Black Truffle presents Backfire of Joy, a previously unheard recording from Phew, John Duncan and Kondo Tatsuo, documenting a concert at Tokyo’s Hosei University in 1982. Though the fertile exchange of ‘zines, tapes and records between the Japanese underground and the Los Angeles Free Music Society meant the artists were familiar with each other’s work, this performance (occurring on Duncan’s first visit to Japan) was their first meeting and only performance as a trio.
Duncan is heard on his signature shortwave radio set-up, while Kondo performs on synth, tape loops and echo-drenched piano, providing a spacious backdrop for Phew’s astonishing performance of spontaneous, free-associative song moving between Japanese and English. A testament to the unhinged exploration of the 1980s experimental underground, the trio careen wildly between crashing percussive tape loops, deluges of shortwave noise, insistent piano figures and playful synth melodies. On the B side, we are treated to a remarkable ten minute sequence moving organically from spaced-out synth and radio textures to a stunning finale of improvised balladry centred on piano and voice, unexpectedly broken up by electronic interjections.
Beautifully recorded in crunchy vintage fidelity, Backfire of Joy arrives accompanied by archival photographs and newly authored liner notes from all three participants.
Released March 12, 2021
Phew‘s career began in the 70s when she fronted Osaka punk group Aunt Sally (who released one album on Vanity Records in 1979). Ryuichi Sakamoto produced Phew’s first solo release in 1980 and in 1981 Pass Records issued her debut LP, a classic featuring Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit of Can, and Conny Plank. She’s since collaborated with members of DAF, Neubauten, Boredoms and more.
Pitchfork calls her a “Japanese underground legend”. The albums she created over the last 40 years have gone from record store rarities to being included on many “best of” lists. She worked solo with musicians such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czukay, Jaki Liebezeit, Chrislo Haas, Alexander Hacke, Yuji Takahashi, Seiichi Yamamoto, Hiroyuki Nagashima, Otomo Yoshihide in the group Novo Tono, Dieter Moebius on Phew’s Project Undark Radium Girls project, Jim O’Rourke and Ana da Silva.