Never Knew I Needed Onna

There’s really no point of reference from which to connect Onna, the 1983 Japanese duo of Keizou Miyanishi and Mafuyu Hiroki responsible for this mysterious/grotesque tease of Nippon-psych-groove-harsh-ambient-drone. It’s got it all in two short songs. Not an epic with multiple movements and instruments and voices – it’s much simpler than that. “It’s got it all” just means this could be all one needs for a night of freak-out, continually gnoming into the creepy/beautiful (check out the cover) layers here. It’s always been hard for me to really break into the bounty of late ‘70s – early ‘80s Japrock. I’ve got the book, but got stuck on Julian Cope’s superfluous introduction – and it’s also those hard to follow names, the numerous bootlegs are hard to track, and even in the advent of internet scavenger hunts, much of the music is hard to procure. Onna, in my mind, evolved past or out of the bedrock of bands like Les Rallizes Denudes and Flower Travellin’ (two that I am wholly familiar with) and simultaneously cooked in the urgent dissonance of no wave and post-punk, tripping beat-centric locked grooves like Kraftwerk and Suicide. But it’s more, using the basics, and by basics I mean the drum machine was stuck on one setting and set free, the duo had the freedom to explore just about anywhere the guitar wanted to go. For that the songs (from which I can’t translate any lyrics or for that matter titles) continuously shift throughout, though the beat keeps a line intact, everywhere else in the space it creates is being parsed by wild labyrinthine guitar lines. Freeform sub-downer warlock psych. Making sense? Well it really shouldn’t. There’s a aura to the Japanese culture that will always bewilder Westerners – be it sushi, Pokémon, or the Boredoms. You may not fully understand the inner workings or the ritual or exactly why one of their identifying icons exist (Pokari Sweat), but you smile and shake your head nonetheless. Usually the primo Japanese psych I’ve heard is perfect for smoke, but the best part is you’ll never need smoke to have an experience with these records. Especially this one. The guilty party, Holy Mountain, is said to be releasing more material from the group very soon.

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