Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Harumi was a Japanese ex-pat (with a woman's name) who jumped across the ocean and had the fortune to under the guiding hand of legendary producer Tom Wilson. This self titled disc is a double album that deserves to be as such as it functions basically as two completely different sets: one a set of blue eyed soul and AM pop sounds thrown through a psychedelic pop prism, while the other consists of two side long experimental freak outs.
The first eleven songs are pretty solid psychedelic pop that usually ends up echoing another artist. "Hunters Of Heaven" recalls the Grass Roots a little too much for my tastes, while "Don't Know What I'm Gonna Do" is like a psychedelicized Righteous Brothers. "Hurry Up Now" and "What A Day For Me" channel a little bit of the Stax Records sound. Tom Wilson throws some production curveballs by slathering on the phasing and adding some occasional orchestration and oddball instrumentation. Then we have Harumi himself. Although going for a pop sound that generally harbours powerful vocalists, he often sounds more like a stoned cosmonaut. I think this makes this more charming than it would be otherwise.
Fortunately, there are several home run tracks hanging in the grooves. "Talk About It" blasts through with it's phasing, screeching strings and horn charts as a pretty wacked out soul number. "First Impressions" trades in the soul (but keeps the horns), for a great track that mixes British style whimsy with the lighter side of San Fran acid rock. Plus it has vibraphone, which as you may know, is always a plus for me. "Hello" is an awesome psych groover (with more vibraphone!) that was awesome enough to get sampled on the first track of Edan's Beauty And The Beat. Later we find "We Love," which is a fun raga-rock song which kind of recalls the better songs on the soundtracks of 60's psychedelic exploitation films.
Then we get to the second disc, which is a much stranger set of stream-of-consciousness ramblings, traditional Japanese instrumentation, and the ambience of a blue-smoke filled club at 5am when only the most freaked out heads are still hanging around. "Twice Told Tales Of The Pomegranate Forest" inhabits the first side, and is by far the lesser of the two. Resting mostly on koto and strange spoken word, it takes some effort to make it through the whole 24 minutes. Much better is side two's "Samurai Memories," which is supported by a churning band. On top of this are lots of muttering in Japanese, warped sound effects, and orchestration invading the aural space in strange and unexpected ways. The 20 minute track feels like a missing link between the stranger part of Frank Zappa's Freak Out and the long, driving sonic journeys of Acid Mothers Temple.
With what basically amounts to two albums present here, you're bound to find a couple tracks that hit a bulls-eye on Harumi. It's underground music, but with the steady hand of a pro at the helm.
Harumi - 1968 - Harumi