Les Rallizes Dénudés
The psychedelic music behind the mayhem
By Daniel Hess
As one might expect from reading over the tumultuous existence of Les Rallizes Dénudés in the previous article, the music they produced has a style all its own. One that, upon first listen, may seem hard to penetrate, but opens up and is truly rewarding on repeated listens. It can best be described as having a hard shell to crack, but once you break through, you'll discover music that comes from a darkly sweet plane of existence, that is utterly genuine in its uncompromising vision. Les Rallizes Dénudés never produced a proper studio album. The closest they came was in 1980 at Mars Studio, which was chronicled in a disjointed collection of recordings that can be heard today, most easily on Spotify. This article will focus on Heavier Than a Death in the Family, a bootleg album from a live show at Shakai Kyoiku Kaikan on March 12, 1977. This album was released in 2002, then reissued in 2010 by Phoenix Records. This album provides one of the most focused representations of the band, and also feels like a strong culmination of material that they had clearly been fine-tuning to this point. Now let's dive into each individual song.
"Strung Out Deeper Than the Night"
We open with a solo guitar that recalls surf rock stylings, echoing along as a singular droning bass riff enters the mix and fills the air, along with a steady pounding of the drums. The sound bed is now formally set for us to condition our ears for a little over a minute. Then Takashi Mizutani comes into the fold with his slow, somber lyrics, which give us a taste of the journey we are about to take in this fifteen-minute track. "Deeper than the night, darker than darkness. There was blood and madness in the place where you awoke. Under the beaming sky, you unfold your black wings. Just as you wanted. After the black sunrise. You'll meet them whenever you cross through the flames of ice." The guitars come back in, ushering in a six-minute interlude of wailing noises and almost Hendrixian solos, moving up and down the neck of the instrument. All the while the bass and drums keep us on course. "The rain's going to keep falling. 'Til my final moments. I loved the smell of rain. The whispering angel will tell you. That you have to abandon everything. The night in all its radiance. Sends it straight to your core. Deeper than the night, darker than darkness. You'll continue to fight. Death and madness." With those closing words, we are treated to a true final act in a howling cacophonous ballad of feedback, droning instrumentation, and wailing rhythms.
"The Night Collectors"
Immediately following "Strung Out," we are transported into further feedback, looping with heavy drums that build into a steady rhythmic flow. This song marks a true turning point of the recording. This is the point where you either give yourself over to the mix of sometimes piercing sounds, or opt for something different altogether. If "Strung Out" was our gateway, this is the bouncer on the other side checking our ID, the point of challenge asking us if this is really what we want to hear. For those who choose to continue, this eight-minute song is much less defined in where it wants to go. It feels sporadic in nature, despite the consistent tempo. An air of destruction secretes from every pore and by the midpoint, if you aren't inspired to jump into a mosh pit of chaos or destroy a room, then there might be something wrong. The utter dancing symphony of guitar and throbbing bass is both beautiful and anarchic.
"Night of the Assassins"
The throbbing bass finally takes center stage, delivering a riff that will cycle throughout the entirety of the song. This is a personal favorite of their collected work, and is also the one that seems to have the most pop influence, while still filtered through their own stylings. "The birds of silence flew off, the words of the night sunk away. No one has any desire for you to stay here. The dark lovers finally arrive at the beach where everything has died off." The screeching guitar provides a nice pop against the low wailing the rest of the band seems to be hyper-focused on, creating a landscape of escape to get lost in.
"Enter the Mirror"
Everything comes to a screeching halt for this song. The tempo is extremely subdued, and we are left with a predominantly lyric-focused piece. It is somber and reflective, with everyone dialed back to let the words take over, louder than ever. "I've passed through each night, sometimes along. I've passed through each night with you. I see the night in your eyes. In their subtle, dark radiance. Joy plays about with gloom. Across a number of mirrors." Of course, as the song progresses, the instrumentation builds, taking on those screeching, intense sounds we are used to by now, but in a way that does not move any more quickly than what has been laid out. That slow tempo remains and carries us through to the very end.
"People Can Choose"
In a more distant return to form, the full band embraces their places in the musical interludes. There is a more synchronous, distant sound that emanates throughout. The drums deserve special mention in this track, as there is a mixing of rhythms under the same time signature throughout. Later in the song, this element takes center stage as we come the closest to a solo for the instrument on the entire album. At the conclusion, the guitar sounds as if it holding onto its last dying breaths, wailing with a throat-shattering tonal energy. It is a pure cathartic response to what has come before.
This is by far the dirtiest track on the album. It has the most intense, cacophonous response on the collection, and it holds only a semblance of normal rhythm, courtesy of our bass and drums. The rest is an entire chorus of screaming noise pollution that seemingly exists to drive you away. This is the crux of the hypnotic style that the entire band exudes with each performance. They are telling you to stay away, yet inviting you to listen deeper. Right when they have you close enough to let your guard down, the lyrics take over to envelop you completely in what is happening. You might not understand it all, you might not even find yourself enjoying it on the same level as you do with what you might classify as "normal" listening, but there is no denying the impact it leaves on you. Although the band never officially recorded anything, these performances by Les Rallizes Dénudés are, without question, a true testament to when art stands tall on its own merits.
Lyric translation courtesy of: https://rateyourmusic.com/list/slioganach/translating-les-rallizes-denudes-into-english/
Also see Daniel Hess's website: https://totonyproductions.com/
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