This was the first record by Kaoru Abe I ever heard, and from what I can tell it was among the very last recordings he ever made. Barely ten days after this concert, Abe was dead at the age of twenty-nine, a drug casualty—and by all accounts the fact he’d overdosed himself into an early grave was no surprise to anyone who knew him. I don’t hold to the theory that everyone possessed of a fierce creative energy is simultaneously practicing a form of slow self-immolation that may eventually turn out to be a rehearsal for the real thing, but the exceptions, like Abe, cloud our senses to any other possibility if only because they burned so very brightly indeed.
I listened to Last Date for the first time in the middle of the night, at a time when I was in poor spirits and felt like any human contact would only make things worse. Last Date had ended up in my collection after one of my forays through JustTheDisc.com, since the name “Kaoru Abe” was peripherally familiar from my other forays into both free jazz and Japan’s noise underground. Funny how his name turned up in both circles, but at the same time not odd at all: I’ve written before how the distance between something like Coltrane’s “Ascension” and your average Merzbow track is not that far. So I threw the album on, and before long I found myself gripping the sides of my chair and being overwhelmed with a sense of intimacy that I think only Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing has also been able to evoke. Listening to the album was like getting a letter from a dead friend and knowing you could never, ever write back.