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.  

Cattle – “Somehow Hear Songs”

One of the biggest knocks on the current crop of up-and-coming shoegaze bands in Japan is a lack of the “loudness” that is requisite to the genre.  A lot of bands are tending toward the indie-pop side of things at the expense of balls-out explosive volume.  To be fair, I really do like this current generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, and they do the jangly pop thing really well, but personally I prefer my pop music drowned mercilessly in reverb and noise.  Upstart shoegaze outfit Cattle have found that perfect balance between playful cuteness and relentless tonal aggression and the result is a very solid debut EP.

 Cattle (L to R):  Naoya Hinuma, Saori, Nomeko, Shuta Kokubun (photo from Facebook)
Cattle (L to R):  Naoya Hinuma, Saori, Nomeko, Shuta Kokubun (photo from Facebook)

One of the biggest knocks on the current crop of up-and-coming shoegaze bands in Japan is a lack of the “loudness” that is requisite to the genre.  A lot of bands are tending toward the indie-pop side of things at the expense of balls-out explosive volume.  To be fair, I really do like this current generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, and they do the jangly pop thing really well, but personally I prefer my pop music drowned mercilessly in reverb and noise.  Upstart shoegaze outfit Cattle have found that perfect balance between playful cuteness and relentless tonal aggression and the result is a very solid debut EP.

Technically Somehow Hear Songs, isn’t the first material the band has released – they put out a demo single and a split within a two month span last year – but neither really did justice to their live performance.  In fact, I really liked the demos until I saw them play live and actually realized what the band was capable of.  I wasn’t the only one apparently, as shortly thereafter it was announced that they would release their first proper EP and that it would be produced by none other than Makoto Gomi.  Not a bad guy to have overseeing a recording process, having plied his trade with the likes of Zeppet Store and Sphere among others.  His own experience with beautifully loud music and Cattle’s potential to create some of their own made for a pretty good pairing in the studio.

Somehow Hear Songs wastes no time getting to the point, as the intro and partial-title-track “Somehow Hear” starts off straight away with the sugary sweet vocal melodies of singer/keyboardist Saori and the blistering guitar attack from word go.  The guitar noise never actually ends, though you really feel the intensity during the extremely catchy choruses throughout.  The male and female twin vocals that are so very much a staple of Japanese shoegaze are there, though rather than running alongside each other, Saori’s vocals feature more prominently in the mix, while those of male counterpart Naoya Hinuma are a bit washed out and distant.  Effective balance is a big part of what makes this EP unique in the current landscape of Japanese shoegaze.

You can grab a physical copy of Somehow Hear Songs on July 8th, though for the time being Jigsaw Records has released it digitally on Bandcamp.  The CD is currently available for pre-order in Japan via most major music retailers and sites.  For folks in the US you can pre-order straight from Jigsaw Records.  

Here’s a preview of the EP.  Give the band a follow on Facebook and Twitter and visit their homepage here:  http://cattle-jp.wix.com/cattle

An Interview With La Casa Al Mare

Italian shoegaze trio La Casa Al Mare made waves this year with their This Astro EP.  The album was released in May and soon thereafter received a Japanese release via Tokyo-based label HANDS AND MOMENT.  The folks at the label had a sitdown with Alessio, Marco, and Paolo to discuss the band, the EP, and more.

Italian shoegaze trio La Casa Al Mare made waves this year with their This Astro EP.  The album was released in May and soon thereafter received a Japanese release via Tokyo-based label HANDS AND MOMENT.  The folks at the label had a sitdown with Alessio, Marco, and Paolo to discuss the band, the EP, and more.

イタリアの3人組シューゲイザーバンドLa Casa Al Mareは今年にリリースされた「This Astro EP」を通じて世界で注目を浴びました。5月にリリースされ、すぐ東京のレーベルHANDS AND MOMENTより日本でもリリースされましたHANDS AND MOMENTさんはLa Casa Al MareのメンバーAlessio、Marco、Paoloにバンドの歴史、EP等色々についてインタビューをしました。日本語のインタビューは以下です。

  • When was the band formed?

Alessio: In 2012

Marco: It was a beautiful sunny day 

Paolo: I joined Marco and Alessio a couple of years ago, when I was still playing guitars in Sea Dweller

 

  • How did you all meet?

Alessio: by going at each other’s band gigs

Marco: I met Alessio because we used to play in the same rehearsal room with our bands. I knew Paolo for his webzine-blog Komakino, and for his bands Sea Dweller / My Violent Ego

Paolo: I met Marco after a show of Sea Dweller in Rome, and Alessio in his studio several years ago, where I went to see La Calle Mojada to rehearsal. They were all very friendly with me. Later, La Calle Mojada and Sea Dweller made some gigs together, so, it was fun to get along.

 

  • Who is the central figure of the band?

Alessio: there is no central figure: it’s like a triangle where every angle has its importance

Marco: I think guitar sound and the reverb that comes out..

Paolo: Yeah, we are a guitar driven thing, fuzzed out and blessed with a noisy vibe.

 

  • What is the meaning behind the band’s name?

Alessio: In the 70’s and 80’s, the forbidden dream of italian people from big towns like Rome was to own a seaside house. It refers to something about holiday, childhood, and bittersweet happiness.

Marco: a concrete possibility to escape, for all.

 

  • Please talk a bit about the history of the band.

Marco: the true history is the one that hasn’t been written yet

Alessio: I started to write songs  and I wanted to have my own band.  So I invited Marco and Michele (Toffoli) to join me, they were both former members of La Calle Mojada.  After a while, Michele quit to work on his own music project, so we needed a new drummer.  One night me and Marco saw Paolo playing drums in a gig, – we already knew him for playing the guitar in Sea Dweller and My Violent Ego, and we thought: perfect!

 

  • Who are some of the support members and guest musicians you work with?

Alessio: Michele Toffoli, our ex drummer, performed drums on CD Girl, alongside with Andrea Novelli, an old time friend of mine (and keyboardist for Snow in Mexico).  Livia just sang additional vocals on other 2 songs (I Don’t Want To and At All).  Michele Pollice (former guitarist of La Calle Mojada) is helping us for incoming live shows.

 

  • What kind of bands were you in before?

Alessio: I played in a emo-post rock band, many years ago.

Marco: I played in a dreampop band named La Calle Mojada

Paolo: Sea Dweller, and, before, My Violent Ego: both shoegazing

 

  • What is your favorite movie and book?

Alessio: Mulholland drive by David Lynch, and Les Particules élémentaires by Michel Houellebecq.

Marco: L’Atalante by Jean Vigo and Camere Separate by Pier Vittorio Tondelli.

Paolo: Naked, by Mike Leigh, and Budapest, by Chico Buarque.

 

  • Why did you work with Dave Cooley for mastering?

Alessio: I worked with Dave Cooley because he did an M83 record that I liked very much.  Getting in touch with Dave has been very interesting, for me, as a sound engineer.  He’s a pro and he respects music.

 

  • What are your favorite pedals?

Alessio: Boss TU-2: it’s very useful and reliable.

Marco: Electro Armonix Big Muff U.S.A. : totally anarchist and out of control..

Paolo: my kick pedal

 

  • I think ‘M’ is a very mysterious title.  What was the inspiration for the title?

Alessio: Sorry, I can’t answer this

Marco: She’s a mystery.. 

Paolo: M is for Mystery

 

——

 

  • いつバンドを結成しましたか?

アレッシオ:  2012年に。

マルコ:それは美しい晴れた日でした

パオロ:  数年前、まだSea DwellerでギターをやっていたときにMarcoとアレッシオと音楽を作り始めました。

 

  • どのようにLa Casa Al Mareのメンバーと出会ったの?

アレッシオ:  互いのライブを見に行っていたので。

マルコ:  僕のバンドとAlessioのバンドは同じリハーサル部屋をシェアしていたのがきっかけです。Paoloとは彼がやっていたKomakinoというウェブジン/ブログと前のバンドのSea DwellerとMy Violent Egoを通じて知り合いました。

パオロ:  ローマであったSea DwellerのライブでMarcoに会いました。数年前La Calle Mojadaのリハーサルを見に行ったときスタジオでAlessioに会いました。2人とも凄く優しいと思いました。そのあと、La Calle MojadaとSea Dwellerが一緒にライブをして、交流するのは楽しかったです。

 

  • バンドの中心人物は誰ですか。

アレッシオ:  中心人物というのは存在しない。三角形の三辺ようにそれぞれが同じくらい重要なんだ。

マルコ:  人ではなく、ギターサウンドとリバーブが中心だと思っています。

パオロ:  うん、僕らはノイズに包まれたギターサウンドのかたまりみたいなもの。ノイジーなヴァイブと一緒にフワフワ飛んで祝福される。

 

  • バンド名にはどんな意味がありますか?

アレッシオ:  70、80年代イタリアでローマ等の都市に住んでいた人の夢は海辺に家を所有することでした。つまり休暇、子供時代、ほろ苦い幸福についてのことです。

マルコ:  誰もが持っている具体的な逃避の可能性です。

 

  • バンドの歴史を教えてください。

マルコ:本当の歴史はまだ書かれていないものです

アレッシオ:  僕は曲を書き始めて、自分のバンドを結成したいと思っていました。元La Calle MojadaのメンバーMarcoとMichele(Toffoli)を誘いました。しばらくしてから、Micheleが自分のバンドに専念するため脱退したので、新しいドラマーを募集し始めました。ある夜は私とマルコはパオロがギグでドラムを演奏しているのを観た。(我々はすでにSea DwellerとMy Violent Egoでギターを弾いている彼を知っていた)そして私たちは彼は相応しいと思いました。

 

  • サポートメンバーとゲストミュージシャンについて教えてください。

アレッシオ:  元ドラマーMichele Toffoliとずっと前からの仲間Snow in MexicoのキーボードAndrea Novelliは「CD Girl」で参加してくれました。Liviaは「I Don’t Want To」と「At All」でサポートボーカルをやりました。元La Calle MojadaのギターリストMichele Polliceはこれからライブサポートメンバーとして参加します。

 

  • 以前はどんなバンドをやっていましたか?

アレッシオ:  昔はエモ、ポストロックバンドで活動していました。

マルコ:  La Calle Mojadaというドリームポップバンドのメンバーでした。

パオロ:  My Violent Ego、そしてSea Dweller。両方ともシューゲイザーバンドでした。

 

  • お気に入り映画、本は何ですか。

アレッシオ:  David Lynchの「Mulholland Drive」とMichel Houellebecqの「Les Particules élémentaires」。

マルコ:  Jean Vigoの「L’Atalante」とPier Vittorio Tondelliの「Camere Separate」。

パオロ:  Mike Leighの「Naked」とChico Buarqueの「Budapest」。

 

  • なぜDave Cooleyをマスタリングに起用したのですか?

アレッシオ:  Dave Cooleyがマスタリングを手掛けたM83のアルバムのマスタリングがとっても好きなんです。デイブと仕事をする事は私にとって非常に興味深い事なんだ。サウンドエンジニアとして。彼はプロだし、彼は音楽を尊重します。

 

  • あなたのお気に入りのエフェクターは何ですか?

アレッシオ:  Boss TU-2.  とても役立つし信頼できるペダルです。

マルコ:  Electro Harmonix Big Muff U.S.A.  とんでもなくアナキスト。混沌とします…

パオロ:  僕のキックドラムペダル。

 

  • M’は非常に神秘的なタイトルだと思います。あなたは何にインスピレーションを受けましたか?

アレッシオ:  申し訳ないけど、僕はこれに答える事が出来ません。

マルコ:  謎に包まれている、、

パオロ:  MはMysteryのMです。

 

 

Interview – HANDS AND MOMENT

Translation – Matthew Bedford and HANDS AND MOMENT

Introducing Osaka Netlabel Thru The Flowers

One of the big stories last year was the emergence of kiiro records, a Tokyo-based netlabel that put out a TON of releases including three shoegaze comps that grabbed a lot of Internet attention.  This wasn’t a brand new concept by any means, but it was new to the Japanese shoegaze scene, helping expose some of the country’s local talent to an international audience.  Furthermore all of the label’s releases are available for free download, which has pretty much welcomed a foreign audience with open arms while encouraging a curious national listener base to hop aboard the shoegaze wagon.

One of the big stories last year was the emergence of kiiro records, a Tokyo-based netlabel that put out a TON of releases including three shoegaze comps that grabbed a lot of Internet attention.  This wasn’t a brand new concept by any means, but it was new to the Japanese shoegaze scene, helping expose some of the country’s local talent to an international audience.  Furthermore all of the label’s releases are available for free download, which has pretty much welcomed a foreign audience with open arms while encouraging a curious national listener base to hop aboard the shoegaze wagon.

Osaka’s answer to kiiro records is the newly formed Thru The Flowers, which was founded by a man simply known as Bobby from  Boyfriend’s Dead.  Bobby also runs an event of the same name that often showcases some of Osaka’s local shoegaze talent.  Though he has a reputation throughout Japan, the Thru The Flowers label appears to be Kansai-centric, and with Tokyo hogging the majority of the Japanese shoegaze scene this is a breath of fresh air.  

The label formed earlier this year and it’s maiden release was, not surprisingly, Boyfriend’s Dead’s self-titeld EP in mid-March.  In the two months since, Thru The Flowers has put out Honey Mustard Sauce’s ultra-cute shoegaze EP FREEZER (one of my personal favorites of the year so far), and the first recorded material from Dinosaur Party – a two-track EP called ベランダ/風車 (Veranda/fu-sha).  

Though Osaka is home to High Fader Records and does share the annual Japan Shoegazer Festival with Tokyo (and occasionally a third city), the shoegaze scene hasn’t progressed much over the years.  Free releases are great, but Thru The Flowers’ real task will be establishing a strong community of shoegaze artists in Osaka that can be at the core of a scene that will continue to grow.  There’s so much more good music outside of Tokyo, and labels like this one can really help get it out there.

To download Thru The Flowers’ releases and keep an eye out for future releases check out the label’s Bandcamp page:  https://thrutheflowers.bandcamp.com/

Tenkiame and Originality

“This band has no originality.”  This is the short sentence that was written to describe the music of the newly founded Tokyo four piece Tenkiame.

Surprisingly, however, the words – which appear in boldface at the top of their online ballot to appear at this year’s Rock In Japan Festival – were written by the band’s members themselves.  To many music fans, and perhaps even more so to musicians, that sort of statement can be viewed as negative and not something to boast, let alone use to introduce a band’s biography.  However, it’s something that the band stands by as it continues to grow in the massive Tokyo indie scene.

“This band has no originality.”  This is the short sentence that was written to describe the music of the newly founded Tokyo four piece Tenkiame.

Surprisingly, however, the words – which appear in boldface at the top of their online ballot to appear at this year’s Rock In Japan Festival – were written by the band’s members themselves.  To many music fans, and perhaps even more so to musicians, that sort of statement can be viewed as negative and not something to boast, let alone use to introduce a band’s biography.  However, it’s something that the band stands by as it continues to grow in the massive Tokyo indie scene.

Tenkiame is an indie super group of sorts, with its members also involved in local acts like For Tracy Hyde, Boyish, Batman Winks, and Art Theater Guild.  The band formed earlier this year and in the span of a month or so released its first two demo tracks and a debut EP, “So Sad About Us”.  From the first listen, it is perfectly clear that they are heavily influenced by Art School, with frontman Azusa Suga doing his best Riki Kinoshita impersonation.  Add to that the “Candy” bassline that is straight out of “20th Century Boy” and the heavy influence drawn from any number of shoegaze bands, and the list of influences at the bottom of their Bandcamp page, and you have a band that certainly appears to lack originality.  Guilty as charged.

But is that a bad thing?  Look all around the Japanese music scene and you will see a ton of bands trying way too hard to be unique.  Sometimes it works, and that’s great – this is by no means an attack on originality.  A lot of times it doesn’t work though and what you get is overcomplicated and ultimately uninteresting music, or a band that simply ends up looking like a desperate copy of its contemporaries (you know who you are).  This is a problem with a lot of Japanese music, and particularly within the Japanese shoegaze scene.  Bands are so focused on their gimmick and how to be unique when sometimes it’s simply better to just shut the fuck up and make music.

It does seem a bit peculiar to use such a blunt, self-deprecating preface to a biography in the first place, especially when said biography is being used to encourage people to vote them onto the bill of one of Japan’s largest music festivals.  It’s clearly Tenkiame’s motto though, and it surely makes more sense than a band crying in every interview about not wanting to be associated with shoegaze and then essentially just being a shoegaze band.  The honesty of Tenkiame’s approach to music is the band’s most appealing quality.  The biggest victory, should they make it to Rock In Japan, would be a band who admits to having no originality likely being among the best on the entire card.

Tenkiame’s debut EP is simple and straightforward.  Not coincidentally these are the same reasons I loved Art School’s music (up until right around the release of “Illmatic Baby” at least).  It’s a combination of the aforementioned Kinoshita-esque vocals, fuzzed-out bass, and loud-as-hell guitars.  Without trying too hard, Tenkiame has released one of the better EPs of the year so far and they’ve done so by doing what they know and letting it flow naturally.  

You can get Tenkiame’s debut EP on Bandcamp.  They also work ridiculously fast so you should also keep an eye on their Soundcloud page as well.