Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Feature | 22 November 1986 | Photo: Goldie


Andrew's hairstyle is the result of a misshapen pudding basin. He's almost a Man at C&A, with his sensible shirt and a nice jacket. His sobriety is unnerving and he doesn't seem comfortable unless he's talking about digital delay or sampling or such technical tosh. Stephen wears a ragged leather and jeans with more holes than material. He is very polite, a grin fixed beneath the overgrown forest of crimped wool that passes for his hair.

"We're a good joke really," admits Andrew. "One of us being 'normal', the other not."

Ha bloody ha. The biggest laugh is trying to decide which one is which. Andrew Lagowski plays guitar, Stephen Jarvis plays bass. They both dabble with various keyboards and drum machines and tape machines. Neither of them sing.

Nagamatzu's music is a series of fairground rides on the helter skelter and the ghost train. They can be forceful and funky, chunky bass runs edging the feet to the nearest dancefloor, or downright funereal, wonderfully grotesque keyboards draped over a dragging beat. Industrial, arty farty, call it what you will, Nagamatzu should be filed close to Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo and Clock DVA, a practice encouraged by their fascination with sound effects.

The band's most recent release, the cassette album "Sacred Islands Of The Mad", is bursting with peculiar additives – a German anti-war poem read beneath the swirling atmosphere of "Der Gute Kamerad", dialogue from "The Omen" and "Dawn Of The Dead" in "150 Murderous Passions", and Gregorian chants synchronised with a drum machine throughout "Roma Distruta", to name but a few. All this, but no vocals?

"There's so many shit singers about," complains Stephen. "Too much is often focused on one person. We want to make music that is interesting enough to stand alone."

"Anyway, I'd still want to use the noises – they're not a replacement for the vocals," adds Andrew.

Their universal language, combined with a nasty habit of using foreign words for track titles – "We've been running out of ideas lately," they say – has led to numerous appearances on French and German compilations, including one of the internationally praised Werkpilot releases. Their correspondence is largely from abroad, from as far afield as Norway, Canada and Japan, though the latter shouldn’t be surprising as 'Nagamatzu' is a Japanese word meaning 'eternal pine' or something similar.

As for Britain, they have contributed to four albums of the calibre of Third Mind’s "Life At The Top" and have tracks available on other LPs in the near future. You'll not mistake the name on the sleeve. Nor on a poster should Nagamatzu bring their videos and slides and live set, which varies in length from 15 minutes to two hours, to your town.

Buy the record, go to the gig.

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