Jikininki, The Opaque World, United States, Rising Beast Recordings, limited edition cassette (2021)
In Buddhist belief systems in East Asian countries there exists the notion of the hungry ghost that roams the world driven by an intensely insatiable need or hunger as a result of having committed a great sin (such as killing) in a past life. In Japan such ghosts may be known as jikininki (human-eating ghosts), condemned to be so if they had been selfish, greedy, jealous or disrespectful to priests or their own ancestors, and they can be driven by the karma of their past sins to eat virtually anything, no matter how bizarre or revolting, as the very name “jikininki” suggests. Let’s hope that mystery US raw BM / ambient act Jikininki has no such strange tastes when its member or members hang out at the local hamburger joint. The band (or project as it may be – I have no idea how many musicians are involved) trade in a very blurry, distorted atmospheric style of music that is deeply unnerving and verging on the psychotic on this, Jikininki’s debut release. Appropriately for a work titled “The Opaque World”, Jikininki operates in a sonic universe of crazed chaos where a putrid, festering ambience is ever-present and a desperate insanity, driven by incomprehensible urges and desires, is the normal mental state.
Track titles like “Fire Tower”, “Augurado” (from the Spanish verb “augurar” meaning “to predict [misfortune]”) and “Shield Weaver” indicate a possible interest in occult / ritual matters and the entire recording itself could be the soundtrack to a secret rite. After a horror-filled droning synth ambient introduction the recording gets underway in earnest with the scrabbling “Fire Tower” in which inhuman voices yelp and carve out raw terror with their abrasive shrieks. A repeated tremolo riff, a distorted sound and a filthy atmosphere will put you in the right mood of fear and foreboding. Like “Fire Tower”, “Augurado” also features a repeating riff loop and a blurry sound but this one is more rock’n’roll and the tune is literally as catchy as Hell.
Subsequent tracks feature slightly more sophisticated if still repetitive music structures with some depressive emotional drama present in the title track. At this point I should say all tracks are short so the repetition is no big deal: what matters is Jikininki’s vision of a crazed cosmos in terminal decay, revealed by the ritual invoked in the songs. Despite the blurry production the music can be heard clearly with even quieter melody concluding “Shield Weaver” and violin-like background tones on the near-orchestral mini-epic “The Ghost Pipe” quite distinct in the murky darkness.
While the songs on “The Opaque World” portray a desperately bleak and deranged vision, they’re not long enough or complex enough to portray as much of its full horror and despair as humanly possible. A longer, more immersive recording that stretches and demonstrates Jikininki’s song-writing capabilities and musicianship much more as well as capture the sense of rotting decay really is needed and I’m hoping that is not too far away. What we have here on “The Opaque World” is just a slight, er, taste of an alternate parallel dimension close to ours that demands recognition … or else it will invade and claim our universe before we even know what hit us.