
Alleged lyrics
Total cultural assault


  1. I discovered this group just recently, and I instantly fell in love with them. Could you please contact me for the album?? By the way, your blog is veeery nice.

  2. New link is up! Thanks for the kind words.