Keiji Haino and Chris Corsano Bring Method to Madness

Ross Chait, Staff Writer

After his masterfully absurd solo electronics and vocals set met with mixed reviews on Saturday, Japanese psychedelic free rock legend and Fushitsusha frontman Keiji Haino finished out his two-day residency at Oberlin with what seemed a more unanimously admired performance of guitar and voice, accompanied by percussionist Chris Corsano, on Sunday night at the ’Sco. To witness this match made in outer space, out-of-towners outnumbered College students as they filed into a scene appropriately set by kraut rock jams and nods to pop psychedelia (e.g. The Doors’ “The End”) before the supposed 10 p.m. start time.

With no introduction, Haino and Corsano scurried on stage, instantly assuming the energized chaos that defined the following 45 minutes. The cathartic swells from Haino’s Gibson SG were matched hit for hit by Corsano’s signature frantic filling, impressive in its overpowering sonic capacity and display of sheer force. Following this stunning introduction, Haino craftily began to break up the storm of sound with sustained single notes on his guitar. Corsano’s ability to respond to these striking booms and busts with artistry and ease reaffirmed once again the skills that have designated him one of experimental music’s finest improvisers.

Having adjusted to the atmosphere of this responsive crowd from the comfort of his chair, Haino gradually settled into the performative antics that the fans had come to adore, swinging his head of long gray hair in wheels of wizardly stagecraft. These stunts were complemented by their musical counterparts, as he varied from expanses of layered harmonies to more distilled stints of purified riffing. With the exception of a nearly unnoticed moment in which Corsano had to fix his ride cymbal stand, the brilliantly maniacal percussion supplemented all of Haino’s variations without hesitation.

Developing a hypnotic, sexually provocative intimacy with his instrument, Haino eventually digressed into a quiet strumming pattern, cueing Chris to pull out his soft-tipped mallets as the guitarist moved across the stage to his designated microphones. His first vocalized utterance was characteristically eruptive as he screamed at the top of his lungs over the still calmly looming accompaniment. These cries of frantic agony continued over soft chords and scatter- ing drums until the duo eventually progressed into a classic rock-style power jam that would conclude the first set of the night.

Gawking and bug-eyed devotees waited an eager 15 minutes for the second set, though sadly many of the Sunday gloom-ridden Obies had had enough. According to post-show rumors, Haino announced to Corsano during the interim between sets that Oberlin liked the rock ‘n’ roll. This supposition certainly rang true throughout the final set.

Assuming the stage with a presence similar to his introductory aura, Haino tore the ’Sco’s resurfacing baseline back into weirdo zone, this time with a heavier drone in his guitar sound that moved back into a riffing flagrancy circa ’70s hard rock. Corsano played along with much more distinctly pulsing drum beats than he’d allowed in the first set.

After a brief stretch of concentrated silence, Haino ventured into the remarkable, some- what surprising major chordal territory and vocal pleasantry that came to define the second half of the show. Strumming a single chord for several minutes accompanied by exploratory vocal falsettos and wandering drum fills, Haino and his percussive partner displayed their versatile ability to waft in harmonic expanses that one would probably not immediately expect from this iconically tireless duo.

For all intents and purposes, Haino and Corsano proved, with enormous gestures, to Sunday night’s crowd that they remain two of the most formidable figures in modern experimental music.