I came in contact with Houzan Suzuki, after I saw his video to EO’s cover version of Logos Part 1. At that time TD cover versions were my big hobby, so I contacted Houzan via YouTube. This knife throwin’, cat lovin’, philosophical YouTube guru, turned out to be a really generous person, very grateful for the comments I made. So I received some really interesting CDs from him, and ended up buying the rest from the Japanese site ‘Music Term’.
EO: Empty Outfield (2001, Mumyouan, MAEO-98001/2)
This impressive double disc release comes with a huge 88 page booklet, with some rather mystical, almost occult diagrams. Disc one is devoted to EO’s digital era, whereas disc two is devoted to the analogue era. The best stuff is found on disc 1.
The first track owes a lot to Johannes Schmoelling’s Wuivend Riet, but it’s the three TD cover tracks that win my full attention. Fading Vision is a medley of the piano intro to Ricochet Part 1, which merges into a full-blown keyboard arrangement of Tangram Set 1. Next up is the aforementioned version of Logos Part 1, but the winner is the marriage of Two-Bunch Palms (from 220 Volt) and Cloudburst Flight (from Force Majeure). EO’s cover of Trans-Europe Express by Kraftwerk is excellent as well, but for me, the TD covers steal the show.
EO’s own tracks are what I would call ‘music music’, because they are progressive, extremely complicated with odd time signatures, yet dated in their 90’s sound design.
If I should sum up this release in three words, it would be ‘Tangerine Dream Theater.’
EO: HEN (~WEIRD~) (2001, Mumyouan, MAEO-98003)
His next album is not quite as remarkable. However, it features Cursed Soul, a re-arrangement of Betrayal from Sorcerer and Nine Magic Candles which slowly evolves into the majestic 3 AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee from Stratosfear. There are plenty of fruitful ideas being executed on this album, where the four minutes long Mystery Zone sound like the Near Dark soundtrack meets Sylvester Anfang - Conrad Schnitzler’s donation to the Norwegian black metallers Mayhem’s debut album, Deathcrush, from 1987.
The final track Brain Storm draws attention for being particularly meandering. Overall, a very pleasant, yet extremely experimental album.
EO: “Henkei” [Transformation] (2002, Mumyouan, MAEO-98005)
Untraditionally, this album begins with the bonus tracks, which aren’t even performed by EO, but his producer Houzan Suzuki. The first track is the eclectic Alchemy, with a characteristic piano and flute interaction.
Bicentennial Present is probably the only time I’ve heard a Peter Baumann cover tune, and it captures the instrumental complexity of the original, replacing Baumann’s sudden laughter with vocoded mews. Followed with a cover of Mike Oldfield’s overlooked classic B-side Pipe Tune, then comes 3 AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee from Stratosfear, this time in a complete form. After those Houzan Suzuki tracks, then comes the "main tracks" from EO.
A Tangram theme crops up in Setting Off, and Isolated Forest is actually a tangentized version of Fauni Gena from Atem. The album ends with an unmentioned 14th track. This is probably EO’s best album – with or without Houzan’s contributions. EO could very well be the next sequencer king.
Z-55 – Sound for sex by Houzan Suzuki (2004, Mumyouan, MAEO-98006)
In these times of loudness war, it’s pleasant to own an album ‘recorded at a significantly lower volume’. It hums and drones away, like Zeit did back in 1972, but despite its title it doesn’t get me aroused, at all.
Houzan Suzuki: Zip-Code 00000 – Sounds For Dying Moments (Mumyouan, MAEO-98008)
It opens with a beautiful string-based requiem, but mutates into nightmarish sound collages based on (primarily Schmoelling era) TD samples, looped to a point where you almost start to doubt the beauty in TD’s own music. There are some qualitative pitfalls on this album, indeed, but it leaves you in state of after-death, looking back on life, in an extremely cynical way. This album should not be played with minor age persons in a radius of, lets say, 12 meters.
For a TD fan there are plenty of references to pick up upon – until they are trampled underfoot, that is.
Momento by Houzan Suzuki (2005, Mumyouan, MAEO-98009)
This album is a breathing space from the previously mentioned, Zeit and Cyborg inspired, releases. Momento is Houzan’s undisputed masterpiece, running for some 70 minutes in length. It opens with an energetic, sequencer based, complex melody piece. That is followed by some pseudo-jazz-like tune, which leaves King Crimson fans with their mouths wide open in awe. The solos played here are mindblowing, to say the least.
The highlight is of course the cover version of Ricochet Part 2. A version that gradually adds layers of sequencers in a way that is most breathtaking. Apart from that, the remainder of the tracks are nearly just as brilliant, and much more in-your-face than anything from Houzan’s previous releases.
I you like complex, tight, thoughtful, electronic music with a nod to the old Berlin School, this is your album!
Houzan Suzuki: The Planet of Machines (2006, Mumyouan)
The TD references/samples are literally all over the place. As the title might suggest it’s a concept album about machines taking over the planet, erasing all human influence. And even the ever-so sympathetic Houzan succeeds in giving this album a very inhumane touch.
Power Plant evolves from the menacing Ricochet Part 1 intro into some rogue, brutishly infuriating harsh 4/4 techno. A transition that must be heard, before you believe it.
The 1975’ish seagull signature blesses the dump, which is track three, named Assembly Plant, before a very industrial drum pattern insistently takes over this array of grotesque sounds.
After all, The Planet of Machines is a merciless album, to be honest, so I skip to some tracks that are enjoyable.
Chemical Plant is a static loop of Highway Patrol from 1984’s Flashpoint. In the coming tracks, Klaus Schulze's Bayreuth Return returns, and an excerpt from Mike Oldfield’s Incantations put a spell on you.
You might be in a slight misanthropic mood to enjoy this album, but if you are, it will be a blessing to you.
So what is my conclusion to these reviews? We talk about two extremely skilled Japanese musicians with Tangerine Dream constantly in their minds, when they compose. However, I think Momento is the album to get, not only because of the magnificent Ricochet Part 2 cover, but because it's a phenomenal album, with some brilliant sequences, time signatures and melodies.
One of Houzan's beloved cats.
A Japanese promo for the albums.