Since forming in 1999, Suishou No Fune (A Ship Of Crystal), the vehicle for long-term musical collaborators Pirako Kurenai (guitar, voice) and Kageo (guitar), have been one of the most compelling groups in the Japanese underground. Their long, languorous songs are devastating in their simplicity, as though the gently sung ballads of the Velvet Underground’s third album were re-scored by the legendary Japanese free-rock gang, Les Rallizes Denudes. Their new album, 風は春、空は虹、愛は波間に隠れている (The wind is spring -. There is a rainbow in the sky - Love is hiding in the waves.), documents a live performance from May 2021, at Silver Elephant, where the duo are joined by Matsuedo Hideo on bass, and Mark Anderson (Greymouth, Mysteries Of Love) on drums.
The duo of Pirako Kurenai and Kageo have come a long way since their early performances and self-released CD-Rs – in the intervening decades, they’ve released albums on P.S.F., Holy Mountain, Important, Archive, 8mm and Essence, amongst others, each album another manifestation of the duo’s ever-changing same. You can hear them patiently toiling over these beauteous songs, with their choral melodies and lush waves of tonology, Kageo’s guitar radiating bejewelled chimes and dense passages of texture, pulling the songs into a black hole of quietude and sadness. And as Kurenai once told journalist Phil Kaberry, “Suishou No Fune’s songs, sounds and words are often born from heartrending feelings like sadness and pain”.
The wind is spring. There is a rainbow in the sky. Love is hiding in the waves begins with the deep blues of “Cherry”, a drawn-out drift-song that pivots on a most elegant two-chord mantra, as Kurenai sings, siren-like, amidst the sheets of noise Kageo peels from six strings. There’s something painterly about the duo’s playing here, and indeed, Kageo was a painter and Kurenai was a doll maker and watercolour painter when they met in the late ‘90s. On the flip side, a spare, spaced-out improvisation, “A Rainbow Is Floating”, acts as a prelude to “Endless Descent”, one of Suishou No Fune’s most remarkable songs, where a mesmeric guitar line endlessly coils and twines around the flicker and toll of Kurenai’s hypnotic one-chord strum. It’s a bruised, quietly desperate ending to an album that has an acroamatic air, as though the songs were transmitting to a cabal of lost spirits.