All-girl Japanese post-punk group Saboten have barely made a pock-mark on the face of rock history – which is a shame, because their slim body of work is stunning.
Absolutely not to be confused with the garish pop-punkers who share their name, Saboten were an Erik Satie-obsessed ensemble based out of Tokyo throughout the 1980s. Starting out with the aim of playing Satie compositions with a conventional rock set-up, Saboten discovered their own knotty, antsy strain of post-punk. There are discernible traces of The Slits and Massacre (indeed, Fred Frith worked with the band), plus a heavy dose of the sort of chirpiness that Stereolab would run with a decade later, but their output still sounds unusually confident and singular. Although they had some global support – legendary free improviser Lol Coxhill was among their acolytes and collaborators – the group remained thoroughly under the radar, despite releasing keepers like 1981 self-titled effort and 1984 follow-up Awake.
Hats off to Japanese reissue label Em, then, for pushing Saboten back into the conversation. The imprint are just about to release Floor Et Satie, a vinyl-only retrospective documenting Saboten’s best work from 1981 through to 1992. The first part of the 2xLP set will feature a full remaster of the band’s debut album. Disc 2, meanwhile, collects material from a self-released 7″, selections from Awake, some Satie covers and an extra recording with Frith.
Floor Et Satie is due later this month on Em; the tracklist is below.
Side A (vocals)
= From Saboten (1982) =
1. エメラルドの山彦 Emerald no yamabiko (Emerald Echo)
2. ヘビ使いのうた Hebitsukai no uta (The Snake Charmer’s Song)
3. 低い椅子 Hikui isu (The Low Chair)
4. 余計な予感 Yokei na yokan (Useless Foresight)
= From Saboten (1982) =
2. 日の丸 Hinomaru (The Rising Sun)
3. エテンラク Etenraku (Etenraku)
4. Knee Guitar
5. 彼女 Kanojo (She)
6. ヨロコビ Yorokobi (Pleasure)
7. 馬 Uma (Horses)
Side C (Instrumentals)
=From Let’s Satie (1992)=
(Choral inappétissant/Unappetizing chorale – Improvisation)
2. ブランコ (La balançoire/In a Swing)
3. エテンラク～海水浴 (Etenraku – Bain de mer/Sea Bathing)
4. 競馬 (Les courses/Race)
5. タンゴ (Tango)
Side D (vocals*/instrumentals)
1. 未来の記憶 Mirai no kioku* (Memory of the Future) (1984)
2. ゴルフ (Golf) (1984)
3. 箱庭 Hakoniwa (Miniature Garden) (1984)
4. 自転車 (Bicycle)* (1992)
5. 島の生活 Shima no seikatsu (Island Life)* (1992)