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Kan Mikami - Bachi, Kashiwa Mura Kara

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Artist: Kan Mikami

Album: Bachi, Kashiwa Mura Kara

Label: Turtles' Dream

Review date: Jan. 5, 2005

Kan Mikami first emerged as a folk singer during the 1970s, a time in Japan’s history marked by radical anti-establishment sentiments and sexual liberation from hypocritical public morality. After a brief flirtation with major labels in his homeland, Mikami suddenly fell off the map, only to reappear 10 years later on Tokyo’s underground music scene, playing alongside Keiji Haino, Masayoshi and fellow troubadour Kazuki Tomokawa and recording numerous albums for cult Japanese label PSF.

Mikami’s songs are infused in traditional music. There are traces of English folk, the blues and Portuguese fado in his guitar style, but all seen through the lens of Japanese Enka music, a sentimental style often played in that country’s karaoke bars. As his electric instrument supplies primitive musical backdrops, it allows Mikami to narrate his surreal stories of love and spirituality during bouts of vocal aerobics - passionate barks and Kermit-like croaks to breathy recitations and actual singing that perpetually treads the finest of lines between captivating and plain irritating.

Bachi is a short work of short songs - nine in just over 20 minutes may leave longtime Mikami fans feeling a little shortchanged. But for the Mikami virgin, this disc makes a wonderful introduction.

Tracks such as the autobiographical “Hosei University,” which describes the author’s journey through life, and the a cappella “Facing the Blossom” are touched with the kind of raw innocence and naïve beauty that never fade. Mikami is joined on the final piece by Fabrice Eglin on feedback guitar, a whisper of a song which barely registers on the radar before departing into the atmosphere like a grief-stricken ghost.

By Spencer Grady

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