Review Summary: Yes, it takes some listens to get into and yes, it does require a bit of patience, even when one is already into it, but Super Ae remains unique masterpiece of Psych Noise Electronic Manipulation Weird Screaming Japanese Mantra Neo-Krautrock.
You know those early 90's Boredoms releases, right" Like Pop Tatari or Chocolate Synthesizer" And you remember how they were more bizarre noise cabaret than actual music at times" And how that was fun but nearly impossible to sit through for a full LP's length" Well, at least I do. But I guess it's not that easy to not sound completely annoying if your music relies on noisy guitar playing, abused electronics, bashing on all sorts of stuff (including drums) and a singer whose usual vocal performance goes about this: "OOOOHHH!!! YAKA YAKA! AIIIEEEEHHHARRRRR!!! EEEEEEEEEK!!!!" and so on and so forth. That these insane far-eastern barbarians of avant rock would all of a sudden go all psychedelic and mantraic by the mid 90's seemed highly unlikely, right" Yet, it did happen. And like it wasn't enough you could all of a sudden ENJOY their music for 50 minutes plus, if you opened your mind to it a bit, and were a bit patient, as their 1996 album Super Ae impressively showed.
The start-out track ("opener" sounds boring) is called Super You (all of the song titles start with "Super"). And that one is pretty crazy. In short, it sounds like they let Boredoms vocalist/electronicist Yamatsuka (or Yamantaka, or whatever) Eye loose on an Earth record. The song begins with some ugly, semi-rhythmic noise, but then a HUGE ***ing power chord (and when I use caps, I mean it!) comes in and it all begins to turn into some sort of avantgarde drone doom track. But Eye wouldn't be Eye if he simply left it at that. He occansionally alters the piece's speed or pitch for extra "fun". You're advised to turn the volume down, since it gets extremely painful when the high frequencies come in (thankfully for only a short time). It gets relatively normal towards the last two minutes, and gives way for Super Ae's second (and first good) track....
...Which is called Super Are. That track begins with really pleasant-sounding synth drones and some equally pleasant monk-ish chanting. And after a short but cool "tribal ritual" call and response interlude, the band's getting out its huge power chords, with Eye singing something like "inner star" in the background, but also quite melodious this time. And there's strong, furious drums too, played by Yoshimi and some other drummer whose name I don't know/can't recall. The song gets faster as it progresses and ends up being a really neat chunk of Krautrock (Faust) inspired psychedelia. Apparently, there's a great deal of post-production and electronic manipulation (done by Eye) involved in the whole making of Super Ae, so it isn't always easy to discern guitars from synths, plus Mr. Yamatsuka turns the whole thing into really ugly noise sometimes, but it's largely on the beauty side, so don't pee yer pants.
Track three shall be known by the name of Super Going. And if you thought the first two had crushing power chords, then think twice, because this song is largely centered around two of those things that sound as if Pete Townshend had recorded the new Who album with five clones of his playing N'Sync covers in sync (I'm soooooo witty). The only lyric there is, sung by both Eye and Yoshimi, resembles "shy shalom", what it means you'll have to politely ask its creators. But the most remarkable thing probably is that, even though Super Going is basically two chords for 12 minutes, but doesn't get boring, due to minor (but frequent) variations.
When track 4, Super Are You comes along, you'll probably whether someone exchanged the Super Ae for your scratched-up copy of Pop Tatari, because the first couple o' minutes of this 8-minute monster has exactly the same "Funkadelic meets random Japanese guys from Mars (because Japan's on Mars)" sound as Bo Go from said album. But soon a strange type of throat-sung mantra going "Space-O, Ah" kicks in, out of nowhere, and the song begins to sound like the majority of the rest of the album, except more vocal-centered.
Super Coming doesn't start out with Brother Wayne Kramer, but instead some acoustic guitar accompanied by a "Nintendo game gone awry"-type synth, before Eye declares "mutha, mutha" and a short strange-vocals-and-synth part gives way to another mantra. This time it's more aggressive than usual, if you must know. See, this is the great thing about this album is that even though most tracks are variations on a theme at heart, the Boredoms add so many extras, that it's fun again. A true masterpiece of concept, if you ask me.
My favorite track on this release is quite possibly Super Shine, though. A nice, uplifting carnival meldody set to tribal percussion and another Eye/Yoshimi vocal. It also has some distorted vacuum cleaner noise and some pretty strange dancehall-reggae-esque bits thrown in for no reason, but good measure after all. Did I already mention how much this album reminds me old Krautrock, like Faust IV by the eponymous band or Tago Mago by Can (they a had Japanese singer, BTW) in terms of repetition and experimentation. But in that sense, Super Shine is more on the Amon Düül II side of things, melodically.
Super Good may not be what its title implies but is a relatively quiet outro of acoustic guitar, some more tribal percussion, and synth noise to one strange trip of an album recommended to anyone who either likes weird Japanese music, progressive rock ('specially the Krauty German stuff from the 70's), or avantgarde rock in general. A true underground milestone.