Sapporo Shoegazers Edy Two Arc

After a couple years of trying to hunt down their music, I was finally able to get my hands on a release from Sapporo’s Edy Two Arc.  The CD, titled Kurakute, Oto no nai Tokoro (暗くて、音のないところ), is actually an 8-track split, featuring two tracks apiece from four Sapporo bands.

 http://edy-sapporo.jimdo.com/
http://edy-sapporo.jimdo.com/

After a couple years of trying to hunt down their music, I was finally able to get my hands on a release from Sapporo’s Edy Two Arc.  The CD, titled Kurakute, Oto no nai Tokoro (暗くて、音のないところ), is actually an 8-track split, featuring two tracks apiece from four Sapporo bands.  Edy Two Arc, who prior to a sudden name change last month simply went by Edy, lend a dark, heavy shoegaze vibe to a comp that features everything from math-y funk to melancholic pop.  Though the band has been around for a few years, they’ve been largely inaccessible with a limited web presence and live-exclusive releases.  

Edy Two Arc have managed to remain something of a mystery, despite frequently appearing Total Feedback events and opening for Ringo Deathstarr in Hokkaido.  Their songwriting is by no means adventurous, but their sound is very comfortable and should hit the spot for fans of big, billowy shoegaze with a darker vibe.  About five months or so ago, the band posted the two tracks they submitted for the split on Soundcloud.  Check them out below.

Citrus Nowhere – “A Nightmare Before She Sleeps”

By now it’s no longer much of a secret that Tokyo’s Citrus Nowhere are regarded as one to keep an eye on in the Japanese shoegaze scene.

By now it’s no longer much of a secret that Tokyo’s Citrus Nowhere are regarded as one to keep an eye on in the Japanese shoegaze scene.  I wrote as much in my 2016 preview piece at the beginning of the year, and the band’s commitment to not only putting out more material – seemingly the endgame for a lot of promising young bands here – but to gigging and ironing out any remaining wrinkles in their live game has been a really positive sign.  

The band had a bit of a coming out party in the form of a self-titled EP and release party alongside fellow passengers on the raging war wagon that is the new generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, Yukino Chaos.  At the gig, which took place in Nagoya, there was a sense that everything was still being figured out.  It wasn’t super tight, but you got a feel for what they were doing.  I enjoyed the opportunity to see them.  It didn’t feel like a finished product.  To be fair, it was also the band’s fourth ever show.  

This month Citrus Nowhere released its second EP, this one titled A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as a free download on Bandcamp.  At first listen its hard to ignore the release’s raw production value.  The fuzzed-out guitars dominate the mix while the drums are faint enough in the background to guide you hazily through each song.  There’s a playful poppiness to what’s going on below the layers of noise, and I found the combination more interesting than their previously released work.  

The intro track “Beautiful Lies” is a persistent, free-flowing wash of droning guitars.  It’s a refreshingly unstructured song with a bit of a subtle jangle and light male-female vocal harmonies fluttering around.  There’s some pop there, but it’s subdued for the sake of noise.  

“Blue Enemies” is another that stuck out, perhaps because it’s got a bit of a different vibe from the rest of the EP and it sits right smack in the middle of the five songs.  The beat on this track is infectious and the band does well to create a haunting mood from some trippy textures and subtle falsetto vocals.  

As a stand-alone, Citrus Nowhere’s A Nightmare Before She Sleeps is really enjoyable, but the production will definitely be a turn off for some.  In context though, this EP is a step in the right direction, muddying things up in a scene where too many bands try to keep things super clean.  It’s their willingness to experiment and not shy away from the harsher side of things that makes these guys, in my opinion, such a key member of this new wave of Japanese shoegaze bands.

You can pick up A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as well as their self-titled EP, on Bandcamp for free.  

 

 

Shun Tanabe – “March of Ghosts”

I’m willing to argue with anyone that the Japanese Shoegaze Group on Facebook is the best place for discussion on the topic.  Through the group people are not only able to introduce bands to a pretty sizable community, but plenty of artists in Japan have a dedicated platform through which they can get their own music out to an eager and thoughtful audience.  The most recent gem to be discovered here is the solo project of one Mr. Shun Tanabe.  

I’m willing to argue with anyone that the Japanese Shoegaze Group on Facebook is the best place for discussion on the topic.  Through the group people are not only able to introduce bands to a pretty sizable community, but plenty of artists in Japan have a dedicated platform through which they can get their own music out to an eager and thoughtful audience.  The most recent gem to be discovered here is the solo project of one Mr. Shun Tanabe.  

Tanabe – whose Soundcloud profile simply mentions that he’s a company employee who records when he finds the time – quietly released a couple tracks online over the last month or so.  “Standing on the seashore” is more of a chilled out, dreamy piece and it’s pleasant enough, but “march of ghosts” is a track that got my attention from the first chord.  It’s a sweet, somewhat melancholy track with nice space compliments of a warm, ambient backdrop wafting around simple, strummed acoustic guitar chords.  

It appears that this is about the extent of what Tanabe plans to do with the project, but as long as he continues to put out music like this I’ll be listening.  At the moment he’s just got the two tracks, but there will be some more soon so stay tuned and give him a follow on Soundcloud.

 

 

Looprider – “Ascension”

It was just last August that I was writing about the debut from Tokyo newcomers Looprider. My Electric Fantasy was a diverse record, with the band exploring any number of sounds from shoegaze to pop to sludgy, grimy, at times doom-y rock.  With their sophomore effort, titled Ascension, released on May 4th via Call and Response Records, Looprider has taken a different and more direct approach to annihilating your eardrums.   

Photo by Matt Schley (http://www.mattschley.com/)

It was just last August that I was writing about the debut from Tokyo newcomers Looprider. My Electric Fantasy was a diverse record, with the band exploring any number of sounds from shoegaze to pop to sludgy, grimy, at times doom-y rock.  With their sophomore effort, titled Ascension, released on May 4th via Call and Response Records, Looprider has taken a different and more direct approach to annihilating your eardrums.  

You get an idea of what to expect when comparing the covers of their two releases, both of which were done by Tokyo-based artist Nasutakeo.  My Electric Fantasy‘s vibrant pink cover art is contrasted pretty starkly by Ascension‘s black and white.  The wide-eyed manga-style character on the cover of the first album appears on the second, however it’s a more tormented version this time with severed arms, a distraught-looking face, and sort of creepily ribboned torso spiraling downward.  By setting the physical CD cases right next to each other, you are presented with one of the themes of Ascension: the violent destruction of pop.

Musically, Ascension is brutally loud.  There are no shoegaze-y pop tracks, nor catchy melodic palate cleansers to be found on the record.  “N.E.C.O.” is a noise track featuring drawn out chords and distorted screams over a backdrop of ambient fuzzy static.  Tonally, it’s a fitting introduction to the album, which picks up the pace starting with the following tracks, “Fantômas”, “Doppelgänger”, and “Science ≠ Evolution”.  There’s a major hardcore influence here and some really nice depth, compliments of a ferocious blur of guitars, overdriven growls, and raging drums.  

“Kaboom!” is six-seconds of blast beat grindcore a la Anal Cunt that leads into probably my favorite section of the album.  “Sekai” keeps the record trucking a blistering pace before slowing down into the chugging title track.  What I really like about “Ascension”, apart from the fact that it’s heavy as hell, is the showcase of my favorite element of Looprider’s sound on this CD.  Everything slows down and that aforementioned depth in the form of persistent feedback and squealing guitars really shines through.  Also it reminds me a little of older Sepultura, which is awesome.  “Mustafar”, presumably named after the volcanic planet on which Obi-Wan Kenobi dismembers a young Anakin Skywalker, scores big points both for its relentlessness as well as the reference – surely no mere coincidence that the album’s release date happened to be Star Wars Day.  Finally, “667” closes everything out with seven-plus minutes of harsh noise.  

Even at its heaviest, My Electric Fantasy was a very clean-cut album, production-wise.  On Ascension things are much more raw and the album feels very organic.  Over the course of nine months, Looprider has shown some tremendous diversity and, impressively, has done so at a consistently high level.  The new record demonstrates a pretty big change in approach and style, but over the course of two releases Looprider has shown an affinity for doing things loudly.  This time around, however, by shedding previous elements of pop in their sound, that loudness is accompanied by an unrestrained aggressiveness resulting in a brutally chaotic and extremely cohesive album.  

The release party for Ascension will be held this weekend, the 7th, at Koenji Niman-Denatsu in Tokyo.  You can purchase the album at the following websites (international shipping is available).  They’ve got some pretty sweet shirts for sale on Bandcamp, as well.

Here’s the video for “Mustafar”.  There are some pretty intense strobe effects, so viewer discretion is advised.

Collapse – Self-Titled EP

In my constant search for Japanese shoegaze bands a little more willing to go hard in the paint, I came across a little known band from Saitama called Collapse, thanks to a poster in our Japan Shoegaze Facebook group.

 L to R: Kohei, Tomoko, Satoru, Shibuya ( Source )
L to R: Kohei, Tomoko, Satoru, Shibuya ( Source )

In my constant search for Japanese shoegaze bands a little more willing to go hard in the paint, I came across a little known band from Saitama called Collapse, thanks to a poster in our Japan Shoegaze Facebook group.  Though the band was formed by bassist Kohei in 2013, a bunch of member changes hindered any sort of momentum until Collapse finally established its current four-piece lineup with the additions of guitarist and vocalist Tomoko, guitarist Satoru, and drummer Shibuya.  Three or so years of settling culminated in a hot start to 2016 for Collapse, who, in addition to gigging regularly, released its debut self-titled EP on Bandcamp.  Shortly thereafter, the band started selling physical copies of the EP via its newly established online store.  

At first listen, I immediately appreciated the heaviness of Collapse’s sound.  In their biography they describe their sound as the combination of elements of “stillness” and “floating” from shoegaze and the “violence” and “speed” of metal.  The result is a sound perhaps more similar to the recent western model of shoegaze than the pop-heavy style that continues to dominate the Japanese scene.  There’s balance though.  The tonal aggression is contrasted by Tomoko’s sweet-but-not-too-sweet vocals that sit just right in the mix.  The melodies are poppy, but they’re not too prominent.  In that respect Collapse reminds me of a somewhat more balanced version of AZMA.  

“Syrup” and “RIP”, the EP’s opener and closer, respectively, are the two tracks on the album that really stand out.  Each really showcases the band’s ability to just pour on the waves of guitar noise with catchy vocal melodies woven in.  “Yellow” doesn’t quite keep up in terms of pace, but doesn’t lack for explosiveness.  The third track on the EP – conspicuously titled “Intro…” – is just a brief ambient interlude before the screaming finale kicks in.  

The debut EP from Collapse isn’t perfect, but it’s a really good start.  I talk about my desire for more aggressiveness in the Japanese shoegaze scene in just about every other blog post, and Collapse has come through for me.  It’s recommended that you pick up the EP on Bandcamp.  At the moment it looks like physical copies are only available for purchase within Japan.  You can check out Collapse’s homepage or follow them on Facebook for more information.

The Return of Muso Planet (English/日本語)

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.  Now with the blog re-focused on Japan and a somewhat regular radio show – as well as some other fun projects this year – I can’t go all out on the zine, but I can still effectively run Muso Planet in the form of a blog.  I’ve admittedly lost some touch with music outside Japan over the last year plus, so this will be a great opportunity for me to dive right back in.  This time, I’ll be focusing on reviewing material from overseas in both English and Japanese.  While it may not be as thorough as the zine was, I’m hoping that the blog will serve the same purpose effectively while also being a little more accessible with no downloads and everything embedded.  Anyway, it should be getting under way soon.  

Muso Planetという世界的なウェブジンは久しぶりに再開する!でも今回はちょっと違う形となる。ウェブジンを作るためにインタビュー、翻訳(英語、日本語、スペイン語)、世界中のレーベルとの契約、編集、レイアウト等をほとんど1人でやっていて、各号に沢山の力を入れていました。楽しくて、毎号完成後は満足していたが、このブログを作る目標「日本の良い音楽を海外の方に伝えること」からちょっと離れていた。この1年間半逆に日本の音楽に集中していて、日本、アジアのシューゲイザーラジオ番組をアメリカのDKFMでやっているため、以前のようにMuso Planetを一生懸命やる時間がないけど、ブログの形で出来そうだと思った。ということで、これからMuso Planetブログで海外のシューゲイザー、ノイズ等のアーティストの作品をバイリンガル(英日)でショーケースしていく。ウェブジンのように徹底的なプロジェクトではないだろうが、良いバンドを紹介する目的は変わらないし、ダウンロードする手間のないもっと便利な形になると思います。もうすぐ始まる。

Introducing Plant Cell

While 2015 has seen a lot of the heavyweights of the Japanese shoegaze scene releasing new material (with a few more to come before the end of the year) some new and lesser known acts have also emerged.  One such group is Chiba prefecture’s Plant Cell who managed to quietly release a ton of music via their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages this year.  

While 2015 has seen a lot of the heavyweights of the Japanese shoegaze scene releasing new material (with a few more to come before the end of the year) some new and lesser known acts have also emerged.  One such group is Chiba prefecture’s Plant Cell who managed to quietly release a ton of music via their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages this year.  The alt-rock/shoegaze newcomers formed in January as a two-piece consisting of frontman Sato and bassist Li.  Over the past 9 or so months Plant Cell has put out a steady flow of material including some pretty neat covers – they’ve done some Ringo Deathstarr, Slowdive, and quite a bit of Spiral Life, among others.  

The guitars are at the forefront of what Plant Cell does, which is fitting for a band whose members previously worked together at a guitar manufacturer.  It sounds like a bit of an obvious quality when talking about shoegaze, but Plant Cell takes much more of a Western approach than many of its fellow countrymen by burying the vocals and using them to supplement the overall textural of the music – primarily the big billowy guitars.  It’s a nice change of pace from the pop-heavy climate of the Japanese shoegaze scene.  I think fans of bands like magic love will be able to appreciate what these guys do based on the overall theme of the music.  

With the additions of Mori on backing vocals and keys and Oshima on guitars, the band is getting set to make its live debut at the end of the month, with periodic live performances being one of the plans going forward.  One would think that at the rate Plant Cell has been pumping out music a proper release would be a possibility in the near future, though at this moment Sato says that isn’t something that’s in the works.  With a very productive first year just about wrapped up for Plant Cell they’ve at very least established themselves as one to keep an eye on from here on out.

You can check out their body of work to date on Soundcloud and Bandcamp (the former has quite a bit more music and all of the covers).  A lot of their stuff is currently available for free download.  You can also give them a follow on Facebook.  

Looprider – “My Electric Fantasy”

The mad rush of Japanese releases this summer continues, this time with the debut from Tokyo newcomers Looprider.  Though the band got started in late 2014 its members are no strangers to the Tokyo indie scene, having plied their trade in a number of local bands including Tropical Death Metal, henrytennis, and Yogee New Waves, among others.  The album is called My Electric Fantasy, and it is out on August 19th via Koenji-based indie label Call and Response Records (Hyacca, Hysteric Picnic, etc.).  

The mad rush of Japanese releases this summer continues, this time with the debut from Tokyo newcomers Looprider.  Though the band got started in late 2014 its members are no strangers to the Tokyo indie scene, having plied their trade in a number of local bands including Tropical Death Metal, henrytennis, and Yogee New Waves, among others.  The album is called My Electric Fantasy, and it is out on August 19th via Koenji-based indie label Call and Response Records (Hyacca, Hysteric Picnic, etc.).  

Toward the end of last year Looprider released the first single from the album, titled “Farewell”.  The umptempo track plays like something off of Supercar’s iconic Three Out Change record, with a super catchy riff and female backing vocals courtesy of Charlotte of Merpeoples.  It’s a very listenable shoegaze/pop track, but the band’s second single was something entirely different.  “Dronelove (Is All You Need)”, which was released digitally earlier this year, is a sludgy Sabbath-esque face kicker of a track full of muddy, droning hooks, grooving bass, and harsher vocals than those on “Farwell”.  Shortly after the release of this single the band announced its debut album would be released in the summer.

With two drastically different songs on the table, the big question leading up to the record release was which direction would they ultimately take their sound.  This blog and all associated projects deal mostly with shoegaze in Japan, where that term has often been blended with other genres and styles – most notably with bands like Coaltar of the Deepers, BP., the aforementioned Supercar, and Boris, from whom Looprider presumably got its name.  I wouldn’t call My Electric Fantasy a shoegaze record, but it successfully draws on the genre and jams in a bunch of others to create an album that is much more cohesive than the first two singles on their own might lead one to believe.

The first track on the album is the noise-filled instrumental title track that serves as a nice buildup to “Dronelove” and “Kill La”, a chugging face melter that really picks up the pace of the album.  To this point the record is extremely heavy and still very much on the metal side of things, but without killing the heaviness the band transitions to “Satellite” – my favorite track on My Electric Fantasy, and one of the better shoegaze tracks that’s come out of Japan this year.  There’s a persistent attack of bending guitars present here, though the vibe is much “prettier” than any of the songs before it, accentuated by really well harmonized male-female twin vocals.  It’s the sort of track that fans of “Farewell” might have anticipated, and it starts to balance the album out while keeping up with fine instrumentation that’s present throughout the album. 

“Thunderbolt” is a high flying rock track that kicks off with a Motorhead-like riff before drifting into a mass of screaming leads and chaotic guitar noise over a steadily pounding rhythm section.  “Interlude (Am I Still Dreaming?)” is another instrumental track, this time a lighter, more experimental weaving of guitar textures paced by a simple electronic beat, softening things up for the album’s aptly titled closer “Farewell”.

My Electric Fantasy is by no means a straightforward album, but it draws on some somewhat contrasting influences and puts them together in a way that fans of doom and shoegaze could appreciate, without every really becoming a “doomgaze” record.  Mixed and mastered by Charles Macak at Electrowerks Recording in Chicago, the album’s central theme is its loudness, whether in the form of a ripping sludge track like “Dronelove” or a fuzzy pop track like “Farewell”.  It’s a creative and adventurous album, and above all else it’s tight as hell, really showcasing a killer rhythm section that works in harmony with guitarists that want to blast your face off.  

You can keep up with Looprider news via their homepage, or by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

My Electric Fantasy comes out on August 19th via Call And Response Records and can be purchased in CD or digital format on iTunes and at the following links:

Cruyff in the Bedroom – “Laurelei”

Another weekend, another barrage of events and new releases in what has been a remarkably busy 2015 for shoegaze in Japan.  The big news this past weekend was the annual Japan Shoegazer Festival, which was held in Tokyo on Sunday the 5th.  Perhaps a bit lost in the hype of the fest was a somewhat low-key release from the proclaimed “Japanese King of Shoegazer” Cruyff in the Bedroom, who put out their new EP Laurelei at a Tokyo release event which also featured genre-benders CQ, noisy alt rock outfit Kaimy Plants, and local up-and-comers Yukino Chaos.  

Another weekend, another barrage of events and new releases in what has been a remarkably busy 2015 for shoegaze in Japan.  The big news this past weekend was the annual Japan Shoegazer Festival, which was held in Tokyo on Sunday the 5th.  Perhaps a bit lost in the hype of the fest was a somewhat low-key release from the proclaimed “Japanese King of Shoegazer” Cruyff in the Bedroom, who put out their new EP Laurelei at a Tokyo release event which also featured genre-benders CQ, noisy alt rock outfit Kaimy Plants, and local up-and-comers Yukino Chaos.  

The EP features two original songs:  the title track “Laurelei” and “She is a Low”, plus a remix of each song by Broken Little Sister and Clubbers, respectively.  “Laurelei” kicks off with a bit of dreamy melancholy, with frontman Yusuke Hata weaving a sad-sounding vocal melody through a mass of swirling guitars.  There’s a nice groove to the bass, and the drums are tight and powerful as ever.  By the end of the song none of that matters though because the whole thing is enveloped in guitar noise deep down from within which Hata continues to croon on.  Essentially, it’s everything there is to love about Cruyff’s music.  

“She is a Low” is a bit more hook-driven and pacy, and not quite the immersive noise-fest of the track it follows, but it’s by no means tame.  It’s a simple track that’s chock full of screeching feedback and a chorus that will stick to your brain.  “Laurelei” melodically tugs at the heart strings, while “She is a Low” sort of just steals your car and drives it really fast and doesn’t care, showcasing in a little over seven and a half minutes just a bit of what Cruyff in the Bedroom is capable of.  As a bonus, you get to hear what the lovechild of Cruyff and fellow Tokyo shoegazers broken little sister would sound like.  Not to be ignored is a weird kind of trip-hop remix by Clubbers that took me a few listens to get into.  It’s nothing like the other three tracks, but is actually pretty cool once you get used to it.

For right now, the EP is only available at live venues – words that are no doubt nails on a chalkboard to the band’s overseas fans.  They’ve announced a bunch of tour dates in the coming months, with Yukino Chaos tabbed to support them on their way.  Definitely a must-see for fans in Japan.  

In the meantime you can hear a world premiere of “Laurelei” this weekend on DKFM‘s famed New Track’s Weekend, and one or both of the tracks will certainly be on next Wednesday’s Muso Asia.   As always follow the band on Twitter  and the Only Feedback site for further developments.