My Dead Girlfriend – “shaman’s daughter”

Word of My Dead Girlfriend hitting the studio reached social media earlier this year, but the subsequent talk of a new release quickly died down amidst a global pandemic and general tumult of 2020.  Fast forward to the early fall, and the news of the band’s upcoming EP “shaman’s daughter”, felt more surprising than it did something we’d been anticipating for roughly half a year.

The journey toward the new EP started in early 2019 when My Dead Girlfriend front man, Yuki Ishikawa, was contacted by indie filmmaker, Yusuke Isaka.  Isaka had begun working on a dark comedy-horror movie called “Shaman’s Daughter” (シャーマンの娘), and, having been a fan of My Dead Girlfriend since high school, reached out to the band about submitting music for the film.  By June, Ishikawa was ready to commit to the project, and from late-2019 to early-2020 the band was working on new material.

Two of the tracks from the EP, lead single “rebirth and karma” and the closer “winter reminds me of you” appear in the film as the ending theme and background music, respectively.  Additionally, plenty of earlier My Dead Girlfriend songs are used throughout.  Though only two of the five songs on the new release ended up in the film, Ishikawa cites the band’s involvement in the project as a major reason that the EP came to fruition – he also noted some interesting similarities between the film’s plot and My Dead Girlfriend’s own worldview – and felt it appropriate to carry some of the image of the film over to the release via the EP’s title and jacket art.

From purely a musical standpoint, “shaman’s daughter” pulls together My Dead Girlfriend’s range of sounds into a very cohesive collection of songs.  For a short-form release, there are a lot of looks into the My Dead Girlfriend soundscape.  “The secret of sunflowers” is a dark, tom-thumping march of an intro that waxes and wanes in intensity, swerving between shoegaze and post punk.  It’s a positively jarring way to kick off the EP.  From there, you get the EP’s signature song, “rebirth and karma”, which is a shoegaze track through and through, pushing the lush guitars to the forefront of the mix, but with a delicate balance between the harsh tones and the fluttering twin vocal melodies that define My Dead Girlfriend’s sound.  “Zaiakukan no nichiyoubi”, the only track on the EP that was not written specifically for the film, is probably the most My Dead Girlfriend song on the whole thing, walking the fine line between blaring shoegaze and candy-sweet pop and boasting the most addictive chorus on the release.

“Iliad” is a fun bit of chaos, going from essentially a simple, pacey power pop tune to a breakbeat-driven guitar tone exploration.  Ishikawa talked a bit about working with engineer Kensei Ogata in the studio, saying, “he suggested a lot of interesting ways to use our guitars and our pedals”.  Whatever those suggestions may have been, you get the feeling that they worked their way into “iliad” as well as perhaps the opening number.  On the other hand, “winter reminds me of you”, is straightforward.  It’s as sweet and nostalgic a pop song as the title implies and you can at least imagine the sort of scene it might be used as a backdrop for in the film.  The dreamy ambient outro is a nice touch.

Overall, “shaman’s daughter” is a really strong effort from My Dead Girlfriend, and the production work of engineer Kensei Ogata really pushes the song quality, through.  Given the relationship of the album to the film, it will be interesting to see how the songs – old and new – will be used there, and that context adds a different and interesting dimension to the release.  At the moment, it sounds like the movie will drop sometime in 2021, though releases can be a bit unpredictable right now.  You can check out a number of different trailers in the meantime if you’re interested.

While talking about plans for the band coming into 2020, Ishikawa spoke of plans for the band’s first performances overseas that were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic.  Even with the situation seemingly improving in Japan in recent months and limited capacity live events resuming, My Dead Girlfriend remains cautious of touring in support of “shaman’s daughter”.  While the rest of 2020 and perhaps well into 2021 maybe be difficult to plan for, Ishikawa expressed a desire to continue making new music and put out a new full album “in the near future”.  Stay tuned.

While there are plans to make “shaman’s daughter” available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify (with no plans for a Bandcamp release), for the time being it will be exclusively a physical release.  You can purchase copies internationally here.

For information on the film, “Shaman’s Daughter”, you can visit the project’s crowdfunding site here (Japanese language) for details and trailers.

The video for “rebirth and karma”, which includes footage from the movie, can be seen below.

“Shaman’s Daughter” film trailer #1:

A Guide to Daydream pt. 1 – Kyoto Day 1

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  First up is day one of Daydream Kyoto, taking place on December 3rd at Nijo Nano.  Click the link below for ticket reservation.

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する(あと、香港からのゲストも出る予定!)。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。最初は12月3日二条NANOにて行われるDAYDREAM KYOTOである!チケット予約は以下のリンクから。

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約

colm

Colm is sort of a Kyoto Shoegazer supergroup, consisting of members of Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, and AOQ.  The band is relatively new, and Daydream Kyoto will be their third gig since forming up earlier this year.  Though they haven’t made any music available to this point, Colm will be releasing their first recorded material at Daydream.

Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, 青くのメンバーから成るバンドColmは京都シューゲイザーシーンのスーパーグループ。今年結成して、DAYDREAM KYOTOが3回目のライブ。このイベントで初めての音源リリースとなる。


yukino chaos

One of Japan’s brightest young acts, Yukino Chaos has come on strong over the last couple years with dynamic live performances and some really impressive recordings.  2016 saw the release of a new demo single “Hope For The Future” and a supporting slot at Tokyo’s Niman Den-Atsu alongside Melt Banana, Looprider, and Qujaku.  The band was also invited to Shanghai along with Broken Little Sister earlier this year.  They’ll be releasing a split EP with fellow Daydream performers Ether Feels in December.

日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつYukino Chaosは、精力的なライブ演奏と印象的なレコーディングで近年目を離せない存在となっている。彼らの2016年は、デモシングル“Hope For The Future”のリリース、東京の二万電圧でのMelt Banana, Looprider そして Qujakuとの共演、Broken Little Sisterと共に上海へ招かれた年でもあった。12月には共にDAYDOREAMに出演するEther Feelsと制作したスプリットEPがリリース。


broken little sister

Making the trip to Kyoto from Yokohama is Japanese shoegaze mainstay Broken Little Sister.  Broken Little Sister has grabbed attention from shoegaze fans all over the world with their iconic “memories, violet & demon” LP as well as the Beatles cover album “Beatless” they released under the moniker Meeks.  Just this year the band has played in Taiwan and China.  Though seasoned veterans of the Japanese shoegaze scene, Daydream will mark the band’s first performance in Kyoto.

日本のシューゲイズシーンの重鎮 Broken Little Sisterが、横浜から京都へやってくる。彼らはLP“memories, violet & demon”、Meeks名義でリリースしたビートルズのカバーアルバム “Beatless”によってシューゲイズファンの注目を浴び、今年は台湾と中国でもパフォーマンスを行う。彼らは日本のシューゲーズシーンの経験豊かなベテランであるが、DAYDREAMが今回京都初のパフォーマンスとなる。


kailios

Local Kyoto-ites Kailios create simple but catchy music.  The band’s sound, which draws on 90s US alt rock and indie pop, is very upbeat and super easy to listen to.  Their feel-good style and energy translate to fun and entertaining live performances, which also happen to be really tight.  Kailios’ three-track “Cars” EP is highly recommended.

地元京都のKailiosは、シンプルでありながらキャッチーなバンドサウンドを作る。90年代のUSオルタナティブロック、インディーロックの影響が感じられるサウンドは、アップビートでとても聴きやすい。楽しく愉快でタイトなライブパフォーマンスは、心地よいスタイルとエネルギーが感じられるはず。3曲入りのEP “Cars”は必聴。


the seadays

Formed in July of last year, The Seadays is a four-piece alternative rock band from Kyoto.  Over the last year-plus, they’ve gigged in Tokyo and Kyoto and hosted their own event “Umi Rock Festival” this past July.  Whether they’re playing uptempo aggressive tunes or slow, melodic stuff, The Seadays’ sound is strong and explosive, making for high-energy, highly entertaining live performances.

昨年の7月に結成されたThe Seadaysは、京都出身の4ピースオルタナティブロックバンド。結成以来、東京と京都でギグを積み重ね、この7月には“Umi Rock Festival”を主催。アップテンポでアグレッシブなチューンや、ゆったりとしたメロディーの曲であっても、爆発的な力強いエネルギーを感じさせるそのパフォーマンスは、観客を魅了する。


shinda boku no ishikawa

My Dead Girlfriend frontman Yuki Ishikawa will be performing at Daydream Kyoto as his solo project My Dead Ishikawa.  He released his debut solo album “A Corpse in the Happy Valley”, earlier this year, and while there are some shades of MDG-esque shoegaze on the record, the new project explores a wide range of sounds from guitar pop to noise to grindcore and more.  As a performer, few can match the energy and flamboyance of Ishikawa on stage.

死んだ僕の彼女のフロントマンである”石川”は、今回ソロプロジェクト「死んだ僕の石川」として登場する。今年前半にソロデビューアルバム“A Corpse in the Happy Valley”をリリースし、「死んだ僕の彼女」色を含みつつもギターポップ、ノイズ、グラインドコアと幅広いサウンドを冒険している。石川のように、エネルギッシュで刺激的なライブパフォーマンスをする人物はなかなかいない。


sea of tranquility

Sea of Tranquility will be making the trip from Hong Kong to perform at Daydream Kyoto.  The band has been picking up steam recently thanks to their beautifully dense and dreamy brand of shoegaze, which has drawn comparisons to the likes of Slowdive and Cocteau Twins.  Earlier this year Sea of Tranquility played in Taiwan at Leave No Trace But Gaze, where they shared the stage with Daydream Kyoto day 2 performers Ether Feels.  This will be their first performance in Japan.

Sea of Tranquilityは、DAYDREAM KYOTOでのパフォーマンスのため、香港からやってきます。SlowdiveやCocteau Twinsと比較されるほど、美しく深くドリーミーな独自のシューゲーズサウンドで最近人気を集めています。今年台湾で行われた、Leave No Trace But Gazeでは DAYDREAM KYOTO  DAY2 に出演する Ether Feelsと同じステージに立った。本公演が、彼らの記念すべき日本初のパフォーマンスとなる。

My Dead Ishikawa – A Corpse in the Happy Valley

One of last year’s most anticipated Japanese shoegaze releases – at least among fans overseas – was hades (the nine stages of change at the deceased remains), the latest from Tokyo-based My Dead Girlfriend.  It was a big year for the band, who earlier in the year shared a stage with Astrobrite and, in support of the album, played a flurry of shows all over the country including a headlining spot at the annual Kyoto Shoegazer event.  By October, eccentric frontman Yuki Ishikawa had begun working on his next musical endeavor, a solo project that would be known simply as My Dead Ishikawa.

One of last year’s most anticipated Japanese shoegaze releases – at least among fans overseas – was hades (the nine stages of change at the deceased remains), the latest from Tokyo-based My Dead Girlfriend.  It was a big year for the band, who earlier in the year shared a stage with Astrobrite and, in support of the album, played a flurry of shows all over the country including a headlining spot at the annual Kyoto Shoegazer event.  By October, eccentric frontman Yuki Ishikawa had begun working on his next musical endeavor, a solo project that would be known simply as My Dead Ishikawa.  

My Dead Ishikawa’s debut album 幸せの谷の死体 (English: A Corpse in the Happy Valley) – set to be released on April 20th – features a number of guest musicians, including current and former members of My Dead Girlfriend, shoegaze and indie pop mastermind Kensei Ogata, GUEVNNA drummer Yamaguchi, and a bunch more.  The idea came up a few years back, but really started coming to fruition last fall.  Each of his guest musicians really helped shape the overall sound on the record, adding their own influence during the recording process.  As a result, the album explores a vast array of sounds, from grindcore to shoegaze to guitar pop to experimental noise.  Ishikawa notes that while there are similar elements to My Dead Girlfriend’s music on the record, it’s how the sound is balanced that really separates it from his previous work.  While MDG’s sound is built more delicately upon a shoegaze/noise-pop foundation, each track on A Corpse in the Happy Valley offers something different.  “The theme is just recording my feelings and ideas, without being too elaborate.”  The resulting sound is a lot more free and experimental, with the pop-shoegaze sound that Ishikawa has to this point become known for representing only small portion of the finished product.  

The moment the album starts, the difference in approach becomes clear, as the first two tracks – the album’s title track and “temi blaster” – are blistering noise pieces.  Ishikawa’s first vision for his debut solo release was a start-to-finish noise album.  “On those two tracks I was going for the fusion of noise and yelling in Japanese like on JOJO Hiroshige’s solo work.”  To make things even more aggressive, Ishikawa called upon his friend Tomoyuki Yamaguchi – of stoner rock band GUEVNNA – to play drums on the first two tracks.  Ishikawa cites Yamaguchi’s previous musical endeavors as the likely reason for the heavy grindcore influence that can also be heard in the songs.  

There’s a major shift in style as the chaotic guitars and violent screams make way for the sort of melodic pop tunes that fans might have been expecting on an Ishikawa solo album.  Just as on the first portion of the album, the sound on the third and fourth tracks, “kininaru aitsu” and “the theme from tenohira”, reflect the guest musicians that performed on them.  This time around current and former members of My Dead Girlfriend are featured, with ex-drummer Takashi Shimano playing drums on both songs and former bassist Fumiaki Arakawa joining in on the third.  The result, not surprisingly, contains sort of bubbly melodies, subtle guitar noise, and playful male-female twin vocals – in other words, this sounds a whole lot like My Dead Girlfriend.   In the studio there was a certain sense of nostalgia for Ishikawa.  “Current member Ideta and former member Shimano played, so there was the image of the band performing around 2007-2008 as we recorded the songs.”  

By this point in the album, there are clearly two distinct sections.  Ishikawa identifies the third act of the album as his favorite.  Composition-wise, the album turns back to the more free-form style found in the opening two tracks.  “A Nervous Addict in the Nittoh Mall Kumagaya” is a whimsical dreamscape of a tune, with wispy synths and spacey guitars woven together over steady backing percussion.  On “Manbiki” and “Submission to the Silence”, things get a little more chaotic.  My Dead Girlfriend drummer Tomoaki Kunii takes the lead in the writing process here and goes all out on the drums.  All around him is a mess of squealing guitar noise, with spoken word vocals – courtesy of Saori Takei and Si,Irene’s Reed David on tracks 6 and 7, respectively – topping everything off.  The latter two songs Ishikawa notes as being influenced by David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time.  

The 8th and final track stands alone as the final theme on the record. The guest musician on “kamikakushi” is none other than Kensei Ogata (of talk, flaria, and perhaps best known to readers of this blog as the man behind Tatuki Seksu).  “I wanted to do a Japanese-style lyrical shoegaze song,” Ishikawa explains.  “I was really happy that Kensei Ogata, who I really like, performed the vocals on the track.”  The song has a talk-esque dreamy vibe to it, with Ogata providing delicate, J-Pop-style vocals over a backdrop over fuzzy guitar noise.  

The album really consists of four phases that, at least stylistically, are pretty different.  That being said, the changing of one word in the band name seems to have given Yuki Ishikawa a sense of freedom to express himself in a variety of ways.  The original plan was to make a noise album, but he was under no obligation to stick to that.  Musically, there’s always seemed to be a certain disconnect between his personality and the tone of My Dead Girlfriend’s music.  There’s a sense of sweetness in the bubbly pop leads and poppy vocal melodies that is contrasted by the sweaty, screaming frontman destroying his guitar at the end of a gig.  Balancing those elements is a key to what My Dead Girlfriend does, and on this album he’s thrown that all out the window.  There’s no balance here.  It’s just a whole bunch of what Yuki Ishikawa feels performed with a bunch of people Yuki Ishikawa likes to work with.  It’s a personal record and that’s what ties the whole thing together.

Outside of a few gigs lined up in May – including a supporting spot on Mayalsian post punk outfit Joi Noir’s Japan tour – there are no concrete plans for My Dead Ishikawa going forward.  Joining Ishikawa as the regular live band will be Sakagami (vocals & guitar) of Shojo Skip, Kawasuji (guitar), and My Dead Girlfriend members Kawakami (bass) and Kunii (drums).  While nothing’s been decided, Ishikawa is considering the possibility of recording with the current lineup in the future.  

Fans overseas are in luck as My Dead Ishikawa’s debut album A Corpse in the Happy Valley, will be available for purchase via outlets that ship internationally.  Also, if you’re in the Tokyo/Saitama area in early May you can catch their first couple gigs.  

Purchase the album: