By 1996 the shoegaze genre had sort of peaked in terms of popularity in its first go-round and made way for grunge and Britpop, while slipping away into relative obscurity. In Japan the so-called ‘first wave’ of shoegaze had already come and gone with the country’s founding fathers of the genre long disbanded or still working out a release. 1996 would be the year that Luminous Orange released its debut album Vivid Short Trip, and a mere two years before Supercar would release Three Out Change and effectively kick off a new wave of shoegaze bands in Japan. That’s a very brief glimpse back at the year 1996, but one to just put things in perspective.
1996 was also the year that the first of Whisper Voice Riot’s members were born. The Osaka shoegaze band’s lineup consists of members born in ’96 and ’97, prompting comments about how they’re the future of the Japanese scene and whatnot. The concept isn’t just based on the fact that they’re all still in high school, though. They’re actually really, really good. Right around the end of last year they put out their first track “Stargaze” and prompted a whole bunch of Tweets by people who were surprised that it was made by teenagers. Admittedly, I was a little curious, if not skeptical, about how things would go from there. Having witnessed first-hand how little free time high schoolers have and experiencing how tedious arranging band practices can be, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they just fell victim to the pressures of university entrance exams and disappeared entirely.
That wasn’t at all the case, however, and Whisper Voice Riot has had a great 2015, during which the band been a part of some pretty good gigs and put out some new material – the first of which was a danceable follow up single aptly titled “Let’s Dance and Sink Down”. Their songwriting ability once again grabbed a lot of attention, resulting in an invitation to perform at Hata Yusuke’s monthly Total Feedback event at Koenji HIGH in Tokyo – something of a rite of passage for Japanese shoegaze bands. However, it’s in the Kansai-area shoegaze scene that Whisper Voice Riot has quickly become a mainstay. Their emphatic performance at the Kyoto Shoegazer vol. 3 event at Annie’s Cafe this summer showed a level of confidence and poise beyond their years that impressed the hell out of me and just about everyone else at the show.
The highlight of the year for Whisper Voice Riot was undoubtedly this past weekend in Osaka where the band had a supporting slot at the Tokenai Namae album release party. They had teased a release of their very own with a new track on their Soundcloud page, but the show in Osaka was where they officially put out their debut 3-track EP Before the Morning Cleaves Our Night. As a further testament to their increased standing in the Osaka music scene, the maiden release was produced by Post Modern Team’s Kishida-san.
With their first two singles being pretty different, I was a little curious whether Whisper Voice Riot would go the way of the first and choose the indie pop/shoegaze path or if they might just choose the pop route. Naturally, as a fan of the former I had my own hopes, especially seeing how their aggressive live show would be an asset to a Japanese shoegaze landscape that could use a bit of a jolt. Needless to say, I am pleased with the balance of the EP and the fact that they, along with Kishida-san, did not shy away from the loud side of things while still keeping the catchy pop melodies in tact.
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said in terms of Whisper Voice Riot’s potential. There’s still room for growth, but they’ve shown that they should be capable of filling out their sound even more as time goes by. I still wonder about the effect that their formal education may have on their creative passion, but to this point it’s done nothing to slow them down. I had them on my list of bands to keep an eye on in 2015, and it’s reasonable to extend that claim for the foreseeable future.
At the moment Whisper Voice Riot’s EP is only available at shows, but they’ve announced that it will be available via mail order in the near future. Stay tuned by following the band on Facebook and Twitter.