Les Rallizes Denudés

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"France Demo Tapes" LP (no label)
"France Demo Tapes" LP (Bamboo BAMLP7017)

France Demo Tapes

Les Rallizes Denudés was doomed from the start. Despite the vinyl issue—at last—of their finest moment, these two confusing near-duplicate releases will not save the band. And that is just fine. I’m more worried about us.

About that finest moment, a song called “The Last One,” from the “France Demo Tape,” recorded in the 1980s most likely, I previously wrote this:

<<Les Rallizes Denudés is the finest band that never released a record. They began at Doshishi University in Kyoto, Japan, in late 1967 and after a horrendous and shameful experience in a recording studio, band leader Takeshi Mizutani decided to limit the band to live shows only. They spent the next three decades or so playing relentless, blinding, feedback-laden, caveman-simple, bumptious psych. In 1988, 17 years after the bassist helped highjack a Japan Airlines jet under the banner of the Japanese Red Army Faction, Les Rallizes Denudés recorded this version of their most thudding, doomy tune, “The Last One.” It sounds like an A&R guy’s night-sweat nightmare.>>

I’m less certain today that the track is from 1988, but it seems plausible. I'm also uncertain about track titles here, given the profusion of inaccurate information circulating online. Really, I’m less certain of everything now.

I was supposed to put out this record. This version of "The Last One" simply had to be on vinyl. It was going to be a two-song LP, with “The Last One” on one side and one other song on the other side, which as far as I can tell is untitled, recorded at Shibuya Yaneura on December 13, 1980 and released on the “December’s Black Children” CD. It was going to be a bootleg. I didn’t care about getting permission, which seemed impossible anyway. Others were releasing bootlegs of Rallizes right and left. There are so many that it becomes impossible to keep track, even less possible to afford to buy them all. My intention was to release the band’s two finest recordings on one record, a simple introduction for beginners and a celebration of the pinnacles of their achievement for experts. I never did put it out. Now someone has gone to the trouble of releasing “The Last One” not once but twice. Unfortunately, the label has wasted the rest of the vinyl on inferior tracks, without the sublime qualities of this untitled track that I love.

About it more in a moment.

What seems to have occurred here is that someone pressed two of the three tracks from the supposed “France Demo Tape” on vinyl. That "tape," released as a CDR in 2007, was probably not a single recording, nor was it likely recorded in France. (Faux francophilia is part of the band's mystique.) It gathered together three relatively disparate tracks in terms of sound. I don’t know the truth, but I assume that the record was accidentally pressed with just two tracks and the bootlegger then released it for sale, making a sleeve for it that included minimal information. Really, what information could it include?

My guess is that then, after the LP sold out, and some reviews of it appeared, the bootlegger (or a colleague, or a competitor?), now under the ostensibly more legit imprint Bamboo, pressed it again. It now has all three tracks and heavyweight orange vinyl. It includes on the insert a review/distributor's blurb of the prior, two-track pressing. It’s weird. And it’s dumb, because now “The Last One” appears on the same side as an underdeveloped and incomplete, though decent, version of a song titled “Strung Out Deeper Than the Night” that is not actually “Strung Out Deeper Than the Night” but is actually “Ice Fire.” Who needs track titles anyway? Those two tracks, which total almost 30 minutes, fill one side, while the other side comprises only “An Awful Eternity,” clocking in under 20 minutes. It would have made more sense to pair "Eternity" with “Ice Fire,” for a slightly shorter and more sensible side, leaving the megalithic “The Last One” to stand on its own, as it will for eternity in the annals of fucked-up, shit-fi music. 

Buy either version of the record. Both contain the one "The Last One" you need. I prefer the two-track bootleg, with its more spare presentation.

Back to the December 1980 untitled track. Rallizes was improvisational and unpredictable, rarely giving off the feeling of control. The band’s repertoire included not more than 20 songs, played differently every time, for a couple decades. It’s a form of devotion to a craft that seems impossible to grasp today, in an era of instant gratification and equally rapid obsolescence. This particular track, which I think has not really grabbed many listeners’ attention before, requires a close listen. It begins as one of the most pacific, anodyne, and calm Rallizes tunes. It’s springlike, west coast psychedelia. It’s nothing like the brooding night that usually inspires their sound. For over ten minutes, hardly anything happens. Past the ten-minute mark, a moment of feedback indicates that things might be changing soon. At 10:45 or so, the world explodes. It comes basically out of nowhere. Shattering feedback and noise cascade. Beneath it, the effervescent tune continues. It’s a juxtaposition that grabbed me the first time I heard it and has yet to let me go. That was around a decade ago, before the crisis of 2008, which I related to a song by Shotgun Solution that has similar aesthetic qualities of catastrophe: a smooth start and an infernal finish. Today, the present crisis, a new act of the ongoing crisis, holds different auguries. The attempt to hold on to normalcy amid the storm and stress is impossible. We are all enrolled, including and especially the ultra-rich, who hope to ride out the destruction they are enabling in their enclaves. It won’t happen. They’ll be engulfed too. Anyone who tries to hold on to the fading dream of it all going back to normal is simply playing the underlying tune here, while today, at the 10:45 moment, the klaxons sound, shreiks echo, and the world burns to death around us. It’s impossible not to hear it, as impossible as it was not to see it coming.


2-03 Untitled.mp325.4 MB