Maybe Harry Hosuono was onto something? Mishio Ogawa, the “Trance” part of the Love, Peace, & Trance equation…and also ex-lead singer for Japanese experimental New Wave act Chakra…seemed like an odd choice to be one of the three vocalists for his eclectic and forward-thinking quasi-ambient techno group of the same name. However, judging by the music found in New Child’s one and only album, Rehabilual, Mishio was already primed lead him further down some mystical rabbit hole.
New Child was a group conceived by OSHO practitioner and guru, Swami Dhyan Akamo, a rare bird, at that time, in Japan. It was this Swami who tried to make vedantic music for Japanese audiences more attuned to Zen-inspired folk and meditational styles. In order to achieve his goal, Dhyan rounded up Mishio Ogawa and a large cast of musicians — both from the ashram (or tied to it) — and christened them as New Child.
Ostensibly a mishmash of styles, Rehabilual was the group’s attempt at trying to combine the Japanese minimal tradition with all sorts of other world music styles, although the majority being of the Indian and Indonesian persuasion. Echoes of ambient, New Age, and tribal music are what most of the music gets to, though. Expectedly gorgeous-sounding, Mishio’s voice serves as a wonderful shape-shifting center where the rest of the group coalesce around. Half-recorded in the studio and the other half live, on tape, Rehabilual sounds positively vibrant.
The album begins with an all-instrumental improvisation by Swami Dhyan Akamo that ventures very much into Geinoh Yamashirogumi territory. Afterward, the album switches gears by introducing you to their mix of Indian-inspired, Japanese meditation music. Sung entirely in Indonesian, “Nataraji Bengawan Solo” sets the table and lets you know that not much of what comes next is as you expect. Everything from reggae barn burners (“Sento – Spa – “) to Afro-Pop workouts like “Mizu – Water – “, recorded live and found on the second side of the album, to truly sublime, synth floaters like “Yaponesia Sakura” or tropical electro-pop groovers like “Inori – One People – ” — all of them share little resemblance to each other, yet all of them paint this album as being meant to be something more than just mere background music to zone out to.
Living, and quite moving, New Child’s Rehabilual presents a strange but damn inviting idea of Japanese ashram music. From Mishio Ogawa’s chameleon-like ability to handle any musical style the Swami throws at her to the obvious joy felt in the group performing this music, all you need to do is take one look at the album and easily understand how much bliss is underneath all this cover.