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Monday, July 28, 2008

Ok City Ok at Turning, Nishi-Ogikubo

It was bloody hot on Sunday afternoon, very humid, and I was shuffling around like a sloth trying to stop myself from breaking into a sweat as I headed for Nishi-Ogikubo and its fabled branch of Mos Burger. Suffice to say it was so hot that I was forced to stop at the end of my street, where there is a McDonalds, in order to cool down and enjoy a lovely quarter-pounder with cheese setto. I never did make it into Mos Burger. Maybe next time.

At Turning, (nice wee place, quite small inside - 4 tables in the middle of the floor and a little bar in the corner), we were treated to five pretty damn good bands. Well, those few of us who stayed to see all five did anyway.

Things kicked off very nicely with a band called "Place In The Sun", an indie-pop act with behatted female singer of passionate voice and Snoopy-shirted guitarist of jangly guitar. I was suitably impressed, and they reminded me of The Brilliant Green in a slightly-more-indie kind of way. I'm not sure the catchy tunes are quite in place yet but the band was solid and it was a decent performance.

Find the band here:

And watch them here:

Now during PITS's performance, lots of people turned up. There were parents all over the place and quite a crowd had gathered by the time the next band stepped up to the plate. This lot were H3F and they have fans. Or at least a lot of friends. And they have a rather charismatic portly frontman with a strong singing voice and apparently, a neat line in banter. The singer seemed to be struggling slightly with a sore throat but he managed to keep going, as his band played a few good old fashioned rock 'n' roll numbers. I thought the band were quite similar to Sambomaster in style.

See what you think:

I can't find a website unfortunately so if anyone knows what it is please leave a comment.

Ok City Ok were next up, and facing something of a crisis as the bass player was off sick. On the other hand, there was a new band member in place variously on fiddle, guitar and bass at the end, and some rather energetic drumming went on to make up for the missing bass sounds. I think the guys did a good job despite the circumstances not being ideal, and they kept the attention of the crowd.

We were treated to a few old favourites from the "Made By Elaborate Process" album. The fourth song was a new one, "I'm Not Ashamed" or something like that (sorry I was drunk again), and it sounded not unlike one of U2's rockier numbers to me which is no bad thing.

Here's a clip of Ok City Ok -1 +1 in action, in which you can actually hear the fiddle:

Ok City Ok website:

Then almost everyone went home, leaving about 10 people watching the last two bands. Most odd really but that's the way it seems to work. And they had their moments too.

Nude Caputeano, or ヌードカプティーノ for those of you who prefer your Japanese band names in katakana, were another indie pop-rock act with a female singer. This bunch were more reminiscent of say, Echobelly, or someone. They were a bit more mod with the guys kitted out in white shirts and black ties. They were fairly ordinary. Apart from the ballad they did, which was absolutely astonishingly brilliant. Unfortunately I didn't record that one, but this song was okay:

Nude Caputeano website:

And last up, in front of only a couple of faithful fans, were a 3-piece named "Weaks". A slightly punkier, new-wavish stance from this mob who came on like Wire/Elastica :0) in the early stages and ended up sounding almost a good bit like The Clash. I will give them the benefit of the doubt for that, and the CD I picked up shows evidence of something of a flair for composition.

Weaks website:

Thus ended the music and it was time to get drunk - big thanks to the Ok City Ok camp for hospitality above and beyond the call of duty.

After which it was home on a train to stumble around Kanda eki lost for about half an hour before finding my way home, betwixt a madman swinging wildly his kendo stick and a bicycle policeman in hot pursuit.

And another quarter-pounder with cheese, for good measure ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HIMAWARI on JapanFiles

July 21, 2008 - Ten Years Techno! welcomes HIMAWARI this week.

10 year techno veterans HIMAWARI debut on this week with their two CDs "Mineral" (2001) and "Pomposo" (2005).

Formed in 1998 in New York City (and currently now based in Tokyo), HIMAWARI is Takeshi Ichikawa and Lena. They originally met at a Ryuichi Sakamoto event in the city and quickly realized they shared a similar vision for music making.
While based in NYC, HIMAWARI performed regularly at club events in the metro area, and large-scale loft parties in Brooklyn with as many as 3,000 attendees. HIMA also played such events as the CMJ Music Marathon, and were regulars in the Moby VJ Team MOVEMENT events.

Working closely with long time engineer Kidoh Taki, HIMAWARI completed production on their second album "Pomposo" in 2005, with CD jacket design by Virgilio Santos of Dzark. HIMAWARI's live performances feature cutting edge new digital images and Takeshi Ichikawa's motion graphics.


HIMAWARI Official Website -

Yup, I posted something. Fooel is actually out doing the hard work of going to gigs, listening to albums and writing about them, while I sit on my substantial backside cutting and pasting press releases. It is at least a start. My excuse is that I'm back in dear old Britain which is probably not the best location for someone contributing to a blog called Tokyo Music. We'll work that out later....

Anyway, with Fooel in Tokyo and me in my secret lair it's fair to say that Tokyo Music is back. Hell, I may even try and write a review. Don't go away...

What Do I Know Anyway?

A couple of things are leading me to write this blog entry. Three things actually:

1. I had noted in my live review of Limited Express (Has Gone?) that I wasn't particularly sure of what was going on;

2. Earlier today I cycled through Graeme's previous entries and realised there is quite an amount of stuff there and clearly a good bit of knowledge built up over the years;

3. I'm drinking Chu-hi and listening to PM Dawn (no prizes for guessing where I bought that).

But for all my lack of knowledge of Limited Express (Has Gone?) and myriad cohorts, I do know a little bit about Japanese music and thought I would give a brief overview of the stuff I know about.

When I last lived here, my favourite Japanese album was Asian Kung Fu Generation's 君繋ファイブエム with its wall of sound guitars and the nod to Oasis' Live Forever (yep) on one of the tracks. It was pretty vital stuff to me, and then the follow up album which I picked up on a visit including the suberb "My World" and "Siren" - their finest moment in my opinion and a song that contends for my top ten tracks of all time. I was distracted by pop-punkers Charcoal Filter around this time and owned a compilation album of their best songs, which sounds on the whole a wee bit cheesy now, but still good fun. And these were the days of Dragon Ash's "Harvest" album, and a bit of Grapevine was never far away from the CD player.

I've listened to a fair bit of poppier stuff too. I love Spitz - having heard this brilliant music playing outside a mobile phone shop, and eventually finding out who it was by asking a few people. I now have pretty much a full discography of pure songwriting genius. Almost a Japanese La's perhaps, except ridiculously prolific instead of appallingly wasteful. I own of course a Brilliant Green greatest hits collection, favourite tracks being , oohh, "Goodbye and goodluck", "冷たい花”, "Enemy"... it's a superb collection actually.

I don't want to write too much so I shall just drop a few more names in: Bump of Chicken, Sekaiichi, Cool Joke, Every Little Thing, Rie Fu, Orange Range, Puffy (natch), the mighty Ringo Sheena and Tokyo Jihen, the wonderful Sambomaster, the excoriatingly sublime Tate Takako, and a few others are all on the i-pod nestling betwixt New Order, James Brown and JR Writer.

And of course I have been reading this blog! So I have at least heard of the bands within, have a couple of the albums reviewed (Bloodthirsty Butchers spring to mind) and in most cases listened to their tracks on MySpace. Which is a start eh. I did meet the fantastic Anchorsong in London, where he remains to increasing success it seems.

Next on the gig-going list is the Ok City Ok gig this Sunday. I am particularly looking forward to this as I note from the venue map that there is a branch of Mos Burger nearby and I haven't been there for ages. I'm definitely going to have the onion rings and dip them in the Mos Burger sauce. Further, I have been to see the band before, along with Graeme no less, whence I picked up a copy of the album "Made By Elaborate Process". It's a tidy rocker alright and I'm looking forward to seeing the band again.

And ahead of that I have pencilled in soundscapists Euphoria on 3 August, then perhaps a bit of Eddy on 10 August, and why not add a dash of NaLas on the 17th? Why not indeed.

You know this PM Dawn album is pretty good and we haven't even got to... ah, here we go...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Limited Express (Has Gone?) @ Shibuya O-Nest

Graeme has written at length on the merits of Limited Express (Has Gone?), but I didn't know anything about them before tonight. So for me it was a case of watching new bands afresh, without knowing any of the songs.

I entered Shibuya O-Nest with various preconceptions and also great intentions of taking notes. I thought I would just sit there, listening intently and musing on the quaint bands as a quiet audience looked on. I thought maybe, people would nod their heads a bit. I thought the bands might be okay, but not particularly energetic, with a few nice songs.

Clearly I knew nothing. And to be frank, I still don't really know who was who. So I shall have to do some research as I proceed with this review, while watching a bit of golf. Let's face it, I still know nothing, eh. But I'll just try to report straight up what I saw tonight.

Expectations were confounded right from the off, as a hardcore punk band ripped the senses with some aplomb. Several guys danced frantically at the front as the band stormed through a couple of tough-as-nails punk numbers. Black Flag and Bad Brains t-shirts were on display which should give some idea what was going on, and this video shows the crowd action whilst failing completely to record the sound in any audible fashion.

The band are... U. G. Man... and you know, I've always had a soft spot for this kind of thing. This is a bit of a random link but the best I could find on the guys:

I also took my only notes of the evening in the immediate aftermath of this set. I think as a novice reviewer I can get away with the hackneyed trick of repeating my notes verbatim: "Did I actually witness this? Yes. Hardcore." No wonder I didn't take any more - but Henry Rollins can rest assured that his legacy is safe and well, and damaging eardrums in Tokyo.

Everyone then shuffled upstairs to see the next act in the bar area, the interesting ファンタジー仲間/Fuantaji-nakama/"Fantasy mates" {vaguely}. Thus a man in short pink shorts with rather long hair howled into the mic, as next to him a girl did something similar. I couldn't really see them from my vantage point, but they sounded kind of okay in a lo-fi way. I think with this band you had to understand what the guy was singing to really get it... which obviously I couldn't. It seems that the girl, who I couldn't see, was also in one of the later acts... but one cannot be sure about this... (hey, I've had a few beers).

Back down the stairs we paraded for a rather pleasant surprise in the form of PANIC SMILE. What to make of this rumbustuous lot? A funky edge remained throughout, and the lead guitar playing was pretty awesome. I wouldn't have felt short-changed if these guys were headlining, put it that way.

Take a look for yourself:

And heres the website:

And then we were but halfway through. Upstairs everyone stomped again but I couldn't be arsed right away, thus missing about half of a band I think were "Ni Hao!" Once I had struggled up the steps I heard, from behind the same obstacles, some girls singing. One song. And the next song, which was the last one, I heard from the toilet. They sounded pretty good, but I'm afraid I just wasn't really paying attention at this point. A link to the band's website is below - it appears there was more inter-connectedness going on:

I was downstairs pretty sharpish to take up my favourite gig position in the darkest corner. Thus began the set of a duo who I believe, and I'm fairly sure, were "DODDODO" (Is this Dodd Do-Do, or Do Duh Do Do? I prefer the latter).

Now this was a show. Whilst the be-masked turntablist showered us in a sea of beautious breakbeats, our heroine the singer yelled out her numbers quite manically in the style of a frenzied wildcat. I don't think you can ask for much more than that at any gig.

I took a couple of clips, but I'm afraid they don't really do the spectacle justice:

Suffice to say this was all good stuff and it kept the energy levels right up as we headed towards the headline set.

Now Limited Express (Has Gone?)... were... noisy, shouty, jumpy, edgy. Noisy. Shouty. Jumpy. Edgy. And you stand there thinking yes, this is good. What else can you really do? Save nod your head frantically in a bid to keep up.

And they are basically The Fall ha ha. But I was thinking of John Peel during the set, and you know, I don't know if Sir John played this band before his untimely passing, but I'm sure he would have if he could have.

Then at the end, DODDODO appeared again to join the headline act and something of a chaotic collaboration ensued. I think this was the entire point of the evening, although don't quote me on anything, and we witnessed not one but two manic females jumping about and screaming and then it was all over.

I went home and watched the golf.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Honey Mannie

Thought I'd introduce myself first - I'm Fooel, and I'm new here at Tokyo Music. Graeme is presently back in Blighty but I am happily ensconced in Tokyo. I know that Graeme plans to continue writing about music so hopefully he will also be posting in the near future.

And what better way to while away a Wednesday evening than by reviewing one of the latest releases on Japan Files? Not many I can think of.

Having downloaded Honey Mannie's six-track mini album from the site I made a conscious decision to find out no more about them until I'd listened to the album a few times and jotted down my thoughts.

"Supernatural" and "Lovely Disco Queen" open proceedings and things certainly start as they mean to go on. Electronic patter and playskool keyboards underly a cutesy-voiced delivery. I found myself picturing a Harajuku version of Bill and Ben. It's cute, it's about cute, and "Lovely Disco Queen" receives a bonus point for including the word "Meltdown".

The third track has passed me by at each listen, I'm afraid, although things pick up on "Magazine", a nicely-paced head-nodder which prompted some not inconsiderable sofa dancing including an attempt at the Peter Crouch robot dance.

On "Sister" the singer approaches matters in the nonchalant manner of a French chanteuse, and one can almost imagine the vocal being recorded while she leans out the kitchen window smoking a cigarette. Which would be quite a feat, but that's what it sounds like to me.

Throughout the tracks begin with more than a whiff of New Order before inevitably a blanket of cuteness is heaved over proceedings (imagine your gyuu-don being smothered in whipped cream just as you go to take your first bite). But not on the final track, and for me the highlight of this album, "Bitter". Here Hello Kitty takes a sepia-toned monochrome ride down the Mekong Delta in search of Colonel Kurtz, but finds something much more scary amongst the undergrowth - a seething, unforgiving Japanese woman. She will undoubtedly cut your balls off (you bastard).

And so with that decent surprise at the end I'd say it all works out well enough for what it is over six tracks. So if you fancy a bit of cutesy electronic pop music with a hint of lemon, then you could do worse than Honey Mannie. Good stuff.