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Music / Les Rallizes Dénudés

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A picture of Les Rallizes Dénudés from an unknown concert

One of the very first Noise Rock bands, Les Rallizes Dénudés (Japanese: 裸のラリーズ or Hadaka no Rallizes) were a Japanese band that existed from 1962 to 1996 that predated Western popularization of the genre by around a decade. And despite being one of the most influential and important bands in the Japanese music scene, almost nothing is known about them - in fact, asides from a single and trio of archival albums in the 90s, they technically never officially released anything until 2022, long after they had ceased to exist.

It is near impossible to tell where the facts end and stories begin when it comes to their history. Allegedly, guitarist, vocalist, and only consistent member Takashi Mizutani started an avant-garde theatre troupe before abandoning that in favor of a rock band inspired by The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat and Free Jazz in 1967. Most of their output in the late 60s is very different from what would eventually get them an international cult following, though some songs still showcase their feedback laden style - the Psychedelic Rock and Progressive Rock influences shown early on are present throughout their career. Their early playing with the Taj-Mahal Travellers also influenced their music.

Mizutani became a Reclusive Artist mostly because of an infamous incident in which bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi hijacked an airplane in support of the Japanese Red Army. Mizutani, a long time sympathizer and participant in far-left student riots, feared arrest or worse if he showed his face too much. One proposed reason for the dissolution of the band is due to legal complications involving Mizutani, though his efforts to keep everything relating to himself and the band a secret have made finding any one cause rather difficult. Another mystery of the band is their name - "Rallizes" is not a word in Japanese or French. There are multiple theories as to what they were going for with it, ranging from "Fucked Up and Naked" to "The Empty Comrades".

Sometime in The '70s, their music evolved into long, drawn out songs that have been described as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music set to a Krautrock inspired rhythm section. The ear bursting feedback on top of Mizutani's guitar riffs rubbed off on some of his contemporaries, such as Keiji Haino of Fushitsusha.

They continued to play on and off throughout the 80s and 90s before eventually dissolving in 1996. The last time Mizutani was spotted was during a show in 1997, in which he played alongside Free Jazz musicians Arthur Doyle and Sabu Toyozumi. He allegedly approved the release of a remastered boxset in 2011, but that's about it for him. In fact, it wasn't even revealed until 2021 that he'd passed away in 2019.

Had they never formed, countless more popular Japanese artists may have never existed: Merzbow, Boris, Boredoms, and Keiji Haino have all been impacted by their influence.

In 2022, the first official Les Rallizes Dénudés album finally appeared: The OZ Tapes, consisting of recordings the band made in The '70s. It is available from their Bandcamp.

Official releases

  • 1991 - 67 - 69: Studio et Live
  • 1991 - '77 Live
  • 1991 - Mizutani / Les Rallizes Dénudés note 
  • 1996 - 黒い悲しみのロマンセ或いはFallin' Love With / 永遠に今が
  • 2022 - The OZ Tapes
  • 2023 - CITTA’’93
  • 2023 - BAUS '93

Notable Bootlegs: note 

  • 2002 - Heavier Than a Death in the Family note 
  • 2007 - Double Heads: Legendary Live Yaneura Shibuya, Tokyo 1980-1981 note 
  • 2007 - Cable Hogue Soundtrack
  • 2011 - The Rivista Archives note 

Tropes that apply to Les Rallizes Dénudés are:

  • Avant-Garde Music: Their extreme noisiness was quite shocking, and nothing short of straight Harsh Noise got much louder.
  • Cool Shades: Mizutani wore these almost all the time.
  • Epic Rocking: By the seventies, the majority of their songs were at least ten minutes long, with some reaching up to thirty.
  • Harsh Noise: Some of Mizutani's guitar feedback could reach this level.
  • Krautrock: Their bass playing and drumming styles have been described like this.
  • Live Album: All of them, with the exception of a few aborted studio attempts that leaked.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Even the most intense songs have Mizutani's hypnotic monotone Word Salad Lyrics.
  • Noise Rock: One of the very first practitioners.
  • Psychedelic Rock: Started out as this in a relatively straightforward manner, but quickly assumed a unique (far noisier) identity, with the psychedelic feeling taking a backseat to the feedback.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Next to nothing is known about Mizutani or the band's history.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Most of their shows happened at nighttime while indoors; Mizutani rarely took his sunglasses off regardless.
  • The Ghost: Mizutani was confirmed alive as late as 2011, though he has never appeared in person since 1997, only approving releases through messaging. Only in 2021 was it released that Mizutani had passed away in 2019.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Mizutani's lyrics rarely made much sense, but that's not really the point.