Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall – “Aspect”

Tokyo-based Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall (17歳とベルリンの壁) released their first mini-album on the 18th of July, adding on to an already robust month of shoegaze releases and events in Japan.  Aspect is a six-track CD, which includes some new music and older demo tracks that have received some much needed polish.  As is so often the case, some of the demos were pretty rough to listen to, and up until they released a split with Nagoya gazers me in grasshopper earlier this year, it was hard to get a feel for what they were doing.  On top of that male-female twin vocals can be very unflattering when poorly produced.  On Aspect they were able to clean everything up production-wise courtesy of Yasutaka Ishikawa, and the result is a surprisingly solid debut.

Tokyo-based Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall (17歳とベルリンの壁) released their first mini-album on the 18th of July, adding on to an already robust month of shoegaze releases and events in Japan.  Aspect is a six-track CD, which includes some new music and older demo tracks that have received some much needed polish.  As is so often the case, some of the demos were pretty rough to listen to, and up until they released a split with Nagoya gazers me in grasshopper earlier this year, it was hard to get a feel for what they were doing.  On top of that male-female twin vocals can be very unflattering when poorly produced.  On Aspect they were able to clean everything up production-wise courtesy of Yasutaka Ishikawa, and the result is a surprisingly solid debut.

The folks at kiiro records – who have put out some of Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall’s music via the aforementioned split and the first Forever Shoegaze compilation – have described the band’s sound as “sparkly shoegaze pop”, and that’s the sort of vibe of the first couple tracks of Aspect.  “A Thousand Days” and “Talking Eggs” could probably be considered their most identifiable songs to this point.  The former evolves into a really thickly textured, dreamy track and the latter a pop song that could easily be mistaken for a My Dead Girlfriend song.  At this point in the album things are still very light, relying on some really nice vocal melodies (especially in “A Thousand Days”, which really is a good song) and subtle guitar noise, but seemingly stopping just short of really letting it all out.  

Cattle have set the precedent for the pop-heavy indie shoegaze bands really stepping things up noise-wise once they get into a proper studio.  Though Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall never quite reach that blistering intensity, they do a pretty good job of belting it out on “27:00” and “June”.  My two favorite songs on the album step things up in the volume department wrapping bending guitars around the poppy leads and vocal melodies that define the band’s sound.  The tracks flank “Lilac”, a tune that is probably my least favorite on the album, if only because its placement really stunts the intensity of the album at that point.  Overall though, I was really impressed with the new stuff from Seventeen Years Old and Berlin Wall.  I would say I love half of it, and really like a couple more songs.  Seeing bands starting to focus on and gathering resources in order to start getting more solid recordings together is a huge for a scene that is full of untapped potential, but covered by a shroud of a bad demos and live recordings.

You can purchase Aspect on iTunes.  Physical copies can be ordered from the following shops:

Here is the video for the final track on Aspect, titled 終日 (“All Day Long”).

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

Top 10 Japanese Shoegaze Albums and EPs of 2014

As you may notice, there are some big names missing from the list, namely Luminous Orange who released a really good album titled Soar, Kiss the Moon this year.  Though Luminous Orange is an important name in the history of Japanese shoegaze music, the new album simply isn’t a shoegaze record.

The Albums

As you may notice, there are some big names missing from the list, namely Luminous Orange who released a really good album titled Soar, Kiss the Moon this year.  Though Luminous Orange is an important name in the history of Japanese shoegaze music, the new album simply isn’t a shoegaze record.

Kinoko Teikoku, a band that has been on a massive roll over the past couple years, also distanced itself a bit from the genre with Fake World Wonderland.  The album itself is okay as a pop record, but lacks a certain intensity that I really came to appreciate from their first couple releases.

Finally, I’ve really enjoyed net label Kiiro Records‘ shoegaze compilations this year, but the large number of foreign artists included in the album disqualifies them from the list.  You should still download them though, which you can do here:  https://kiirorecords2.bandcamp.com/.

Enough about the records that didn’t make the list, though.  Here are my favorite ten shoegaze albums from Japan in 2014.

10.  The Novembers – Rhapsody in Beauty

Though The Novembers aren’t strictly a shoegaze band, the record isn’t as experimental nor as diverse as the Luminous Orange release and is chock full of the requisite “wall of sound” guitar noise of a good shoegaze album.  It’s loud as hell and the title track is extremely addictive.

9.  Origami – 113,197.73

This one made it in at the buzzer with a Christmas release.  Origami are a relatively unknown, brand new band based in England and thanks to a timely recommendation via Greg from DKFM I was able to hear this album.  Really nice ambient, textural stuff from the newcomers.

8.  Plastic Girl in Closet – Eye Cue Rew See

More sugary sweet pop music from Plastic Girl in Closet, whose album was their second release of the year (the first being their January mini-album White Loud).

7.  Aysula – Release Me

Another sort of under the radar release this year, Nagoya’s Aysula impressed at the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival in their hometown and were invited to this year’s event in Osaka as a result.  Their mini-album Release Me (seven tracks so I threw it on this list) shows off their intense blend of shoegaze and post rock with massive guitars and powerful vocals.

6.  Lemon’s Chair – My Favorite Reverb

As usual, Lemon’s Chair have put out a beautiful instrumental record.  Put on your headphones and jack up the volume, but be careful, as about halfway through the epic 12-minute final track “My Favorite” the band’s trademark guitar eruption kicks in and shit gets real.

5.  Shelling – Aquarium Sympathy

The textures on this album are beautiful, blending guitar noise, thickly layered synths and breathy, sunken vocals.  The electronic beats are super simple and do their job, pacing the listener through a sea of ambient fuzz.

4.  Cigarette in your Bed – Darkness

Cigarette in your Bed’s debut full-length album release marked their emergence from the High Fader ranks, and rightfully so.  They’re arguably the best band on the roster now and their gritty, somewhat grunge brand of shoegaze is a welcome addition to a pop-heavy Japanese shoegaze scene.  My only complaint is that the new version of lead single “Let Me Out” is significantly slower than the original.

3.  The Florist – Dark Entries

I’ve raved about this record a lot since it came out in April, and the replay value has hardly dimished since then.   The album is super “dreamy” and a bit melancholy, and the gently harmonized vocals throughout are a nice touch.  Lead single “Middle of Winter” has gotten a lot of love, and not just in Japan.  Dark Entries is a successful debut and it looks like a follow up is likely at some point in 2015.

2.  Boyish – Sketch for 8000 Days of Moratorium

Boyish entered the conversation a bit late with the November release of Sketch for 8000 Days of Moratorium, but made an emphatic statement with a killer record.  The album is a throwback to the jangly guitar-laden shoegaze sound reminiscent of early Ride and My Bloody Valentine, highlighted by my favorite track “Heartwarm Guitar” (which when translating the phoneticized Japanese reads alarmingly like “Heartworm Guitar”).

1.  Juvenile Juvenile – Our Great Escape

Our Great Escape is simply the best Japanese record this year.  Every song is good and the production is great thanks in large part to shoegaze producer extraordinaire Kensei Ogata’s hand in the mixing.  It’s hard to say much more, other than this album is excellent.

The EPs

10.  Suichuu Zukan – Nami

Though it’s just a single, Nami deserved a spot on this list as it’s one of the best tracks released in 2014.  I’m extremely hopeful that this is the first step toward a new album.

9.  Grinch/Cattle – Feel Flaw, Lost Girl (split)

Grinch’s “Digitalis” plays like a Coaltar of the Deepers track, and Cattle’s “fluff” is one of my favorite songs this year.  Two really good bands got together and released this split courtesy of Kiiro Records.  Sadly it’s only two tracks.

8.  Uchuu Neko-ko and Lovely Summer-chan – Hibi no Awa

Another project to which the aforementioned Lovely Summer lent her vocal talents.  It’s just two tracks but Hibi no Awa, released via Bandcamp a couple times, had quickly garnered interest from shoegaze communities and bloggers all over the place.

7.  Tokenai Namae – Osiete V Kankaku

While a lot of Japanese shoegaze bands draw on Western influences, Nagoya’s Tokenai Namae’s music goes back the the roots of modern J-Pop with a unique blend of guitar noise and “kayou kyoku”.  The self-proclaimed “kayou-shoegazers” released their second EP in March and gigged alongside Japanese shoegaze heavy hitters Plastic Girl in Closet and Shelling on their respective album release tours this year.

6.  For Tracy Hyde – In Fear of Love

The Tokyo-based indie pop group had a big year in its new incarnation.  Fronted by Lovely Summer – the same Lovely Summer mentioned above – For Tracy Hyde released two new EPs this year as well as a new single (a new version of an older track titled “Shady Lane Sherbet“).  In Fear of Love‘s opening track “First Regrets” is an ultra-catchy pop track, and the rest follows suit.

5.  the city – celebration – Another Osaka entry on the list, the city were newcomers in 2014.  The indie rock/dream pop foursome put out a really impressive, somewhat moody 3-track EP amidst a flurry of gigs in 2014.

4.  Ether Feels – Twilight Dreams 

One of my personal favorite bands and one that I’ve seen live countless times, Ether Feels have released a bunch of material previously, but Twilight Dreams marks the first time they’ve made their music readily available to an overseas audience.  Featuring fan favorite track “Raindrop Sparkle”, Ether Feels’ latest EP is a step up in production value from their previous works.

3.  Al Van She’s Coming – Drop* 

A nice introduction to how a persistent guitar noise attack and Japanese pop vocals work well together.  Hokkaido-based Al Van She’s Coming delivers the requisite loudness of shoegaze with uptempo pop beats while switching back and forth between male and female vocals.  “Mint” is one of the most addictive tracks I’d heard all year.

2.  Oeil – Myrtle 

Though Oeil has been hanging around and gigging sporadically over the last few years, Myrtle marked the band’s first proper release since 2007’s Urban Twilight EP.  Whereas their previous EP was more of an homage to My Bloody Valentine, the new one incorporates those same elements while also mixing in a bit of a new wave sound, namely on the extremely danceable title track.  The release of Myrtle coincided with Oeil’s support of Aerofall and Vibragun on their Japan tour this fall.

1.  Magic Love – Dawn

Magic Love came back from a roughly three-year hiatus and did so emphatically.  The band spent the latter half of 2014 gigging following the release of their Dawn EP, the reaction to which prompted a re-release of their 2011 EP Bright a Scene and a new two-track live sessions CD.  Magic Love’s harsh, screaming guitars contrast the jangly pop-infused sound that is generally more prevalent in the Japanese shoegaze scene these days.

[Japan] kiiro records presents: FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2

 
With 2014 coming to a close, it’s about that time for music bloggers to start taking a look back at the year and putting together lists and reflective pieces and whatnot. Lookingat the list of shoegaze releases in Japan this year, there have been quite a few from well-established artists and newcomers alike. For those of us in Japan, these new releases have been pretty easily accessible, while for folks abroad they have in some cases been near impossible to obtain. The overall lack of digital releases is a point of frustration for a lot of people who want a gateway in to what has, in the last few years, been a growing Japanese shoegaze scene.

Japan’s kiiro records, a net label established at the beginning of the year, has done its best to provide for an eager overseas audience. With a slogan that roughly translates to “easy listening for everyone”, kiiro offers a diverse catalog featuring any number of genres from pop to alt rock to grunge. In June however, the label got the attention of shoegaze fans with the release of its FOREVER SHOEGAZE compilation album.  Shortly thereafter, a collaboration with The Japan Shoegazer Festival was announced for the summer event, where an exclusive comp CD-R was released – the first and only physical release from the label.

Kiiro records will be getting ready to release its next shoegaze comp, titled FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2, at midnight JST on December 25th (Merry Christmas!), which will be 7am PST for everyone stateside.  Similar to its predecessors, FOREVER SHOEGAZE 2 will feature mostly Japanese bands, with some foreign artists also appearing on the track list.  This time around there are some bands that are well worth keeping an eye on, such as Tokyo’s Float down the Liffey and Magic Love, and some great overseas talent in Australia’s kigo (who also appeared on the first comp), The Bilinda Butchers (USA), and one of my personal favorites, DIV I DED (Czech Republic).  The lineup for the band hasn’t been finalized, but as it stands, in addition to those just mentioned, the following bands will appear on the comp:  Dream Suicides and Ask For Joy (USA), UN PLANETA (Argentina), and POLA, Lunchu, Corsage, Ame no Naka no Uma, and nayutanayuta (all from Japan).

As with all of kiiro records’ releases FOREVER SHOEGAZE2 will be available for free download via the label’s Bandcamp page.  Keep an eye out for a mirror download link in case the album meets its 200 free download limit.  Muso Planet will be providing the recommendation write up for the record upon its release.  There’s just a little over a week left until the comp is released, so in the meantime you can check out the first FOREVER SHOEGAZE album and some of kiiro’s catalog.

[Taiwan] TuT – “You Got Me When I Stare At You”

So I’ve already professed my love for the intimacy of demo tracks despite the general lack of overall sound quality. In particularly I was a big fan of the “Send Me” demo released earlier this year by Taiwan’s TuT (pronounced “tee-you-tee”). This summer the band released a bunch of other demos that they’d recorded live at the studio over the last year, and needless to say I was in the sort of odd heaven that muddy guitars, too much hi-hat, and vocals that sound like they were recorded from the other side of the room can create. I love it.
That being said, I was stoked to see that TuT stealth got the copies of their debut album You Got Me When I Stare At You earlier this week from the pressing factory. While demo tracks offer the sort of nostalgia that takes me back to the vast library of shoddy recordings I’ve made myself, it doesn’t compare to the excitement of being able to hear the instruments at proper levels and get a better feel of what the band is made of (because it’s actually audible). Fortunate to get a copy, I popped on my headphones and got lost in a gorgeous shoegaze record on my train ride home.

The album’s title track, which will premiere on this week’s episode of Muso Asia, is absolutely beautiful. Wrapping textures around a simple guitar melody while showcasing the band’s double barreled male/female vocal harmonies, TuT makes you wait to hear how the improved recording environment would show off Fifi’s sweet, breathy vocals – but only for one track.

There is a lot more balance between the two vocalists on the album, but neither disappoints and the harmonies are stunning, particularly on “Little Child”. From start to finish, You Got Me When I Stare At You, features the loud, grimy guitars that seem so much an integral part of the Taiwanese shoegaze scene when compared to bands from the continent.  It would seem to be an obvious quality of shoegaze music, but the balance between volume and subtlety, grit and elegance that TuT maintains gets the whole “beautiful noise” thing right.

TuT’s demos were great, but their move to a proper studio has yielded some spectacular results.

TuT on Facebook

[Glasgow] New Music from The Cherry Wave!

The Cherry Wave have gotten around to giving us that music they’ve been promising.  The wait was somewhat long but in the end it’s been totally worth it.  The Glasgow foursome released the first track, “Whitey”, from its upcoming album, which should (fingers crossed) be out in the near future.  “Whitey” features two and a half minutes of the fuzzed-out droning guitars, howling leads, and powerful rhythm section that we’ve come to love through an EP and some change to date.  There’s a bit more of an edge to this track than the first EP, a direction perhaps signaled in last summer’s single “Under Dull Grey Skies”, which appeared on Lamppost Records’ Under the Wildflowers: volume 1 comp.  Anyway, it’s good to hear some music from the guys and it’s enough to whet your appetite while the finishing touches are put on a highly anticipated new record.  Have a listen, enjoy, and tell your friends.

[Japan] Aysula – “Release Me”

I took a trip to Sakae for some Saturday afternoon wandering around and stopped off on the way at Nagoya’s famed File Under Records where a copy of the debut from local shoegaze outfit Aysula was waiting for me.  I’d caught them last year at the Japan Shoegazer Festival in Nagoya and their abundance of what many Japanese shoegaze bands lack – a face blasting amount of guitar noise by way of their ridiculously loaded pedalboards – was one of the more impressive aspects of the evening.  At the time there was only a little of their music available at the time, and most of that was the series of live videos on Youtube I’ve come to be accustomed to.

In June, however, the band released their debut effort titled, in an almost beckoning way, Release Me.  I popped the CD in as soon as I got home and, while this is based on a mere couple listens through, it’s phenomenal.  It’s got the shoegaze guitar noise that distinguished them at the JSF event, and on the recording the somewhat whiny, moody vocals really stand out a lot moreso than on Tsurumai Daytrip’s PA (understandably).  The album has a really dark feel throughout.  That guitar sound produced by the more than 70 pedals in their arsenal is all I need.  Tracks like “Sphere” and “Remark” stuck out from their live performances, but “Lay Down Your Feathers”, the closest thing to a pure shoegaze track on the album, is the early favorite.

It’s a really impressive debut, and an important one for the city as Nagoya has started to produce its share of talent as the shoegaze scene in Japan continues to grow more and more.  The band has also been announced as a participant in the Osaka leg of this fall’s Japan Shoegazer Festival.  You can give them a follow on Facebook or Twitter and be sure to check out their homepage as well for info on how to purchase their CD.  There are some “trailers” available on Aysula’s Soundcloud page as well.

[Japan] Ether Feels – “Twilight Dreams”

Osaka shoegazers Ether Feels have released their new 3-track EP “Twilight Dreams” this week.  The EP, which features re-recorded versions of some of their earlier material, includes the fan favorite “Raindrop Sparkle” sandwiched between two other songs which feature regularly at the trio’s gigs – “Morning Star” and “Paddy”.  The improved recording quality does well to really capture the band’s light, somewhat melancholy brand of shoegaze capped by the dreamy vocal lines of frontman and principal songwriter TOMO which really carry well on this new EP.  Having released a bunch of material previously, “Twilight Dreams” is the most mature of their works thus far and with a new lineup in place it will be cool to see a new full length in the future.

Here’s a preview of “Raindrop Sparkle” from the album which is available on Amazon (JP).

Top 20 Tracks of 2013

I’d been wrestling with the idea of putting together a “top albums of 2013” list for a while.  Then I realized that many of my favorite releases were EPs, so it became a struggle as to whether or not I should create two separate lists.  I’ve instead opted to go with a “Top 20 Tracks of 2013” list.  This list is in no particular order and I know there are a lot of good songs from a lot of killer albums from the previous year that haven’t been put on the list.  Naturally a lot of these songs or artists have appeared on a Muso Planet compilation (or will in the future).
★Baby Formula (China) – “Lonely Gourmet”.  Really dreamy and highly addictive track from the Beijing dreampoppers.  The vocals will melt your soul.

★Oeil (Japan) – “Owl Moon”.  Oeil released two new tracks this year and, while it was close, “Owl Moon” was just too good.  The song is available for download exclusively from Muso Planet volume 2.

★Elephant Stone (Canada) – “A Silent Moment”.  The track off their album that best showcases the band’s hindie-rock tag.  Really well composed song from an all-around great album.

★Venera 4 (France) – “Haunted Summer”.  An epic 9-minute conclusion to one of the best EPs of the year.  The acoustic version the band released just before the end of the year is solid, too.

★Beach Volleyball (England) – “Contack”.  The best track off of an album from a contender for “band of the year”.  I love the  depth in this song.

★The Chambermaids (U.S.) – “I Wonder Why”.  Probably my favorite album of 2013, and this track is as catchy as they come.

★The Cherry Wave (Scotland) – “Cave/Wave”.  These guys pride themselves on the amount of fuzz they generate and they should.  This track is loud and one of the reasons that they are high on my list of bands to see live.

★Kinoko Teikoku (Japan) – “Eureka”.  My Japanese band of the year and probably my favorite Japanese band over the last two-plus years.  You can seriously get lost in this song, which is the title track of their 2013 full-length.

★Puna (Peru) – “Au Dial”.  Instrumental electronic track from the highly-underrated Peru-based music project.  Beautifully layered song.

★Loomer (Brazil) – “Road to Japan”.  I love the vocals on this track.  My favorite from the debut album by the Brazilian shoegaze outfit.

★Cool Serbia (U.S.) – “Tear Me Up”.  I like the noisy 60s pop throwback sound.  “Tear Me Up” is one of the songs off of the EP that I can listen to over and over again.

★Disco las Palmeras (Spain) – “Alfa y Omega (la cruel)”.  Ultra was one of 2013’s best albums from start to finish.  Alfa y Omega is powerful and that chorus is addictive.

★PanSTARRS (Egypt) – “Fools”.  It’s danceable and nasty.  There’s something evil about this track from the always noisy Egyptian trio.

★Curelight Wounds (U.S.) – “Leveled Out”.  Curelight Wounds put out two DIY EPs in 2013, both of which were brilliant.  “Leveled Out” isn’t as refined production-wise as some of the tracks from the latter EP, which might be why it’s my favorite.  It’s upbeat and loud and the vocals are smashed deep in the mix.

★His Name is Codeine (Scotland) – “Replica Gun”.  Mellow track with a Velvet Underground feel.  Very simple and straightforward song that develops subtly over three minutes.

★Wavr (U.S.) – “Melt my Brain”.  The vocals on this song are magnificent.  The music is big and dreamy and, though it doesn’t change a whole lot, it never gets boring due to the big enveloping sound.

★Wolvon (Holland) – “Stagnant”.  A very busy, moody track from the Dutch post-punk band’s album folds.  One of the more complicated and interesting songs on the CD.

★Trementina (Chile) – “Hazy Youth”.  It was a big year for Trementina who released Brilliant Noise on Japan’s Vinyl Junkies.  “Hazy Youth” was the first track made available from the album.

★Zeit (Sweden) – “Sky”.  The poppiest track off of the Life is Just a Blur EP, the intro-hook is super catchy, as is the chorus.

★Le Thug (Scotland) – “Of Europe (Arc 1993)”.  The song is beautiful.  That’s really all that can be said.  I love the beat under the big swirling guitars and the vocals are…well…beautiful.

Night Out in Nagoya: 4/20 – Crocodile Bambie CD Release Party @ Huck Finn

I recently moved to Nagoya (one reason for the lack of updates lately) and one of my goals once settled in was to take advantage of living in a city with a special music scene.  The first venue I had set my sights on was Huck Finn, a small basement live house a few blocks from Imaike Station, which hosts a who’s who of local artists.  Having gotten past the initial money-sink that is moving to a new city, I was ready to get a taste of the local music flavor.  After browsing a list of shows I noticed a band name that was hard to pass up.  Crocodile Bambie (a ‘cute name’ as stated by frontman Yoshihiro Yasui) just sounded awesome, and upon checking out a teaser for their upcoming EP, I decided to book the evening.  This was not an easy decision, as Kinoko Teikoku had a show at Club Rock n Roll the same evening, but I decided to dive into something new and different, and I wouldn’t regret my decision.
Crocodile Bambie, a band set to release their debut EP, may have, in name, been a relative unknown, but the band had already developed three decades worth of following.  Yasui, the singer and bass player of Bambie, was previously the bassist of long-time Nagoya thrash metal outfit Outrage.  It took a bit to get used to the change in atmosphere at the venue.  The snappily dressed and fashionably groomed twenty-somethings I’ve become accustomed to at events were replaced by long hair and leather jackets adorned with studs and Motorhead patches.  It was the sort of thing I had grown up with at concerts and I instantly felt right at home.

The show kicked off at about 6:30 with Osaka’s The Probes.  The best way I could describe this band was a fun and energetic reminder of why we all start bands at some point in our lives.  It was nothing complex, but simple, straightforward, aggressive rock music.  Lots of fun and a good start to the evening.

Next up was The Nibs.  Another band I knew nothing about coming in.  I didn’t love it at the start, with the opening song feeling like a medley full of tempo changes.  As the set went on, the songs turned into more down-tempo muddy tunes that had really nice grooves to them.  They finished strong and made me eager to hear some of their recorded songs.

Stone Edge was the third band of the evening and by the time their set came up Huck Finn was packed tight.  This show was a special event for them, being their first performance in 13 years.  I had heard them described as an all-girl rock band, which wasn’t entirely true as their guitarist was a guy, but the one thing I had heard that I can verify as true is that this band is excellent.  Their in-your-face and fun punk rock sound was a throwback to 90s Fat Wreck Chords-esque bands.  Despite it being extremely hot and crowded, the atmosphere was great throughout their set.

After Stone Edge wrapped up a decent amount of the audience seemed to have headed out. Up next was a band whose recordings I had become fond of whom I was eager to see live.  Eternal Elysium is another band receiving a good amount of local acclaim.  While their live performance was a lot of fun, it didn’t do their recordings justice in my opinion.  What I liked most is that the band had a great relationship with the audience.  It was a really intimate set and at one point the singer even addressed the (rather large) non-Japanese section of the audience in fluent English.  The crowd pleaded for an extended set, but Eternal Elysium reminded everyone at Huck Finn that this was Crocodile Bambie’s night.

Finally the moment we had all been waiting for.  After a fairly lengthy set-up, Crocodile Bambie took the stage.  They kicked off the show with “Freedom”, the track with which they promoted their debut EP.  While Yoshihiro Yasui had made his name with Outrage’s thrash style, his new band is more of a stoner rock outfit with grooving bass lines and droning heavily-delayed guitars.  The set was heavy, and despite a small tuning problem at the start, it was every bit as great as I had hoped for.  They weaved jam sessions and drum solos in and between songs, but not obnoxiously.  There was energy and aggression but it was controlled.  I am a big fan of Yasui’s new style and I hope that the 4 tracks on the EP will hold me over until the next batch of sounds is released.

Some blurry iPhone pictures to come!