Buried Treasure and the Fine Art of Rockit Science

It was a recent Monday night in NYC and I was in town for a Precious Metal show at Lit Lounge, but having some time to spare, figured I’d hike over to St. Mark’s and see what was doing in the used CD bins at Kim’s Video, which was nothing, since Kim’s Video has apparently closed shop since the last time I was there. That’ll show me to not leave the house but twice a year.

Consolation came from Rockit Scientist Records right down the block across the street. The step-down-to-enter hole in the wall has long been a source of obscure psychedelic/proto-prog wonders, and among the assorted treasures — I’m looking at you, Popul Vuh remasters — I found the 1971 solo offering from Japanese guitarist Shinki Chen (hailed as the Hendrix of the rising sun), called simply Shinki Chen and His Friends, with a sticker on the front reading “Early 70’s Japanese Heavy Psych Jams.” Sold.

I’ve been on a kick for some old man rock lately, and digging into the early tape loops and King Crimson mid-“Moonchild” nosies of Shinki Chen and His Friends opener “The Dark Sea Dream” was right in line with what I was looking for, but the real deal surprise was the kick of fuzzier cuts like “Requiem of Confusion,” “Freedom of a Mad Paper Lantern,” the organ-diced “Gloomy Reflections,” and the hard-panned “Farewell to Hypocrites.” There’s an untenable current of weird running throughout — the drums are so far away that sometimes you forget they’re there at all — and man, it’s clear to see who’s got a remastering hyper-budget and who doesn’t, but I’m digging the hell out of the disc and thought I’d pass along the word to anyone else who might be interested (I don’t know if Rockit Scientist has another copy, but it might be worth hitting them up, since true independent record stores in Manhattan are getting fewer and father between). Hopefully that’s you.

After this album — the version of which I have is a 2005 Korean reissue distributed by World PsychedeliaShinki Chen joined the trio Speed, Glue and Shinki, which as you might imagine didn’t last long. They put out one album and sort of another after breaking up, and that’s allegedly when Mr. Shinki decided he vastly preferred not recording to recording and stopped making albums. Shinki Chen and His Friends is still out there though for anyone willing to stumble on it, and although I’m still very much in the process of getting to know the album and the guitarist (and his friends, for that matter), I’d definitely suggest you figure out a way to do so.

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