Kurushimi is a new collective of sorts including members of Serious Beak, Instrumental, adj. (bands we have covered here on CTEBCM!), Fat Guy Wears Wolf Shirt, as well as a few other members. They just dropped their self-titled debut on Art as Catharsis, and I’m going to be up front with you: there is no point trying to attach genres to this (so naturally we’re going to try it!). Like all great music, it defies easy attempts at description and categorization.
The first question that came to me upon hearing of this project: What does Kurushimi mean, anyway? Knowing nothing about Japanese myself, I turned to Google translate:
Oh. Well then. Guess I could’ve inferred that from the cover art. The tone of the album is certainly grim as such a name would suggest, and as far as conveying the idea of suffering I’d say they succeeded. However, the listening experience couldn’t be further from it, at least for those of us who enjoy truly progressive and heavy music.
Kurushimi’s approach is minimally structured, the tunes being mostly improvised and have only a conductor (!!!) to hold everything together. What the hell? A conductor?! Aren’t those just for stuffy orchestras and choruses playing ancient music? Apparently not! A few of the main pitfalls of avant-garde music, for instance the tendencies to devolve into disjointed randomness or stagnate on a particular groove and fail to coalesce into a compelling aural narrative, are obviated this way: freedom without complete chaos, organization without a stifling adherence to structure. The best of both worlds.
The result of this approach is a gripping, unpredictably twisted journey through darkness. The lineup, consisting of aforementioned conductor leading guitar and dual saxophones over a rhythm section of bass and drums, is extremely well-suited for this task. These musicians are incredibly versatile and share a remarkable chemistry. I find it difficult to pin down a description of the music itself due to it constantly changing. Cavernous, atmospheric grooves seamlessly crescendo into furious, apocalyptic doom-thrash-grind insanity and back. Wailing sax lines play off of schizophrenic guitar solos. Cadences evolving from jazzy grooves to blastbeats as though it were routine. Crunchy, distorted bass riffs both anchor and drive the collective. What this album really does do consistently is evoke most of the words in figure 1.
If you insist against all reason on attaching a genre description to this record, I suppose “free metal” would be accurate. It’s definitely metal since it possesses the characteristic heaviness and aggression of metal in spades. It’s definitely free due to the lack of conventional musical structure and strongly improvisational nature. These terms even in combination don’t quite do it justice, but it makes more sense than calling it free jazz. Come on, just because it has saxophone and loose structure doesn’t make it free jazz. There definitely are hints of jazziness(as well as a variety of other styles), but they are just that: hints.
In order to maintain the illusion of objectivity I have to say something bad about it too, right? Well, the record is long, and the songs can seem to drag a bit at times. The players’ individual and collective mastery of their craft is so advanced that they render the very concept of music obsolete going forward. Really though, that stuff’s not all bad, is it?
OSR version: An exhilarating, unpredictable masterpiece of avant-garde innovation.