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.