It’s already quite a year for Zeuhl and other types of avant-prog, with the due comeback of Japanese act 高円寺百景 (Kōenji Hyakkei) and their album ドリンビスカ (Dhorimviskha), French supergroup Piniol and their stellar album Bran coucou. Of note, there are also Moteur!, Protoplasma, and Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere for good measure. This is quite a crowded year for such a niche genre, and Ryorchestra is yet another voice that tries to be heard. DMK is the Japanese band’s debut album, and it was released in June without any promotion whatsoever, and totally absent from the more convenient platforms for music—in fact, it’s nowhere to be found in digital format, only to be acquired via direct contact with 小埜涼子 (Ono Ryōko). Yes, the one and only, who worked with Japanese band Ruins as Sax Ruins. So, let’s see what this is all about.
DMK starts off with the promising but not quite explosive track “Ëvison”. Here, we see some of what the band is capable and where they want to go. The influence of other similar bands like 高円寺百景 (Kōenji Hyakkei) and Ruins is strong, but Ryorchestra seem more rigorous, almost restrained comparatively. The real fun begins with the Twin Peaks-inspired “Laura Palmer”, and there’s no turning back now! From there until the end of the record, it seems like things only get more surreal. All things that make the Japanese school of Zeuhl great are there: the lyrical singing, the big band, the odd-metred ostinati, the very eclectic musical landscape, and most other little details you might have in mind are probably there too.
One way I’d like to label Ryorchestra is garage Zeuhl. Yes, most if not all of the things that make zeuhl Zeuhl are there, but there’s this indie je ne sais quoi, this jam band charm where not every note is mechanically on point but you don’t care because there’s heart in it and where the production is just rough enough to let you know it’s the work of an independent band with a lot of passion. DMK is a fantastic album that suffers from its astringent and austere promotion and distribution tactics, and that’s to the detriment of the music, of music fans, and of the band, in the end. It’s a great album, so, if you are able to acquire it, do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (the album is priced at 2,300 JPY).