gsj1977"s Profile Page

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm buggering off...

In about four hours time I'll be dragging my weary arse into a taxi and heading off on the marathon journey that is inevitable when going to Narita Airport. Our flight is at 10.30 but we're leaving here at 5.40, so that means I have approximately three hours in which to sleep - do you see how devoted I am to this blog?

Anyway, I'll be back in the new year and although I'll be checking this when I'm on holiday, I doubt I'll be posting anything (but if there are comments here I'll respond to them). To the lonely crofters and their dogs who make up this blog's pitiful audience, I wish you all the best - enjoy celebrating whatever it is you celebrate. Cheers.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Burgerlog

Daftness for daftness sake can be a great thing. With this in mind, have a look at the Burgerlog blog (and Burgerlog 2 - The Japan version) - if you don't leave these sites with a smile on your face I'm not sure there's much hope for you at all. You're probably the same kind of person that thinks James Blunt is a profound commentator on the vagaries of human existence rather than a talentless, charmless, ex-military goon with all the depth of a Hallmark card. Bitter? Me?

You Ain't No Picasso

Good site anyway, but elevated to god-like status for having a downloadable mp3 of Intervention, a new song by The Arcade Fire. It sounds as if they're going to continue from exactly where they left off - maybe there is a god after all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Psycrons

“Kyoto? That's the old capital of Japan, isn't it? The place with all the temples and shrines and Geisha and stuff? Yeah, a friend of mine went there once and said it was OK, but it got a bit boring after the fourth or fifth temple. Bloody school kids and middle-aged women everywhere too, he said.”


“Kyoto? Amazing city. The temples and shrines are beautiful and three days just wasn't long enough to do justice to the place. The city just absolutely oozes culture – it's in the buildings and the air itself. Remarkable.”


“Kyoto? Isn't that where they signed the environmental agreement that no bugger pays any attention to?


All stereotypical but plausible reactions to the question, “What do you know about Kyoto?” However, stereotypes are there to be shattered and The Psycrons ought to be the band that put Kyoto on the map for something other than its history and a toothless environmental protocol. Looking like extras who have strayed from the set of an Austin Powers film, and sounding like the last forty years of music has passed them by completely, The Psycrons are here to save the world. OK, that's just journailistic exaggeration, but The Psycrons are definitely here to brighten up the world.


The Miracle of The Psycrons is the band's second album and is out now. It careers around the touchstones of 60s music like Tigger on speed, nicking bits and bobs from all over the place: the scuzzy guitars of The Sonics, the vocal harmonies of The Byrds and a rhythm section straight out of the Motor City. The whole thing is powered by the meaty beaty big and bouncy energy of The Who and it sounds great. Standout tracks include Jetter of Love, which opens the album with a blast; and Footprints in the Winter which sounds like the mutant Japanese cousin of The Mamas and Papas backed by the MC5.


It would be easy to dismiss them as mere copyists who wish they'd been born a generation or two earlier, but that would be to miss the point. The Psycrons are a different breed to the current swathe of UK bands who are all desperately trying to be Gang of Four: their songs have a verve and energy about them that lifts them far beyond mere pastiche. Like The White Stripes, The Psycrons' seem to create more than just music. They have built up an alternative reality for themselves which they inhabit at all times. The Psycrons make no bones about their historical roots – this is who they are and that's that, and when the music's this good that's all that matters.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

UFO and The Sunshine Underground

I went to see The Sunshine Underground do a brief in-store appearance in the Tower Records store in Shibuya tonight. A friend of mine gave me a copy of their album recently and I'd only listened to it once, but the tickets were free so it seemed daft not to go (I'd also had a shite day at work so it was a welcome way to wind it up). If you haven't heard them they sound a bit like a British version of The Rapture, although they're more than just copyists. They played an acoustic set which worked surprisingly well - no doubt a sign of the strength of their songs - and then came back for a brief interview with a local radio DJ. Anyone who has seen Lost in Translation will be able to visualise this interview perfectly - the DJ would chunter away for about thirty seconds and then turn to the interpreter, who would then ask the band something as short and simple as "What do you think of Japan?" or "What's your favourite colour?". The band looked fairly relieved when it was all over.

Onto a vastly different kind of music. I recently got an E.P by a Japanese band called 10 from the JapanFiles website. I was intrigued by the description so I downloaded it late one night and promptly forgot all about it. I was making up a CD for a friend tonight and I noticed the two songs from the E.P at the very top of my iTunes list. "Let's give 'em a bash", I thought and off we went. About thirty five minutes later the music stopped and I felt like I'd just been to the dentist. They're an acquired taste, one I'm not sure I'm going to acquire. I'd like to see them live or as an accompaniment to experimental theatre/dance, but for me, the music just didn't work on its own. I'm sure John Peel would've loved them.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How's that for service

In response to young dotdash's comment I had a look at the website and I have only just recovered my socks that were blown off. It's here, it's good, but it's not an excuse for you to never come back to this blog.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I should be writing...

...but I'm not. On the plus side I'm finding some good sites. Have a look at Hideki's site if you get a chance. There's a variety of stuff here - CD reviews, a diary, some articles (including one about his first trip on a train) which are worth checking out.

Another Japanese music site - J-Music Ignited

This one's a bit more wide-ranging than Keikaku, covering more mainstream Japanese music as well as the indie stuff. It's also got info about bands from other parts of Asia and Europe. There's bound to be something here that to float your boat.

Is it just me...

...or does this look like Genesis P Orridge, frontman of industrialists Throbbing Gristle:


It's from an advert for habanero flavoured crisps on a train in Tokyo. Here's the man himself - surely there's more than just a passing resemblance:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If only all coppers ate here...


Saw this yesterday when I was out wandering. I don't know if it's the doughnuts or what but I'm sure the local constabulary avoid the place like the plague, meaning that it's ripe for a bit of armed robbery (not that I'm planning to do any).

The Psycrons and The Golden Loafers


I heard about these two bands from Michael Solo at Solo Records, and the world is a much better place with them in it. The Psycrons (above) are a fantastic blast of Sonics-like 60's psychedelic garage and also have possibly the coolest MySpace page I've seen. Golden Loafers, who at times seem to be fronted by the Japanese James Brown, are funkier than a lonely student's wanking sock (in the best possible sense) and look as if they'd be outstanding live.

I only got the albums today so I haven't had a chance to do a review but I can safely say that on the first listen they both sound superb. Have a look at the bands' MySpace pages for a taster, and if you're in the States I think they're headed their in the spring, so you know what to do. Check back around the weekend by which time I'll hopefully have something more detailed written about both bands.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I'm not the most computer literate of people...

...so I don't know if there's a better way to do this. I just published a review of Miaou's new E.P but because I started writing it a few days ago and saved it is a draft it's stuck back in November's archives. If anyone knows a way to change its position please let me know. In the meantime, if you want to read the review, it's here. Alternatively you can just scroll down the page.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

November Top 10

Actually managed to get out and buy/download/listen to a fair amount of stuff last month so I think for once the Top 10 is actually based on merit rather than filling space. Shit, I've said too much. On with the chart.

1) Water & Me - Miaou
2) We Lost It - Miaou
3) Raiku - Mosquito
4) Ame ni mo Makete - Mothercoat
5) Kung Fu Girl - Limited Express (has gone?)
6) Many Many Sweets - Macdonald Duck Eclair
7) Gold Tears, Silver Tears - Camille of the Raspberry Lemonade
8) GT400 - Thee Michelle Gun Elephant
9) Gaikokujin - Mosquito
10) Air - Mothercoat

A few points. Why do so many of the bands start with 'M'? I have no idea. Why is GT4oo in here when it's donkey's years old? Because I hadn't heard it in ages and the clip from YouTube brought back a lot of memories. Why are Miaou at number one and two? Because over the course of the three years that separates the two releases the band changed quite substantially, and even if they hadn't, they're fucking ace and that's that. Hasn't Raiku been here before? Yup, but it's that good.

I've been wanting to write profiles/posts about some of the bands mentioned above, but I haven't had a chance to. The songs by Mothercoat, Mosquito, Camille of the Raspberry Lemonade, Limited Express, and Macdonald Duck Eclair are all available for download at Japan Files. I'm afraid you're going to have to go the old-fashioned way and order the CDs from the bands' websites.

For more info on Macdonald Duck Eclair, read this piece from the Japan Live blog.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Is this how it's supposed to be done?

While checking the Indigenous Beliefs blog that I mentioned before I followed some of the links from the comments and found another decent blog. Is this how you're supposed to do it? I'm not old but I came late to the internet party and I'm still a little like the bloke who stands in the corner nursing his drink and wondering exactly what this music is that everyone else seems to love. Have a look at this blog if you get the chance, the YouTube clip is good, but the rest of the blog is worth reading too.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This doesn't happen too often

Almost every time I'm on blogger I click on the 'next blog' button in the hope of finding a decent blog. It's usually a vain hope as I always seem to find myself in the middle of some whining teenager's misery (yes, I was a whining teenager but I didn't inflict my 'pain' on the wider world - I had a notebook). Either that or I end up reading about a family in Shitsville, Tennesee who have decided to share all their photos of their cabbage headed baby. Finally today I found one that actually makes the 'next blog' button seem like a good idea. It's called Indigenous Beliefs and is basically a bloke ruminating on fairly inconsequential things - the humour's slightly surreal but it made me laugh, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, that's quite an achievement at the best of times, never mind at nine in the morning.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Painted E.P, Miaou, Thomason Sounds


I feel like I've been time travelling when I listen to this E.P. I only picked up the band's 2003 debut album recently (not knowing it was three years old) and I've been playing it to death. Last week while out making wish lists in the record shops of Shibuya I noticed their most recent E.P and decided that it had to be bought. Miaou are still fantastic but they're not the same beast they were three years ago. Usually when you get into a band you can follow their progress release by release. My experience with Miaou has been more akin to time-lapse photography crossed with the kind of wormholes that mess up the space-time continuum in Star Trek.

The deceptively simple instrumentals that drew me to the band in the first place are still in evidence but the crunchy guitars have, for the most part, been left at home and everything just seems to shimmer that bit more. The first track, We Lost It, sees the band move from Mogwai territory to something more like the bucolic sound of Four Tet. An acoustic refrain floats atop burbling electronica that starts out quietly and builds into a track of rare beauty. Any directors looking for an instrumental piece to use in the opening credits of their film should search no further.

The rest of the album follows a fairly similar path, but when it's done this well it doesn't become boring. The record has been sequenced in such a way that it seems as if each song is organic, almost breathing. Scene of the Sunrise sees the pace increased a little and the band allow the song to stretch itself and fill out a very satisfying eight minutes. The gentler Anything Goes gives the band a short breather, but towards the end of its seven minutes they seem to regain some of their energy and things pick up again.

Grasslands (Revised) is a graceful epic, an aural collage of wide vistas that is one of the best ways of lifting you out of the sardine-packed hell that is commuting in Tokyo. The last original track on the E.P, Airship is probably the least arresting of the new songs showcased here. It's by no means terrible, but it's the first song where you find yourself looking at the seconds ticking over and wondering how long there is to go. I think it's a case of the band setting the bar at a dizzying height and paradoxically Airship is the one song that can't get over it. Oh, the humanity.

The final three tracks on the E.P are all remixes. Not having heard the originals I don't know how much the remixers have changed the songs. The Millimetrik Remix of Future Pavilion adds a darker undercurrent to the rest of the album's phosphorescence with it's doom laden atmospherics that sound like Massive Attack at their most paranoid. This paranoia morphs into claustrophobia during the first half of Epic 45's retooling of Dante, where it seems we really are being taken deeper into the inferno, before the usual Miaou sound breaks through the fug. It doesn't last though, as the last minute of the song sees the song engulfed in darkness once more.

The E.P's final track, the Qua Remix of On A Sunday sounds as if it may be the most dramatic reworking of the three. At times it sounds like Gizmo the Gremlin purring along to Tomorrow Never Knows, but then there are moments of cello and acoustic guitar that wouldn't sound out of place on a Nick Drake record. It's an intriguing end to a remarkable E.P.

So, Miaou are still my new favourite band. Their slight change in direction seems to be an inspired one and I'm looking forward to going over their back catalogue and seeing just how they got from Happiness to here.

Note - a slightly edited version of this review has been published on the keikaku website.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

GT400

It's worth sitting through the two minutes of inane babble from the programme's hosts. I'm just testing that this video posting works - I've been trying to set this up on YouTube for a while and finally seemed to go OK today.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happiness, Miaou, Noon Records


This record is over three years old but I read a review of it a couple of weeks ago whilst in a travel agents in Shinjuku - does that make this a genuine case of serendipity? Going by the dictionary definition I'd say so: "the faculty of discovering pleasing or valuable things by chance". See, it's not just a crappy romantic comedy. Anyway, I digress. What makes this album such a serendipitous discovery is the way it distills elements of a whole lot of my favourite groups - Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Seafood, Tortoise, Explosions in the Sky - adds a twist of that magical, mystical Japanese-ness that stops bands like this from being mere copyists, and mixes it together to create a heady cocktail that intoxicates you from the first listen and only becomes more addictive.

muno, the first track starts off sedately but the gentle washes of guitar soon start to fold in on themselves, building up layers of sound that give the song the structure of an exquisitely made samurai sword. boom 0 continues in a similar vein, starting quietly but soon bulking up into a wall of sound that Phil Spector would've been proud of. The seamless segue from one track to the next shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that the songs all sound the same - they dovetail perfectly but each song has its own character. pao 2000 sounds like an updated outtake from the Bitches Brew sessions, and my only complaint about it would be that the band could easily have kept exploring the spaces this song takes them to for longer than the three minutes that it takes up on the album, without it becoming boring. An intro of seagulls or synths (I'm not sure which) signals a change of pace in the next track, the elegiac el nienyo, which eschews the quiet/loud dynamic of the first couple of tracks. It's a change of direction that works, allowing Mayumi Hasegawa's mellifluous bass to move to the forefront of the song.

KIRAMEKI takes us back into quiet/loud territory, with its gentle melody sounding like a calmer, less Glaswegian Mogwai. jet sound wave is where the album stops being merely good and starts to be truly great. It starts out with another nod to Miles Davis - a skittering trumpet line - before settling into a fug of hazy guitars and Tatsuki Hamasaki's gentle vocals. The haze soon gives way to wave after wave of F/X laden guitars (perhaps the 'jet sound wave' of the title) which ultimately consume the song, causing it to collapse in on itself. It's a song Yo La Tengo would be proud of. HALF seems to signal a recovery of sorts - the squalls of feedback that devoured jet sound wave are still there, but this time the band has wrestled them under control.

There's probably a rulebook somewhere that states all albums should end with their most epic track. It may be a cliche but it's true. There's no point putting it at the beginning because then the rest of the album has to live under its shadow. Sticking it in the middle of the album just doesn't make sense either. If you got the best view from the middle of the mountain, why would anyone bother climbing to the top? Miaou have clearly read this book too and they follow the rules to the letter. Closer water & me is the kind of song that would be out of place anywhere else other than the end of an album. It takes its time - lightly brushed drums, bursts of trumpet, dripping water, woozy synthesizers, acoustic guitars, all flitting in and out of the track, seemingly as they please. The effects pedals have been locked up and feedback banished, as the twin chimes of glockenspiel and guitar lead this song and album to a surprisingly quiet finale - it's almost as if the band felt they had proved their adeptness with noise and wanted to show they could do quiet just as well.

Miaou are touring extensively this month. Click on the link to their website for more details.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What do they know?

Found this blog about the info that is dumped from Wikipedia. There's some good stuff there and I'm sure that we're all guilty of Drunk Blogging (looking at some of the comments here and on James Blunt Must Die I'd say that was pretty obvious).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

And another one

I've decided to start another blog to cover the iPod challenge, that being the lame name I've given my attempt to listen to every song on my iPod (if you can think of anything better please let me know). I felt that I was spending more time writing about it here rather than Japanese music, so it seemed like a good idea to seperate the two. Hopefully I should be able to keep posting to all three blogs regularly. If your interested in the new one, have a look here. Cheers.

Limited Express live

Limited Express are having a release party in Shimokitazawa Shelter tomorrow night. The info can be found by clicking on the link, but for those of you who are to lazy to even do that, here you go (though you should have a look at the English part of the site - lots of info there):

2006/11/16(Thu)@Tokyo Shimokitazawa SHELTER
YEE!LOOK!!vol,4-Limited Ex release party-
Guest:ヨルズインザスカイ,GODS GUTS

open 18:30 / start 19:00
adv.¥2,000 / door¥2,500

tickets
ぴあ、ローソン、Limited Ex HP、SHELTERにて発売。


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mogwai, Liquid Room, Nov 12th


Expectation is often a bad thing. We are often told as children not to build our hopes up, but it's something we continue to do well into adulthood. Music is an area in which we're particularly susceptible to unrealistic expectations (although not quite as much as the English press in the run up to a major tournament) - we hope an artist's second album will reach the majestic heights of the first, despite the memory of past dashings like The Second Coming or Room on Fire; we meet musicians we admire and find out they're arseholes whose personalities seem at odds with the music they produce; or we go and see bands we've listened to for years and witness what seems to be a group of people who've haven't been introduced, murdering the songs we'd looked forward to hearing.

So far this year I've seen two bands who I'd wanted to see for years - Belle & Sebastian and Primal Scream. Thankfully they were both as good as I'd hoped they would be. Sunday was the first time that I'd seen Mogwai and before the show my cynical, negative side took over, telling me that the third time was bound to be unlucky and Mogwai were going to be awful. For me, cynicism is a healthy part of any well-rounded personality and I trust it a lot (especially when dealing with politicians, business people, and job interviewers), but this time I was wrong.

As opening duo Ratatat showed, live instrumental music live can be dull, even when the guitarist looks like Alexei Lalas and plays like Richie Sambora. Mogwai, on the other hand, are spectacular. They don't say much, they don't move much, they just come on stage and play their songs. They don't need to any more than that. The quiet/loud dynamic of Mogwai is something of a lazy cliche often used to describe their music, but it's what drives the band and makes them so captivating.

This was their last show of 2006 and according to their website, the band are making a DVD of this and the previous night's concert. Watch it if you get the chance, but go and see them - I get the feeling that regardless of how good the DVD will be, it won't capture the sheer volume and physicality of Mogwai live.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It is the Sabbath...

... so the iPod challenge is having a day of rest. It's bugger all to do with religious belief and everything to do with the fact that I'm going to see Mogwai tonight. Don't expect to see anything else scrobbled over the course of the day. If anyone's going tonight, come and say hello - I'll be the big bastard standing towards the back with a beer, trying surreptitiously to take pictures using my mobile. In that vein, and about two months too late, here's a picture I took at the Primal Scream show at Zepp Tokyo:

Saturday, November 11, 2006

... and on (I promise this won't turn into an 80's Ariston advert)

Today's delectables:

Agaetis Byrjun - Sigur Ros
Airportpeople E.P - Ellis
All Shook Down - The Replacements
All The Stuff and More - The Vaselines
Alligator - The National

I'm currently ploughing my way through Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned by the Prodigy, which is looking like being the first album that's bumped from the iPod. Why the hell did Liam Howlett feel the need to do a cover of Love Buzz? Nirvana got there earlier and did it a whole lot better. Music For the Jilted Generation (surely one of the best album titles ever) and The Fat of the Land are two of my favourite albums, but Always Outnumbered sounds like the work of a group that have already split up and reformed - it's like watching a paunchy George Foreman go through the motions.

Today's other stuff hasn't been bad though. Ellis were my friend's band and the E.P of theirs that's on my iPod is one that they released in around 2001/2 (I think). On the day it was released it sold more copies in HMV's Edinburgh branch than the Britney Spears record that came out on the same day. Various members of that band who may be reading this blog are probably composing hate mails to me now but I stand by my opinion that this was a band that ought to have gone much further. Timing and luck were against them but the talent is clearly there.

I was in Shibuya again today and The Vaselines were the ideal soundtrack for my wanderings. Shibuya is a place where there are just too many people trying far too hard to be too cool. Maybe it's inevitable given that it's considered to be the hub of young Japanese fashion. Regardless of that, someone needs to tell the majority of the people there (both male and female) that whatever 'being cool' actually is, it's something that takes a lot more than a pair of huge sunglasses, a scowl, and a strut. In fact, it probably takes a lot less than this - have these folk never heard of 'effortless cool'?

Anyway, as I mentioned, The Vaselines are the perfect antidote to this bastion of laboured attitude. Their crunchy guitars and naively out of tune boy-girl vocals seem to kick against Shibuya's triumvirate of pricks - posing bints, their himbos, and the bling-obsessed, vacuous hip-hop (Japanese and American) that soundtracks their lives. The beautiful people? Bollocks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

P.S...

I meant to add this into the post below but I forgot. This sign belongs to an English school I passed today while wandering in Shibuya (I was listening to Dot Allison at the time - see, still Tokyo Music). Would you trust them to teach you English?

The beat goes on...

Adam Hussain's Truth and Slander - Goldie Lookin Chain
Adore - Smashing Pumpkins
After All (CDS) - The Frank and Walters
After The Goldrush - Neil Young
Afterglow - Dot Allison

Suitable Friday listening? You tell me. Adore is far too long though, I know that much. It followed me around for most of the morning until Billy Corgan's whine started to feel like tinnitus. It's surely no coincidence that a large number of the albums that are consistently considered to be 'classics' are relatively short - Revolver, Rubber Soul, Pet Sounds, Definitely Maybe, Dark Side of the Moon - then again, given that classic status is often conferred by middle-aged white men who think that Cream were a good idea, perhaps I shouldn't pay too much attention to that. Anyway, the point is that when bands were restricted by the forty-odd minutes that two sides of vinyl offered them they got up, made their point, and buggered off. Only when they felt they really had something to say that just couldn't be done in that short space of time did they stray into the territory of the double album.

CDs offer space for 80 minutes of music and too many bands labour under the grossly mistaken idea that they have something so profound, so earth-shattering to communicate to their fellow humans, that they need to utilise every available second to do this. Adore is simply one of many albums that overstays its welcome like a depressed drunk at the end of a party - add to that list Mother Love Bone's eponymous 'opus' (death does wonderful things for a band's reputation), R.E.M's recent releases (especially when compared with the nun's chuff tightness of the albums they put out in their early days), and pretty much most of Pink Floyd's post-Syd output, among many others. The Smashing Pumpkins are a one-band example of diminishing returns through increasing length - Gish was shortish and full of great tunes; admittedly, Siamese Dream is far from being a twenty minute hardcore punk thrash, but at that point they had enough to say and more than enough talent to justify the length of the album - unfortunately the albums got longer and the songs got shiter, reaching the nadir with the sprawling mess of punnery and ego that is Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. So, simple advice - unless you've got fourteen or fifteen songs that you really have to get out your system in one go (and have got enough to keep you going through subsequent albums), keep it short unless you want to be one of those bores that keeps droning on when people clearly aren't listening anymore... Oh.

For the umpteenth post people are probably wondering what any of this has to do with 'Tokyo Music'. That's the name of the blog, isn't it? Why aren't you writing about Japanese bands? Why aren't you telling me about the group of four cross-dressing salarymen from Hokkaido called Fish Paste Monkey Stew is Coming Over the Mountain (Soon), who sound like a cross between Tom Waits and Westlife? Firstly, as far as I know, FPMSICOTM(S) haven't been invented yet; and secondly, this is Tokyo Music - this is the music I listen to in Tokyo. Hah. Got you there, haven't I?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The iPod Challenge



Here's the story so far:

  • Standing in the shower thinking - wouldn't it be a great idea if I tried to listen to all the songs on my iPod?
  • Hang on, wouldn't it be an even better idea if I write about it on the blog? Voice in the back of my mind - but what the fuck has that got to do with Japanese indie music? Bitchslap voice and ignore the feeling that maybe I'm just doing this to fill space on the blog and that I'll probably give up as soon as I get to some of the stuff that I downloaded when drunk - the entire Bob Dylan discography, including the period where his talent upped and left - what was I thinking.
  • Bitchslap voice some more until my head hurts. Voice has gone though.
  • Try and work out what the best way to do this is. If I do by artist I'm going to have to listen to nothing but Belle and Sebastian for three days straight. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but that's not going to work. It also means that I'll have to huge chunks of certain artists that my other half put on there, but I want us to stay together so that isn't going to work either.
  • Go to work and forget about this for a while.
  • Have a few beers and suddenly this brainwave comes back to me. Ponder just setting iPod to randomly play all songs but, given some of the stuff that's on there, decide that this might be too much like listening to a radio station where the playlists are made up by a deaf octopus.
  • Write the above comment and realise people will probably think that I'm a complete wanker (if they don't already) who is trying to show off just how catholic and cool his music taste is - indie-boys-with-guitars-obsessive? Me? Look, Astrud Gilberto and Throbbing Gristle - I'm eclectic.
  • Decide that since only a couple of lonely crofters and other assorted friends and family read this that it really doesn't make that much difference.
  • Realise best way to do it is probably by album.
  • Press play and promptly bugger off to another room.
  • Not true, I'm still here. Honest.
  • Realise that this isn't in real time so my half arsed attempt at humour above is as pointless as this whole post.
So there you have it. The above isn't exactly chronologically correct - my thought processes are rarely that logical and coherent - but it's not far from the truth. I've been on the go off and on for a few days and I've got through all the number titles, so I'm now on 'A'. It's all been good stuff so far - I've listened to albums that I put on ages ago and forgot about, I've listened to some stuff that I thought would be shite but has actually turned out to be good, and there's been nothing utterly torturous that has had me trying to rip the headphones off. The only problem has been the slight inappropriateness of certain artists at certain times - Astrud Gilberto's summertime lounge pop on a freezing cold and wet November day; Mark Eitzel's gloomily beautiful acoustic songs on Saturday night after work, when I was on my way out to a party - I'm sure there'll be more incongruities, but that's part of the attraction.

No doubt this has all been done before but that never stopped Oasis becoming the world's biggest band, did it?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Japanese mp3s

For anyone who reads the reviews here, Keikaku, or anywhere else on tinternet, but has problems finding the records written about have a look at the JapanFiles website. They've got a fair pile of mp3s available for you to get your grubby little hands on meaning you get some quality Japanese music without even shifting your carcass out of the seat you probably spend too much time sitting in already (you know it's true). This is what's going to happen to us all:















Then this:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Another devastatingly addictive website

Look at the time of this post and you'll see what I mean. Some of the interpretations are obviously written by people who have an unfortunately (and unjustifiably) high opinion of themselves and their intellect, but there's a fair amount of interesting stuff. I haven't dared look at the Dylan section though.

October Top 10

New record - it's less than a week since the end of October and I'm doing this. Must be something to do with the weather today - I really shocked my boss by getting my monthly report in on time too. So, here it is. The buying binge helped and although I was tempted to just put in ten tracks by Nisennenmondai I resisted and have tried to put in a wider selection.

1) GET ON THE BUS!! - pygmy with bitter ends
2) ALOHA! - Limited Express (has gone?)
3) 黒く塗れ - nhhmbase
4) 不明のトラック 4 - にせんねんもんだい (Nisenenmondai)
5) She Is Nervous - BUGY CRAXONE
6) Dark Star Blues (live) - Acid Mothers Temple
7) I was robot - SHIFT
8) 不明のトラック 1 - にせんねんもんだい (Nisenenmondai)
9) Sweet music on the Beach - Limited Express (has gone?)
10) ニートソース - pygmy with bitter ends

Disclaimer: I don't like using the same bands more than once but those songs by those three groups really stood out above most of the other stuff I heard this month. And anyway, it's my blog, I'll decide.

Info about Japanese bands on MySpace

The blog's mix of stuff about life in Tokyo/Japan and the bands that make it more bearable for all of us. Check it out.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bitter acoustic &Small songs vol.1, pygmy with bitter ends, ototoi records

One of the best things about shopping for records in Japan is browsing through the bands' names. Go over to the imported section in a Japanese record shop and you'll find a plethora of bands called The ____s – The Strokes, The Datsuns, The Libertines, The Sex Pistols, The White Stripes, The Ugly Talentless Cunts (OK, I made that last one up but surely that's the name Razorlight should be going under). Back in the Japanese indie section you're blessed with Limited Express (has gone?), nhhmbase, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant and the chef cooks me to name just a few. Not only are the names fantastic, but you can spend ages wondering what kind of music the band play and what the hell they were trying to say when they named themselves. pygmy with bitter ends. What does it mean and where did it come from? Are they a group of midgets with bad hair? What kind of music do they make? You can pretty much bet your life savings that any band called The _____s will be a group of four pasty white boys with guitars and skinny ties playing shabby New Wave-lite. pygmy with bitter ends isn't such a give away. Perhaps they take free-jazz and gabba techno, mash them up together and front the ensuing discord with a loungey singer who models himself on Leonard Cohen but ends up sounding like a drunken salaryman karaoke-ing Sinatra to death.

Fortunately (unfortunately? you decide) pygmy with bitter ends are nothing so extreme. Bitter acoustic & Small songs vol.1 is the band's second full album and although it takes in a variety of styles and genres it's basically a collection of shiny pop songs. Cartoon-theme-in-waiting GET ON THE BUS!! throws us straight into the band's technicolour pop world and manages to sound like all the following artists at at least one point; early James, The Chemical Brothers, Isaac Hayes (Shaft soundtrack), Pizzicato Five, Talking Heads, and Cornelius. It's quite an accomplishment for a song that's barely three and a half minutes long. 窓際ススクールガール (Modogiwa Sukuurugaaru) is a slice of indie guitar pop that wouldn't seem out of place on a Wannadies album. This feeling of being back in the mid-90s continues on the next track ニートソース (Niitosousu), which sounds a little like an Oasis B-side back when they were good. The comparison ends there though as the lyrics tackle the social problem of the increasing number of NEETs (people not in employment, education or training) rather than the joys of the white line. マザー (Mazaa) takes us even further back in time, its simple acoustic guitar melody and “na-na-na-na” coda a throwback to The Beatles.

After a strong start things start to go awry in the middle of the album. モモンガのバラード (Momonga no Baraado) is as twee as the title suggests and is the kind of syrupy ballad you'd expect from a bunch of J-Poppers like Chemistry. デンデン ドンドン (Denden Dondon) opens with strident guitars that promise to get things back on track and ends with a great chorus where vocalist Noribooooone pleads for “Just one cup of life”. No, I haven't got the faintest idea what he's banging on about either but it sounds great. Unfortunately this return to form is brief as the minute long ママのギター (Mama no Gitaa) is little more than filler, and the next song 縁側の父 (Engawa no Chichi) drifts back into the schmalz of モモンガのバラード.

The inclusion of a ten-year-old demo track, 冬の落し物 (Fuyu no Otoshimono) seems to be a pointless endeavour. Perhaps the band thought it would demonstrate how far they've come in that time, but it doesn't and it brings very little to the record. Album closer 私は街灯 (Watashi wa Gaitou) restores some of the earlier lustre as the band finally pull out a slow song that doesn't sound like by-the-numbers J-Pop. It's a slow-burner that starts out with just lead vocals and a quietly strummed guitar before blooming into a lush, orchestral ballad that occasionally sounds reminiscent of Automatic For The People-era R.E.M.

Bitter acoustic & Small songs vol.1 starts well but there's too much filler - something you shouldn't be able to say about an album that's only thirty five minutes long. When they do click, pygmy with bitter ends make some fantastic pop songs and I'm sure they've got a truly great album in them. Perhaps vol.1 was just a warm-up. Either way, I'll be keeping an eye out for the next volume and listening to the good half of this album.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cornelius at Shibuya Apple Store

I'm not a fan myself but if you are, Cornelius will be at the Apple Store in Shibuya (map) on November 13th from 8-9pm. Entrance is free and he may play some tracks from his new album. Here are some nice apples that you won't be able to buy there:

Call Mulder and Scully

When I mentioned in the last post that Caucus sounded a little like St. Johnny it was the first time I'd thought about that band in a long time. I have one of their albums back in the UK but I haven't heard it in years and I suddenly wanted to. Yesterday I was out browsing through the huge Book Off (used book, CD and DVD store) in Kichijoji and guess what I found?

The album (Speed is Dreaming) is hardly groundbreaking but it's as good as I remember it being and it only cost 250 yen (just over a quid) so I'm not complaining. Now it's time to start thinking of obscure prog-rock albums that people like Steve Davis will buy for two grand, and hope the same thing happens all over again.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Amakudari (look it up)

Sometimes it's hard trying to find decent new music. You stand at countless listening posts, attracted to the albums by a half-remembered article you think you read in a magazine a few months ago, or you're dragged in, magpie-like by the nice shiny covers. These days we have tinternet, iTunes, radio, live 365, last.fm, etc etc, and they are supposed to make our lives easier but the honest truth is that you still end up panning through the darkest rivers, occassionally glimpsing tiny slivers of gold that grab your eye but offer only the same sustenance as the skinniest MacDonalds hamburger.

MySpace can be particularly heinous in this respect. Sure, The Arctic Monkeys might have made it big there through nothing more than word of mouth and good songs, but there's a ton of shite out there. One of the most dreaded emails in my inbox is the MySpace Friend Request. Nine times out of ten it's some pouting blonde bint allegedly called Nadine who wants to be my friend. Nadine and her friends say that they will happily gyrate in front of a video camera for me for free, but to guarantee that I'm old enough they need my credit card number. Sometimes though, the planets fall into alignment, Japanese restaurants actually take my credit card, and music from a stunning new source falls into my lap easier than a hostess who's just spied a platinum Amex card. Take Caucus. They wanted to be my friend. I thought, "Shit, it's some freaky politician who is desperately trying to cling to his seat and has decided that the way to garner votes is by snazzy web-based advertising" (rather than by trying not to be a venal, self-aggrandising, power-hungry cunt). Thankfully my cynicism was misplaced and this was no Nadine or Blair. Instead I was transported back to the time when I first started gettting seriously into music and I realised that guitars could be used in ways that Brian May had never even considered (my parents were big Queen fans). Caucus themselves admit that their influences are "80s~ indie guitar pop/rock scene (especially the early creation records... FELT, Weather Propets, and Pastels are the ones to name a few) + Johnathan Richman, Millenium, Judee Sill, The Byrds, Nagisa Ni Te, Flippers Guitar, and so on.." but the verve they bring to their music makes them more than mere copyists. Bits of early Teenage Fanclub, St. Johnny, poppy Sonic Youth, Fluf and lots more fly about in there and it sounds fucking fantastic. Hell, I'm giving this lot my credit card number.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Best is Coming, Limited Express (has gone?), Memory Lab

Formed in 1998 and imbued with the genes of the Kansai scene that produced Japanese indie luminaries such as The Boredoms and Shonen Knife, The Best is Coming! is a perfect example of the utter weirdness and fondness for noise that is such a large part of Japanese underground music. It's all here, present and correct: the screechy girl vocals, some in English, some in Japanese, all largely incomprehensible; the day-glo cover adorned with a naïve cartoon; the cacophonous three minute blasts of sound that start, stop, and skitter about like a drunk octopus on ice skates. But the question is, is it any good, or is it just another novelty that seemed like a good idea in the record shop but once home is akin to waking up next to someone who was the living definition of 'sex on legs' last night but in the harsh light of morning is as attractive as a Republican? Luckily this album stays true to the promise it showed on the listening post.


The band set out their stall right from the album opener Sacrificial Jesus Child and don't veer far from it over the next forty minutes. Given that they manage to cram at least three or four separate songs and styles into each track this doesn't mean that The Best is Coming! is boring. False starts and stops, and major changes in time signatures abound here, keeping the listener on their toes and at times driving a reviewer to drink – I lost count of the number of times I had to score out something I'd written about a certain song because said song would suddenly morph into something completely different making whatever I'd written redundant, before changing back into the song it had been before just as I'd finished writing something else. Bastards.


ALOHA! and Sweet music on the Beach are probably the most straightforward songs on the album (in the sense that there are maybe only two separate songs duking it out in the mash up). ALOHA! takes the intro from The Clash's version of I Fought The Law and welds it to a swirling guitar part, while vocalist YUKARI yelps the title over and over. Of course, after a minute or so the scenery changes and we're plunged into a good old-fashioned hardcore thrash where guitarist Jinichiro Iida takes over hollering duties. Sweet music on the Beach is a dramatic change of pace, everything slows down and the spirit of Yo La Tengo seems to possess the band. The lyrics (shared by Iida and YUKARI) are spoken rather than yelled and sound like a stream of consciousness. The feeling of Yo La Tengo-ness is confirmed when the amps are turned up and the previously sedate guitars become a wall of distortion, before dying down and retreating once more into the background.


The stand out tracks on the album though are both towards the end. Stop Go starts off sounding like the intro to a James Brown song, visits dEUS territory, and has a brief flirtation with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Spread Your Love (with a raver's whistle over the top for good measure) before going back to where it started. The military march and the phrasing of the vocals of album closer 2x5=10 make it a distant cousin to PiL's Rise, at least to begin with. As the song goes on YUKARI's vocals become increasingly unhinged and the instruments soon follow suit. It's as if the exertions of the preceding 11 songs have been too much and the band is making one final, demented lunge for the finishing line. It's draining but it's the only way an album like this could end.


The album also comes with a DVD containing promotional videos for Sacrificial Jesus Child and SPY, as well as live footage from both Australia and Japan. The SPY video is much better than the song – its swirling Warholian footage of the band playing looks like a projection from the loft part section of Midnight Cowboy. The live performances are the real gems here though as they make you realise just how adept and tight this band is. They may sound like three people who haven't been introduced playing completely different songs, but watching them live reveals this to be a fine piece of legerdemain on the band's part. Nothing in this apparently lunatic music is left to chance.

The Best is Coming! is not perfect: there are times (on SPY for example) where the 'throw it all in the mixer and see what happens' approach doesn't work and it starts to grate a little, but that's to be expected. Most of the time this album and band are fascinating, and each song reveals something different of itself every time you listen to it. A review of the most recent Mars Volta album said something along the lines that a band who use so many disparate ideas and styles in the space of each song may soon find their creative well has run dry. This is perhaps a problem that Limited Express (has gone?) could face in the future given that they often sound like a condensed Mars Volta, but one whose idea of an epic song is one that clocks in at six minutes rather than sixteen. The similarities are there – the prog rock passages, the changes in time signature, the jazz tinges (especially the drumming), and most importantly, the complete lack of fear and the willingness to try and shoe-horn 101 ideas into one song. This is what makes Limited Express (has gone?) so interesting and it may ultimately turn out to be their undoing, but at least they've got the balls to try. Surely that should be applauded in a world that is becoming ever more homogeneous and averse to risk?

Friday, October 20, 2006

A sudden increase in posting?

I actually got off my arse today and went and bought some CDs, so expect some posts that actually adhere to the original reasoning behind this blog.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some Jokes

Some good, some bad, some ugly. It's a bit like having lots of emails from friends who have too much free time on their hands all collected in one place.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Live Music Archive

Read about this in Mojo and had a look at it last night - it's a remarkable archive of live music, all free, and all available to download legally. There's a huge range of stuff here, everything I've downloaded so far has been of good to high quality sound-wise, and there's bound to be something you like. Click on the link.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

James Blunt Must Die

This is a blog that I started last month but haven't really done much with yet. I want this blog to be a place where people can rant and rave about all the books, bands etc that they detest. Hopefully people will read these rants and be a) entertained, and b) able to avoid whatever has been written about. I've opened the blog up to contributions from anyone, so if you want to join in, please email me and I'll add you. Cheers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Keiko's Homepage (click here and read it first)

This is a recommendation from Hurley who mentioned the website in a comment he posted. To expand slightly on what I said in my response I think there are a number of possibilities here:

1) She's for real.
2) The page is run by a pervert who wants pics of young white men under 35. Maybe he has a fetish for English teachers who will fuck anything, or maybe he read Charisma Man and wanted to see if these kinds of people actually exist (and we all know they do).
3) It's run by a fundamental God-botherer (doesn't matter what variety, they're all as bad as each other anyway) who believes he/she is on a divine mission to rid the world of sinners, fornicators, harlots, and lead us away from this modern day Sodom and back into the bosom of God. Of course, he (because it's most likely to be a man) has some serious sexual issues and probably partakes of the flesh of the sinners before he smites them, but this is just a further indication that the planet needs cleansing because even an upright, Godly man like himself can be tempted by these beasts.
4) It's being run as a joke to see just how many dumb men send their pictures in.
5) It's being run by the Yakuza as a way to get the personal information of people who would be very easy to shake down.

What do you think? Any of the above or something I haven't even thought of? Let me know. By the way, I realise this post has absolutely nothing to do with music but after looking at the website I felt it was something that had to be mentioned.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Any Recommendations For The Weekend?

Here we again, free from work for another two days and I'm not sure what to do with myself. I haven't looked at TokyoGigGuide.com yet but has anyone got any recommendations for shows this weekend? (Disclaimer: I am aware that the point of this blog is to for me to try and find bands and report their existence to the wider world, hopefully bringing them fame, fortune, and all the Class A's they can handle. However, this hasn't been a great week and I'm not feeling so intrepid. Any help will be gratefully received and duly noted. Thank you.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An emotional rollercoaster

(Or how to go from hating Japan, to loving it, to loving it even more, all in the space of twenty minutes). Is this why I'm still here years after I said I would leave, because Japan keeps teasing me and playing strange games with my mind? I went to a fairly big chain izakaya for dinner and made the foolish mistake of trying to use my credit card to pay for it - flexible friend my arse. In certain places in Japan a credit card is about as welcome as a priest in a playground, and the local branch of this place is one of those places. After a good fifteen minutes of phonecalls, bowing, more phonecalls, more bowing, and numerous offers of a glass of water, it was decided that my credit card wouldn't work on their system (they're obviously using Spectrum 48k computers). Needless to say, I was not a happy bunny, and as sometimes happens at moments like that I was on the verge of an internal rant about why I hate Japan and why the sooner I get out of here the better, etc etc. I was forgetting one important fact here though - in Japan they trust people. They took a photocopy of my ID card and I went back and paid the bill tonight. No queries, no questions, no being made to feel like some kind of criminal. When we finally got out of the izakaya I remembered that I wanted to buy tickets for Mogwai's show in November. But it's 11pm. On a Tuesday night. In the 'burbs. Surely you have to wait? No, Japanese convenience stores actually live up to their name, and they must have upgraded to the Spectrum 128k, because a few minutes later I had to Mogwai tickets clasped in my sweaty paws, paid for using the very same credit card that flummoxed the other lot. Happy days.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Top 10 - September

Better late than never (as if anyone actually cares that much), here is the non-singing, non-dancing, completely feature-free Top 10 for September. It's in no particular order and it's basically the ten songs I've probably listened to the most in September (and not according to Last.Fm or they'd all be Tenacious D songs). Anyway, here you are:

1) Rod - Group_Inou
2) Like - Mosquito
3) Shoot Speed Kill Light - Primal Scream
4) Ping Pong Pang - Shift
5) Private Lesson 2 (Mix CD) - Various, mixed by ECD
6) Tributaries - Proud Simon (MySpace)
7) Sign - Keishiro Iwatani
8) It's Jesus On The Phone - The Future King of Scotland (MySpace)
9) H.I.L.L.T.O.P - Akai Giwacku
10) Half Past France - John Cale

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Slacker

Not the film, but me. No posts for a few days, unable to make it to the Aloha show last night, and haven't done a Top 10 for September yet. Pretty fucking shoddy work - I could get a job at the new Wembley. Went to Taiwan at the weekend so that's my main excuse for the lack of posting over the last few days. Something unexpected came up at work yesterday, so no Aloha show - if anyone went, please tell us how it was. No Top 10 for September because... I just didn't get my arse in gear. I will do my best to rectify all this in the next couple of days (except the Aloha show, haven't got very far with the time machine yet).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Keikaku - a warning about a sudden dip in quality

From this month I will be contributing to the Keikaku website. This doesn't mean that you have to stop visiting it - there's still lot's of other good stuff. Go there. Now. What are you waiting for?

Mattia Coletti Japan Tour, Koenji 20000V, Sep. 24th

Finding places in Japan is part of the fun of going to them. I foolishly made a rough drawing of the map to 20000V in my notebook because I couldn't be arsed taking the computer upstairs, connecting it to the printer and running off a quick copy. I should know better than this by now but even after this most recent lesson, the wandering about for fully forty minutes, the phone calls back to my girlfriend asking her to check the internet and guide me, and the streams of curse words uttered, will make no difference. I probably won't learn anything from this experience and will do it all over again the next time I go to a venue for the first time. Unsurprisingly, I'm not in the greatest of moods by the time I do find the place and it takes me a while to realise that the odd, and occasionally brutal sounds filling the room are not just the white noise of a speaker that's been left on but the live DJ set of Spastic Cucumber. I pay more attention and strands of sound start to form themselves into something resembling songs before disintegrating again. It's like end of Terminator 2 when the T-1000 is melting and random human shapes appear before being sucked back into the molten steel.


Akai Giwacku are ace again. I've only seen them a couple of times but I get the feeling that they just don't do average shows. The gospelly a capella that takes them through the audience before they take the stage, something that could easily be gimmicky in another band's hands, seems like the greatest idea since Robert Johnson decided he'd trade in his soul, and the songs have a hint of Satanic malfeasance about them too. As I'm watching them perform H.I.L.L.T.O.P (available to download free from TownTone's MySapce page) I realise that what this song really needs is to be performed at a huge summer festival, the sun shining, a largely drunken audience shouting the chorus back at the band. If there's any justice in the world this will surely come to pass someday and when it does I hope to be right down the front, jumping about like an idiot.


If Akai Giwacku had improved my mood then unfortunately the ensemble duo of Nagasawa Tetsu & Ozawa Aki bring me crashing back down to earth. The instrumental duo play everything well and as far as I can tell, the guitar playing is probably virtuoso. However, their music does nothing to grab me and, in a true sign of supportbanditis, I find myself standing on the street outside checking the score of the Ryder Cup on my mobile and hoping that by the time I get back down there they'll be done. They're not, and I catch bits of their last couple of songs. They're capable of occasional flashes of something more heartfelt and bollock-grabbing, but these moments soon pass and we're plunged back into a sea of fret-wankery. Ho-hum.



A beer later I'm hoping that solo-artist Paradise Garage (aka Toyoda Michinori) is going to be the cure for my supportbanditis. Things start well as he races through his first song in a haphazard punk way, looking like Ian McCulloch but sounding a lot rougher. I soon relapse though as it becomes apparent that his between song banter is the same length as, and sometimes longer than, the songs themselves, so I'm soon left standing there praying for the magic words 'This is the last song'. Finally, at the end of another long and rambling introduction I hear them and I'm able to relax my sphincter. The final song is the best one in the set, and not just because it's the last one. Toyoda swings between short sharp blasts of punk-pop and Sonic Youth-esque ear-shredding noise, seemingly singing a paean to someone or something (my Japanese isn't that good). If only he'd cut the intros down and stick to the music.


Things are not going well. What would improve my mood now? How about a beer? Check. A visit to the indiest toilet in Japan (see below)? Check. A poetry reading. Now you're just fucking with me. No? Cue swearing at a similar intensity to the time earlier when I was trying to find this place. My mind conjures up images of bad Beat Poets in smoky San Francisco book shops, wearing black, clicking their fingers, and stroking their goatees. But thankfully things don't always go to plan. As far as I can tell (like I said earlier, my Japanese isn't that great) the first poem is about travelling around Japan on trains and it's great. Japanese is a fantastically onomatopoeic language and the writer has taken full advantage of this to nail the experience of travelling on Japanese trains. The stations flying past the still-futuristic bullet train, the officious staff, the lunch-boxes, it's all here. I'm not so clued in on the other poems until we get to the final one which seems to be an epic piece about the history of communism, American interventions in Asia, and a general run down of the major global political events of the late Fifties and Sixties. It goes on for days and I'm starting to feel like this is something of an endurance test, but my overriding thought is the wish that I had studied Japanese more so I could understand this better. It's sweep is truly enormous as it seems to take in numerous aspects of the Cold War, the wars in Vietnam and Korea, the assassination of JFK, a German Shepherd dog, a soldier, and Christ only knows what else. I don't even think about going upstairs and checking the score in the golf.


I'm not sure if it's something they've always done or something that they've picked up from the mighty Giwacku, but Mattia Colleti and his co-conspirator make their way to the stage through the audience, one playing a small guitar that looks like it was picked up from a hundred yen shop, and the other manipulating some kind of effects box. They eventually take the stage and play their first song, which is probably the only 'song' they play all night. The rest of the set is the aural equivalent of a trepanation carried out by someone humming snippets of the gentlest melodies, and it's fucked up even more by the fact that I can barely see the stage and the two figures on it who are doing this to the audience. It's beautiful, horrific, ear-bleedingly and bowel-shakingly loud, and never anything but captivating. The supportbanditis is gone, replaced by a slight sense of bemusement as my senses try to work out how to deal with what they've just experienced. It was worth the wait and when I speak to the duo after the show it's easy to see just how much they've put into this tour, especially tonight's show which Colleti says has been the best of the tour. I haven't seen any of the other shows but it's difficult to see how they could have topped this. The music they make is often brutal and extreme with snippets of iridescent beauty, and it is possibly best experienced live (but then isn't all music?). Have a look at Mattia Coletti's MySpace profile for more information and a chance to hear this extraordinary music.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mattia Coletti in Koenji tonight

The show starts at 5.30, doors open at 5. Click on the link for more info, and click here for a map to the venue (in Japanese).

Foods, Group_Inou, Gals-003

Foods is Group_Inou's first mini-album and it's more of a taster rather than a fully-fledged statement of intent. The album's five tracks (four songs and an alternative version of the opener, Status) are a good introduction to the duo's mix of skewed 90's electronica (think Orbital or Everything Must Go-era Moby underpinned with a Parliament bass line) and hip-hop vocals, but they don't really capture the frenetic energy of their live shows or the sheer level of noise that two people can produce. Then again, given that M.C cp is wont to wander off stage and perform from the audience, and imai (the musical manipulator) spends the show alternately pummelling his electronic box of tricks and flailing around like an electrocuted squid, it's difficult to see how they could ever reproduce this on C.D. They also have a D.V.D available and it might be a better way to showcase their talents.


Each of the songs are strong (although the alternate version of Status seems to be little more than padding – after all, four is an unlucky number in Japan) but the second song here, ROD stands out in particular. The first couple of minutes are fairly sedate (by Group_Inou's standards), with cp at his least manic and imai backing him up with some gentle burbles and squeaks. Normal service is resumed in the final minute of the song though when it appears that imai is imbued with a junglist spirit and all hell breaks loose. However, unlike most drum and bass tracks this song is gone in less than three and half minutes. While short may be sweet, on more than one occasion I was left wishing that Group_Inou had extended their songs and taken the chance to explore the soundscapes that imai seems to create effortlessly. This is especially true of PR which clocks in at barely a minute and a half. I'm not advocating a return to the dark days of prog and the twenty minute drum solo, but perhaps when Group_Inou come to release a full-length album they'll feel more comfortable letting the songs stretch out a bit just to see where they go.


Group_Inou are proof that there's much more to Japanese hip-hop/urban music than the bling-bling and faux-gangsta posing of the wannabe homeboys and girls that dominate the mainstream and Foods is a very promising début. However, they're at their best when they're frying your synapses in some Shimokitazawa sweat box so beg, borrow, or steal (or even just buy) tickets for one of their shows. Foods ought to keep you going in the meantime though.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Koenji Showboat, 30th Sep

This is an all day show organised by Ian Martin from Call and Response Records (see the link). In his own words the line up is as follows:

And About Hers: Sunny-sounding all-girl indiepop band.
Lender: Weird and quite creepy boy/girl technopop duo.
Audipop: Another sunny guitar pop band but a bit more new wave style.
Abikyokan: Pan-national Japanese/American/British techno-jazz trio.
Techma!: Eccentric non-gender-specific technopop act.
Drive To The Forest In A Japanese Car: Post-punk band, sort of along
the lines of Gang Of Four or something like that.
Clisms: Twin-drummer rock&roll jazz-punk band.
Yolz In The Sky: Very loud jittery discopunk band from Osaka.
Worst Taste: Difficult to describe their music, but it's basically
violent experimental punk.

It all kicks off at two and goes on until about ten.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Disclaimer

In the next while, if any James Blunt songs appear above in my recently played tracks there is a valid excuse for this. I'm using the Pete Townshend defence, i.e. it's for research. I'm in the process of starting another blog (I realise that I probably haven't been posting on this blog as much as I should be and another blog might not help that, but we'll see) and I need to listen to the album for that reason. Trust me, it's not something I'm proud of and it's not something I really want to do (so far I haven't even managed to get to the chorus of You're Beautiful without cursing and changing the track) but it has to be done. Ah, the dangers of blogging. It's not all great concerts in little dives around Tokyo, sometimes we have to suffer too. Anyway, enough of my whining, this is just so you know.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Some Echoes, Aloha (Polyvinyl Records)

A band who list influences as diverse as The Bee Gees, The Velvet Underground, Woodie Guthrie, and Philip Glass (among many others) are an intriguing proposal. You know it could go one of either two ways: the band take the best parts of these artists, add their own touch, and throw everything together to create a sound that is unique to them; or that old adage about cooks and soup comes into play and you're left with a sonic train wreck where no-one survived. Aloha's fourth album, Some Echoes mercifully falls into the former category. Certain songs have recognisable styles and nods in the direction of the band's forebears: the gentle psychedelia of If I Lie Down, the strains of early/mid-period R.E.M in Brace Your Face, and the full on blast of the closing Mountain, but Aloha never sound like the 80's/New Wave copyists that have proliferated for the last couple of years. Firstly their songs are too intricately crafted (yet slightly skewed) to be lumped in with the angular guitars and scatter shot drumming preferred by whichever band sounds most like Wire this month. Secondly, the lyrics on Some Echoes manage to be both abstract and illuminating at the same time. There is a sense of isolation and loss running through this album, but one which is tempered with the hope of reaching out and making a connection, a hope which seems to be realised in the final song. The press release proclaims that the songs are “Lifetimes of sound distilled into 3-6 minute bursts... The music will say it better than we can.”, and it's hard to disagree.


Aloha will be touring Japan in October:



Oct 3 2006

8:00P

MARZ TOKYO-JAPAN

Oct 4 2006

8:00P

SHIBUYA O-NEST TOKYO-JAPAN

Oct 6 2006

8:00P

TIGHTROPE NAGOYA-JAPAN

Oct 7 2006

8:00P

BORO FESTA KYOTO-JAPAN

Oct 8 2006

8:00P

HELLUVA LOUNGE KOBE-JAPAN

Oct 9 2006

8:00P

UNAGIDANI SUN SUI OSAKA-JAPAN

Friday, September 08, 2006

Japanese surf guitarist plays the classics

Classical music was never like this at school, if it had been I might have been more interested.

Shimokitazawa ERA, Sep 3rd



A tiny venue, sweat dripping off the ceiling, ears still ringing two days later from standing too close to the speakers while all the time thinking what the fuck have I been doing and why didn't I start this blog sooner because all this stuff was out there and I just didn't get off my fat arse and find it. The lack of knowledge and the need for more thorough research being made clear to me when I find out that Akai Giwacku are a band, not a solo artist. The joy of being able to drink from a glass bottle in a venue and use a toilet that is cleaner than many people's homes. Brutal noise that makes sense within the confines of four walls and CDs that remind you of the night you had but just don't come close enough to capturing it. Sitting at home trying to think of a way of encapsulating and explaining to people just how good this all was and do it in a way that will make those who can go and see those bands, and make those that can't wish they could jump on a plane and arrive in Tokyo just in time. If you book that flight I'll happily put you up for a few nights as long as you're willing to put up with my rambling and the inevitable putting on of CDs preceded by the words "you've got to listen to this, it sounds like the bastard child of a and b and it's the missing link between c and d, and it's going to blow you away and make everything make sense at the same time, it's that good, and yes I may be a little drunk but you will hear this music sober and it'll still make sense because it's not the drink that makes the music sound good but the other way around, and wasn't that always the case even when we took drugs to listen to music that people had made by taking drugs to make music to take drugs to?"

First up, Idea Of A Joke. The drummer beats her drums and stares at them as if she expects them to hit her back at any moment but I think she's beaten them down. The bassist has a huge grin on his face as he wrestles his bass around the stage. It was a struggle but the rhythm section seem to have won the battle with their instruments. That leaves us with a guitarist who looks a little out of place among these people. He's wrenching some unholy sounds from his guitar but he's doing it with such a beatific look on his face that you can't help but think that somewhere off stage Mephistopheles is directing things and this guy is nothing more than a front. Then there is the singer. I've sat over this keyboard for ten minutes thinking how to describe him and do him justice. He sounds like Jello Biafra. He looks like Duncan Goodhew. He is utterly captivating as he kicks controlled fuck out of his mike stand, hooks his mouth with his finger as if he's a fish that's been caught (is this Satan's reel pulling him in from off-stage?). They inspire a four man moshpit that threatens to destroy the place and they're gone before you've even had time to realise it.


Time for a quick beer and a curry (this venue just gets better and better). The bonkers DJ who was playing a mix of We Are The Champions, old J-Pop songs, and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers before Idea Of A Joke came on is back and he has painted his body with pink and white stripes (not sure why but it suits him) and is entertaining us between bands. Group_Inou are next, but there's only two of them and they look like they should be in a computing lab on a quiet university campus somewhere. The only instrument is a synthesizer on a table: after Idea Of A Joke's ear-shredding set Group_Inou appear to be somewhat timid. This is why I am not in the FBI or the CIA, I am clearly a shit judge of people and situations. Group_Inou sound like Everything Must Go-era Moby and Orbital fighting for control of a studio and neither side is getting on top of the other. It's like pre-Queensbury Rules boxing when the pugilists used to knock fuck out of each other for as long as it took. The other half of the duo is rapping over this and I have no fucking idea what he's talking about (time to start the Japanese lessons again) but it's a world away from the shite J-Hip Hop wannabe gangstas that you see on TV: there's no bling here or macho posing, just a demonstration of how good Japanese hip-hop/urban music can be when the marketing cunts haven't been allowed anywhere near it.


ECD makes a similar point but in a very different way. One man, a sax and a little box of electronic tricks. It's a set-up that brings me out in a cold sweat: is this a Japanese Kenny G with a degree in electronics? Am I going to be sent running for the nearest exit and a convenience store where I can buy a can of something strong and fruit flavoured to try and wash away the pain? No. He looks monastic and his songs sound profound (even the one about Zombies), relentless monologues over a hypnotic and brooding backing. I bought one of his CDs and it's good, but as with many of these bands, it makes much more sense live.


Akai Giwacku tune up. Then they leave the stage, heading off into a back room somewhere. A few minutes later they reappear at the back of the club, the three of them walking in a line chanting doo wop backing vocals and clapping their hands. They make their way to the front of the stage through a crowd that parts biblically, the heads of those who've seen the band before nodding and smiling in the knowledge of what is about to come. After a brief bit of improvised MC-ing, and stories about the drummer who has apparently dragged himself out of his hospital bed to play tonight they take the stage and blow me away even more than they did the first time I heard them on MySpace. I found myself a good spot just to the right of the stage, got my notebook out, and proceeded to write absolutely nothing in it. All the bands before now had been outstanding in different ways and Akai Giwacku seemed to take elements from each of them and hammer them together to create their own sound, their pop sensibility taking off some of the rougher edges of what had gone before. Content with what they've done, they doo wop their way off stage and back into the same back room from where they came. Fucking genius.



Saturday, September 02, 2006

Akai Giwacku Live

The Tokyo Freeter Breeder himself is playing tomorrow night at Shimokitazawa ERA, along with a few other groups. Doors open at 6, show starts at 6.30 - 1700/2000 Yen (advance/on the door). Instructions on how to get to the venue (from Tokyo Gig Guide):

ERA Shimokitazawa. Website.
Prima veil Shimokitazawa 4F, 2-34-5, Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku.
Take the north exit of Shimokitazawa station and turn right at Mizuho Bank. Keep going straight until you reach a T-intersection. Turn right here and ERA is ahead on the left hand side, on the 4th floor of Prima Veil.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Nisennenmondai

Remember Y2K? Planes were going to be falling from the sky, landing on nuclear power stations that were melting down while the world's entire financial system would be lying in tatters. Those who didn't die in the computer assisted carnage would have to fight for their survival in a post-Apocalyptic world familiar to us all from years of films like Mad Max and Escape From New York, haunted by marauding gangs of mutants, escaped convicts, thugs, buggerers, and Methodists (see, they weren't just films, they were public service guides training us for the future). We all now know that it was nothing more that an elaborate ruse by IT people to ensure that they could charge immorally high rates for just turning on your computer and pretending to make it Y2 compliant, an act that mysteriously involved them playing Solitaire for five minutes before buggering off and leaving you with a bill for a couple of hundred quid. Nothing happened, midnight approached, we held our breaths and puckered up for what we all thought might be one final kiss before all hell broke loose, the bells rang and all of a sudden it was 2000. We looked out the window but there were no falling planes, bank machines still worked (and only gave out twenties), and the only marauding gangs were the usual drunken punters trying to find a taxi driver to take them home (and only charge them slightly less than the IT guy had done).

If everything had gone tits up then today Nisennenmondai (Y2K Problem) would be the soundtrack of our miserable lives, blazing out of our hand-cranked radios and scaring off the Methodists. In their own words Nisennenmondai are:

3piace girls band from tokyo japan since 1999.
 nisennenmondai mean "computer bug problem".
 "bijin record"since 2006 are self rabel.
 "bijin" mean butiful man and women.

 G-takada B-zaikawa D-himeno


This doesn't even begin to tell you what they are. Click on the link above and listen to the two songs on their MySpace profile and you'll see that they're much more than this. Tribal drums, relentlessly repetitive sheets of guitar noise, sudden unexpected changes of tempo, brief moments of relative quiet that allow the band and the listener a moment of respite before the eye passes over and we're plunged gladly back into the maelstrom. If the Four Horsemen have iPods this band are on their on-the-go playlist. I'm listening to these slabs of noise on my laptop and they sound and feel Satanically good - I can only imagine what they are like live. I've contacted the band to find out if they've got any shows coming up and I'll post any info I get. As good as the recorded songs are I imagine this is a band that are at their best live. Here's hoping they're playing soon.

Free Compilation (and it's fucking good)

'Post-rock' is often spoken about in derisive tones that should be reserved only for use when mentioning the evil Blunt and pish of that ilk. While I'm not a huge fan of the term - I think it's too easily applied to anything instrumental or anything that doesn't fit in anywhere else - I do like a lot of music that falls under its umbrella, so I was lucky to find The Silent Ballet website (link below) through a group on Last FM. It's a well-written and informative webzine about this kind of music, and they have a compilation available for download. Anyone who's a fan of bands such as Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Tortoise, Slint et al; or anyone who wants proof that not all music is mass-produced homogeneous pap should download the CD and have a little of their faith restored: all is not lost.