Shizuka first came to wider attention at roughly the same time as their peers in the Japanese underground – in the nineties, really, when people started to get wise to the surprisingly wide-ranging post-psychedelic sounds emanating from the PSF label, predominantly, and a few other, similar creative cells. During that window of opportunity, Shizuka only released a few albums on P.S.F records, Persona Non Grata & Last Visible Dog. It’s not that much to go by, which is why An’archives’ Paradise Of Delusion (recorded live in 2001) is a most welcome, not to mention much-needed, posthumous collection. For the first time ever, Shizuka is now released on vinyl.
Even by the standards of their closest peers, aesthetically speaking –Fushitsusha (with whom they shared two members, Maki Miura and Jun Kosugi), Kousokuya, Ché-SHIZU – Shizuka were a mysterious, occluded bunch. Led by the late Shizuka herself, a guitarist, vocalist, song writer, and doll maker, with her husband Miura, a devastatingly powerful guitar slinger, their songs were potent, seductive things: often playing out at a snail’s pace, with the same kind of flickering, sensual ‘black-and-white psychedelia’ as the third Velvet Underground album, or a more languid Les Rallizes Denudes. Shizuka’s songs always felt far more certain of themselves, far steelier in their resolve, than their face-value fragility might suggest. Perhaps it’s the seeming ponderousness of the way they go about performing their songs – Shizuka’s slow iterations of simple chord changes, her psalmic vocal melodies over the top, suggesting a world-weariness, a kind of existential exhaustion, that’s often torn asunder by a soaring surge of roaring guitar from Maki Miura.
It’s no surprise to be reminded that, alongside her music making, Shizuka was a well-known doll maker in Japan, mentored by the legendary doll artist Katan Amano. Whatever is happening here is relentlessly private, psychologically introverted in many ways, but opened out to the possibilities of both great beauty and great despair – the two states that the music of Shizuka best captures.