Boom Boom Satellites ‘7 Ignitions’ (R&S, 1998)

In 1997, R&S Records’ UK head honcho, Bob Fisher, persuaded me to check out a new band from Japan at a small venue in Camden. Boom Boom Satellites were a duo of guitarist/vocalist Michiyuki Kawashima and bassist/knob twiddler Masayuki Nakano, with a drummer, Hirai Naoki, to bolster the live sound.

There were no more than 60 people in the venue for the gig. By the time they’d finished their set, the audience were stupefied into a brief silence by the sheer electronic ferocity and precision of what we’d just witnessed. 

A couple of months later, I found myself in a tiny bar somewhere in Tokyo getting drunk with the band. It was gone midnight when we tumbled out into the confusingly dense architecture of the city. Masayuki and Michiyuki were somehow pushing a sack barrow loaded with speakers pumping out beats. It’s a surreal vision etched into my memory, and whenever I hear ‘7 Ignitions’ now, I’m transported back to that moment.

It’s a fantastically intense album. Three tracks set out their stall – the wild exuberance of ‘Dub Me Crazy’, ‘4 A Moment Of Silence’ and ‘Joyride’. The last of these has cymbals slashing across the stereo field as the frenetic drums build into their hacking rhythm and an acid-blasted synthesiser squeaks and retches over Masayuki’s distorted bass. 

‘4 A Moment Of Silence’ rolls into action with hints of what’s to come. A round bass loop starts churning in a weird time signature as Masayuki slices drum parts into impossibly intricate breaks of mind-boggling inventiveness and groove. The album is relentless and breathtaking, every bit as thrilling as that gig I’d witnessed.

I last saw Michi and Masa in 2013 as they released their eighth album, ‘Embrace’. In the interim they’d become huge in Japan. This time I interviewed them in the air-conditioned Tokyo offices of Sony, with an audience of record company execs. Michi, who told me back in the late 90s that he had survived an operation to remove a brain tumour, tragically died of brain cancer in October 2016. The music he made with Masa, who stopped BBS when Michi died, is so full of energy and life, it’s hard to process that he’s no longer with us.

You can pick up copies of ‘7 Ignitions’ pretty cheap on Discogs, and if you like the idea of the noise of 1990s Tokyo vibrating your very soul, you won’t be disappointed.

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