Catalog #: SC 6/7
Edition unknown (less than 15). Created as gifts for friends. Silk screen, gatefold, double disk CDR. Released 2001.
I first heard White Heaven in England in ’97. My friend Benny came over and visited me and brought a cassette mix tape another friend from back home (Steve) in Eureka had made for his trip and the song “Midsummer Stroll”, an enchanting Brubeck-Sinatra-Quicksilver on mescaline ditty from the “Next To Nothing” EP was on it. We were staying in an apartment with no furniture and little money and we’d stay up all hours drinking cheap bear, sitting on the floor cross legged tattooing our legs with thread, needle and Indian Ink and listening to the comp tape over and over on an old bathroom boombox. Ironically the friend that made the tape probably got turned on to WH by Ben Chasny who was a third mutual friend back at home and would re-turn me on to WH again to a fanatical level when he moved down to join us in Santa Cruz 3 years later. These little love affairs with a certain band or piece of music are all the richer when they come and go from your life like a one night stand you flung with some years ago and run into from time to time in unexpected places and finally have some later experience intimate enough and in a certain light so that you fall in love with this person and all the while the road to that place was peppered with chance and enchanted encounters that baffle you somewhat that you could end up in this place with this love and that “chance” has been a fundamental of the relationship, not just once but over and over. I fell in love with White Heaven in this way and they are made all the more poignant in that their music sounds like the soundtrack of this kind of fateful process, beautiful, intriguing and mysterious. At times elementally violent and bruising from out of the blue.
I was completely enchanted by a sound at once so familiar and yet so strange to my ears. White Heaven were mostly a musical homage to the Haight/Ashbury psychedelia of the San Francisco ballroom acid jams of 1966-68 but of course their take, whether intentionally innovative or accidentally so, lifts the entire thing off to another planet. At the core of the sound is Michio Kurihara’s incredible guitar playing. A devout student of John Cippolina’s shimmering jazz-blues-rock tremolo style, Kurihara added fuzz and fury to delicate technique and came out the other end a whole new beast managing to simultaneously express the blistering gonzo of fellow 80s Japanese PSF freaks High Rise and Mainliner AND a profoundly virtuosic skill and attention to tone, nuance and cool, shady-grove understatement. Ishihara’s (The singer and bandleader) production techniques veer between the dreamy searching studio sounds of Quicksilver, The Doors and the Dead into the “We don’t give a fuck, turn it up and destroy the studio” recording manifestos of Blue Cheer and the VU.
Once I caught the full WH bug in 99 or so I began trying to collect their music which was no small feet. Their masterpiece “Out” was pressed on an original 500 copies in Japan by the PSF label in the early 90s. I had to settle on the cd version, a beautiful piece in it’s own right with the metallic gold imagery against a beautiful semi-course black paper. To end up with PSF cds instead of vinyl was often not second rate choice, many of their cds were as beautiful and meticulously crafted as most handmade vinyl with their special papers, interesting use of ink and obi strips. For proof, one need only look at the early Fushitsusha cds with their varying shades of black ink on black rice paper covers and multi-components like collected scripture of black magic spells from an ancient library from the far east.
I found a copy at auction of the Levitation LP, edition 700 put out by the Now Sound label out of LA. “Levitation” is a more jammed out, free, blistering performance on side A and sinister drone rock on the b-side. Streetlight records in Santa Cruz had much of the PSF catalog in stock due to Tim Daly and Noel Harmonson’s employment there and I picked up the first few Tokyo Flashback samplers that had great White Heaven tunes on them. By some stroke of luck I found a used copy of the ‘bootleggy’ Electric Cool Acid cd of collected live White Heaven that year at Logos bookstore. I have no idea how it got in there as this cd was also a limited edition of 1000 copies from the Japanese label Noondisk. The “ECA” cd was actually one of the things that inspired this newest version of Silver Current as a “live bootleg” label. The recording quality on the ECA cd was so fucked it would almost sound like nothing to a non-White Heaven fan but to me I was so fanatical that it was like a piece of solid gold to hear them in their live glory at whatever level of recording quality. The audio quality may have just added another dimension to their mystery and intrigue. Next I bought their second album “Strange Bedfellow”, PSF27 on vinyl on auction. By this album Kurihara was no longer in the group so it remains a lesser record to me but still some cool tunes and great guitar playing by Ishihara. Finally I bought the last piece I could find; the “Next to Nothing” vinyl EP. A beautiful black sleeve with a silver image of the band in a small blue box and the name of the band written in white beneath it: “White Heaven”. Edition of 250 on Noon Disk records out of Tokyo. When it came to me it was unopened which meant that it was still wrapped in a violet crape paper outer sleeve with the edition stamped on it that you had to tear open and destroy to get to the record inside. Breathtaking. I never have been able to get a copy of the “Out” record on vinyl. It is very rare and doesn’t surface much.
So really this is a journal entry on obsession and inspiration. Some of you know the feeling all too well and have houses, garages, storage spaces full of records because you know the drive to find and own them all too well and can’t stop. But that’s not totally it for me. It’s also about the chance love affairs mentioned above. In 1997 or 1999 the internet was around to buy albums off Ebay and elsewhere but the digitalization of music hadn’t really taken off yet, no mp3, no you tube audio. There was still really no other way to hear this stuff than to get it in your hands. Yes, I knew a few people that had ‘Out’ and a PSF sampler but I didn’t know any one of the 250 people in the world that had the “Next to Nothing” EP and my original crush song was on that album. I knew it must be a beautiful record. There could be something in the music on that record that unlocked places in my brain I had never been before. The music, not just the fancy package and collector’s end. I had to track down a copy, possibly half way across the world, buy it and own it to hear the music and I even got to tear open the purple paper and be the first to play this illusive album if that’s not taking the fetish of record collecting into the realm of the sexually fantastical a step too far!
After all this I had the most complete collection of White Heaven music of anyone I knew so I made a White Heaven double disk anthology for a handful of friends as gifts. Edition unknown but my guess it was somewhere between 5 and 20 copies. I’m not even totally sure who I gave them to but my guess is the Comets guys for starters. I loved White Heaven so much I named my bootleg label after one of their songs in 1999, bought all their known releases, each rare and difficult to obtain and made a “gift release” double cd anthology of their music to honor them and share them with my friends. Today as I’m writing this I listened to some of their music again and though the ache of new love and the mystery of illusiveness no longer enshrouds them in a blinding glow for me there is a depth to our relationship that is still powerful. They gave me inspiration and ideas about how I could make music and how I could reproduce it and the ideas were good ones that I’ve continued to use as a source. Thank you White Heaven.
HOW TO GET IT
Out of Print. Get other White Heaven releases here