Review

Hako Yamasaki

Tsunawatari

We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want • 1976

Circus artists achieve mastery by making that which is crazy seem natural.  Only those who perform acrobatics without a safety net appear sublime at dizzying heights.  Hako Yamasaki’s »Tsunawatari« (»tightrope act«) consists of ten lamentations.  Her voice soars over elegiac folk. She appears to break. Sometimes she prances elatedly on psychedelic riffs.  Sometimes Yamasaki sways under melancholic chords.  Deep sadness constantly threatens to sweep the 19-year-old off her feet.  Yet Yamasaki masterfully balances emotional expression and formal reduction.  The Japanese singer’s simple songs combine folk, jazz and soft rock in a way that makes these genres seem like they’ve always belonged together.  Following the whole performance is almost impossible.  After all, 53 minutes of dancing on the edge are not for the faint-hearted.  Yet the artist presses on as if the emotional life of an entire generation were at stake. 

Today, Hako Yamasaki is considered an icon of Japanese feminism.  The Internet gave her a second career. Her song »Help Me« has millions and millions of hits on YouTube and Spotify.  Her melancholic game of chance hits a nerve and touches people across the borders and epochs.  Because there is something deeply human hidden in boundless sadness.  The reissues on WRWTFWW offer a welcome opportunity to stare into the abyss together with Yamasaki.