Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lhasa - Raein/Lhasa/Daitro split tracks



(Not the actual artwork, just something I made up myself, see bottom of first paragraph below)



Lhasa is another wonderfully obscure band discovered within the blogging community, and an experience which I just really want to share. As far as I know, they are a Japanese band... and as someone whose very first introduction to screamo came from Envy's A Dead Stinking Story, I know that can only really be a good thing.

These three songs, 'Mother Earth Father Sky', 'Fallen Grace' and 'Bogged Horizons' were released on a split CD The Harsh Words as the Sun with Italy's Raein and France's Daitro. It's a fairly good split, in my opinion - I quite like Daitro, although I much prefer La Quiete to Raein - but Lhasa's three near-epic songs stand out, almost too much. My preference is to listen to them on their own - a quite satisfactory experience at about 26 minutes - and so that is the way I've presented them, unofficially of course, here for you. (n.b. the 'artwork' at the top is my own - a combination of a purloined tourist photo of the Potala palace in Lhasa city, and what Wikipedia says are the Tibetan characters for 'Lhasa'...)

Anyway, to describe the music itself... it's going to be difficult. Lhasa is all about the voice, even more so than usual screamo bands, and to the extent where it might be said that the instruments are completely secondary. It starts off sounding like ordinary post-rock, and then erupts slowly into deep, throaty vocals. At first, they sounded like ordinary metal screaming, but immediately one can hear so much texture, variation and shape as to escape comparison. Effectively, Lhasa uses the human voice as an instrument (an interesting inversion of the more common technique of using an instrument to mimic the human voice), conveying mood, energy and emotion almost solely through the medium of gruff screaming.

There are, I think, at times at least two vocalists intertwined (shades of my beloved HWM!) but for the most part Lhasa is stripped back to the one voice. This can be heard most effectively on the start of 'Bogged Horizons', where the singer carries along the tune in a low moan for all of five minutes before emerging with the rest of the band in a chugging, throaty catharsis. It seems these guys have absorbed the collective techniques of screamo of the last decade or two (as well as, possibly, the collected works of Louis Armstrong) and produced an incredibly dynamic, innovative and physically overwhelming style all of their own.

In many ways, this music is also incredibly dense. I've listened to these songs countless times, yet I don't really think I fully understand Lhasa. There is something of the cartoonish in this music, as the sound is so direct and unabashed, yet it is also beautifully attuned to the ear. On hearing Lhasa first, I posted some stupid comment like "This is the screamo Tom Waits" in reply, yet as they say, many a true word is spoken in jest. Lhasa plays no folk or carnival music, they are defiantly hardcore in their distorted, atonal guitar wash and chiming post-rock accompaniment, yet they possess like the genius of Tom Waits a powerful sense of soul and profound ability to express emotion in its rawest, most affecting form. Lhasa is a corrosive, bewildering enigma of modern 'screamo' - the poetry of song in its most potent guise.


Lhasa - "Three Songs EP": mediafire / divshare



(If you want to find out more about Harsh Words as the Sun, check out the releases on www.daitro.com/)

12 comments:

420420pizza said...

fuck yeah dude. this is one of my top 5 favorite splits. and solely on lhasa, though i like raein and daitro as well. I too have listened to this by itself many many times as its really the only way to listen to it. I also sometimes am confused on what exactly lhasa is, is it a joke band? is it members of other bands that put together this band and these songs for this split? I did some pretty deep searching on this band and found pretty much all that you say here Japanese..etc I wish I could find more music from them but i don't think that it exists. Amazing band. Awesome post.

gabbagabbahey said...

I found their website, all in Japanese of course, but it didn't seem to have been updated for a couple of years. What a pity!

gabbagabbahey said...

hey pizza, I just got round to replying to your comment in more detail. Thanks for the enthusiasm, by the way... it was great fun reviewing the sound of Lhasa, I have to say!

1 - It's cool that you did some hard work trying to find out more... the only thing I personally can think of trying to do now is sending an email to their record label, which is oto records I think. They post stuff in English on their site, so I might do that. They sound like pretty cool guys - they even staged a secret Funeral Diner/Kaospilot tour in Japan, which sounds awesome!

2. I actually never thought about them being some kind of Japanese screamo super-group... interesting idea. I only know Envy and Nitromegaprayer, and these guys don't sound like them vocals-wise. I'm pretty sure you'd recognise the voice if you heard it in another band, though... and if they're only a joke band, well, I'm happy to take the joke seriously!

Cheers, Gabba

420420pizza said...

i never thought about emailing the label. that sounds like a good way to find out more.

yeah and very true about the voice, i dont recognize it from any of the japanese bands or japanese "screamo" bands that i know.

blend77 said...

definitely was psyched when i first heard Lhasa on this split. The Raein and Daitro songs were both previously released anyway, so Lhasa was the only new stuff..

killer Doom style freakouts... wish we could find more...

gabbagabbahey said...

Aha! Found something out, on the Killies website... Lhasa are from Tokyo... I should really send an email, but if this band has released anything its probably only on Japanese vinyl, which isn't much use to me.

Oh yeah, welcome back blend. Hope you enjoy this reminiscence of music shared on comments pages, oh, several months ago...

Anonymous said...

actually, i spoke to yoshi from oto records about lhasa because my friends and i were raving so much about their stuff. yoshi said that currently lhasa's drummer was in england touring and/or recording with them. but he also said that lhasa will be recording a full length album when the drummer comes back, which i am quite excited for!

gabbagabbahey said...

cool! eagerly awaited ^

campwolves said...

hello!great blog.
raein are about to reform,they make a new split for the year's end.

here in italy we're so happy abou it!
bye and keep listening this good music...

uiyui said...
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Adi said...
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Patrick said...

This is still one of my favourite splits. Such a shame nothing else appeared.