Les Rallizes Denudes - Live 1972 (Over Level CD)
A couple labels have gotten into the Rallizes bootleg reissue gig lately but about the only one transmitting classic rotting LRD documents to CD and making them widely available at reasonable cost is France's Over Level, who seemingly strive to be as mysterious as the group they're documenting because I can't find any information about them whatsoever. All I know is that they were also responsible for the recent Rallizes double-disc "Le 12 Mars 1977 a Tachikawa" aka the legendary "'77 Live", a classic in the band's enormous discography. That album bore the catalogue number 001 and this is 002 so I guess they just got started rather recently. I don't even know when this reissue of "Live 1972" hit, I think it was last year but I can't be sure. Also of note to the aspiring/hardened Rallizes collector is the Univive label out of Japan who are reissuing Rallizes shows on DVD at obscene import prices and Echoes from the Earth who did the recent "Deeper Than the Night" LP boot, also priced to kill. So that leaves us with Over Level. The packaging for both of their discs has been pretty much the same - cover adorned with picture of Mizutani, album title, and nothing else. Not even a booklet - the cover here is just heavy cardstock with the same image printed on the back, text excluded. The back cover features a 200 foot tall Mizutani stalking the stage at an outdoor show while the band plays behind him, same text as the front cover. No release date/info anywhere. No titles; Japanese, French or otherwise. Not even any websites or "thanx" sections, if you can imagine. Talk about being committed to the cause. Talk about being committed.
"Live 1972" is an astonishingly lo-fi handheld tape recorder audience recording of a show that took place somewhere on this planet in the year 1972, kind of an underdocumented period in Rallizes history (or maybe it just seems that way). None of the tracks have any titles but I'm pretty sure they don't play any of their classics like "Enter the Mirror", "The Last One", "Otherwise Fallin' Love With", "Field of Artificial Flowers", etc. but it's pretty hard to tell at the same time because the group liked to use basslines from one song and improvise off them in another, not to mention bootleggers misnaming tracks and making it all the more convoluted...but personally I was unfamiliar with everything here. Track two probably comes closest to vintage late-70's Rallizes with a slow, bluesy bassline joined by Mizutani's anguished/yelped/whimsical vocals thrown atop and stretched for 12+ minutes. Track three is even gentler, a nearly-cheery rousal of heavenly, wide-open chords and vox with a mid-section absolutely gutted by a Lou Reed-style guitar assault. The first and fourth move with the kind of urgency the Sex Pistols and the Clash brought to the table a couple years later only even scuzzier and angular...if Les Rallizes were getting the kind of attention the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were getting, we might not have even needed punk rock. What's interesting about these particular tracks (and certain points of all the others) is that the group tend to push faster and louder than the recorder can handle and the track wounds up sounding like dub, reduced to a thick slush with only occasional fragments resembling anything close to what regular humans might call "song". The final two numbers are pretty short by Rallizes standards (5:21 and 4:43) but are at least of the same essence, building off another wild guitar solo and an incredible, brain-meltingly slow bass foundation that's almost as agonizing as it is joyful. Mizutani vocalizes a few lines but for the most part the two are instrumental as the band wheel off into the depths of hell with the noisy, psychedelic, heavy metal thunder the track turns into in the closing minutes of the set, that same insistant bassline serving as the only remaining life preserver by which to take hold.
If you're a stickler for quality recordings (and if you're a fan of Les Rallizes Denudes I don't see how you possibly can be) you're going to hate this record. At certain parts you can even hear the tape being flipped over, briefly interrupting the song and turning it into drowned-out haze for a second before picking up again. Not to mention the last track cuts off rather abruptly, leaving me wondering if there isn't more to this show or what, but I guess we'll never know. Call it part of the mystery. Here's hoping the recent spat of Rallizes-dedicated labels and websites and what have you will eventually lead to a re-emergence (in part or in whole) of the band. I think the last anyone heard from anybody who was in the band was when Mizutani played a couple of shows with Arthur Doyle and Sabu Toyozumi in 1997, the fruits of which were released on Italy's Qbico label (since deleted). Maybe someday we can get some official versions of these gigs and others, properly mastered and everything! I digress...we're at the mercy of the bootleggers for now but I can think of worse ways to live. For beginners the "Le 12 Mars 1977 a Tachikawa" is still too essential to pass up and probably my favorite Rallizes document of all-time but that changes from month to month anyway. There's not much choice either - those two are the only actual silver CDs on the market to my knowledge.