Welcome to the second part of our Jun Togawa three-parter. This week we’ll be focusing on one of the musical units that she was a part of, the avant-garde troupe GUERNICA.
Context: During their time in HALMENS in 1981, the duo of backup vocalist Jun Togawa and violinist Koji Ueno partnered up with Keiichi Ota who had just disbanded his art group, Panorama Hour, a year earlier. The trio decided to go with the avant-garde route and, at first, named the newly formed group “Intonarumori” after the experimental musical instruments devised by Italian futurist Luigi Russolo.
They decided to name the troupe Guernica instead after Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting of the same name.
The group then released their first album “Kaizo Heino Yakudo” aka Dynamism Into Modification in June of 1982 together with the group’s only single “Ginrin wa Utau”. Yes, Haruomi Hosono produced this album.
Togawa noted in interviews that during the early days of the group, even when they were performing a short song, they would put on a full orchestra in a big way to freshen up their live performances, something the critics at the time misunderstood as they think the band is much of a serious band. Still, Togawa would like to make you feel otherwise.
Another thing to consider here as to why Togawa and the gang felt that they are having fun as a band when the critics think otherwise, and it has something to do with their image. For those of you who import LPs from Japan, if you have their first album, hell all of their albums, they were aping for the 1920s-1930s style and that’s not just with their sound (more on that later) but with their visuals as well.
Notice also the font as well, as they were employing some old-fashioned kana in their covers. It really makes their albums look like they came out in 1932 instead of 1982.
Enough about the image though, we have some history to delve into.
The troupe stopped its activities in 1983 as Togawa was busy recording Princess Tama while Ueno and Ota were working on the latter’s only album “Ota’s Greatest Devil”.
Ota and Ueno were planning to reunite with Togawa as early as 1984 but with their busy schedules, and Togawa’s philosophy of “don’t touch what’s popular”, coupled with Jun’s explosion as a solo artist and Yapoos being a full-time band, they were only able to resume their activities in 1988 with “Shinseiki e no Unga” aka Canal Into the New Century. This reunion won’t last though as they released their last album a year later titled “Denrisou Karano Manazashi ” aka Points From the Eyes of the Ionosphere.
Yeah, Guernica’s time was short and I would say that this would be the weakest one out of Jun Togawa’s works. Not that I am saying it was bad but compared to Suki Suki Daisuki, the rest of her solo works, and even her Yapoos stuff, the Guernica material can feel like an esoteric piece of music.
The only thing that I can notice here is that while the first album is a mix of techno music and opera, the latter two albums are full-blown musical operas. With that said, one of Guernica’s strengths is that there is no bad song on each album. Said strength however can also be a weakness if you’re not a fan of opera or you’re more used to Jun’s other works and thus you can’t pick a good song out of the lot.
Is it worth it to collect all the Guernica albums? If you’re into opera, as I’ve mentioned, then Guernica is for you. If you’re more into techno music though or a fan of Jun’s other work, I can only say that the first album would suit your taste as the latter albums are just straight on opera music.