After Dead Can Dance burst onto the music scene in the early Eighties, with their mix of tribal, classical, and popular sounds, it was tempting to draw connections back to them from just about everyone else, no matter how remote, who seemed like they belonged on the same shelf. Vasilisk was, and is, one such unit, even if the group itself hailed from a completely different direction: they didn't have anywhere nearly the consistency of output of DCD, and consequently their work tended to be far more fragmented and fleeting. But what they did produce is worthy of attention, and Liberation and Ecstasy makes it easier to find out what the band was about than hunting and pecking for the various bits of vinyl released by them.
Formed in Japan after the collapse of the noisy, SPK-ish White Hospital — the other half of which, Jun Konagaya, went on to continue as Grim — Vasilisk consisted of Tomo Kuwabara and Yukio Nagoshi, with other members (including longtime fixture of the Japanese underground, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida) joining in from time to time. Liberation and Ecstasy was compiled from various EPs and full-length discs recorded from 1987 through 1990, and the results were released through the Italian Musica Maxima Magnetica label (which also put out their album Acqua).
Much of Vasilisk's music is like a looser version of the explorations into African tribal music manifested by another Japanese troupe that specialized in exploration of ethnic musical styles, Geinoh Yamashirogumi. One major exception is the 22-minute "Whirling Dervishes", which skips and switches aggressively between a whole gamut of percussive styles, from metal-beat percussion to clangorous gamelans. Most of the tracks are on the shapeless side, but there's just enough development of whatever rhythmic concept that's introduced to remain consistently interesting, and all throughout there's a genuine darkness and moody mysticism that's hard to dismiss as a mere posture.
Vasilisk started recording again recently after a long hiatus — almost twenty years! — and after musing over this record I'm curious to hear how the intervening time has changed their sound. Or, from the timeless abyss being hinted at here, not changed it at all.