Artwork by Kaii Higashiyama

I wake in cold blue before the sun. Unraveling the dreams I have come to treasure. One or five AM. I have no idea. My head so cold it aches. I check the kids are covered and brave downstairs. Three degrees in the kitchen. But the fish are still swimming. I light the stove with stones thrown from Asamayama soaked in kerosene. Set the coffee on it. A shower, the quickest way to warm up. But it`s hard to get in. Ice on the inside of the window. Frosted glass. Move the frozen laundry. On tip-toes against cold tiles. Harder to get out.

Minus eight during the day. Minus twenty at night. All effort spent on keeping the family alive. No time for anything other than the business of surviving the weather. Chopping wood while the sun shines. Sleeping once it sets. A complicated city boy with a simple country life. It can be good to have your priorities straightened once in a while.

Snow makes roads impassable, so I carry my youngest son to school. My own personal trainer. These weeks we are working mainly on calves and shoulders. Dressed in cheap Wellingtons, three layers of thermals and a goose-down jacket that was too warm to ever wear comfortably in England. Now I never leave the house without it.

We take a short-cut. Across jidoukan. The snow has cleaned everything. Made everywhere new. It shines with countless jewels. Our footprints the first. It seems a shame to leave them. Ever more elaborate chandeliers of ice, dragon`s teeth, hang from drainpipes and branches.

Down empty streets early morning in Nakakaruizawa. Not the Old Town, with the summer houses, the bessou, the money, the famous and the expensive French restaurants, but the community of people who work to serve the holiday makers. Jimoto no hito. Those that suffer the seasonal cold. Lack of activity and lack of work. Together. Don`t worry. Shinpaishinai de kudasai. There`ll be skiing come February. The roads will soon be busy again.

We stand at a crossroads. Waiting for lights. Watching the sun reflect off everything in long broken sunglasses. A bright red hat bought from Slam City before the kids with “Destructo” stitched on it. I draw air through my nose and it hurts. I think about a balaclava. Then memories of meeting Millwall. I guess I might be a bit scary in a ski-mask. Most likely get arrested as I enter Lawson. Get shot as I go for my point card.

As we pass, a village wakes and shutters rise on a parade of shops where, customer-less, life goes on. Slowly. The bakery are playing my CD. With optimism, we talk of sledging and snowmen. My youngest son and I. We wonder at our freezing breath. We play at who can make the bigger cloud.

Weekends we go ice-skating. The open-air arena at Kazakoshi Kouen. My kids struggle with their laces, and I selfishly lose a Karuizawa minute in thoughts of Streatham on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes a Wednesday night. Nicola Sagar, Tony Chattaway, Dave Miller. Steven Wilbury, Robert Storer, Mark Perry. Karen Szulkai. Tony and Steven Robinson. DaSilva. Jackie and Janice. The Human League versus Frankie Smith. George Benson. Give me the night. Bauer hockey boots. The barrel roll. Galaxian and Centipede. Leaving my diary around so others might reveal my loves. To shy or lame to do so myself. Innocent days. Moments before drink. And discos. Twenty-nine years off the ice and fifteen minutes back on and I think of buying my own boots again. Smiling with the past for once. I watch a pretty girl skate backwards. Nostalgia. Love. Promise. To the south, mountains are all I see.

The skating has had another plus besides reminding me of being next to teenage girls in tight jeans and tie-blouses. It has put me back in touch with my second son. Six years old now, but only three when we arrived in Japan. In England I would carry him everywhere, and he would not sleep unless I was next to him. Then came his younger brother, putting some distance between us. And then came the language. More fluent now in Japanese, he often needs his older brother to translate my questions and requests. But by taking his hand on the ice a trust was renewed. I tell him to go faster. As fast as he can. I tell him I will not let him fall. To catch my sons. The only reason I remain strong. Now he reads me books in Japanese. Explaining words I might not understand. Carefully re-pronouncing them until I have managed to get them right. And every night he lets me read him The Mr Men.

Evenings, I keep the sake outside. No need for a fridge. My intake limited to that which has refused to freeze. Sake in moonlight. Tastes better this way. One long night late December our carpenters taught me that.

Come summer our new home will be complete. Underfloor-heating, four-wheel drive, a dishwasher. I won`t know what to do with myself. But I am happy now. I want for nothing. And now is what`s important.

Japan: The Experience Of Swimming
8 Up: Before Dawn
Sybarite: Without Nothing I`m You
Cocteau Twins: My Truth
Santana: Song Of The Wind
Gutter Snypes: Trails Of Life (Inst.)
Sergio Mendes: Iemanja
Seawind: Morning Star
Talk talk: It`s Getting Late In The Evening
Fluke: Cool Hand Flute
Dead Can Dance: The Arrival & Reunion
Kaine: Welcoming Idaho
Brian Eno: Mist/Rhythm
Santana: Tales Of Kilimanjaro
Cantoma: Pandajero
John Williams: Woodstock

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[Dr Rob]


Mix/Piece: Tokyo-To Kissa #7

November 29, 2010

Artwork by Azuchi Gulliver – La  Dolce Vita/ATCG/Love affairs #3

Sitting in a cold school playground. Neath a clear Autumn sky. Koyo in reds and browns. Pale yellows. Jealously watching my kids hot-foot it after girls. A game of “Taka Oni”. Up the slide. Round the Jungle Jim. Old tires rolled for hula hoops. I fold my arms and pull my shoulders up around my ears. I try to remember the first time I fell in love.

Was it kiss-chase at primary school? Being dragged into the red-brick Girls’ Toilets on Birchanger Road. The girl in the house opposite. Net curtains for wedding gowns. Or was it when Laura Johnson smiled?

Was it the girl I was too shy to kiss? Long weekends sat on my Chopper outside her house, waiting for her to appear. One long Saturday matinee spent frozen with fear.

Or was it the force of nature with the tattooed ankle in Corfu?

Was it a copy of Clara Bow’s bob and Kohled eyes? All dressed in black with drawn on pout. The hardest body. Dark taffeta.

Was it the tom-boy who wouldn’t take no for an answer til it was too late? A glimpse of hung-over white lingerie in a four poster bed. A glimpse of jade at the foot of her stairs.

Was it a bright red mouth. Or an overnight bag hidden under a restaurant table. My mock acquittals accompanied by a dramatic removal of glasses and flick of the fringe. So much passion there.

Was it the electricity when our lips touched on a Sunday morning after the Saturday night before. Heaven’s promise. Then Sunday nights lonely crying. Red Stripe and The Wonder Years for company. What ever happened to Winnie? Whatever happened to Croydon’s Kylie?

Was it a scrapbook? A faded beauty in 50s gear. Someone longing to be held but too used to rejection. Pressed so close to me in sleep that handprints accompany me to the shower.

Was it the green contacts and the flattery I felt? Or the impossibility of it?

Was it a shot at redemption? Or a means of escape? Something unbroken I felt compelled to break.

Or was I just too high?

Was it when my wife blushed? A goofy grin. Caught off guard as Badlands lit the ICA.

Or was it when I held my first son?

Was it with the act? Or just the idea?

Every night I dream of friends and lovers my life has left behind. These are happy dreams. Conversations, jokes and warmth. Not spectres and farewells. Love doesn’t fade. It grows. I wish I could reach out and tell these people who shaped my life that their memory makes me smile the biggest smile. I wish I could hold them. Last night I kissed my grandmother. “Good night my love” she said and I opened my eyes lonely. Lonely for a moment, then my sons awake and the day once more is given purpose.

No-man: Days In The Trees (Reich)
Scott Cossu: Purple Mountain
Haroumi Hosono: Honeymoon
Yusef Lateef: Plum Blossom
Elmore Judd: Otherly Love
Azimuth: Lina Da Horizonte
Last Night: Cool Water
Steven Halpern: Play Of Light
Chapterhouse: Epsilon Phase
Shinozaki Matasugu: From A Distance
Michael Lorrimer: Remembranza
Shakti: Bridge Of Sighs
Les Negrettes Vertes – Face A La Mer (Massive Attack)
Transglobal Underground: International Times (Haunted Dancehall)
Arvo Part: Spiegel Im Spiegel

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[Dr Rob]

Image by Francesco Yayoi

Tanabatta. The seventh day of the seventh month. Once a year star-crossed lovers meet. Orihime and Hikoboshi. Vega and Altair. Opposite banks of the Milky Way. That heavenly river. Kawa in the sky. Seperated by Tentei for the sake of the Emporer’s new clothes, once a year the Princess and the Cowherd cross a bridge of magpie’s wings, and grant wishes upon their joy of union.

“Be careful what you wish for” my Mum used to say. Some reference back to macabre pulp horror stories like The Monkey’s Paw. When you wish for wealth, your family is killed in a plane crash and you cop the insurance. When you wish to be happy for the rest of your days, you die tomorrow in a lover’s embrace. To live forever means being plugged into a life support machine, or kept in a cryogenic state just a fraction not cold enough. Be careful what you wish for. Can kinda take the fun out of it.

Kids make coloured streamers. The tails of comets. And attach them with wishes in verse to shafts of new bamboo. The lovers look down in a break from their passion and fore fill all that they can see. Weather permitting. We are one week from monsooon.

It’s 1997 and I’m alone in Antigua in the aftermath of Islington. When hurricane Erika struck. Covering everything in ash from Monseratt’s Soufriere Hills. Hammered by winds on a sole sun-lounger on a deserted beach. Ice-bucket full of gin and tonic. Stealing pizzas from the hotel buffet for the local children who’d come to quiz me. So free I feel as if I am flying.

Doug Scharin’s genius. Like Fela in dub. In a pile of 12s. A gift from Fat Cat. Stuff to review for Sidewalk. Know your demographic, the magazine said. They want Britney. We give `em Shellac. Dry humping Ian Svenonius on stage. Fighting with Modest Mouse. Fucking Calvert. Stealing from Silas. Saffron kisses. What becomes of a teenage pro-skater? I wonder if he’s still alive. I hope so. What was the line that he liked? I took a short holiday from myself. Unfortunately, now I’m back, doing the laundry.

Dreaming in red. Sherwood & Wyatt. Must have been a Steve Beresford thing. 6:30 AM Tokyo and an old Weatherall favourite soundtracks a Japanese English lesson on TV. Before kids telly starts at 7. An obscure spot. Caught by the strangeness of it all, I’m sat being taught scientific English to pads like a mylar chamber. Moving through honeyed glass. Beats propagate like aural fractals. Mixmaster Morris at SpaceTime in the Liquid Loft. The first time I met Kensuke. Morris, he still wears that mirrored waistcoat.

Chilled by Nature. Not the sound of stars, but Christmas lights imitating them. I used to hate Christmas. But now all my memories of arguments and drink and loneliness have been replaced by a BBC production of a Christmas Carol. Mulled wine. The smell of cloves. Roaring log fires. Girls in fur-trimmed pink skaters outfits. Stolen kisses on thin ice. Warm glows and seeing the error of your ways. Everything viewed through gently falling snowflakes. A world where people can change.

From Fat Cat to Small Fish and big Nick. I pretty sure it was Nick but now all that’s left is Mike. Trading in Trance for Glitch back in 2000. Dub Tractor takes The Third Man for a skank. Harry lime caught in cobbled shadows. The sunshine’s better. The late great big John. A blues for The Blue Note. The endless line for the door. And the lines off the back of my wallet in the middle of the dancefloor. One of those solitary wired mornings. The No.19 outside my window. Union chapel across the street. My girl’s been to India. Found a god. Changed her name. Does that mean no more punches thrown in the Social? The mistake I made was thinking I could look after her when I couldn’t even look after myself. Falling in love with old photos. Rock and Roll weekenders, bum-biters and sherbet lemons. “You’re just a young pup” she`d say. Would have been better for everyone if I’d walked away at the start. Fucking mess I made. Getz blows love lost through a smokey noir. I get my Marlowe coat. Out into the rain. No looking back.

Fujiyama. A mountain always in mist. They say you see its majesty and your luck changes. I’ve seen it twice. First time, I left a heated argument to find a bar and there it was behind a cloud. Second time, winds blew so hard you could barely stand and you could see Fuji all the way from Hatsushima. I sat in an onsen, watched eagles circle overhead. Silent with my shrunken father. Too late now to talk.

Whispers in green grass. Looking up through branches. Listening to rain falling outside an open bedroom window. The ghost of a summer twenty years too late. Mistakes I make. Will I never stop learning?

Altair is sixteen light years away. Vega twenty-five. The fifth brightest star. More luminous than our sun. A young star still waiting for planets to be formed from the debris in its orbit. Be careful what you wish for. Don’t waste ’em.

My two older boys wish for computer software. The little ‘un for karage for tea. The wife, she wishes for Peace on Earth. Me, for peace of mind.

Finis Africae: El Secreto De Las 12
HIM: Part 6
Robert Wyatt: Biko
Aural Expansion: Freeform Attractor
Chilled By Nature: Music Box
Dub Tractor: Overheated Living Room
John Martyn: Sunshine’s Better
Stan Getz: Street Tattoo
Dave Brubeck: Fujiyama
Cibelle: Green Grass
Ryuichi Sakamoto: After All
Eric Serra: Learning Time

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[Dr Rob]

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I watch Tokyo go by from the window of a Metro train. Mejiro, Takadanababa, Shinjuku. I wonder if I will miss any of these places. I am leaving.

I have grown tired of Tokyo. Or rather, she has worn me out. This beautiful lady has a bounty to offer but only if you have an abundance of money and free time. Currently I have neither. Great place to visit. Hard place to live.

I am guilty of only really appreciating things when looking back. In the moment, I am always questioning. Often my mind is on what’s next. I should learn to live in ‘The Now’. Neal Cassady without the crank. Instead I try to keep moving, afraid that if I stop, nostalgia will hit me like a wave.

Las Vegas tango. Last tango in Paris. One last joyless fuck in an apartment in Bayswater. Angry and hurt, she grabs the headboard and forces her hair in my face. Some things are best forgotten, but I guess the old mental scrapbook doesn’t work that way. Sketches Of Spain bring the myth of my conception. Supposedly in Stiges. On the honeymoon. But since I was a couple of months premature, I reckon that’s the kind of truth people felt forced to tell in the early 60s. Sting sings a song about man’s crimes against man. I try to remember being in another place, but I am lost in Tokyo. No one bothers to translate. I hear a lover on the phone. Just out of the bath. Wrapped in a towel. Propped up on pillows. Flirting. I’m trying to be clever. Funny even. Before long, she’ll end up disappointed. There’s a soft focus TV promise of what love should be. Slow. Gentle. Understanding. “Hey, we have all the time in the world. Relax.” Instead, stolen moments and lies.

I watch days go by on lost roads. Clouds scream across a blue sky shot in time-lapse. I’ll get my deck-chair out. Eagles rise on a warm swell in Nepal. Gangs of small children crowd a mountain path. Following me for the sweets I brought as gifts. Dahl for breakfast, Dahl for lunch. Dahl for tea. I ain’t never been to New Orleans. The only voodoo I know is in the thunder of the London Underground and the sodium orange on deserted streets going east. The only healing chant, silence.

“Come with me”, she sings. I`m in Ronnie Scott’s. Two couples before the children, drinking champagne. (Another) one of those transient bubbles I questioned. I’ll never question anything again. I promise. Pat dreams of Mexico but I’m in Reckless in Islington. Tara’s letting me trade my boxes of Trance for a grounding in Funk and Rare Groove. I cut my hair, take the medication, and stop going out. For eight years.

Sing me to sleep. Weatherall soundtracks a film in a chapel off Oxford Street. Days of Shoreditch, Small Fish, and Silas. Nights watching Sav collect glasses. Walking between Borough and Brick Lane when the snow stopped everything.

Hendrix plays and I’m acting. Living out a role in ‘Withnail & I’. Pulling on a tattered overcoat as I pull myself off a mattress on the floor. Pulling on a joint, for effect, and to keep out the cold. A room on (H) Ash Grove where the rent was a tenner a month. Working out Pence:Brain Damage ratios. Drinking Thunderbird all day. Pints of cider with ice. Playing at it. I thought I’d never miss that place either.

I am leaving Tokyo, but I am not leaving Japan. I am heading for the hills. Half-way up an active volcano to build a mountain retreat. Friends worry that I might become isolated, but I am isolated now and I fear that to feel isolated in one of the busiest cities in the world may be harder than feeling isolated in the middle of nowhere with only the bears for company. I’m taking the easy way out.

I worry that if I stay in Tokyo I will become a bigot. My patience and enthusiasm exhausted. Cursing the endless armies of school children as I pass on my bike. I have already retreated from Tokyo. Minimizing my trips out of the house. Metro journeys filling me with despair. One more carriage full of blank faces. Any conversation limited to pleasantries or apologies. Any hope of depth, any bond, seems impossible. It would be easy to give up, yet the small successes I have with language light my days. I will never give up. But I am not winning. Retreat. Regroup.

There was a time when I could flick my toes and greet it all like one big adventure. I’d get my kids to sing “row row row your boat” in a round. Life is but a dream that so quickly passes. I think of my first friend here. The chain-smoking delivery guy who brings my records. Shin-Otsuka, and the woman with the thick scar that marks her hair-line who jokes with me in 7-11. Otawa-Dori, and the old man we used to greet everyday to and from school. Dragging his tiny dog along on stiff legs in the heat and the cold. The dog died and the man disappeared. Kohinata, and the woman with the magenta bob, ever-present shades and tight leather skirts, who lives round the corner with a Ryuichi Sakamoto lookalike. Probably in her late 60s, but you still might.

My children play under Mejiro-Dori’s highway, where we feed the stray cats, and the cats piss on the parked cars.

It’s not places that are important, but people. And I’ll take them with me.

David Sylvian: Nostalgia
Michael Shrieve: Las Vegas Tango
Miles Davis: Sketches Of Spain
Sting: Fragildad
Vangelis: Good To See You
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Before Long
Cerrone: Corruption
Jean-Luc Ponty: Ethereal Mood
Bill Laswell: Lost Roads
Neville Brothers: Healing Chant
Finis Africae: Armadilha
Tania Maria: Come With Me
Pat Metheny: Sueno Con Mexico
Bowery Electric: Sleep
Jimi Hendrix: Little Wing (Live)

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[Dr Rob]

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The pink balloons atop the four foot tall Altec 7 cinema speakers are deflated, spent and shriveled like ball bags in an outside privy on a winter’s morning. The lists of cocktails that decorate the walls have long since been mixed. The night lit by fluorescent shots long since sunk. No more limes to slice. No more lemons to be squeezed. No more gaigen swearing at the overworked bar staff. The Lowrider posse. The samurai. The photographers. The dancing girls. Girls in tracksuits, see-through sheer dresses, and corn-rows. The Rosies. Have all gone.

The couch beside the decks left vacant now the Metro is up and running. The gorgeous jazz-singer out of sight and out of mind. My eyes, long accustomed to the dark and the smoke, watch the dB-display attached to the vintage UREI. A flickering pulse amid the empty glasses and overflowing ashtrays. 6 AM in a basement bar in Ebsiu, that’s fun but uncomfortable with more than thirty people. There’s only five of us left.

An irresistible force feeds Coldcut through infinite loops. Reflecting sadness off a thousand mirrors. I hammered this when it came out. I was living above an off-license at the wrong end of Upper Street. Naked to the top deck of the No. 19. If it’s tonic water youze want, it’s tonic water you’ll get. Bandulu do Acid Jazz. One for the Land Of Oz regulars who swapped writing graffiti amid the violence and whores of Streatham Hill for Thailand and a dragon’s warm embrace. Electric counterpoint and a key change bring new horizons. A rare feeling of great optimism. (Little Fluffy) Clouds in a blue sky. Ships at a distance have all men’s dreams on board.

Voodoo echoes through an empty city at dawn. Rattling down the black line. Post-coital techno. Sexed with strangers on a lonely come-down grey journey home from North to South. My love she lives on the Tulse Hill Estate. Dresser strewn with make-up. Cold wooden floor strewn with fashion magazines and clothes. Silverfish in the loo. Woozy with cider. Sick for another drink.

Nineteen years later sunshine betrays the cold on a lonely afternoon in Kohinata. I haven’t spoken to a soul all day. Waiting for the kids to come home. Thoughts move to the frozen snows of Karuizawa. A retreat from the world half-way up an active volcano. Home seems too long ago. Tokyo is too hard. I need a place to hide awhile. I am not Tereza, like Sabrina I’ll disappear.

Some strange cargo, back in another basement. This one on Seven Dials. Running with Fat Cat and GPR. Out-drinking Bjork and freaking out Scanner. Wandering the Mermaid Theatre in a haunted cowboy-shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons. Big apples and star dancers. The ghost of A Gravitational Arc Of Ten sings the blues. Rez over everything. White silence on Almeida Street, bar the ringing in my ears.

Heavy skies give (fallen) angles sway. Airto swings into the theme to Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected. Bar-owner Batch gives his last thumbs-up. Marbo, who was feigning sleep, gives me a round of applause, but I can’t tell if it’s in jest. A standing ovation before stumbling up the stairs and out towards the cold morning and the station. Skipping breakfast from the restaurant opposite that specializes in horse meat sashimi. The streets of Ebisu empty save clean-up squads washing the roads and picking up drunks. Guys in tight black Beatles suits. Girls in floral mini-dresses and cowboy boots.

So much is different. But so much remains the same.

Coldcut: Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force)
Koh Tao: Sun Down
Steve Reich: Electric Counterpoint
Primitive Painter: Levitation
James Yorkston: Woozy With Cider
Mark Isham: Mrs Soffel
In The Nursery: Incidental Guilt
Stange Cargo: Million Town (Kruder & Dorfmeister)
Detroit Grand Pubahs: Skydive From Venus
Craig Leon: Nommos
Ellis Island Sound: Angels Way
Airto: Bebe

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[Dr Rob]

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Catching my reflection in the mirror, I look like an old prospector. I’m in red long-johns to keep out the cold. Lee Marvin in “Paint Your Wagon”. My star has wandered. I’m either getting softer or Tokyo is getting colder. I bought the long johns, or Akapan, from Sugamo a week ago. The red colour is supposed to be lucky. Tradition dictates that you buy them in your 60th year and the place was overrun with gangs of old people focused on this sole purpose. I was bitterly cold. I couldn’t wait another seventeen years.

A nine hour time difference meant I got up at 3 AM this morning, to Skype a mate in the UK, who predictably wasn’t there. Since I was up, I opened an email from sister. “Nan’s taken a turn for the worse. They’ve given her two days left to live”. I called my Mum, who has been caring for my Nan for the last fifteen years. She wasn’t home. I called my sister. Nan had died an hour before. It’s not going to be the best of days. So much for lucky red long johns.

“When my memory wanders, as it does when bad things happen, I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back……”. No seashells round here. Only shellac.

Ryo Kawasaki is locked in a bolero tarantella in the desert playing jazz-funk as heavy as metal, and I remember a sombrero-wearing dude tripping on a three hour bus journey out of Tokyo. I hear Software noisily getting their sausages sucked and I’m back having sex in Brixton. The acid taking me out beyond the universe. Everything falling away to blackness. It’s Immaterial push the boat out and dance, and drunkard logic has me entering another night in expectation. Shutting out the extremely high probability that it will bring nothing. Liz Frasier sings in glossolalia. Speaks in tongues. The language of heaven is that we all hear want we want to hear.

I am so much younger. We’re driving in a purple Ford escort. Someone’s first car. The girls have yet to sit their O Levels. Hard little bodies, tiny bras and kohl-ed eyes. A bob like Clara Bow. Sex Maniacs or romantics? Out for one more boast, or doomed to act out every film, every fiction, over the next twenty painful years? Youth is a truly beautiful thing. May you find a cunt that fits. Harry Crews` gypsy curse. Forever walking Spanish when she left. A flamenco player wrestles his guitar. Johnny Weissmuller with a rubber crocodile. The African kora carries the melancholy. I don’t remember where I am but I am leaving. A harp swings. A buzzing sax circles in and out of range. A mosquito honing in on its target. An annoyance rising to a scream. A doubt. Regret maybe. Loss. The sound of another empty bottle. Another night on the floor.

Keith Jarrett urges the music on with wordless cries and grunts. No mere dance. All at sea again. Not waving but drowning. Frenzied below the surface. Weather prophets play a penguin café pastoral. I almost pray. I hear the music of a goodbye, and I’m back in Croydon. Putting together my last compilation for a friend before I pack my records to be shipped to Japan. Looking for a brand new start. A lion found me, a week or so later, completely lost, six thousand miles away, in Yodabashi Kamera. I wept my fucking eyes out as I dragged my two boys through the blare, glare and bustle of Akihabara, attempting to sort out a PC, phone and internet connection. Morrison gets sent. The roar somehow stuck in his throat.

5 AM in Tokyo and I’m checking flight availability. Wondering how to cover the child care if I make the trip back for the funeral. Caught between responsibilities to the past and responsibilities to the now. Responsibilities to the dead and to the living. A defiant hymn from the Beach Boys` Holland LP plays. It holds a mad story about moving a studio across continents and the last vestiges of Brian’s genius.

At one end of the market street in Sugamo there was a beggar on all fours like a dog. Eyes fixed on the ground. Hands and feet blue. Vividly reminding me of the “creature” that the woman in the film “The Audition” keeps prisoner in her apartment, he looked like he was in a lot of pain. There are a few homeless doted around the parks and under the highways, but beggars are so rare as to be non-existent in central Tokyo. My wife was crying. The old people didn’t seem to see him. We gave the kids some change to put in the empty paper cup.

Once more for the living.

Tokyo-to kissa Mix #2

Ryo Kawasaki: You Are Like Sunlight
Software: Present Voice
It’s Immaterial: The Better Idea
Cocteau Twins: Pandora
San Sebastian Strings: Gypsy Camp
Ketama: Jarabi
Dorothy Ashby: Little Sunflower
Pat Metheny: So It May Secretly Begin
Jan Garbreck: I Took Up The Runes
Keith Jarret: Dancin`
Ellis Island Sound: Building A Table
Van Morrison: Listen To The Lion
Beach Boys: Sail On Sailor

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[Dr Rob]

Test Pressing is happy to welcome to the fold Robert Harris a.k.a Dr. Rob who used to live on these shores but is now in Tokyo with family. Rob is going to be posting the mixes from his Tokyo-to kissa series as well as writing whatever tales he feels like sharing and covering the Japanese scene. And while here – if you are ever trying to track down some rare Japanese vinyl Rob’s your man.

Tokyo to kissa #1

Things were changing as I left the UK three years ago. I figured as a family we had nothing to lose in moving to Japan. But I still found myself, that first year, doing the odd late night solo with a two litre carton of cheap sake. Not missing people or places, but missing times long passed. This mix was made one of those odd nights. I’m listening to it again as I go to pick up my Mum up from Narita. Out over Disneyland. Out over Chiba. Twenty minutes from Tokyo, after the ferris wheel, after the race track, I have no landmarks. Save the music.

Popol Vuh weeps into the world, accompanying Werner Herzog`s wrath of God and pre-dating Eno and Lanois’ “Apollo” and Jack Nitzsche`s “Starman”, both either blatant rip-offs or remarkable coincidences. B.J. Cole’s langid pedal steel sings the lonely song of the humpback whale. A dive into the blue. Bowie and Eno (again) sing the Popol Vuh, a sax betraying their Rock n` Roll roots. I`m not sure if Bowie was referencing Kerouac or those that keep strange hours. Inhabit the night. Outside of the day. I guess the only Beat who still had any currency back then was Burroughs. Bob James stumbles about in a very un-Ireland cod-reggae lilt. Still, the strings hold pictures of green hills. Tokyo is many things but green it ain’t. A breeze blows shiny bird scares in a field of rape scorched by sun. A view once taken for granted. The other side to “Tinsel Town In The Rain”’s disco melancholy. Some songs should be listened to sparingly for fear of getting lost in regret. Upwards and onwards we go. Dr Nishimura told the guy at Flower about The Soft Machine who then passed it on to me. Land of cockayne. Generation of swine. Hugh Hopper RIP. Thomas Dolby sings of obsession. The things we blame love for. A dark mirror holds a secret. Lead soldiers and the scar I wear above my heart. One ballerina too many. Music box wistfulness plays for the lovely but barmy in-and-outta rehab would-be Catwoman Sean Young. Somebody blows a “Betty Blue” line but the “Betty Blue” stories will have to wait for a more appropriate time. A book, maybe. Fuck attack ships on fire. Bladerunners’s dirty `50’s noir of a future isn’t so far from Tokyo`s neon, where red beating robot hearts cover the high rise and all the action takes place in small underground holes. Parties in basements. All night noodle bars set in railway arches. Unmarked hotels.

“Bara Willie”`s crazy synths fill my ears as I come into Narita’s security check. It’s been over two years since I got on a plane. Three years since I`ve been home. Dave Sylvian’s brother and the other guy from YMO, the one with the drip dry eyes, try hard not to sound wounded. And end up resigned. Betsu-ni translates roughly as “not necessarily”. A Big Hard Excellent Fish hits me with the early 90s. A box room in a shared house. Baked potatoes and beans for tea again. Weekends from Thursday night to Monday morning. A bag of pills to sell. The escape from Thatcher’s Britain provided by Acid House about to go pear-shaped. There would be casualties. And we hadn’t managed to change anything. “Where were you?” This last line transforms a list into a poem of wrongs and disappointments. The drugs fucked everyone up. I once went by the nickname of “Bobby Love”, generally, for the love I sold. In tighter circles it was a reference to a failed Rik Mayall sitcom. An E-listed celeb. Davro said “I’d be nowhere without the fans”. “Bobby love, you are nowhere.” PCO do the soundtrack to a thousand building society and bank ads. Arto Lindsay`s DNA guitar spirals free.

I get to the North Terminal and I`ve got John Daly’s mix of “Feel The Earth” on to try to wake me from my past. Hypnotic percussion gives way to nasty acid snarling. Airports are such a transient place. I always feel like picking up a stranger. All that death in the air. Death, excitement, and relief. Coming out of limbo. Waiting in Arrivals, over-hearing conversations as the KLM flight unloads I`m wondering if it`s possible to speak Dutch with an American accent. I try to guess where people are from as they come through the gate, based on how they are dressed. Most of the people traveling to Japan are young, which means they all look like cunts to me. Silver week and its festivals are just around the corner. I guess a few of them must be in bands.

Mum’s gone now. We had two weeks of pushing her up mountains in Nasu and Karuizawa in a chair she wasn’t in three years ago. Flu outbreaks, Japanese panic and school closures mean I’ve had little time for anything other than the kids since then. Isolated`s a place. Nasu’s isolated. Nothing but forest. Tall thin trees that shut out the sun. Nothing but forest, and sporadic outposts of old people. Lonely’s just a word. It’s up to you the meaning you attach to it. With a head full of memories and music it don’t mean much.

Lacrime Di Rei – Popol Vuh
Window On The Deep – BJ Cole
Subterraneans – David Bowie
Women Of Ireland – Bob James
Heatwave – Blue Nile
Lotus Groves – Soft Machine
I Scare Myself – Thomas Dolby
Bladerunner (love theme) – Vangelis
Bara Willie – Les Amabassadeurs Internationaux
Betsu Ni – Yukitori Takahasi
Imperfect List – Big Hard Excellent Fish
Perpetum Mobile – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Amore – Ryuichi Sakamoto

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EDIT: Rob also hosts a show on Samurai FM which is highly recommended. Check it here when you get a minute. Nice one – Ed.

[Dr Rob]

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