Wikipedia describes this week’s weird band as a “free jazz orchestra,” which is a little like saying that Fight Club was a movie about making soap. Meet the Shibusashirazu Orchestra, and let’s all appreciate, once again, how exponentially more batshit crazy the Japanese are capable of making anything, even something as already batshit crazy as free jazz.
Shibusashirazu, which apparently translates to something like, “don’t be cool,” was founded in 1988 by a guy named Daisuke Fuwa, who outside of Shibusashirazu seems like a perfectly nice, unassuming jazz bassist who makes music like this. Fuwa assembled a group of his fellow jazz musicians to perform music for an avant-garde theater troupe called Hakken no Kai, and that somehow morphed into the insanity that is the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.
Since then, the band has continued to tour all over Japan and Europe with a rotating cast of some 20 to 30 musicians and performers, the most striking of which are the near-naked butoh dancers, covered in white body paint and writhing, climbing the scaffolding and engaging in general freakery. There are also video projections, giant balloon creatures, live action painters and enough all-around sensory overload to make Cirque du Soleil look like C-SPAN.
For awhile, we were starting to think Shibusashirazu only had one song, because every single YouTube video seemed to feature the same giant horn-fueled jam session with the same 14-note refrain that sounds vaguely like the hero’s theme from some ’60s martial arts movie. But eventually we were able to figure out that they have, in fact, released eight albums’ worth of material—some of which even just sounds like conventional modern jazz. It’s almost weirder in a way to watch those eerie butoh dancers gesticulating to a nice Kenny Kirkland-style piano solo.
Oddly, two readers (thanks, Sam and Giovanni!) suggested we add Shibusashirazu to the Weird List within a week of each other—and they both forwarded the same video, which features a particularly over-the-top version of that signature 14-note jam session, taken from a 2002 festival in Fuji. So we present it here for your enjoyment. This is really one of those videos where, just when you think it can’t get any nuttier, it does. Our two favorite parts are the giant mylar balloon dragon and the Caucasian dude at the 2:12 mark shaking his head at the camera in disbelief. Oh, and the dancers dressed like a swarm of bees. And the…oh, just watch it.