Rock music can often offer escapism from the strictly defined norms of Japanese society. The country is littered with edgy punk rock venues which feature independent acts on a nightly basis, acting as havens for people seeking noise and momentary disorder. It’s an interesting culture, but there is rarely an appealing balance of “edge” and a quality sound. One such act, which maintains this balance beautifully, is Aomori-based punk rock/no-wave band The Chome Chomes.
Also referred to as The XX’s (not to be confused with England’s “the xx”), The Chome Chomes offer a wonderfully chaotic sound, drawing inspiration from the 1970s New York and London punk scenes. At first glance one might wonder how frontwoman Natsumi could possibly produce the sort of aggression necessary to emulate the genre. Upon hitting play, however, it becomes clear that this adorable girl is up to the task. My first impression on listening to The XX’s was how awesome it was to see this small package produce such nasty guttural vocals. In a country whose popular music scene boasts a ton of cute girls in skimpy clothing dancing in unison on big stages, it is refreshing to have Natsumi’s disregard for the gender-related themes so prominent in Japanese mainstream popular culture. As the band proclaim, their music is not about fashion and culture. It’s gender art, embodied by an abrasive female lead and a crazy support trio.
Having formed in 2010, the band made their name on the Rookie-a-Go-Go stage at Fuji Rock ’11. In October the band released their major label debut “Pop Town” for which they are currently touring. This is certainly just the start for a promising band.
Here is a video for my personal favorite track of theirs titled “Heisei no Antoinette”
I am always looking for recommendations when it comes to good Japanese music and recently it was suggested that I check out The Earth Earth, an Aomori-based rock band. For many fans of Japanese music, the first thing that comes to mind when “Aomori” and “band” are mentioned in the same sentence is Supercar. Since the band broke up in 2005 there has been an Aomori-shaped hole in many hearts. The Earth Earth are one band doing their best to remind us that the prefecture still has quality music to offer us.
The Earth Earth, at first glance, look like a throwback to goth-rock bands of the 80s and 90s. Their sound also offers a blend of vintage styles ranging from textured shoegaze-type noise tunes to somewhat poppy hook-driven songs. There is a nice variety from track to track, but it is all held together by a consistent amount of fuzz and muddiness.
The band itself is still relatively young. Formed in 2010 in Aomori City They have been playing out for just over two years and have released two albums: “matador is dead” (2011) and “dead matador’s funeral” (2012). The latter is more or less a re-release of the first album on a different label. The current lineup is made up of Oshima Kosuke (vo & G), Ogawa Kaori (vo & G), Nomura (B), and Harada Ayako.
Here is a link to the band’s web page as well as their soundcloud profile and a Youtube video for one of my favorite of their tracks. Enjoy!
Just months removed from the news that their rhythm section had left the band, Art School have announced the addition of three new support members to support core members Riki Kinoshita and Satoshi Todaka. The future had looked bleak after it had been announced that bassist Takeshi Uno and drummer Hiroyuki Suzuki decided to part ways with the band. With Kinoshita and Todaka focusing a lot of time on their side-projects (Killing Boy and Ropes, respectively) there were a lot of questions about whether Art-School was nearing the end, and some ominous tweets from Kinoshita made it seem like that was the case.
Now here we are in late-March and how things have changed. The band has showered its fans with a series of exciting announcements. The first of which is the addition of three new support members: bassist Kentaro Nakao and drummers (yes drummers) Yuichi Sakurai and Isamu Fujita. The new lineup will make its live debut at the also recently-announced “Kinoshita Night AX 2 Days” which will take place at Shibuya-AX on June 2nd and 3rd. Both nights will be headlined by Art-School with Asian Kung-Fu Generation opening on Saturday and Straightener and The Mirraz supporting the Sunday evening show.
The last of the big announcements was that the band would be recording a new album. Normally, this sort of news is exciting enough for fans of any band, but news that the band is currently in Chicago recording with legendary producer Steve Albini at Electrical Audio. Taking a look at the laundry list of bands with whom Albini has worked (Nirvana, the Pixies, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Stooges, Helmet, to name just a few) it seems safe to say that his unique and distinct recording style should complement Art-School’s sound wonderfully.
Hopefully this is just the start of a resurgence of a band whose fans have spent the last few months worried and confused about what the future would hold. At least for now, we have a lot to look forward to.
Earlier this year Muso Japan announced that Tokyo-based dreamy rockers Kinoko Teikoku had released their self-produced 2nd EP “Yoru ga Aketara. Well in the midst of their Japan tour, the band has announced plans to release its debut full-length album to be titled “Uzu ni Naru.” The album is going to include songs from “Yoru ga Aketara” as well as new tracks that I personally am very excited to hear.
The 7-track album will be released via UK.Project, Inc./Daizawa Records and will be available on 5/9 for ￥1890. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon. The track list is as follows:
02. 退屈しのぎ (Taikutsu Shinogi)
03. SCHOOL FICTION
04. Girl meets Number girl
05. The SEA
06. 夜が明けたら (Yoru ga Aketara)
07. 足首 (Ashikubi)
The weather is going to start warming up over the next couple of months and in preparation for the summer all of the major music festivals both in Japan and worldwide are getting ready to make their big lineup announcements. FujiRock got things rolling early by unleashing some musical big-guns and Summer Sonic recently announced an underwhelming, but nevertheless big-name lineup for their 2012 festival.
One festival that certainly won’t match the star power of the aforementioned music festivals, but surely will provide exceptional quality, is the just-announced Japan Shoegazer Festival 2012. The show is being organized by Japanese shoegaze label High Fader Records in conjunction with various other labels throughout the country and will feature some of the best artists and DJs in Japan.
Japan Shoegazer Festival will be a two-night event, being played at Koenji HIGH in Tokyo on 4/21 and at club vijon in Osaka on 4/28. The Osaka event will be followed by “Electric Fuzz”, an after-party headed by Tokyo’s DJ Manabu and High Fader Records’ own Masashi Imanishi.
One note on the High Fader/Lemon’s Chair blog is that these shows will branch out and feature some non-shoegaze bands as well. Looking at the lineup though it should definitely be something to look forward to. There are also expected to be some changes and new announcements in the coming weeks so I will do my best to keep them coming.
Entry to the Tokyo show will be 3,000yen in advance or 3,500yen at the door. For the Osaka show it will be 2,500/3,000. The Tokyo event will start at noon and the Osaka event at 2pm.
For more information on specific bands check out Lemon’s Chair’s event blog. If you scroll to the bottom of the page there will be links to music or videos for each of the bands on the bill. Otherwise for non-Japanese speakers follow Muso Japan on twitter (@musojapan) or Masashi Imanishi’s Japanese twitter (@HIGH_FADER) for more information as it’s released.
The lineups for Japan Shoegazer Festival 2012 are as follows
Japan Shoegazer Festival 2012 – Tokyo – Koenji HIGH (4/21)
Lemon’s Chair(Osaka) (featuring Masashi Imanishi of High Fader Records)
PLASTIC GIRL IN CLOSET
The 2nd colony
死んだ僕の彼女 (My Dead Girlfriend)
少女スキップ (Shojo Skip)
Tokyo Shoegazer (members from Plastic Tree, Kara, Acid Android, etc)
AOKI(My Bloody Valentine NIGHT)
mitsuko strange[Oeil] (friend of Muso Japan!)
NORIKA[My Bloody Valentine NIGHT]
Japan Shoegazer Festival 2012 – Osaka – club vijon (4/28)
speaker gain teardrop(Hiroshima)
AOKI(My Bloody Valentine NIGHT)(Tokyo)
NORIKA(My Bloody Valentine NIGHT)(Tokyo)
maiko shee(High Fader RECORDS)
It has been a lot of fun looking at a growing shoegaze scene in Japan and finding a ton of cool bands who represent the genre well. This week I was privileged enough this week to be able to speak with Mitsuko Hoshino of Tokyo-based shoegazers Oeil. Oeil has been active in the shoegaze scene for years and Hoshino has also participated at such events as My Bloody Valentine night under the alias mitsuko strange as a DJ spinning shoegaze tracks.
As a brief introduction, Oeil is a 3-piece band consisting of Takafumi Hibino (vocals/guitars/programming), Nina Kurosu (synths/guitars/vocals), and of course Mitsuko Hoshino (vocals/bass/keyboard). I absolutely recommend checking them out as their tracks are wonderful and dreamy.
A big special thanks to Mitsuko Hoshino for taking the time to be interviewed. Enjoy!
MusoJapan: When was Oeil formed?
Mitsuko Hoshino: The band started in 2006, and that summer performed its first live show as far as I know, as I joined in 2008. Oeil’s lineup underwent a lot of changes in 2008, so it can also be said that that is when the band actually formed.
MJ: Who is the band’s biggest influence?
MH: Kevin Shields [of My Bloody Valentine]. From what I am told, the band was initially “themed” after “Loveless.” We are also largely influenced by bands like The Cure and the Sundays.
MJ: Does Oeil have a principle songwriter or is it more of a collaborative effort?
MH: The songwriting is done by Hibino.
MJ: How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with Oeil?
MH: A strawberry drowning in cream.
MJ: Oeil’s last album “Urban Twilight” was released in 2007, and in 2008 the band appeared on a shoegaze compilation album. Since then have you continued writing new songs? Are there any plans for a new album release?
MH: We have been performing new songs live since 2008. As far as a new album, we will probably use the songs we’ve written to this point.
MJ: In addition to playing in Oeil, you also DJ. What sort of music do you spin?
MH: It all depends on how I feel and what sort of party it is. Lately though, I’ve been into Soft Metals, Grimes, and Echo Lake.
MJ: The underground scene has a wide variety of sounds to offer to foreign fans of shoegaze music. What is your opinion of the Japanese shoegaze scene and the overall indie music scene in Japan?
MH: When Oeil was first formed there weren’t many opportunities to see shoegaze bands out there, and Oeil was still pretty rare, but lately a lot of bands with sounds similar to ours are becoming less rare. Recently, the recognition of shoegaze bands has been rapidly increasing, but I feel like it is still early to call it this generation’s shoegaze scene. I think there is still room for growth.
As for the entire indie-music scene, there are lots of bands with a variety of sounds and I feel it is very substantial. We are always excited to hear this new stuff.
MJ: What are Oeil’s plans for 2012?
MH: We played live in January, and this year we will release music in some form. As soon as we figure anything out we will be sure to let Muso Japan know.
Mitsuko Hoshino: 2006年に結成され、その夏に最初のライブをしたと聞いています。 私が加入したのは2008年からです。 Oeilは2008年にメンバーと編成を大きく変えました。 ある意味では2008年が結成した年とも言えるでしょう。
MH: Kevin Shieldsです。 結成当初のテーマはlovelessだったと聞いています。
他にもThe CureやThe Sundaysから大きな影響を受けています。
MJ: Oeilの最後のアルバム”Urban Twilight” が2007年にリリースされ、そして、2008年の シューゲーザーコンピレーションアルバムにも登場しました。それ以降も新しい曲を作り続けています か? また、新しいアルバムをリリースする予定がありますか?
MH: その時の気分とパーティの趣旨によって変わります。最近のお気に入りはSoft Metals、Grimes、Echo Lakeです。
MJ: 日本のアンダーグラウンドシーンは外国のシューゲーザファンに様々なサウンドを与えます。みつ こさんは日本のシューゲーザーシーンとインディーズシーンについてどのような意見を持っています か?
MH: 結成当初はシューゲイザーテイストを全面に押し出したバンドにライブハウスで出会う機会は少なく、 Oeilはまだ珍しいバンドでしたが、最近では私達のようなサウンドで表現するバンドは珍しくありませ ん。 シューゲイザーと言うスタイルの認知度は急速に増加しましたが、それを今の世代のシューゲイザー シーンと呼ぶにはまだ早い気がします。
MH: 1月にライブを行いましたが、今年は何らかの形で楽曲をリリースするでしょう。 リリースが決まったら真っ先にmuso japanにお知らせしますね<3
As Muso Japan was told by blgtz singer Shota Tamura himself in an interview earlier this week the band is planning on releasing a Live DVD in the near future. The band confirmed this release at the final show of their “Douzi ni Kieru Ichinichi” release tour. According to Japanese music site skream.jp, at the conclusion of the February 5th show in Tokyo, flyers were handed out stating that the DVD will be released in the Spring. More updates to follow, but this is very exciting news for fans of blgtz!
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to interview blgtz frontman and songwriter Shota Tamura, who took time out of what has been a pretty busy last couple months to answer some questions. This is a very special post because I am a huge fan of his work and it gives Muso Japan the opportunity to get some first-hand input from a musician who epitomizes what Muso Japan admires in an artist: a passion for what he does and a high-quality of craftmanship. I want to thank Tamura-san for taking the time to contribute his words as well as blgtz’s PR staff who made this interview possible. Last but not least a special thanks to Shiho Lukacek for being very patient and helpful! Enjoy.
MusoJapan: When and how was blgtz formed?
Shota Tamura: Blgtz was formed in 2001 as a full group. Since then, a number of members have joined and left or taken leave from band activities. While this has been going on, the band has continued as mostly a solo unit.
MJ: What is the band’s current structure and at what points did you work mainly solo act?
ST: In December 2011 the current band’s support members joined. Until that point, it was a solo project.
MJ: What are your biggest musical influences?
ST: I’ve drawn inspiration from many records and CDs as well as from musicians who preceded me. As far as my biggest influence…it’s difficult to say. I can’t choose.
MJ: How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with blgtz?
ST: My intention is to be making honest music that drives straight through the listener’s heart. As far as sound is concerned we have been considered a blend of Western music genres like new wave, post punk, shoegaze, post rock, etc. but those genres are just parts of music. You can even consider my music as J-Pop or J-Rock, so I don’t mind if my music is considered to be a part of any specific category.
MJ: What is your songwriting process like? Do you primarily write the songs yourself or is it a collaborative effort?
ST: I start by gathering all of the ideas I’ve come up with and then writing the songs myself. I then take the songs to the studio and have a band session where we finish the arrangement process. Finally, I write the lyrics. My main job is getting rid of unnecessary words which is the toughest part of the process for me.
MJ: In November, 2011 you released your 3rd album 同時に消える一日. How does this album differ from your previous albums?
ST: The big differences between this album and my previous albums are the vocals and the melodies. I wanted to make music that I could convey to anyone and so I tried to put an emphasis on too many things when making songs.
What is different now than before is that when you first listen the music and singing sound simple, but live there are all sorts of detailed inventions and changes. I think that when you listen to it a bit it becomes understood.
MJ: What are your feelings about the state of Japanese indie-music today?
ST: In my case, I am just active as an independent musician, which isn’t to say I am trying to create a gap between independent and mainstream music, but I think that indie music in Japan offers something very substantial.
There is an excess of information and good music which may be hidden, but there is a lot of high-quality music lying in the underground of Japanese music. Sooner or later I want to break through into the Japanese music scene and see a musical movement that excites listeners.
It makes me happy to see Muso Japan working as a medium through which indie music can be introduced, and to know that the passion of music is being felt.
MJ: You have recently been playing concerts on your CD release tour and have a big show scheduled with the Novembers on February 4th. What else can listeners look forward to from blgtz in 2012?
ST: On February 26, I will be appearing at the ”Yuubari International Fantastic Film Festival” as a solo act.
From March 23-25 blgtz will be playing a 3 day tour in Sapporo.
A release for our live DVD is being planned after that.
Other than that we are planning shows in cities as well as regional tours and plenty of other things.
For more information please check our website: http://blgtz.com.
MJ: 最近はCDリリースツアーを行っていて、２月４日にはthe Novembersとの大きなコンサートが待ち構えていますが、その他に何かコンサートやイベント等、blgtzファンが知っておいた方がいいニュースはありますか？
One of the goals of Muso Japan is to showcase wonderful Japanese artists that are otherwise difficult to find for a foreign audience. There is a huge number of bands and musicians who can be discovered on forums, in magazines, and in other accessible media. There are others that are hidden gems in a vast musical world.
One such band is maikotobranco, a veteran of Japan’s indie-music scene. Formed in 1999, maikotobranco’s current lineup is comprised of band founder and principle songwriter Kodo Ryuta (vocals and guitar), Tomikawa Genta (bass), Yoshijima Tomohito (drums), and Mori Masanori (keys). The band started out playing concerts in college circle clubs and local live houses, and soon after their inception released a self-titled e.p. which was recorded in the university’s locker room as well as a self-titled demo casette. In their early stages, maikotobranco gained notoriety in the indie scene sharing bills with such acts as Luminous Orange, Hazel Nuts Chocolate, and Japanese shoegazers Dive.
Maikotobranco’s sound combines shoegaze and dreampop influences and wraps them in a beautifully noisy psychedelic package, the likes of which could best be described as a marriage of My Bloody Valentine and The Mops. The band’s 2010 release “Grey Sky” in particular comes highly recommended by Muso Japan as it offers the most unique interpretation of shoegaze music with very catchy licks and a whole lot of noise thrown in for good measure. The band’s most recent release, 2011’s “The Rain Beats my Cheek” offers 3 tracks that offer more of what we loved in its predecessor.
There are a lot of bands that classify themselves as shoegaze or dreampop that are remarkable in that they produce beautiful music. Maikotobranco does just that, but separates itself by offering listeners a very unique sound as well. There aren’t many bands that they can be directly compared to, but if you are a fan of My Bloody Valentine, Mew, or Dive you should definitely check out any and all of the songs that maikotobranco have produced in the 13 years since they started.
Here are some helpful links if you wish to check out maikotobranco’s music:
Their albums “Star” and “Grey Sky” are also available on iTunes!