Looprider – Umi

When they released their 2015 debut “My Electric Fantasy”, Tokyo-based rock outfit Looprider displayed some impressive versatility in creating a cohesive record that incorporated sludgy hooks and pop-infused shoegaze.  Released about nine months later, their second record “Ascension” took things in a quite different direction, drawing on hardcore and harsh noise, while steering clear of any pop influence from the first.  Through two albums the band had covered so much ground that predicting where they might go from there was both intriguing and impossible. 

When they released their 2015 debut “My Electric Fantasy”, Tokyo-based rock outfit Looprider displayed some impressive versatility in creating a cohesive record that incorporated sludgy hooks and pop-infused shoegaze.  Released about nine months later, their second record “Ascension” took things in a quite different direction, drawing on hardcore and harsh noise, while steering clear of any pop influence from the first.  Through two albums the band had covered so much ground that predicting where they might go from there was both intriguing and impossible. 

Today, the band put out their third album, “Umi”, which predictably veers in yet another new direction.  Initially promoted by the band as “an epic post rock concerto”, “Umi” goes beyond that.  The album is a single, mostly instrumental 25-minute track that organically flows from start to finish with massive crescendos and lulls.  

The opening 5 minutes, which the band uploaded as an album teaser a few weeks prior to the release, is a solid setup to the rest of the record.  If “My Electric Fantasy” was a showcase of Looprider’s ability to write catchy, hook-driven tunes, and “Ascension” their talent for tonal brutality, “Umi” brings to light the side of the band that expertly crafts intense music using layers and textures.  You get a feel for this in the album’s opening minutes where a number of simple parts are gradually woven together, building up to a dramatic peak where each of those parts explodes to create a beautiful sort of chaos.  At about the four and a half minute mark, the double drums really shine through, too.

Just as any good post rock has it’s big crescendos, a sudden come-down and reminder that you need to breathe is just as impactful.  While, at first listen, there might seem to be a logical track break – after all, it did make for a really nice standalone edit – the nosedive into the second part feels much more significant as a transition without interrupting the flow of the song. 

Over the next few minutes of the album there’s a delicate build-up, again starting very simple and gradually developing with multiple overlapping parts.  The lyrical portion of the album kicks in here, during which the origins of life are almost chanted over the course of another crescendo, this time to an epic bout of droning rock en route to a frenetic, solo-driven flurry.  The balance between calm and uptempo, soft and thunderous, and the organic, unpredictable flow from part to part does well to conjure the image of the album’s central theme: the ocean. 

The closing portion of the album brings everything down to a strong, steady march, before fading out with clean guitars, while the presence of thick, heavy guitars as the backdrop is a reminder of the strength of the album’s concept. 

As a listening experience, “Umi” is quite different from Looprider’s two previous releases.  However, there are familiar elements from the band’s previous two albums that appear throughout – the occasional grooves and “wall of sound” guitar textures found on “My Electric Fantasy” and the crushing noise of “Ascension” – that are brought together in a unique way, further stretching the boundaries of what Looprider are capable of producing.  With the addition of guest musicians to a lineup that’s already proven itself more than capable of generating huge depth in its sound, Looprider have once again succeeded in belting out a behemoth rock album, when few other bands in Japan are seemingly willing to do so. 

Looprider’s album release party will be taking place on Wednesday, March 29th at the band’s own Pop Sabbath event at Shindaita Fever in Tokyo, where they’ll be supported by moja and Japanese shoegaze legends Luminous Orange.  You can pick up a copy of the CD, which one again features some really nice art from Nasutakeo, at the following locations:

Citrus Nowhere – “A Nightmare Before She Sleeps”

By now it’s no longer much of a secret that Tokyo’s Citrus Nowhere are regarded as one to keep an eye on in the Japanese shoegaze scene.

By now it’s no longer much of a secret that Tokyo’s Citrus Nowhere are regarded as one to keep an eye on in the Japanese shoegaze scene.  I wrote as much in my 2016 preview piece at the beginning of the year, and the band’s commitment to not only putting out more material – seemingly the endgame for a lot of promising young bands here – but to gigging and ironing out any remaining wrinkles in their live game has been a really positive sign.  

The band had a bit of a coming out party in the form of a self-titled EP and release party alongside fellow passengers on the raging war wagon that is the new generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, Yukino Chaos.  At the gig, which took place in Nagoya, there was a sense that everything was still being figured out.  It wasn’t super tight, but you got a feel for what they were doing.  I enjoyed the opportunity to see them.  It didn’t feel like a finished product.  To be fair, it was also the band’s fourth ever show.  

This month Citrus Nowhere released its second EP, this one titled A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as a free download on Bandcamp.  At first listen its hard to ignore the release’s raw production value.  The fuzzed-out guitars dominate the mix while the drums are faint enough in the background to guide you hazily through each song.  There’s a playful poppiness to what’s going on below the layers of noise, and I found the combination more interesting than their previously released work.  

The intro track “Beautiful Lies” is a persistent, free-flowing wash of droning guitars.  It’s a refreshingly unstructured song with a bit of a subtle jangle and light male-female vocal harmonies fluttering around.  There’s some pop there, but it’s subdued for the sake of noise.  

“Blue Enemies” is another that stuck out, perhaps because it’s got a bit of a different vibe from the rest of the EP and it sits right smack in the middle of the five songs.  The beat on this track is infectious and the band does well to create a haunting mood from some trippy textures and subtle falsetto vocals.  

As a stand-alone, Citrus Nowhere’s A Nightmare Before She Sleeps is really enjoyable, but the production will definitely be a turn off for some.  In context though, this EP is a step in the right direction, muddying things up in a scene where too many bands try to keep things super clean.  It’s their willingness to experiment and not shy away from the harsher side of things that makes these guys, in my opinion, such a key member of this new wave of Japanese shoegaze bands.

You can pick up A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as well as their self-titled EP, on Bandcamp for free.  

 

 

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:

The Return of Muso Planet (English/日本語)

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.  Now with the blog re-focused on Japan and a somewhat regular radio show – as well as some other fun projects this year – I can’t go all out on the zine, but I can still effectively run Muso Planet in the form of a blog.  I’ve admittedly lost some touch with music outside Japan over the last year plus, so this will be a great opportunity for me to dive right back in.  This time, I’ll be focusing on reviewing material from overseas in both English and Japanese.  While it may not be as thorough as the zine was, I’m hoping that the blog will serve the same purpose effectively while also being a little more accessible with no downloads and everything embedded.  Anyway, it should be getting under way soon.  

Muso Planetという世界的なウェブジンは久しぶりに再開する!でも今回はちょっと違う形となる。ウェブジンを作るためにインタビュー、翻訳(英語、日本語、スペイン語)、世界中のレーベルとの契約、編集、レイアウト等をほとんど1人でやっていて、各号に沢山の力を入れていました。楽しくて、毎号完成後は満足していたが、このブログを作る目標「日本の良い音楽を海外の方に伝えること」からちょっと離れていた。この1年間半逆に日本の音楽に集中していて、日本、アジアのシューゲイザーラジオ番組をアメリカのDKFMでやっているため、以前のようにMuso Planetを一生懸命やる時間がないけど、ブログの形で出来そうだと思った。ということで、これからMuso Planetブログで海外のシューゲイザー、ノイズ等のアーティストの作品をバイリンガル(英日)でショーケースしていく。ウェブジンのように徹底的なプロジェクトではないだろうが、良いバンドを紹介する目的は変わらないし、ダウンロードする手間のないもっと便利な形になると思います。もうすぐ始まる。

Muso Planet volume 7 Now Available! 第7号配布中!

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After a long wait, Muso Planet volume 7 is now available for download.  You can download it as usual via the website and from Bandcamp as well.  Here is what volume 7 includes!  久しぶりにMuso Planetが配布中!第7号はいつも通りこのサイトでも、Bandcampでもダウンロードができる。以下は今号内容の詳細!

Muso Planet volume 7

Download (ダウンロード |  Bandcamp

Recommended Releases from Russia/ロシアからおすすめのリリース
Hands and Moment
Latino America Shoegaze Presents Guitarists and their Pedals/ラテンアメリカのギターリストのおすすめのエフェクター

With Music From

Magic Love (Japan/日本), Dead Leaf Echo (USA/アメリカ), Divided (Czech Republic/チェコ)

Man in Rug (New Zealand/ニュージーランド), Jaguwar (Germany/ドイツ)

Puna (Peru/ペル), Rev Rev Rev (Italy/イタリア), Chicago Toys (Chile/チリ)

Muso Planet volume 7 coming 11/1!

Muso Planet will be out one week from today on Saturday, November 11.  It’s our first issue in a while and as always, will feature some really cool bands from all over the world.  The band list is as follows:

Dead Leaf Echo (USA)
magic love (Japan)
JAGUWAR (Germany)
Puna (Peru)
Man in Rug (New Zealand)
CHICAGO TOYS (Chile)
Divided (Czech Republic)
rev rev rev (Italy)

[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.

Muso Planet volume 6 Now Available! 第6号配布中!!

Here it is!  Muso Planet volume 6 is now available for download.  We had a slight content change at the last minute but are pleased with the way the issue turned out.  Thank you to everyone involved!  The issue can be downloaded here.
Featuring:

★Sounds Better With Reverb☆
★Barcelona Indie Label Siete Senoritas Gritando☆
★A Review of 2014 In Latin America☆

And the tracklist:
1. Flying Vaginas (Italy) – “Happiness and Flour”
2. Loomer (Brazil) – “Road to Japan”
3. the.city (Japan) – “Fall”
4. Ummagma (Ukraine) – “Risky”
5. Surfer Rosa (France) – “dead in your life”
6. AERO_fALL (Russia) – “Off The Beam My Dreams”
7. Sounds of Sputnik (Russia) – “Astronomical Summer”
8. Luna Ghost (Australia) – “Future End”
9. Miners (Australia) – “Soft Focus”
10. Sexores (Spain) – “Shinigami”

Muso Planet Volume 6 Coming 6/30! 第6号は6月30日に発行予定!

Muso Planet volume 6 will be released on the June 30th! We discuss shoegaze music in Australia with Jimmy from Sounds Better With Reverb and take a look at Spanish Indie Label Siete Señoritas Gritando. Jairo takes a look back at Latinoamerica Shoegaze in the first half of 2014, while looking at releases in the region during the Internet era.
With features on and free music from:
Ummagma (Ukraine)
AERO_fALL (Russia)
Sounds of Sputnik (Russia)
Luna Ghost (Australia)
Flying Vaginas (Italy)
Loomer (Brazil)
Miners (Australia)
Surfer Rosa (France)
the.city (Japan)
Sexores (Spain)