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.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
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
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?
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
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?
10) What have you got lined up that you want to promote/publicise?
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
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).
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
“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
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.