Listed for over one hundred Euros apiece, this 10-CD set comes in a custom wooden box, and is one of the most preposterous releases in the Gerogerigegege catalogue — which is saying a lot.
The Gerogerigegege is the project of Toyko residents Juntaro Yamanouchi and Gero 30 (a.k.a. Tetsuya Endoh), who have been performing together since 1985. In the past, they were famous for their live performances, in which Endoh, who is an exhibitionist, would masturbate and perform other indecent acts on stage — a spectacle all the more noteworthy given that, when they met, Yamanouchi was apparently just 18 years old, whereas Endoh was in his forties. Fittingly, these first performances took place largely in BDSM clubs.
After releasing a very lo-fi debut tape on Merzbow’s ZSF Produkt label — a collage of guitar noise narrowly ranging from feedback to squall — Yamanouchi started up his own Vis à Vis Audio Arts label, which released the Senzuri Champion LP. That release captured the core Gerogerigegege aesthetic: there is feedback noise, sure, but also a rhythm section, which allows them newly to pound out noisy punk assaults. The release ends with a final jam, in which Endoh is heard moaning in onanistic pleasure over a funky beat.
That aesthetic would be amplified with further exploits, with many critics encapsulating the Gerogerigegege concept with one word: obscene. Indeed, the band’s name is reportedly an onomatopoeia for the sound of someone vomiting and discharging diarrhea at the same time. And yet Gerogerigegege’s approach to obscenity is just as much about subversion as it is perversion. Showa, the follow up to Senzuri Champion, starts with a fuzzy recording of the Japanese anthem before transitioning into 30 minutes of porn audio; the cover image is a profile photo of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. Ai-Jin, a 1988 flexi disc, is a recording of Yamanouchi “singing” over a pop song song by one of Taiwan’s most famous singers, Teresa Teng. (Notably, though 2000 copies were reportedly pressed, almost all of them were burned in a performance at Enoshima Beach, meaning surviving discs sell for hundreds of dollars to collectors.) And 1993’s 0 (Zero) Song EP was a clear flexi disc with no grooves on it: its liner notes insist that “silence is the best music” and instruct the listener to play at “75 rpm or any speed.”
To contextualize this combination of perversion and subversion, look to Yamanouchi’s 1992 interview in RRRecords’ RRReport magazine, which has been transcribed online. There he identifies as a gay man who is in support of gay rights, but not prone to political action. He reflects on the absence of a pride movement in Japan, and argues that “If they try to hide who they are and to avoid associating with straight people, it is kind of natural that they are discriminated and looked down.” Elsewhere, after describing Gerogerigegege performances in which the two of them them consumed one another’s feces as middle-aged onlookers masturbated along, he boils the band’s ethic down to two ideas: “Do not copy others” and “Human feelings.” Aware of Japan’s stigma around queerness, but seemingly comfortable with his own sexuality, Yamanouchi’s goal for The Gerogerigegege appears to involve both iconoclasm and unfiltered self-expression.
The band’s most famous record, Tokyo Anal Dynamite, came out in 1990. Despite its name, it is among the more conventional of Gerogerigegege’s records, albeit perhaps that isn’t saying much: in approximately 40 minutes, the band fits in seventy-five songs. Each track starts with a “1-2-3-4!” count-off and then descends into a chaotic blast of noise-punk. The sound was inspired, as Yamanouchi says in a 2001 interview, by the noisecore scene, an obscure international genre devoted to short blasts of guitar/drum/vocal noise. Specifically, he describes being enamoured with a rare 1986 demo tape by Australian band Seven Minutes of Nausea, which crams in 102 tracks.
Mysteriously, The Gerogerigegege disappeared in 2001, not to reappear until 2016, when a flurry of releases followed. It is unclear if Endoh is still contributing to the project (in a 2001 interview, he was reportedly ill in hospital), though Yamanouchi has issued a characteristic stream of noise assaults and concept records.
Enter, then, the behemoth 不安な演奏 set, whose title translates to Anxious Performance. This is ten CDs’ worth of audio culled from dusty old “ero-tapes”: pornographic audio recordings of men and women engaged in explicit activities. These cassettes were reportedly sold primarily in the sixties through the eighties in the back corners of adult bookstores. According to an essay written by Eiji Yaginuma for a related Gerogerigegege release, these “dark tapes” often featured hand-written labels and were frequently advertised as having been recorded surreptitiously in private locations. In some cases, they were referred to as “eavesdropping” tapes for this purpose.
Here, The Gerogerigegege presents 10 CDs worth of these tapes, seemingly unaltered. The audio is just tape hiss and people’s voices, which are often indistinct due either to the poor recording conditions or the age of the source material.
The box set’s name is borrowed from the title of a book by Seicho Matsumoto, a Japanese detective fiction author very popular in the sixties and seventies. (It appears that the book’s title is more commonly translated as Uneasy Performance and has yet to be translated to English.) The novel itself tells the story of a magazine editor who is investigating several “eavesdropping” tapes recorded at a “love hotel,” only to discover that one of the recordings seems to capture a murder being planned.
As a result of the degraded audio and disembodied voices, there is little about these recordings that is erotic. (I will concede that I have only listened to parts of two tracks.) Instead, they feel dirty and more than a little eerie. Yaginuma, writing about another similar release in the Gerogerigegege discography, observes that the original ero-tapes were not designed to be art; in fact they were deliberately artless. “…there is no such thing as ‘sophistication’ in the existence of the ero cassette,” he writes. “It is simply a vulgar, disreputable, and indecent project that attracts viewers and listeners alike. It is an act of creation that is not pursued, improved, or aimed at in any way, but simply made because it was thought that customers might bite, because it would sell.” For Yaginuma, it was this directness — or, as he puts it, “barbaric”-ness — that makes it such a pure form of expression.
Indeed, the barbaric candidness of these obscure source cassettes is what makes this such a disquieting listen, what Yaginuma refers to as “the creepiness and stench that can appear only because there is no artifice, intentional design, manipulation of information, or any unnaturalness at all.”
The Gerogerigegege would follow this box set up with a vinyl “reissue” entitled “Naomi’s Masturbation and Wakakusa Dormitory Guide,” which was yet another untouched dub of an old “ero-tape,” this one featuring the sounds of women masturbating. Reportedly, he had obtained this tape decades ago, and, upon returning to an erotic bookshop in search for cover artwork, was shocked to find an advertisement in an old pornographic magazine for the exact same (deeply esoteric) tape.
Only 300 copies of the 不安な演奏 box were produced, and they are already sold out from the source. Surely, many have fallen into the hands of collectors who are conscious that other limited edition Gerogerigegege releases now sell for hundreds of dollars. Yet, this is an undeniably true realization of the band’s vision. It is obscene, discomforting, and virtually impossible to take in.
This release was originally available on the Urashima website.