Improvised Music from Japan / Happiness Proof

CD Review from The Wire

Happiness Proof

By Clive Bell

Headed by veteran New Wave singer Haco, formerly of 80s Japanese avant rock group After Dinner, these are highly idiosyncratic and exploratory albums which produce a fascinating tension by setting improvisatory or noise techniques against blissful ballads or exotica landscapes.

Haco's solo disc Happiness Proof occasionally teeters on the brink of becoming a proper pop record, but that possibility is only one item on Haco's crowded agenda. "Fluid of Wisdom", for example, starts from the scratchy menace of Otomo Yoshihide's turntables, and moves through a kind of 'guitar in a swimming pool' phase before concluding with a big song, apparently delivered live to an Italian audience. Guitarist Tsuneo Imahori contributes a fine Marc Ribot-type solo.

In all, six guitarists are credited on the album, including Boredoms' Seiichi Yamamoto, and Haco has not always kept them under control. The record opens as though determined to thrash about in some hyperactive avant rock sandpit of distortion, but then proceeds to calm down. perhaps with the help of that oceanic bowl of orange pills on the cover. On "Starry Night", Haco at last unleashes the vocal harmonies she does so well. Elsewhere, sound sculptor Pierre Bastien contributes his machines to a couple of tracks. She is at her best when assembling a landscape of colourful sounds and then singing over it, sounding like she's not so much fronting a group, as a menagerie of pets.

(The Wire, Issue 197, July 2000)

Last updated: August 16, 2000