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Friday, August 17, 2007

WE'RE MOVING..............

That's right, everything must go, closing down sale etc etc. Not really closing down, moving onto a trial site that's got a few more whistles and bells. I'm in the process of transferring some of the content from here to the new site but all future updates will be at the new site, not here. Please bookmark the new one, come back again and again and tell all your friends about the wonder that is.......


Tokyo Guide

Thursday, August 16, 2007

CAR Event, and more of our Nationalist buddies.


As the video that I uploaded to YouTube (the first one, aren't I great?) shows, yesterday the Nationalists were out in force making speeches, waving flags and generally looking thuggish and in-bred. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, why do most people who believe in their racial superiority look so unevolved? The picture below was taken at the Hachiko crossing in Shibuya where the only people paying much attention to the blokes giving speeches (apart from their own rent-a-crowd of discount-Yakuza wannabes) were the foreign tourists stopping to take pictures. It's such a pity that irony is probably lost on the sad, sad individuals.


Almost equally as shite, but in a completely different way is Omotesando Hills. It seems like these kinds of buildings are springing up all over the place at the moment and they are little more than upmarket versions of the soulless malls that mar the landscape in other countries. The usual suspects are there - Dunhill, D&G, Chanel, along with overpriced restaurants and coffee shops staffed by assistants who look down their nose at you despite the fact they're probably only getting paid a thousand yen an hour and they haven't had a break in six weeks. Bottom line, it's air-conned, and in this heat that's all you care about. At any other time there is no reason to go in there unless you want to laugh at the sad poseurs who pout their way around Tokyo putting in far too much effort to be cool.


On a brighter note, there is another CAR event coming up. I implore you to go - not only is the line-up a great one, but Ian's home and final scraps of food are on the line here too. It's your moral duty to go, look:

Call And Response & 20000V Presents:
Tanz Tanz Tanz!
8月17日(金)高円寺20000V
6.00 open / 6.30 start
1800 yen +drink (adv)
2000 yen +drink (door)
バンド:
サラダバー
UMIBACHI
ぴあぴあーず
worst taste
アゴーレーカルキン
cottonioo (opening act)
DJs:
Hiroki (Mir)
Ian (CAR)
Special wine bar: 1 cup, 100 yen (as usual)

The Shittest Tokyo Music?

Ah, the nationalists out to play on August 15th - it's not really what you want to hear or see at the best of times but it's even worse when the temperature is hovering somewhere in the high 30s and you're waiting on a friend who's got on the wrong train.

Guitarist wo Korosanaide, bloodthirsty butchers


“Expectations can be a wicked thing to overcome, especially for a band with a career as illustrious as bloodthirsty butchers.” - James Route, review of Guitarist wo Korosanaide on Keikaku a couple of weeks ago. This is undoubtedly true but I have a confession to make - even though I write regularly about Japanese music, Guitarist wo Korosanaide is the first bloodthirsty butchers album I’ve ever bought (I also killed the class hamster when I was in primary school but that was in self-defence and it’s a story for another day). There, I said it, I feel so much better. Now that my bloodthirsty butchers cherry has been popped, the question is, “How was it for me?” Short answer - probably better than anyone who is coming to this album with previous knowledge of the band.

bloodthirsty butchers have been making music since 1987, and twenty years down the line this album does sound like a blast from an earlier era. Do you remember when shirts were plaid, hair was greasy and the Cult of Kurt still revolved around a living figurehead? Do you pine for raggedy-arsed vocals backed up with guitar parts you can park a bus on? Do you want some retro-sounding rock that wasn’t made by a group of pale Gang of Four fans in skinny ties and shite haircuts? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions then this album is one you should probably seek out.

For me, “yeah#1” is one of the best opening songs I’ve heard on an album in recent times, and it was an obvious choice for the first single. It’s hardly going to rival dubstep in terms of innovation or originality but it’s an exhilarating way to kick things off - the drums sound like they’re being pummeled to within an inch of their lives, the riffs are huge and the vocals unashamedly shouty. It sounds early Nineties and there isn’t a lot on here that breaks that mould. For some people that may make this album something of a drag but I’ve found myself coming back to this album again and again. The only complaint I’d have about Guitarist wo Korosanaide is that most of the tracks could have done with some more judicious editing. Most of them clock in at between five and six minutes, and more often than not the final minute is little more than instrumental fluff that adds little to the song.

If you’re already a fan of the band then you’re probably going to find this record disappointing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Guitarist wo Korosanaide earns bloodthirsty butchers a few more fans. There’s more than enough here to draw in casual listeners, a lot of whom will go on and seek out some of the band’s earlier work, me included.

Monday, August 13, 2007

MOTOR MUSTANG new on JapanFiles

MOTOR MUSTANG AND SPUTNIK LAB ARRIVE ON JAPANFILES.COM




August 13, 2007 – JapanFiles.com teams up with new Japanese label Sputnik Lab this month to release the debut album "Make Your Head Down" from hot Japanese rock trio MOTOR MUSTANG.

In 2005 MOTOR MUSTANG appeared on the Rookie-a-Go-Go stage at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. In 2006, MOTOR MUSTANG was given the last play slot for new bands at the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan. The band has distanced themselves from other Japanese bands with their amazing sound and crazy live shows.

Since they were kids they have longed to be rock stars. With a sound that has been compared to JET, The Datsuns and Wolf Mother, MOTOR MUSTANG's shouting vocals and guitar riffs will give you goosebumps. MOTOR MUSTANG continues to run wild and dangerous on stage in Japan.


Music at: www.japanfiles.com/motormustang

Recommended tracks: Trap Of Life

Friday, August 10, 2007

What do points make? Not as much as they used to...


A couple of months ago, Ken M wrote about the loss of the indie section of Tower Records' Shibuya store (on the excellent Japan Live blog). When I lived in the UK I avoided Tower like the plague, not wanting to pay the exorbitant prices they charged (probably to cover the rent for those prime locations they always favoured). However, once I moved to Japan I found that Tower here was reasonably priced and one of the easiest places to buy English books and magazines from. They weren't the only reasons I went back there again and again - step forward the mighty Tower Points card. Admittedly, you had to spend ¥50,000 to get a discount of ¥3000, but with judicious timing (i.e during the frequent double points campaigns) it wasn't that difficult to fill the cards up. Like the indie section at the Shibuya store, this card is no more. Last week I bought a couple of CDs and found that Tower have introduced a new card, which is more complex than the old one (won't go into the boring details) - worst of all is the fact that you now have to rack up ¥75,000 in purchases to get that ¥3000. Is this a sign that the economic woes faced by Tower in the States have crossed the Pacific, or is the company just hoping that no-one would really notice?

A year older but certainly no wiser

I meant to write this post on the day (August 8th), but to be honest I completely forgot. Tokyo Music is one year old, my liver is probably ten years older and, as I said above, I'm absolutely no wiser than I was at this time last year. Saying that, I have met a lot of great people (and some utter cunts), heard some remarkable bands and some not so good. Most of all though, it's shown me a far more entertaining side of Tokyo and Japanese music that I knew before. So, happy birthday to me - cakes aren't welcome but drinks are.

New Mothercoat Album on JapanFiles


MOTHERCOAT'S NEW FULL-LENGTH ALBUM "+BIRDLESS" - SAME DAY USA/JAPAN RELEASE


August 7, 2007 – JapanFiles.com has teamed with SXSW-favorite mothercoat to launch the same-day release of the band's third full-length CD "+birdless" on August 8, 2007.

"+birdless" features mothercoat's trademark eclectic style on eight all-new tracks, including a totally re-worked version of their early-era demo song "yoghurt bus."

mothercoat made USA appearances at Fanime 2006 and SXSW 2007. They were nominated for Best Japanese Rock Band in Shojo Beat's 2007 Music Issue.


Music at: www.japanfiles.com/mothercoat

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Falsies on Heat back on JapanFiles

Tired and pissed off with heat and humidity so lazy cut and paste:

FALSIES ARE BACK!!!
JAPANESE FEMALE PUNKERS FALSIES ON HEAT RETURN TO JAPANFILES.COM


August 1, 2007 – After a brief absence from the JapanFiles.com roster, Falsies on Heat returns to JapanFiles.com thanks to a new partnership with the band's current label Sputnik Lab.

Falsies on Heat was nominated for Best Japanese All-Girl Band in Shojo Beat's 2007 Music Issue.

Recommended tracks: Groovy, Fat, Aphrodite.

Listen here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ten Questions - Kay Grace

1) Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kay Grace. I record (very infrequently) and perform (a little more often) with ok city ok in Tokyo. I also write advice columns on a freelance basis and will sing the national anthem of the country of your choice at kick boxing matches.


2) How did Ok City Ok come into being?

I came to Japan to get away from music, actually, but once here I discovered that 1) the gear I coveted as a poor person in the US was outdated and hence considered practically junk here, and 2) I didn't have any worthwhile ways of spending free time except for lurking around music stores. I acquired a pile of moldering recording gear and then started writing music to try to justify the expenditure. After I had enough songs for a record, I set about getting a quorum together to play live. This process consumed what was left of my youth.

I should be grateful, though, because Tom and Shiba are lovely people and great players and they practically insisted on joining the band right when I had finally decided, not for the first time, that I really really hated music and was through with it. Now I play in a band and write songs primarily because I like the other two members and want to impress them.

3) You played with bands in the States and managed Cotton Mather - is there much difference between the evil machinations of the music business there and here in Japan?

I was only in one band in the US - completely obscure, but people have long memories. I was Cotton Mather's tour manager - a roadie, basically. Anyway, I don't know if I have much to say about the music business either there or here, considering how peripheral my involvement has been.

4) There are other foreign/partly foreign bands in Tokyo but not many - how do the audiences react?

They avert their eyes and giggle nervously, but they do that no matter who's onstage. "React" strikes me as a strong word for whatever it is that audiences do at Tokyo livehouses. "Do" might be a bit of an overstatement as well. You may discern a sour edge to my tone here. I'm being a jackass. Actually, the issue of foreignness has just never come up with us, as far as I'm aware.

5) You recently toured the States and Canada - how was it and when are you likely to be taking your next spin overseas?

It was a lifesaver. I had forgotten what it was like to play in North America. Tom & Shiba were champs - they were totally unfazed by the chaos of the bar shows over there. We dug the immediacy and degree of engagement exhibited by audiences in Canada and the US. We're looking to go overseas again before the end of the year.


6) Which bands/artists should we be on the look out for?

Keisuke Hinami, who sometimes plays with us on violin and guitar, has a project called the Hinshi Etude. Beautiful singing, eerie songs - lots of them. He has something like ten different CDs which he gives away absolutely free at his shows - one way to beat the 30-minutes-per-set livehouse system. The Brixton Academy is the most entertaining band I've seen in Japan, and they managed to make a record that is just as much fun as their live shows. I envy and hate them for this.

7) What's your favourite venue a) to play; b) to see a band?

In Tokyo, we like Silver Elephant in Kichijoji and Garage in Shimo-Kitazawa. You know, I just don't get out enough. The only time I ever see bands is when we play with them.

8) Kirin, Asahi or Sapporo?

PABST BLUE RIBBON!

9) Vinyl, CD or mp3?

You can't line your apartment with mp3s to impress the ladies. People used to say that about CDs, though, when vinyl was getting frog-marched out of existence by the music biz. Those people were incorrect, however.

10) Have you got any upcoming events/releases you want to promote?

The next show is at Silver Elephant in Kichijoji, August 24 (Fri). We will be performing some new songs (gasp).


Our "record" Made By Elaborate Process is available from iTunes, though every goddamn time I look it up the artist name is different. This link will take you to the Apple Store, where you can download the album with some random person's name there instead of ok city ok. I wonder who gets the money. Searches for ok city ok turn up nothing on iTunes. Why does Apple hate us so? I had a Macintosh PowerBook 5300 - haven't I suffered enough?

CD Baby, on the other hand, will send you a shiny new shrink-wrapped ok city ok CD for just ten bucks, and they know our name.

That's about it. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Event - Koenji Club Roots - July 27th (Friday)

It seems apt that this is the 150th post and it concerns an event that is "doubling up as a birthday party." This Friday at Club Roots, two weeks after the day itself (even I've never stretched out a birthday as long as that), Ian Martin and his band Natasha Forrest will be playing. Also on the bill are Shuichi Inoue (From Folk Enough - Fukuoka), Mosquito and and about hers (no, that ain't a typo). Doors open at 6.30, music starts at 7.00 (the time of Ian's passing out wasn't mentioned in the mail I got) and it costs ¥1800 in advance, plus the usual drink.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ten Questions - Ian Martin

In true Tokyo Music style, I have stolen another blog's idea in an attempt to make this site something more than just reviews and video clips lazily posted from YouTube. Praxis Theatre have been doing a 'Ten Questions' interview on a fairly regular basis, and in lieu of any ideas of my own, Tokyo Music will be trying to do something similar (to be honest, I'm sure Praxis nicked the idea from somewhere else anyway). First up in the firmament of Tokyo's musical luminaries is Ian Martin - take it away sir:


1) Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ian Martin and I run the now very infrequently-updated
Clear And Refreshing web site, do the odd bit of writing for The Japan
Times and run Call And Response Records.


2) Which artists/albums would you recommend as a 'way in' to Japanese
indie/underground music?

Depends what you mean by a "way in". My way into the music scene was
to just find bands I liked and go to their gigs. They'll usually be
playing with three or four other bands and if you go to enough of
them, one or two of those bands might turn out to be decent too. What
band you choose as your "in" will depend on what kind of music you
like. Personally, the bands that really kicked me off into the sort of
music that I tend to listen to now were Nisennenmondai, whose shows
about three years ago introduced me to a lot of other underground and
experimental gigs, and Mosquito, who seem to be into all kinds of
music and play with all kinds of different bands. As far as albums go,
there are a lot of decent compilations out there: Kimica Records'
"Kimica Golden Package" has some good stuff and "Headache Sounds
Sampler CD Vol.4" has a lot of the current generation of underground
bands. Less Than TV Records have a compilation out that I haven't
heard, but lots of good bands from around Japan are on it, and Disk
Union has a compilation CD and DVD series called "Central Point
Of...", which has a lot of good bands on it too. In Nagoya, the "7586
Nagoya Rock" series is good.

3) How would you describe the current state of Japanese music?

Fragmentary.

4) What made you start the label/putting on events?

Going to gigs and seeing one or two bands I wanted to see and three or
four bands I thought were rubbish. It's my way of making sure that
once every month or two, there's a gig where I like everything.
Obviously, not everyone has the same taste as me, but I do take into
account what bands are going to appeal to fans of the other bands at
the gig, but at the same time offer I always try to offer something
different. I really think people enjoy themselves more and get more
excited about a show if there's something different there, but on the
other hand, there are so many bad shows out there that people are
reluctant to go out to a gig with a bunch of bands they don't know.
Maintaining a kind of balance is what I try to do, and I hope that
eventually the word will get out that my shows are always pretty
decent.

5) I've heard you say a few times that you think there are much more
vibrant music scenes outside of Tokyo, for example, Fukuoka. Why do you
think that is and which non-Tokyo bands would you recommend?

I wouldn't say that the scenes outside Tokyo are more vibrant per se -
the good thing about Tokyo is that there are just so many bands here,
so Tokyo will always have more good stuff than other cities. On the
other hand, I think places like Fukuoka, because of their smaller
size, force bands into closer proximity. If they want to play shows,
they have to keep a more open mind about who they play with and what
kinds of audiences they play to. The negative side of there being so
many bands in Tokyo is that it makes it too easy for them to clump
together with small groups of like-minded musicians, which I suppose
is nice, but it really is such a sterile situation to be in, and from
my point of view as a promoter, it's utterly unbearable trying to deal
with bands like that. It's interesting to watch the difference in the
way ex-Fukuoka bands in Tokyo operate compared to native Tokyo
musicians. They just seem a bit mentally tougher somehow.

6) Any other bands we should be watching out for?

Not sure. Mahiruno are on the up at the moment, but what happens with
a lot of bands is that they release and album and then all the energy
seems to go out of them and they stop writing new songs, as if that
was as far as they'd ever really thought, so I hope that doesn't
happen to them. Uhnellys have been around for a few years, but there's
a bit of a buzz around them now. There's a fantastic EP from Fukuoka
that I heard recently by a band called Miu Mau, but all the members of
Miu Mau play in other bands, so I don't know how seriously they're
going to be pushing it.

Outside Tokyo, I like Nohshintoh from Nagoya a lot. In Kyoto, Fluid
are pretty good and in Osaka, Squimaoto seem pretty good (although I
haven't seen them). Velocityut are a good punk band from Nagasaki. In
Fukuoka I recommend Folk Enough, Moth, TepPohseen, Spectrum
Synthesize!, Miu Mau, and (of course) Hyacca.

7) What's your favourite venue?

Depends on the kinds of music. Koenji 20000V is a good punk venue -
it's dirty and smelly, and it has really nasty sound, so it's not for
everyone. Akihabara Goodman has very good sound, but audiences there
can be a bit quiet. Decadent Deluxe in Fukuoka is a lovely place.
Heaven's Door in Sangenjaya is good, and they let you take your own
beers in as well. Aoi-Heya in Shibuya would be one of my favourites if
the booze wasn't so horrendously expensive.


8) Vinyl, CD or mp3?

CDs sound best, mp3s are most convenient. Vinyl makes you look coolest.


9) Kirin, Sapporo or Asahi?

Asahi.

10) What have you got lined up that you want to promote/publicise?

LIVE:
July 27th at Koenji Club Roots:
Natasha Forrest (my band) / Inoue Shuichi (From Folk Enough - Fukuoka)
/ Mosquito / and about hers


August 17th at Koenji 20000V:
Saladabar / UMIBACHI / Agolay Culkin / COTTONIOO (Opening Act) / more TBC

September 23rd at Koenji Penguin House:
"Koenji Pop Festival - All-day Event"
Miami / and about hers / MIR / Basement Park Is / more TBC
October 20th at Koenji 20000V:
Hyacca (From Fukuoka) / MIR / Tacobonds / more TBC

CD:
Hyacca: "Sashitai"
MIR: "This Tiny World"
Both CDs are available now at live shows and Koenji Enban. I'll be
adding them to more indie record shops over the next couple of months,
and they'll be distributed properly nationwide from mid September
(Hyacca) and mid October (MIR).

Head Phones President on JapanFiles


Things have been quiet on the JapanFiles front recently, but that seems likely to change with the latest addition to their stable. "HEAD PHONES PRESIDENT BLEND POWER CHORDS AND FEMALE VOCALS" - that's a lot of capitals but then they are debuting with "six CDs and many songs in English", so they're probably justified. Apparently many fans have noted their similarity to Evanescence - personally I'm not sure if that's a good thing but I'll go in open-minded and try and post a review in the near future. If you want to have a squizz at them, they're on YouTube too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Anchorsong, The Storytelling E.P.


“Live electronica. Boring, isn’t it? Usually a couple of gangly blokes with computer screen tans, dubious facial hair and bobble hats, ducking about behind a bank of equipment, twiddling some knobs while the audience stroke their chins. There’s the odd exception - Orbital with their spectacle-mounted torches, The Prodigy with Mad Keith et al, and maybe The Chemical Brothers - still, it’s never going to be as much fun as going to a full-on rawwwk show with guitars and stuff, is it?”

A common sentiment and one I’d usually be inclined to agree with - I listen to a lot of electronica but I rarely feel any desire to go and see the artists perform live. Perhaps this kind of reaction was what Masaaki Yoshida had in mind when he gave his first solo performance as Anchorsong in September 2004. Since then, thanks partly to around 40,000 views on YouTube, his live shows have become something of a phenomenon. Armed with an Akai MPC2000XL and a Korg Triton he builds up the songs from scratch, a process which has been likened to “a painter drawing on a white canvas.” It’s fascinating to watch and it sounds amazing. As a result, he finds himself in an unusual position for an electronic artist - he’s proved himself as a live act but can he recreate that buzz on record? His debut release, The Storytelling E.P, definitely points in the right direction.

Unlike a lot of instrumental/electronic releases, the five songs here are relatively short - ‘Breathe Breathe Me’ is the longest despite clocking in at a relatively measly six minutes. Anchorsong generally makes use of the same thundering drums and bass that characterised a lot of DJ Shadow’s early work, but with more pace (although it’s hardly Happy Hardcore). If you’ve seen Anchorsong on YouTube then you’re bound to be familiar with ‘Calling (Never Stop)’. It’s the first track on the E.P and sets out his signature sound, but over the remainder of the record Yoshida proves he’s no one-trick pony - piano breaks, muted strings and, what sounds like the doom-laden bells of the Marie Celeste (towards the end of ‘In His Left Pocket’) all have a place here.

The E.P alone is well worth the ¥1500 price, but what makes it the best buy of the year so far is the six-track DVD that’s included. The first three tracks are taken from a live performance with String Quartet and are achingly beautiful - ‘Breathe Breathe Me’ is probably the weakest song on the E.P, but performed live here it takes on a whole new energy. The final three songs are the clips that have been doing the rounds on-line, but with the crispness and clarity that YouTube and other websites generally lack.

The Storytelling E.P is a strong record and a stand out in a world of similar sounding bands flogging themselves on MySpace. At the moment Cornelius is Japan’s best-known producer/electronic magpie, but the paucity of his last album is in stark contrast to the sheer verve of this E.P. Name value and recognition are no substitute for good music, and anyone who was disappointed with Sensuous would do well to look out for Anchorsong.

Monday, July 09, 2007

lickerish 4tet and the warm

As I have bitched elsewhere, I'm not a huge fan of MySpace. As far as keeping in touch with people, Facebook is a hell of a lot better and less hassle to use. However, despite its faults MySpace is still a good source of music, and I should probably spend more time there than I do.

Two Tokyo-based bands worth looking out for are lickerish 4tet (no, don't ask me) and the warm. The former have only been together for two or three months, have a guitarist and keyboardist "obsessed with obscure 60's and 70's erotic/horror movies" and chuck together a blend of "psychedelic, Doorsy, sleazy, bluesy elements". They are playing live in Koenji Green Apple, next Sunday (July 15th) from 8.00pm.

the warm are a "boy/girl 3 piece" who "make use of two swirling Roland synths, a drum kit and some yelping here and there to make a sort of epic awkward take on electro-pop". Their MySpace blurb goes on to list early 80s reference points like Human League and Ultravox. If you're still not convinced, there are a few songs available for download on their British label's website.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

過激派 闘争

Interesting footage of Japanese student riots in the 70s.

bloodthirsty butchers - yeah #1

Got a stinking bloody cold, have only slept for about three hours and I feel like shit. However, I did buy this album yesterday and it's cheering me up.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fuji Fabric at Tokyo Zepp

Went to the Tuesday show - first time to see a Japanese band at Tokyo Zepp and the first time to see a Japanese band play to a large number of people. I was covering the concert for purple Sky magazine, so for a full review I'm afraid that's where you're going to have to go. Not sure which issue it'll be in (either summer or autumn) but will post more info once I know.

AFTER BEAT COVERS - sugarfields (JapanFiles download)

Covers albums are a risky proposition. The line between inspired reinterpretation and insipid regurgitation is a thin one, and too often, these projects dance across the line with all the co-ordination and subtlety of a herd of pissed-up wildebeest. Science tells us that every action must have an opposite and equal reaction, so for every Johnny Cash American album there has to be something like Duran Duran's Thank You (if you ever want to get someone out of your life, send them the execrable cover of Grandmaster Flash's ‘White Lines', then stand back and watch your friendship crumble).

This whole area is clearly a minefield, and those who undertake such an album are either very brave, very foolish, or simply don't give a fuck. I've never met him, but I'm guessing that one-man music maker Hara Tomonobu falls into the latter category. Not only does he do the whole covers album gig by himself, he takes on songs by sacred cows of Western music such as Nirvana, James Brown, The Doors and The Stone Roses. The results are so good that the only downside to AFTER BEAT COVERS is wondering what monstrosity it will spawn as its equal and opposite reaction.

AFTER BEAT COVERS reflects Hara's eclecticism as it takes in lo-fi indie, skanking acoustic pop and anything else that catches his magpie ear. There are covers of some old J-Pop songs (as far as I can tell), but not knowing what the originals sound like I can't say very much about them. The same can't be said for ‘Sally Cinnamon', ‘All Apologies', ‘People Are Strange' and ‘Sex Machine' (yes, that one). Hama's versions tend to sound vastly different to the originals, but there's never any doubt as to what the song is. His pronunciation is defiantly Japanese and will probably bug some purists, but that's their problem, not his.

‘Sally Cinnamon' was probably The Stone Roses' shiniest pop moment. Someone deciding to cover it might think about dramatically different ways to redo it - how about a sub-Throbbing Gristle industrial clang-fest, or an out and out heavy metal version? Hara eschews any such option and instead gets his kazoo out (at least that's what I think it is), and buffs up the song until it's a blinding pop gem. ‘All Apologies' gets a more dramatic makeover, as Hara takes Kurt Cobain's tortured torch song into blissful territory that in the Nineties would probably have been called ‘trip-hop'.

This album is good, and not because of any novelty value derived from a Japanese take on some well-known Western songs - Rocket K's uninspired attempt at ‘Video Killed The Radio Star (in which the pronunciation is basically the only thing that distinguishes it from the original) is ample proof that such an approach doesn't work. AFTER BEAT COVERS is an example of this genre at its best. After listening to the album and being amazed you'll want go back to the originals and find things in them that you'd never noticed before, or in the case of the J-Pop songs here (especially ‘Tokyo') you'll find yourself seeking out the originals to see how they measure up to these versions.

Buy it on shiny CD here, or ephemeral download here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Surfer KIng - Fuji Fabric

Fantstic song and an entertaining video (if only the variety shows in Japan did have guests who fired lasers at each other). Fuji Fabric are playing Tokyo Zepp on Tuesday and Wednesday and I'll hopefully be going to the Tuesday show.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I steal things from the Guardian

Interesting article in today's Guardian in which a bunch of musicians talk about canonical albums that they hate/don't like/don't rate. In lieu of any original ideas of my own, I thought I might as appropriate this and spraff for a bit.
Link
As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I can't fucking stand Dark Side of the Moon - it plods along like a flat-footed policeman and the lyrics are embarrassingly bad. I'm sure Roger Waters (or was it the other one, I can never remember) thought he was musing profoundly on the vagaries of human existence, but I'm sure there are hormone ridden sixteen year olds out there who have scored out better writing. The cover and the title suck too.

Not sure if it's counted as canonical, but I'm in a particularly vile mood today and I don't care, so next up is anything by Blind Melon. One hit, a novelty video and a dead lead singer is hardly groundbreaking.

I'm going to go before this post disintegrates into random abuse for bands and musicians I don't like. Maybe I should have posted this at James Blunt Must Die. Maybe I will.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ok city ok, great eh?

Until this blogging lark starts to pay some serious cash (hell, any cash would be a start) I'm afraid I'm going to have to limit live reviews to anything that takes place in Tokyo (although I may be able to stretch to Chiba or Yokohama once in a while). In the meantime, have a look here for a review of ok city ok at the NXNE festival thingy in Canadia - they'll be back on Tokyo turf next month I think and they are well worth seeing live.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bespa Kumamero London Live - pristy

Insert witty comment here.

BESPA KUMAMERO on JapanFiles


Have a look at the album cover above and the YouTube clip. They are BESPA KUMAMERO and their eponymous debut album is now available on JapanFiles.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Free Swinging Popsicle

No, it's not a campaign for the release of an innocent frozen snack with dubious sexual proclivities, but rather free music. Over the next three days, three different tracks will be available for free download here (it's a MySpace page, not a link to some spammer hawking Viagra and methods of increasing whanger size). The three songs are taken from the band's new album, Go On.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dok Springs, Jemapur, Hydeout Productions

Yet another uncomfortably hot and humid Japanese summer is almost upon us. Tokyo’s rush hour trains, unpleasant at the best of times, become a sticky, heaving mass of sweating salarymen (don’t get me started on them), knackered looking school kids bent double under the weight of their bags and bemused Northern Europeans wondering what they hell they’re doing living in such a climate. Of course, there are always those enviably cool looking people sitting there, seemingly unaffected by the weather, with barely a bead of sweat on their brows. I want to be like that but I know it’s never going to happen - I was born in Scotland and that’s exactly the kind of weather I was designed for. The best thing I can do is find some music that soothes the soul and cools the boiling blood that makes me want to KILL KILL KILL. Jemapur’s debut album, Dok Springs, is a collection of songs that fits the bill perfectly.

The story goes that 19 year old Shizuoka native Jemapur turned up at the record shop/label in Shibuya owned by Jun Seba (a.k.a Nujabes), armed with a thirty track demo. Impressed with what he heard, Seba cherry-picked the best cuts from the demo and Dok Springs is the result. Perhaps unsurprisingly this album treads a lot of similar ground to Nujabes releases such as Metaphorical Music and Modal Soul, as well as the first Hydeout productions compilation (the imaginatively titled First Compilation. If none of that means anything to you, but you’re a fan of acts like D.J Shadow and his Mo’ Wax label mates, or better known Japanese artists such as Kemuri or D.J Krush, you’d do well to seek out this album.

The majority of the tracks on the album are instrumentals, and they are far more satisfying than the numbers where guest vocalists add their two bits. Vocal tracks such as ‘Light to Light (Remix of Antennae) are by no means bad, but the vocals don’t really add anything to Jemapur’s already atmospheric sound. There’s no moment of jaw-dropping beauty or audacity to equal Nujabes ‘ordinary joe’ from his Modal Soul album, in which Terry Callier reprises his Stax classic over a backing track of 21st century soul that could be straight outta Cafe del Mar. This isn’t a problem however, given the strength and depth of songs like ‘Self Improvisation’, with its blend of skittering jazz beats, unidentifiable wheezes and coughs, and sudden unexpected changes of tempo.

I’m sure this album would also make the perfect backdrop to a few chilled beers out on the porch or in the garden as the sun sets on a summer’s day. Maybe that or later on in the evening when the lights have been dimmed and the conversation is more hushed. Those situations have got more chance of being what Jemapur had in mind when he made the record, rather than it being adopted by a desperate commuter as a way of avoiding deportation. Either way, it’s all good. Let the good times, not the salaryman heads, roll.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A couple more blogs worth checking out

Cover versions can go either way. The very best ones will make you look at a song in a whole new way. Take Johnny Cash’s dramatic reworking of Hurt, for example. What was the once the pinnacle of Trent Reznor’s mardy ouevre became a rumination on life and a man’s impending death. Less dramatic but equally as startling is sugarfields’ cover of Sally Cinnamon (I’ll get round to reviewing the album eventually). Already a classic pop cut, Tomonobu Hara imbues it with his own pop sensibilities, giving us a hint of what The Stone Roses might have sounded like had they grown up in Tokyo rather than Manchester.

On the other hand, cover versions can be the last refuge of a fading star or the first refuge of a newly crowned TV talent show winner. Remember Robson and Jerome? Remember Wet Wet Wet ruining a perfectly good Troggs song (R.E.M. covered it first but even that can’t redeem it). Darius did it, Will Young did it, Gareth Gates did it, and no doubt all future winners of Pop Idol will do it.

Thankfully, the Copy, Right blog goes more for the former rather than the latter. Ever wondered how Guns ‘n Roses Don’t Cry would sound when tackle by Mogwai? Did you think it was impossible to make The Killing Moon anything other than sinister sounding? Check out the Copy, Right for the answers to those questions and more.

Another blog I’ve been frequenting in the last few days is Lost-In-Tyme. Here you can download obscure and hard to find albums in a number of categories including Prog, Krautrock, Funk and New Wave. There’s a shitload of stuff there so it might not be a good idea to visit the website if you’ve got some work or something that needs doing - it can end up being a bit like checking one clip on YouTube. Before you know it the sun’s coming up and that report you were supposed to finish has been long forgotten about.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ketchup Mania Hits Dallas

Don't ler the title fool you, this isn't one of those "... and finally" stories that round the news off with a wry smile. Rather, Japanese pop-punk band will be making their American debut at A-Kon in Dallas this Friday (June 1st). The band's first three releases are available on JapanFiles and they will also be selling and signing CDs at the show.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Call And Response Event, Koenji 20000V, May 25th

Due to work I won't be there, but there'll be another of the mighty C.A.R events tomorrow night in Koenji. In the best cutting and pasting traditions of Tokyo Music, here's the line up:

Tanz! Tanz! Tanz! - Tokyo Rhythm Punk Disco, featuring: Hyacca (From Fukuoka) / Worst Taste / Usagi Spiral A / Clisms / Natasha Forrest / Kitsch Hitori Gakudan (Opening Act) / DJs: Yoko3 (Mir) / Grant McGaheran (Abikyokan)

It's ¥1800, it starts at 6pm, and the last time I spoke to Ian Martin he mentioned something about cheap wine. What else are you going to do in Tokyo on a Friday night? Sure, you could go to Roppongi but do you want to spend your whole night telling the touts that you're not interested in their clubs and standing elbow to elbow with cunty investment bankers? Or would you rather spend the evening quaffing wine and listening to some of the finest sounds Japanese music has to offer. No fucking contest, is it?

'Slumber', LiN Clover, JapanFiles CD


I have to admit that I had some smart put-downs lined up for this album, something along the lines of "it does exactly what it says on the tin, i.e it makes you slumber." However, it turned out to be one of those growers - another couple of listens and I was hooked. Where at first I saw LiN CLOVER in the same light as Skunk Anansie (a band I never had much time for), I've come to realise that there's much more to them than that.

Slumber is a compilation made up of tracks drawn from the band's first three releases. Opening track "Empty" sets the tone for a lot of the album - Yuri's vocals swooping over a backdrop of crashing drums and guitars that hint at Rival Schools battling it out with Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins. That's not to say LiN CLOVER are a one-trick pony. "It" starts out eerily quiet (perhaps as a nod to Stephen King's scary clown), before battering into a driving chorus that must sound outstanding live. "Misleading shore" starts in a similarly downbeat fashion but eschews the temptation of another crowd-pleasing chorus, instead staying in a lower gear and adding layers of guitar and feedback to create a slow-burning epic.

The album does hit something of a dip and tracks seven to nine seem to blend into one amorphous blob of mush (I think this is where my initial Skunk Anansie parallel came from). However, the album closer "Never" snaps you back to life. It's another one that starts slowly, with Yuri singing wordlessly over the top of some genuinely freaky efffects that could have come straight from the soundtrack of "Ring," "Juon" or some other such trouser-fillingly terrifying Japanese horror film. Even when the singing does become something recognisable as language, the backing never changes (if anything it becomes even more disconcerting) and the overall effect is a song that will do anything but make you sleep.

It's not all perfect but what smorgasbord is? Just as there's always that dubious looking dish of meat and vegetables that nobody is brave enough to try, there are a couple of songs here that aren't as appetising as the rest. However, the album works well as an introduction to the band and those who like what they hear can go on and investigate further. Finally, in what must be a concession to old gits like me, JapanFiles have released Slumber as a CD rather than their usual download format – the re-evolution starts here.

The CD is available to buy here. If you want to download it, send a whiny email to the people at JapanFiles and see what kind of response you get (mind you, if I was the recipient of that email, I'd probably tell you to fuck off and buy the CD, but I'm sure they're more polite than that).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Two words that scare the shit out of me are...

... 'skate punk'. All I can think of is The Offspring, Pretty Fly For a White Guy, that cunt's whining voice... and then a mist comes down upon me and I sometimes find myself with clothes torn, fingernails ragged, and covered in blood and gore. Anyway, enough of my weekends. My therapist says I'm doing well and I may soon be allowed back into the community. However, a lot of my therapist's hard work was jeopardised yesterday as I received an email with the subject line 'Japanese Skate Punk Pioneers "Rose Rose". I immediately called my therapist and he said it should be safe enough for me to open the mail, but if I started feeling the urge to commit GBH, I should shut down my computer immediately and take a long, cold shower. I did what he said and found that Rose Rose have become the latest additions to the JapanFiles roster. For the good of my own health as well as those around me, I probably won't be downloading any of their stuff, but for those of you who are not afflicted like me, have a look here. Hark, I hear the sound of the guards. Better go.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

ok city ok, エディ, アカシカ - Kichijoji Silver Elephant, May 19th

Kichijoji is home to Iseya, probably the greatest yakitori restaurant in all of Tokyo (if not Japan), and it's not right to spend a Friday night in Kichijoji without first going there to fill up on cheap food and cheap beer. Unfortunately this meant that I didn't arrive at the venue on time and missed the first band on the bill. So, apologies to The Boston Liver, I will do my best to see you again sometime.

By the time we did get there, アカシカ (Acacica) were drawing to the end of their set. A four-piece fronted by a preternaturally tiny vocalist called Mayumi, Acacica made me wish I'd foregone the final beer and got my arse to the venue on time. I picked up a copy of the three-track EP they were selling at the show. Check back for a review in which I will try and write something more substantial than this and talk about something else other than the diminutive stature of the singer.


Unlike Acacica, エディ(Eddy) had me scribbling furiously in my notebook. There's a few sentences where I consider if it's possible to drink G&T through a straw and still retain a modicum of dignity. Then there's a fairly long mental meander about the bloke standing just in front of me who looked as if he'd read too much about Jean-Paul Sartre (rather than actually reading anything by Jean -Paul Sartre), and had me placing mental bets as to whether he would ever actually take a drag on the cigarette he was holding do preciously. Finally I was driven to wonder if the reason Eddy took it upon themselves to remind us of who they were after every song was because they knew how forgettable their set was. Eddy seem to have been struck by that affliction which is common among a lot of the bands I've seen here. As individuals they are clearly very able musicians, and as a band they are duck's arse tight, but they are completely lacking in any spark or edge that would make them much more interesting. Not only that, but all their songs seem to clock in at six or seven minutes, which for the kind of music they make (i.e fairly straight ahead indie-rock) is about three minutes too long. Sadly, the most memorable thing about their set was the questionnaire that they handed out to the audience afterwards, in which we had to choose our favourite song from their set and what we thought of the band. I went for the last one because that was the only honest answer I could give, and made some kind of non-committal comments to the other question.


ok city ok had no questionnaires, but their three minute blasts of Pete Townshend-esque guitar jiggery-pokery were a welcome tonic to the lumbering Eddy. Fronted by an exiled American, Kay Grace, ok city ok are an unabashedly old-school indie-rock band that any fan of The Replacements/Paul Westerberg, The Hold Steady et al would do well to seek out. They will be touring in the States and Canada next month - check their MySpace page for more details.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sugarfields on JapanFiles

The email screamed, "ONE MAN, NINE ALBUMS!" What's this? The Japanese Conor Oberst? Thankfully, no. The one man in question is Hara Tomonobu who goes by the name of sugarfields. Nine albums of his "upbeat, heartfelt melodies" (their words, not mine) are now available on JapanFiles. He also has a MySpace page here, and if you decide you want to buy his music but don't trust the ephemeral nature of the mp3 (i.e if you're over thirty, have a computer that may go into meltdown at any moment and can't understand why you should pay money for music but not have anything physical to show for it), you can buy his CDs here.

I've downloaded all the albums, haven't listened to much yet, but I did like his covers of Sally Cinnamon and All Apologies. More later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Plutonium E.P., tokyo pinsalocks, JapanFiles download or Maxi Single

When reviewing Pygmy With Bitter Ends I mused about the origins of some Japanese band names. Tokyo Pinsalocks is another one that would probably have got the grey matter wondering off in a similar direction, but thankfully this time I have a definite answer. According to the press release, 'pinsalocks' is a combination of 'pinsalo' (pink salon – a Japanese euphemism for a blowjob bar), and 'rocks' (do you really need an explanation?). To quote the band themselves: “There's a pinsalo in the same building as our rehearsal studio and our university was in the middle of a red light district, we named ourselves Tokyo Pinsalocks."

So, now that we've got the question of the name out the way, how does the music stand up? Pretty well. The five tracks on this unashamedly poppy EP are well worth seeking out. 'Plutonium 07' is shiny 21st century pop as imagined by a 50's sci-fi writer. It's a brutally simple affair, powered by synths that have the unmistakable air of two-fingered plonking. Hell, it worked for New Order and it works for Tokyo Pinsalocks.

'Quiet' is probably the weakest song here. It's darker in tone than 'Plutonium 07' and sounds a bit too similar to Guitar Vadar. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but TP have got a sound of their own and definitely don't need to resort to copying others. It's only a brief dip in form though, as 'so far so fine' kicks the E.P back into shape. It's a blast of futuristic rockabilly thrash that comes and goes in less than two minutes and leaves you feeling like you've just been caught in a summer shower.

Going by the pronunciation of the title during the song, I'm guessing that 'Nioi-Mania' references krautrock pioneers Neu! The song itself doesn't sound particularly krautrocky, rather it's quite a placid number that could have appeared on an album by The Aloof 10 years ago. The calm is shattered in the final minute of the song though when the vocalist Naoko leads the band on a chant of the title.

If the previous song was meant as some kind of homage to Neu! without actually sounding like them, then the instrumental final track, 'SAUCE OF LUNCH' makes up for this (well, a little anyway). Here, the band take the shininess of 'Plutonium 07' and an updated version of krautrock, chuck them in a blender and end up with a song that Orbital would gladly claim as their own.

The name makes sense. The music makes sense. What the hell are you waiting for?

Tokyo Pinsalocks Homepage (Japanese)
Tokyo Pinsalocks on JapanFiles

Monday, May 14, 2007

One small step for Tokyo Music, one giant step for no-one in particular

A Monday night in Roppongi. It may never rank with the greatest nights in the history of humanity's innovation but it's a first for this blog - a live report from a venue. I'm at Stereo, the club I mentioned a few weeks ago. The club has everything - swishness, comfy seats, bogs that were designed for doing whacking big lines of coke in, quality music as provided by Richard Smart, a good friend of mine. Unfortunately, there's no fucker here. Granted, it may be Monday night, but this is Roppongi, this is where people go out. Perhaps the prices are putting the punters off. Entry may be free but the beers are ¥800 a pop and skimpier than the Sports Illustrated swimwear issue. If the owners of the club happen upon this blog, I have only one thing to say - it's Monday night, lower your prices, make all the drinks ¥500 and you might get a few more punters in. In the meantime your comfy seats and cool loop tapes of 50's ads will go un-sat in and unwatched.

Half-arsed? Me?

I've been downloading various odds and sods from the JapanFiles website over the last few months, meaning to review each of them in turn. As is patently obvious to anyone who's read the blog at any time over the aforementioned past few months, that just hasn't happened. The Mizoguchi Ryoko review that I posted the other night was in fact the first review of an album that's appeared here for about three months. Bloody hell. This leaves me in the position of having a shitload of stuff to review and two options: bite the bullet, listen to everything at least two or three times, write screeds of notes which are then used to put together a number of individual reviews; or cobble together some reviews about two or three tenuously connected bands. It's not much of a choice for a committed shirker like myself, is it? Cobblers it is (with profuse apologies to all the musicians mentioned).

Great Composers – Miami

I first heard of Miami on the Call and Response compilation, 1-2-3-GO! (another CD languishing in the 'to review' pile that is threatening to take over my room). Their manic mix of beats, bleeps, squeaks and refreshingly non-helium female vocals hinted at a band that was worthy of further investigation. The five track E.P Great Composers has since brightened many a dull train journey, even the second track Fancy which wanders dangerously close to Rednex territory before swinging back into respectability.

MANY MANY SWEETS – Macdonald Duck Eclair

Quite what a Macdonald Duck Eclair is I don't know, and I hope I never have the misfortune to find out. This is a band that I read about on the Tokyo Live blog and I remain grateful to Ken for pointing me in their direction. Mixing gabba and Jane Birkin-esque vocals probably shouldn't work but it does. If Miami float your boat, then MDE ought to launch your dinghy too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

ok city ok and the beauty of secondhand music

Last Fm. has been helpful in making me even more geeky about music - all those charts and numbers are like manna from heaven us poor unfortunate obsessives and our stunted emotional growth. However, part of the marketing blurb was something about Last Fm. being a way to widen your musical horizons - by recording everything you listen to they are able to recommend other artists you'd probably like. Unfortunately, this is utter bollocks. Based on the music I've listened to in the last seven days, Last Fm. was able to recommend such unknown artists as The Beatles, Neil Young, Pink Floyd and Queen. I then noticed the sliding scale that allowed me to change the recommendations from 'popular' to 'obscure'. I duly slid the button over and was pointed in the direction of some singer-songwriter called Paul Simon. Gee, thanks, Last Fm. With all these unusual artists you are really spoiling us.

All is not last, thanks to a message I was sent from another Last Fm. user I was pointed in the direction of ok city ok. They've left a trail all over the internet so I'm not going to list all the various links here - do it yourself, they're worth the effort. Fronted by Kay Grace, an exiled American based in Tokyo, ok city ok will appeal to anyone with an ear for a slightly skewed, crunchy pop song. If you like what you hear they're playing at Kichijoji Silver Elephant this Friday (May 18th), before setting off on a tour of the States (more details on their MySpace page).

Finally, I just want to write a brief note of thanks to the goddess of secondhand record shops for deciding to stick so many of the good ones in Tokyo. In the last two days I've spent about ¥5000 and picked up 10 cds of outrageous quality (and a Deacon Blue album because it reminded me of some painful school discos when I were but a nipper). The best ones so far have to be the two compilations of music released on British independent labels in the 80's/early 90's. They make all the wannabes kicking around these days sound even more pathetic than they already do. I tried to find the albums on the internet so I could put a link in here, but no joy - you'll just need to take my word for how good they are.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1, 2 no 3 de - Mizoguchi Ryoko (download from JapanFiles.com)

One of the main reasons a lot of people get into Japanese music is that it often sounds vastly different to what's being made by Western bands (of course, a lot of people also just get into Japanese music because they think it automatically makes them cool, but that's a rant for another day). Unfortunately though, this sometimes leads to bands who end up sounding the same when trying to be different. For example, thanks to Melt-Banana there are numerous bands who have welded frantic guitar noise, apocalyptic sound effects and tortured chipmunk vocals. Some are good, but a lot of them just plain suck. Fortunately, there are also artists like Mizoguchi Ryoko who strike out on their own path rather than choosing between the two roads signposted 'Polysics wannabe' and 'Shonen Knife wannabe.'

Mizoguchi's mini-album 1, 2 no 3 de is short, but then my five foot two inch tall mother always told me that the best things come in small packages, and after listening to this record over and over for the past few days I'm starting to think she may have been right all along. Armed mainly with a piano and a voice pitched somewhere between Kate Bush and Cerys Matthews, Mizoguchi has crafted a collection of songs that burrow themselves deeply within your subconscious, then keep bringing you back to them even when you know you ought to be listening to other things.

Try staying away from the Kate Bush/Ben Folds sound clash and fantastic 80's style soaring chorus of opening track "Suki ni Nachetta" for a couple of days. See if you can expel the sampled cicada chatter and pitter-pattering piano of "Semi no Isshuukan" or the vocal acrobatics during "Furueru Mune", Mizoguchi's very own torch song – it's nigh on impossible. Even if you do manage to do this, I guarantee you that "Ii Deshou" will be with you long after you first listen to this album. It opens with a loosely-strung bass-line, sparsely played guitar and simple tub-thumping drumbeat that wouldn't be out of place on the first Velvet Underground album. After about twenty seconds Mizoguchi's vocals kick in and the song takes on a hypnotic, almost tribal aspect as she chants rather than sings. Another minute or so later the bass strings seem to get even looser and Mizoguchi's voice, now bathed in static, appears to being beamed in from somewhere just past Pluto. None of this prepares you for the bridge of the song though, which sounds like it was recorded in the studio next door to The Beatles during the Revolver sessions, taking its cues from the swirling instrumentation of "Tomorrow Never Knows". The song briefly dips back into the semi-tribal chants of earlier, before closing with Mizoguchi's multitracked voice ululating over a disintegrating rhythm section.

Paradoxically, the quality of "Ii Deshou" is also this record's only real weakness. To me the song is the obvious choice with which to close the album, but it's stuck in here at track five. This ends up making the final three songs sound a lot more ordinary than they actually are. "Kei no Stage e" might have lived up to its dramatic piano if it had made an appearance earlier on, but after "Ii Deshou" it sounds like it's trying a little too hard. "Birthday Song" fares slightly better, throwing together mariachi style trumpets and a keyboard hook that would probably have Ray Manzarek speed-dialling his lawyers if he was ever to stumble upon this album.

"La La La Song" is the track that does close the album and normally I'd say it was more than worthy of this role. Mizoguchi divests her vocals of any discernible language and sets them adrift over an elegiac piano track that Moby could well steal and use in an advertisement for whichever car company offers him the most cash. As good as it is, I was still left thinking that it had usurped "Ii Deshou" from it's rightful place. Thankfully in this age of iTunes and the like you can resolve this by rearranging the album yourself. Then again, Mizoguchi probably meant the album to run in this order, and who am I to argue?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Band On JapanFiles

Tokyo Pinsalocks, a three-piece 'electronic rock band' (that's what the press release said anyway) now have a five track E.P available for download on JapanFiles. I'll try and get a review up in the next few days, assuming I can resist the wiles of the Mizoguchi record.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mrs. Tanaka Album and a blog

It's finally going to hit the shops this Sunday, just in time for Mother's Day. Have a listen to the songs on the good lady's MySpace page and tell me you don't want to buy the album.

Tokyo Gig Guide is probably the best source of info for live music in Tokyo, and they now also have a blog containing reviews of said music. It's well worth a look.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Limited Express (has come back?)

It may just be scurrilous rumour but apparently Limted Express (has gone?) may not have gone at all. Nothing to confirm at the moment but who knows, they may be shreking their way around the livehouses of Tokyo once again in the near future.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shift presents "applechair&bananadesk", Club Goodman, Akihabara, May 1st

Most of the concerts I go to in Tokyo are fairly sparsely attended. If there are five bands on the bill there will usually be around thirty or forty people there. It seems that each band brings five or six friends and family members who have no choice but to go. Add in the small number of people who are there because they want to see the bands, and the obligatory blog writing gaijin and that's pretty much it.

Tuesday night at Club Goodman was the exception to the vague rule that I just made up. Despite this being Shift's event most of the audience were there to see Tokyo luminaries (or 'it bands' if you wanted to be unkind) nhhmbase and Melt-Banana. First up was CLISMS. Like all the bands on tonight's bill apart from Shift, this was the first time I'd seen them. Taking their on-stage moves from The Who (without the instrument annihilation), they played a lean twenty five minute set that any fan of the Nuggets series would appreciate.

nhhmbase were one of the first bands I heard about when I started this blog - various people told me that I had to check them out. I bought their first mini-album and while it certainly wasn't bad, it didn't seem that special. I was then told that I had to see them live, that the CD hadn't really captured them at their best. I've been told this kind of thing before and sometimes it's little more than a way to cover up the fact that a band aren't actually that great. With nhhmbase it IS true though - played live, their songs are have more space in which to meander and expand without ever drifting off into muso-wank-noodling territory. One downside to the band could be the fact that apparently they've been playing much the same set for the last two years - do they have any more songs in there or have they shot their bolt too quickly? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Sometimes you go to a concert where you only know one or two bands on the bill, but one of the unknown acts turns out to be the best thing you see all night and you spend the next couple of days raving to all your friends about how good they were. Unfortunately ヨルズイノザスカイ (Yolz In The Sky) were away over on the other side of the spectrum. I looked back at my notes under I've underlined the words "utter pish" in the same way a bitter cuckold might highlight his cheating ex-wife's name in the phonebook. Musically, their stew of relentless guitar noise and frantic rhythm works well, but their vocalist fucks the whole thing up. He looks like Bruce Lee and sounds similar too, as he yelps his way through every song like a loop tape of every fight scene in Enter The Dragon. It has me scrambling for the beer machine outside in the hallway for much needed oral and aural respite. One final point before we leave the whole sorry episode behind - to the bloke who stood next to me giving the sign of the beast all the way through their set, this band is not Satanic, just diabolical (before any smart arse goes to write a comment about the meaning of 'diabolical', look here).

According to Wikipedia, Melt-Banana singer Yasuko Onuki's vocal style has been described as "a rabid poodle on speed". After their set (this was the first time I'd actually heard any of their music - am I allowed to write a blog on Japanese music after such a confession?) I was trying to figure out what to say about them when my girlfriend trumped both my half-arsed notes and the anonymous critic cited on Wikipedia - "The music was OK but she sounds like Alvin and The Chipmunks going through teenage angst." 'Nuff said.

Shift were last on and came out to a slightly depleted audience (even if it is your event perhaps playing last after nhhmbase and Melt-Banana isn't the best idea). This was the first time I'd seen them since their show at Shibuya O-nest last year, and they seem to have left behind some of the more melodic parts of their sound. Yuki Funayama's vocals stand out above Alvin and Bruce Lee, but the band's sound wasn't as distinctive as before. Then again, maybe it was just the songs they played that night, or maybe the beer I'd downed deperately during Yolz In The Sky's set was playing havoc with my ears. Either way, Shift remain a band that everyone should see live if they have the chance.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Japanese CDs from JapanFiles


Downloading MP3 files is all well and good in terms of convenience, but personally I'd still rather buy the CD and then bung the tracks onto my PC (I guess I'm showing my age now). For anyone else who feels the same and needs a fix of Japanese music, JapanFiles has just released two new CDs which are available here. One, Fresh Cuts From Japan: Volume 2, is a compilation culled from the JapanFiles archives, including tracks by mothercoat, Budo Grape and my current favourites, advantage Lucy. I guess you could call the other CD a 'Rough Guide to LiN Clover'. Called Slumber, it contains 10 tracks chosen by the band themselves which cover their three Japanese releases. There should be reviews here soon (ah, but you've all heard that before, haven't you?).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Golden Age/Clap Hands

This is just one reason why the DVD/live album I mentioned in my previous post has to be released.

And About Hers Live Event, Shinjuku JAM, April 29th

The title pretty much says it all. Ian Martin (from Call and Response Records) will be one of the DJs, along with Yashiro from Saladabar. And About Hers make the kind of female fronted Japanese indie pop that you either love or loathe - there tends to be no middle ground. The other bands playing are Overleaf (quote - "a fairly straight rock band" - I listened to the songs on their MySpace page and they sounded pretty good), Totos (who also have a MySpace page - they reminded me a little of Pygmy With Bitter Ends) and Pencil Acrobat (who seem to be something of an indie supergroup, with members of Swarm's Arm and Saladabar). Tickets are 1800 yen, doors open at 6.30 and the music starts at 7.

Swinging Popsicle in the States

SWINGING POPSICLE ADDS SHOW IN NYC – JUNE 19

Japanese rock band Swinging Popsicle returns to the USA June 15-17, 2007 for Anime Mid-Atlantic in Richmond, VA.

The trio has just added a special show in New York City on June 19 at The Knitting Factory. The concert is a small, intimate show and is expected to sell out early. This will mark the band's first-ever appearance in New York City.

They will be performing songs from their upcoming CD release "Go On," as well as hits like "I Just Wanna Kiss You" from their best-selling 2004 CD "Transit." They will also be signing autographs for fans after the show.

Show info:

June 19, 2007

Knitting Factory – NYC

74 Leonard St, New York, 10013

Doors 7 PM

$12

All Ages

Tickets for the NYC show are available now at www.myspace.com/swingingpopsicle or at www.knittingfactory.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Miaou, Shibuya O-Nest, April 22nd


I've never been to the opera but I occasionally watch the cultural programmes on NHK on a Sunday evening and the music gets me in that place where you can't explain it but the audience inevitably brings me back to Earth and reminds me that I know nothing about this kind of music and that they will take great pleasure in reminding me of this at every possible moment. I love instrumental music - give me Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Tortoise et al and I'm a happy man. Unfortunately, these bands seem to attract a similar audience to those cunts who claim they are opera lovers but go there for no other reason than to lord it over anyone who has the misfortune not to be as well versed in the intricate history of the music being played as they are. People like the bint who told my friend to 'shhh' at the show tonight in Shibuya. He's not the quietest of people but it was a fucking concert. It was between songs, not during one - stop being so fucking precious, get over yourself and accept the fact that people may talk to each other at a concert - it's just what they do.

Right, rant over. Miaou were fantastic. Swirls of blissful music made by people who were lost within what they were doing but never lost control and never allowed themselves to slip into the wankery that so often bedevils concerts of this type. Their music sounds and looks like it's great fun to play. They will never be huge but they deserve the kind of cult following that much more undeserving bands earn. If there is any kind if justice in the world people will get over Shonen Knife, see them for the dull shrieky bores that they are, and swoon at the majestic feet of bands like Miaou. It's not going to happen but we are allowed to dream - isn't that what keeps us going?

miaou - tiger note

Just in case you can't be arsed going to YouTube yourself.

Miaou on YouTube

They are playing Shibuya tonight (O-Nest), but if you can't make it they have their own channel on YouTube with some clips of them playing live. This internet thing can actually be quite useful at times.

Stereo Japan

Stereo, a new venue partly owned by Mani from Primal Scream, recently opened in Roppongi. A friend of mine is DJ-ing there tomorrow night from seven to nine - entry is free and apparently the music will be 'tech/house and a little downbeat'. Going by the pictures on the Stereo website it's a bit more plush than the venues I usually frequent, so it'll either be a welcome change of scenery or a complete shock to the system.

Beck, Budokan, April 16th


I have spent almost a week trying intermittently to write a review of this concert. I have two unfinished drafts in which I waffle on about Live at The Budokan and stuff and in neither of them can I get passed the second paragraph. So, here's the short version - Beck at the Budokan will be the greatest live album/DVD if his record company have the good sense to release it. The Rolling Stones labour under the impression that a hugely elaborate stage set is the only way a band can shake up the concert-goer's experience, but Beck pissed on that theory from a great height in coming up with his own way of doing things. Firstly, put together a backing band of multi-instrumentalist who can flit between guitars, bass, drums, maracas, synthesisers, a bank of Macs and tableware with enviable ease. Secondly, perform the best songs from each record you've released thereby creating the perfect live album set-list. Thirdly, do away with the usual big screen and camera set-up for those fans who can't see what's happening on stage. In its place recreate the band's performance live using puppets and film that instead, making sure that each puppet is wearing exactly the same clothes as its human counterpart. Finally, make the inevitable encore infinitely more interesting than usual by using the time when the band are off-stage to show a short film starring the puppets in which Beck puppet dreams that he is 'Beckzilla' rampaging through the streets of Tokyo.

There you have it, the perfect live DVD and album. Unfortunately the Budokan has the sternest looking security guards I've seen at a Japanese venue, so the only photos I have of the show are the one above that was taken outside before the show, and the ones below of the puppets which my friend took from the programme she bought. Just keep your fingers crossed and hope that the DVD comes out - then it'll all make sense.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Two in a day?

Just remembered, a friend of mine has a couple of tickets for Beck's upcoming Tokyo shows, on for April 6th at Ebisu Liquid Room, and one for April 16th at the Budokan. Both are 7500 yen (the face value) - if anyone's interested email me at toyko.music.blog@gmail.com. Off to lie down now.

Two in a week?

No, it isn't an April Fool, this is my second post in the space of a couple of days. Not much of an accomplishment really, but given my recent form it's got to count for something. Anyway, a couple of updates from JapanFiles - new downloads available on the website and some tour dates that make me wish that getting into the US on my non-machine readable British passport wasn't akin to getting into the inner sanctum of the Vatican.

First up, a bunch of advantage Lucy songs are now available on the JapanFiles website. Click here for an interview with the band, and here to splurge your hard-earned pennies on the songs. Secondly, LiN Clover have added another show to their debut tour of the States. Showing that they don't give a fuck about Western superstition they will be playing the Claron Lounge, Santa Clara, CA on Friday the 13th of April. For more info have a look at the Shibuya Airwaves MySpace page.

I'd better go and sit down - two posts in three days is too much for this hack.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No excuses, and some updates

I'm not even going to try and make an excuse for the lack of posts recently, so here's some information instead. There is an event tonight in Tokyo, organised by Ian Martin:

2007 3/29 (Thu)
Shibuya O-NEST
「マスビーニューニュー(MUST BE NEW-NEW!)Vol.4」
w/ SKOOTER, ゆやゆよん, ウサギスパイラルアー, SHOOT MY DISCO,UMIBACHI
【DJ】IAN MARTIN(Call And Response)
開場18:30/開演19:00
● 前売¥2,000/当日¥2,300 ●ドリンク別

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Someone's a Lot Busier Than Me...

Judging by the number of emailed press releases that are pinging up in my inbox, the JapanFiles staff are readying for a major Tet-like offensive. Firstly, songs by "trippy techno pioneers" Deavid Soul are now available for download on the JapanFiles website, as are the "high energy avante-garde pop stylings of Nagoya based Budo Grape. Finally, for anyone lucky enough to be at the South By Southwest festival this week (and if you are you probably won't be reading this poxy blog), Japanese band Mothercoat are playing at the following times:

Mar. 14

SXSW - Latitude 30

512 San Jacinto St.

Austin, TX

11:45 PM

Mar. 18

Sam's Burger Joint (w/Peelander Z)

www.samsburgerjoint.com

San Antonio, TX

6:00 PM



Monday, March 05, 2007

LiN CLOVER live in the US

For any Stateside readers:

JAPANESE ROCK BAND LiN CLOVER TO PLAY ADDITIONAL USA DATES!

Las Vegas, NV – February 28, 2007 – The powerful, dark Japanese rock band LiN CLOVER will make its USA debut at Sakura-Con 2007 in Seattle, WA, April 6-8, 2007.

Now the band has partnered with California-based promoters Shibuya Airwaves to add shows at Slim's in San Francisco (April 11) with additional venues TBA in Las Vegas, NV (April 10) and San Jose, CA (April 12).

Fans of LiN CLOVER and their founding members Ren & Nao (formerly of GacktJOB) will have their first chance to see this amazing, high-energy performance in America. Live performance video has been added to the band's official MySpace page ( www.myspace.com/linclover).

LiN CLOVER received a nomination for Best Japanese Rock Band in this year's Shojo Beat Music Awards.
LiN CLOVER appears courtesy of JapanFiles.com.

Thanks to Dave at JapanFiles for this. You know it makes sense - download the songs, buy the tickets, brighten up your day.