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.
For more information visit the band’s official website at .
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!
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!
Friday January 20, 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Nagoya’s local indie live house Huck Finn. Located in Nagoya’s Chikusa Ward, Huck Finn is an intimate venue known for hosting punk rock, metal, hardcore and indie-rock concerts. It is one of Nagoya’s primary spots for catching some of Japan’s best indie artists. A prime location for local up-and-comers as well, Huck Finn even states on its recruitment site that as long as bands have a drive to play they will host them, giving visitors to this cool little spot a taste of the Nagoya indie-rock scene.
To celebrate its milestone, Huck Finn held a 30th anniversary live featuring Sapporo-based indie-rock veterans, and one of Asano Tadanobu’s personal favorites, Bloodthirsty Butchers. Also on the bill was Hidaka Toru, former frontman of the disbanded lo-fi rock unit Beat Crusaders. Kicking off the night was Nagoya’s own experimental punk group Dancebeach.
For information on future shows check out their website at http://huckfinn.co.jp. Still going strong after 30 years, we can look forward to many more years of Huck Finn as a local indie-rock institution.
abcdefg*record is a Nagoya-based independent label. Formed in 1998 by Nomura Masahiro and Hashimoto Sayuri, abcdefg*record offers its artists very unique and dynamic handmade-style packaging for distribution. Though a self-proclaimed “indie-pop” label, the company covers a wide variety of musical styles including, but not limited to, rock, piko piko, shibuya-kei, post-rock, and shoegaze. With a solid roster of artists including “naivepop or petitfool” and co-founder Hashimoto Sayuri’s own “miette-one” abcdefg*record offers a very cool and creative brand of indie music wrapped in attractive handmade packages.
In addition to distributing for independent artists, abcdefg’s founders use their label to promote their other artistic endeavors. The co-founders are not only involved in their own music projects, they also promote a free digital zine titled P+M Magazine. P+M is a bilingual (English and Japanese) written publication devoted to music and photography. Issues are available for free download at the zine site (http://onimaga.com) and each features various musical artists and photographers. Definitely worth checking out.
abcdefg*record is not only a very cool example of an independent label, but as an outlet for independent art in general. For more information visit http://abcdefg-record.net and do some exploring. It will definitely be worth your while!