4/22/17 – Syzgys “The Complete Studio Recordings” (2003)

Syzgys is a Japanese Experimental Pop/Jazz duo that describe their sound as “Microtonal Pop”. The duo is a combination of violin player Hiromi Nishida and organ player Hitomi Shimizu, and the name Syzgys is a Greek word meaning “conjunction, yoked together”. They also incorporate a drum machine and I think a few session musicians here and there, and both sing. The organ player utilizes “Harry Partch’s 43 note to the octave microtonal organ” which requires a whole article to understand, and the violinist studied and uses Arabic style of violin playing. If the sound of a Japanese violin/organ duo doesn’t get you curious, then I don’t know what will.

To start the album off, Fauana Grotesque is a disturbed and warped carnival song that is oddly amusing rather than what you’d assume is grating. If you found the same bizarre pleasure in this song that I did, then you will love this album. Funnily enough it reminds me of Ween’s The Mollusk (1997) which also opened with an equally strange children’s tune. Lotus Rain has a more Jazzy Lounge feel to it but absolutely has their signature of uniqueness all over it. The airy violin has an odd attraction to it, and really lifts the song above waiting room music, which is always the pitfall of Lounge. This album demands so much attention that it’s hard to write and listen, which is what I usually do with my other reviews.

Badol Bashimu feels like walking through an Arabian market in a drunken stupor, played so slow and confused, then suddenly picks up for an adrenaline pumping 2nd half. It’s echoed by A Bao A Qu and Moroccan Rose, more dream-like trips. Syzgys really loves the flexatone and it’s often used as a punchline that always gets a smile out of me. With just an organ and violin and some percussion, they create a massive sound that you’d expect an orchestra to make. It’s hard to tell how much are actual instruments and how much is digital samples. Pallade breaks up the monotony with some constant drumming, tense violins and paranoia fills the air.

Suicide On A Fine Day mixes things up once again with some extremely groovy and catch beats from a drum machine. After a slew of instrumental dirges it’s here when I realize this is when Syzgys comes into their own. Their singing is light and breezy to give it a ghostly feel but I think that’s the glue that holds all the incoherent pieces together. It’s unfortunate that they are too underground for translated lyrics to be easily accessible, I couldn’t find any in my searches. Rikisy is a stunning beauty of an instrumental track, and another track that feels very unique but still their own. Since this is a compilation of works I wonder if it is in chronological order, as I feel the 2nd half is much more refined, and more playful with their musical ideas. Akebono is yet another shift in gears, as it’s nothing but a wandering violin plucking and the soothing sound of the shore. It’s a nice way to calm down after trying to process the preceding songs. It’s great meditation piece and I feel like other bands could use this idea to full effect.

This is some truly weird music that I’m sure most people will hate but it’s a fascinating listen to me. I guarantee that if anyone listens through the album they can find something they’ll love, but casual music fans probably won’t make it through. It is a compilation of works and is very long, lasting just over an hour. Check it out, you might be surprised.