Welcome! ようこそ!

I set up this blog to hopefully introduce those outside Japan to some of Japan's best music and a taste of Osaka and Kyoto's thriving underground music scene.

Alot of what I post will be CDR's and CD's sold by bands on the Kyoto/Osaka live circuit. Hopefully giving a little exposure to the bands outside Japan. The rest will be Japanese bands from pretty much any and every generation and genre. From 60's Rock'n'Roll and folk to 00's noise and electronica.

If anyone has an issue with me uploading their music please contact me and I'll remove the links immediatley. My intention is to introduce this music to new audiences. So please help support these bands by buying their releases or catching them live if you have the opportunity. Alot of these guys are working full time jobs on top of making great music. Please send comments, complaints, recommendations and seasonal greetings to stinkinhippy@hotmail.com

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ok Motherfuckers! Let's Go!!

I've posted a few Ultra Bide related things before and have always gotten a number of emails and inquiries about Hide and his band. So you'll be glad to here that Hide and his cohorts are embarking on their first U.S. and Canadian tour in almost 2 decades accompanied by a new album on Alternative Tentacle records.

Originally formed in Kyoto in 1978. Ultra Bide were amongst Japan's early waves of young sonic aggravators (Including noise legend Jojo Hiroshige as one of the bands original members.). Centered around mastermind Hide Fujiwara the band is an ever evolving beast that has spanned multiple line-ups, multiple styles and even multiple continents. In 1985 Hide moved to New York and reconstituted Ultra Bide as a prog-punk 3 piece where he toured extensively, built up a dedicated following and released a number of EPs and albums through Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacle records.

In 2001 Hide moved back to Japan and re-established himself as one of the Japanese undergrounds key figures. Without slowing his stride Hide has for the last 10 or so years been tirelessly working away in a prolific number of band projects and musical collaborations, championing up and coming new waves of Japanese bands, cultivating the underground scene and crusading against Japan's bullshit "pay to play" system.

During that time Hide has been honing and refining his latest incarnation of Ultra Bide as a super tight, non-nonsense twins bass and drums power trio. And at the ripe old age of 53 Hide is producing the best music of his entire career. Not something you can say of many aging punksters. Ultra Bide are a formidable live band who regularly show up eager young upstarts less than half their age. Playing with the sort of power and precision that decades of living and breathing music has possessed them with.

I've seen hundreds of bands perform and still Ultra Bide stand head and shoulders above them all. Consistently solid regardless of the size or reaction of the crowd or the venue Ultra Bide are never not an awesome band to see. I must have seen them play at least four dozen times since they were first introduced to me about 5 years ago... Ahhh fuck it! Just go and see them! The cunts deserve it and more importantly you deserve to see Ultra Bide.

Tour starts 9th October. Album drops October 15th.

2013 10/9 (Wed) at Death By Audio Brooklyn, NY
2013 10/10 (Thu) at El N Gee Club New London, CT
2013 10/11 (Fri) at Flywheel East Hampton, MA
2013 10/12 (Sat) at Midway Café Jamaica Plain, MA
2013 10/13 (Sun) at The City Belle Pub Belleville, ONT CANADA with SNFU
2013 10/14 (Mon) at Van Gogh’s Ear Guelph, ONT CANADA with SNFU
2013 10/15 (Tue) at Call The Office London, ONT CANADA
2013 10/16 (Wed) at The Hideout Toronto, ONT CANADA
2013 10/17 (Thu) at Café Chaos Montreal, QUE CANADA
2013 10/18 (Fri) at Khyber Pass Philadelphia, PA
2013 10/19 (Sat) at The Saint Asbury Park, NJ
2013 10/21 (Mon) at Metro Gallery Baltimore, MD
2013 10/22 (Tue) at Black Cat (Backstage) Washington, DC
2013 10/23 (Wed) at Strange Matter Richmond, VA
2013 10/24 (Thu) at Bernie's Distillery Columbus, OH
2013 10/25 (Fri) at Garfield Artworks Pittsburgh, PA
2013 10/26 (Sat) at Cake Shop New York, NY
2013 10/31 (Thu) at Hemlock Tavern San Francisco, CA
2013 11/1 (Fri) at Eli's Mile High Club Oakland, CA
2013 11/2 (Sat) at The Blue Lagoon Santa Cruz, CA




Regular posts coming soon. Sorry.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Xinlisupreme - Tomorrow Never Comes

X is for Xinlisupreme

Given that these guys are the only Japanese band I know of that begin with X (Besides the ridiculous X Japan.) choosing a band for X wasn't very difficult.

Formed in Oita on the Japanese island of Kyushu the elusive 2 piece serve up some pretty eclectic offerings. whether it's blasts of industrial noise, 808 drum sequences or ambient electronica, the one constant is the bands love of their bedroom recording quality Lo-Fi sound. I can't say I really "get" these guys but they do make for an interesting and unique listening experience. 

This is the bands debut album released back in 2001. The band managed to find a decent following outside of Japan thanks to the album being released on the prestigious UK indie label Fat Cat. The band then seemed to drop off the radar for almost 10 years until the release of their sophomore effort "4 Bombs" last year. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Win a Sheep Free - Small Rainbow Meets Raindrops

W is for Win a Sheep Free

Despite having liked this band for a number of years now it wasn't until about a week ago that I found out that prolific drummer and multi-instrumentalist Itoken was a member. It seems anything that he touches is usually worth seeking out. Be it his wonderfully quirky solo releases, his involvement in Jazz-Math rockers Gnu, or collaborations projects like d.v.d. and Harpy. And the oddly named Win a Sheep Free also deserve a place on his impressive resume. 

This 2004 album by the Tokyo based 5-piece (vocals, 2 acoustic guitars, drums/percussion and a VJ.) is the only release made by the now defunct project besides a 3 track EP released the same year entitled "With Little Songs". The band make some gorgeously airy sounding folksy, acoustic songs that also have a wonderful kineticism and technical dynamism to them that almost drag the band into the realms of being something bordering on Math-Rock. As a result the band sound very approachable and listenable but will probably also catch the ear of those with more discerning musical tastes. 

As mentioned before the project seems to have long been put to bed and the disappearance of the bands official website which remained up until around a year or 2 ago indicates that there is little chance of the quintet resurrecting the band but the ever prolific Itoken has plenty of other works worth exploring, vocalist Sachie Yoda is still active under the solo pseudonym Yoodacoo and I'm sure the guitarists Shoichi Minato and Sho Hirai along with VJ Jun Sugai have also worked in multiple other band projects. 

Anyway just enjoy this perfect summer record.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Vampire! - Vampire! 2009 Live

V is for Vampire!

Forming back in 1979 Vampire! emerged from the same Kyoto underground scene that birthed Kansai Punk legends Ultra Bide and Noise provocateurs Hijokaidan. The band's sole consistent member since inception has been guitarist and vocalist Wada who also performs solo noise slots under the alias Wada the Vampire. 

Musically Vampire! sound very much instep with their fellow Japanese Post-Punk, New Wave peers like Friction and Ultra Bide with some very clear nods to bands like Gang Of Four and This Heat. Vampire! never enjoyed the same modest success that some of their contemporaries achieved but that hasn't stopped Wada from fighting the good fight and after almost 35 years of persistent performing is still more than capable of showing bands less than half is age how it's done and shows no sign of hanging up his spurs anytime soon.

This live CD-R is a recording of a show they played Kyoto's Takutaku live house in 2009. It's a great recording both in terms of the quality of the sound and performance. Testament to decades of finely honed musicianship. Vampire! still play fairly regularly at venues around Kyoto so be sure to check them out.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Up-Tight - Early Years

U is for Up-Tight

Carrying the torch first lit by early 70's Japanese noise-psychedelia pioneers like Hadaka No Rallizes, The Jacks and Taj Mahal Travellers Up-Tight have been gloomily moping around since their inception in 1993. True to Rock'n'Roll cliche and despite the trio's 20 year history and strong reputation amongst their peers the band have managed to maintain a thick enigmatic cloud around themselves. No small feat in the all enveloping internet age. The bands records are notoriously hard to track down with their discography spread across multiple labels, across multiple continents in multiple formats and often in very small numbers.

"Early Years" is a 2007 re-release and re-master of the first self-titled album originally put out in 1999 and in typical Up-Tight fashion was limited to a run of 600 copies. The band along with their dogged adherence to the sounds of Rallizes and The Velvets also filter in their own flavour by throwing in more contemporary influences from U.K.Shoegazer bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses. Dense walls of reverb drenched guitar wash over unintelligibly echoey vocals as brooding drums slowly build up momentum for the inevitable unleashing of the claustrophobia inducing acid-lick guitar solo. They may not win many points for originality but you can't fault them for executing on an age old formula with effective authenticity. The re-release also comes with 2 bonus tracks of early Live and studio recordings dating back to 1994.


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Turalica (トゥラリカ) - Mukuna Sourui (無垢な藻類)

T is for Turalica

This Nagoya based 3 piece describe themselves as "a pop band for fans of Captain Beefheart, Joan of Arc, Arthur Russel, XTC and Eltron Fou Lelouble." which is a pretty great self-description and one that hopefully piqued your interest. Turalica's music is sparse, angular and off-kilter but also refreshingly listernable and catchy. The band do an awesome job of transforming a sound that usually comes off as abrasive and confrontational and some how manage to make it lulling and soft.

The band put out their first e.p. early last year entitled "Koke No Saiten" (Moss Festival) with mastering duties suitably being handled by Shellac and Volcano Suns' Bob Weston. But not wanting to step on the bands toes I've opted to upload their first demo single "Mukuna Sourui" (Meaning "Innocent Algae". Are you detecting the perhaps John Cage inspired Mycological theme here?) as well as the bonus disk of unreleased tracks and remixes that came with the bands e.p.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Spectrum Synthesize! - Humour and Destruction (ユーモア アンド デストラクション)

S is for Spectrum Synthesize!

Roughly two and a half hours drive west of Osaka lies the cosmopolitan city of Okayama. Adjacent to Osaka`s Psychedelia and Prog inspired "Zero Generation" Okayama began to breed it's own young generation of musical experimenters and wave makers. While channeling similar No-Wave and Noise influences as their Osaka counterparts Okayama's vanguard came in a very distinctive Hardcore, Post-Punk flavour (How can you spot an Okayama band? It probably has cowbell in it.) that set them apart from their slightly more recognised big city contemporaries. 

Spectrum Synthesize! were one of those bands. Their origins began in 2001 and went through multiple lineup changes over the years until their eventual dissolution in 2008. Originally a dual bass and drums setup the band became a 4 piece (As they appear on this record) before expanding their Guit, Vocals/samples, Drums and Bass configuration to include Sax. 

Melt Banana and Deracine with a smattering of early Boredoms are the easiest comparisons to make along with fellow Okayama bands such as Accidents In Too Large Field and I want City with whom the band have shared members. In other words attention deficient, schizophrenic punk that sounds like an entire albums worth of ideas being thrown into a washing machine at the same time and then spat out as 60 second long delinquent disco-punk rampages. This, the bands only full release clocking in at 11 tracks in just over 11mins  will chew you up, ruffle up your hair, steal your pocket money and spit you out before you`ve even had time to lace up your dancing shoes. More cowbell!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Rat Holic - Not For Sale 2

R is for Rat Holic

Be it Rockabilly, Surf Rock, Proto-Punk or just some good old fashioned Rock'n'Roll there seems to be no end to the number of retro rock Japanese bands that shimmy their way onto stage. I've always been a little baffled by just how prolific this seemingly long extinct little sub-genre has been in the land of the raising sun. Perhaps it's the glamorous allure of Americana that seems so exotic and mystifying to this small pacific island. Or maybe there's a Toyota like assembly line built sometime in the 50's that pumps these bands en masse but someone just forgot to flip the switch and shut it down.

Whatever the reason I'm glad they exist and Rat Holic like many of their legion are refreshingly authentic sounding. The Tokyo based 5-piece (Drums, Guit, Bass, Organ and Sax) who formed in 1999 have no shame in how doggedly they stick to Surf Rock's sunblasted formulas and twangy tropes. Besides the occasional sprinkling of some far eastern flavour there's no attempt to fuse their music with more contemporary genres and influences. The band run through a number of Surf Rock standards like "Church Key" and "Red River Rock" as well as a number of their own original compositions. The slightly fuzzy analogue sounding recordings also lend to the sense of authenticity the band possess making them sound like some long lost obscure 60's Japanese Surf Rockers.

Monday, 3 June 2013

QSON - House Dust Meltdown

Q is for QSON.

Qson's music is hard to categorise so I'll go with his own description of his music "Genreless-Freakout-Avant-Spiritual". The Chris Morris coined phrase "Seriously monged music" springs to mind. In less vague terms Qson's music is basically a mashup of lo-fi oddball musical collages layered with garbled nonsense vocals, random audio samples and slightly off key original instrumentation. It's all rather silly and aimless but manages to be thoroughly entertaining in the process. Although I could also see it being equally effective being put to use as a torture device in American blackspot interogation facilities. 

"House Dust Meltdown" is Qson's sophomore album released in 2008 on what appears to be his own label Aaahg Records. (Given that the only releases on the label are this and his first album "Dirty Toilet Restaurant".) I havent been able to dig up much information about the guy so I've no idea whereabouts in Japan he's from (Assuming he's not infact some sort of extra terrestial.) or if he's still active. 


Monday, 27 May 2013

Pig Fat Pigs - Jabberwocky

P is for Pig Fat Pigs

I found this beauty in the treasure trove of weird and rare records that is Forever Records. Besides the great band name what caught my eye about this record was a blurb that said something about "punkish lounge music" and a reference to the Lounge Lizards. I inquired further with Taro the owner of Forever Records and Osaka's No.1 source on obscure music and he described it as "junk jazz" and name dropped Tom Waits which was enough to make me drop some cash on this mysterious find.

Turns out my intuition payed dividends. Unfortunatley despite scowering the net I've managed to turn up almost no information on the band so all I've got to go on are the scraps of info contained in the liner notes. The band were (are...?) a Kyoto 5 piece (guit, bass, drums, organ, sax) who as was promised play some excellent Tom Waits-esque Junk Jazz. It seems most of the songs were composed by bassist Shimizu Kosuke (Who now plays in accordion/contrabass duo Milk!Mama who are also well worth checking out.) while the lyrics and vocals are handled by Shiraishi Takahide. The vocals are mostly sung in a gravely, jibberish approximation of what I asume is supposed to sound like English with occasional sentences and phrases emerging from the cacophony of harsh, slightly off-tune and out of time guitars, sax and clinking-clanking junkyard percussion. "Life's too short to fuck your mom" is one that springs out from the opening track "Bore Bore" a twisted, elephant man like bastardisation of the Pink Panther theme. It's the exact sort of thing I can imagine Tom Waits sitting around tapping his crusty, yellow tabacco stained toes to while sipping on a bottle of illuminous green moonshine. You would be advised to do likewise. 


Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Autopsy Report of a Drowned Shrimp - Himitsu Daigaku Vol.4 (溺れたエビの検死報告書 - ヒミツ大学第四回)

O is for Oboreta Ebi No Kenshi Houkokusho

Oboreta Ebi or the bands official English translation The Autopsy Report of a Drowned Shrimp are a band that even amongst Kansai's legion of off-the-wall eccentrics are in an oddball league entirely of their own.

Oboreta Ebi are the brainchild of visual artist and contra-bass player Yamamoto Kazuki (山本一慶). Kazuki developed a childhood obsession with "kaiju" (monsters) from Japanese movies and TV shows like Godzilla, Ultraman and Kamen Rider and dreamed of one day forming his very own kaiju band. Young Kazuki spent hours sketching designs and concepts in his school notebook before eventually settling on the idea of creating a band of monster shrimp. Fascinated by their alien-like exoskeletons he began making his own masks and costumes. But the concept didn't end there. Kazuki also wanted the band to sound like the sort of music one might a imagine a group of overgrown, sentient prawns making. 

So what sort of music do shrimp make? As it turns out they sound like a sort of cinematic, nautical themed P-Funk mixed The Residents and the Star Wars cantina band.In fact Kazuki's own dreadlocked shrimp mask is a tribute to to the grand wizard of funk himself George Clinton. Kazuki's frantic slapped basslines form the backbone of the crustean 7-pieces groove accompanied by a polyrhythmic percussion section and some grandiose horns. The bands also draws the inspiration for its name from the Frank Zappa album "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Witch".

The bands been together for over 10 years now in various evolving forms and have just recently put out their first proper release on Osaka underground label Gyuune Cassette which you can get here.

I won't be uploading that so the best alternative I could think of was to rip the audio from a DVD the band gave away at a talk show/performance I attended about 2 years ago. What you get is 3 tracks and over 15 minutes of decent audio quality music from one of the most unique and entertaining bands in Japan. Be sure to catch them live if you have the chance for and experience you won't forget.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Neons - Yasashii Jinbutsuga (ネオンズ - やさしい人物画)

N is for Neons

There were a couple of strong choices for N but I decided to go with Neons when I found out they've just put out their first mini-album which you can get from Amazon.

3 girls, 1 guy, 3 synthesizers, 1 drum. This Electro New-Wave synth driven 4 piece formed in 2010 possess that uniquely Japanese sense of cool that these small mountainous islands seem to do so well. The cold robotic like emotional detachment coupled with satisfyingly chunky grooves that defy you to but on your finest Miami Vice Hawaiin shirt and sleekest white slip-on dancing shoes.        

3 of the tracks from this demo CDR which I picked up from the band just over a year ago make it onto the album. The recordings sound like they were made during studio rehearsals but besides a little fuzzyness are excellent quality. Be sure to pick up their album if you like what you hear. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Momoiro Jinja - Maido Osawagaseshite Orimasu! (桃色神社 - 毎度おさわがせしております!)

M is for Momoiro Jinja

Momoiro Jinja (Their name literally meaning "peach coloured shrine".) are a so called "Neo-Scum" band. A colourful little Osaka sub-genre that seems to have a cozy membership of 2. The other being Clitoric Ris. A half naked balding salary man who sings cheesy pop songs about sex, food, ex-girlfriends and being broke in nothing but a pair of light-up speedos with a crotch mounted theremin.

Inspired by the Osaka Scum scene that kicked off some time in the early 90's (See my previous post about Ultra Fuckers for more on Scum.) these guys have been knocking about for over 10 years now. No small feat for a genre that's transient and fleeting nature means few bands stick around long enough to establish a name or following.

The Osaka trio (Drums. bass, keyboard) play tongue in cheek No-Wavey, Hardcore Punk. The drums and bass combine to form a solid rhythm section for keyboard player Wandera's discordant mashed keys. The band break up their live sets with their signature comedy sketches which are usually either random and bizarre or vulgar and crude or often both in extreme doses. The bands lyrics follow in similarly silly fashion. Momoiro are a band who take not being serious very seriously.

This is the bands first self-released CDR from 2008. The band recently put out their second CDR entitled "Prius" which you can get hold of by contacting the band or picking it up at their live shows.


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Love Furniture Lounge Bears - Love Furniture Lounge Bears from AGRA

L is for Love Furniture Lounge Bears

Unfortunately I don't know much about this merry little collective of eccentrics. What I do know is that they were (are?) a 3-piece Tokyo band who perform wigged out experimental pop music in adorable fluffy bear costumes. The album was released in 1999 on a label called Club Lunatica. The label is Japanese but is also home to a number of international acts. The label still looks like it's relatively active but the band themselves have no internet presence besides a handful of videos on Youtube.

The Lounge Bears for the most part produce some toe-tappingly up-beat, off-kilter pop tunes slightly reminiscent of Japan's 80`s Techno Pop pioneers like YMO, The Moon RidersHikashu and Plastics. The band do occasionally go off the rails though so you will be forgiven for hitting the skip button when that 4 minute long track of telephone rings and dial tones kicks in. Probably fun to see it live but on CD it just kind of breaks up the run of otherwise great songs.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Kukan Gendai (空間現代) - Live@UrBANGUILD/20110923

K is for Kukan Gendai

kuukan (空間) 
space, room, airspace

gendai (現代)
noun, adverbial noun
nowadays, modern era, modern times, present-day

The bands name does a pretty good job of evoking just what this bands music embodies and manifests itself as. It's a phrase that is semiotically hard to define and comes across more pretentious and sterile than it does insightful or provocative. 

 "Sterile" is usually an adjective that would have a very negative connotation when attached to a bands sound but it's sterility and minimalism that make this band so compelling to listen to. The Tokyo 3-piece (Drums, Bass, Guit/vocal) formed in 2006 and through the years have refined their unique sound to a mechanical level of precision. Shaving off every excess and grinding down every smooth edge until only the jagged skeletal remains of the track are left. If Battles, Don Caballero and Japan's own Toe are Math Rock then these guys are pretty much just a digital stream of ones and zeros. 

This live CD-R was given away with copies of their recently released second album on their most recent tour. The CD's opening track perfectly introduces the bands sound. Sparse polyrhythmic elements slowly come together to reveal a cohesive groove as the track seems to construct itself from the ground up like a mechanised assembly line. The band throw in masterful little  extra half beats and phrase repetitions that sound like your CD is skipping just to fuck with you. It's not all souless robotics though as periodically Captain Beefheart-esque asynchronous, atonal vocal and guitar lines weave their way through through the bands maze of rhythms and every once in a while they cut loose just to let you know they still know how to rock out. 


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Jinrui Minna Kyoudai - Tora! Tora! Tora! (人類皆兄弟 - トラ!トラ!トラ!)

J is for Jinrui Minna Kyoudai

I first saw this band at a gig in Kyoto about a month ago. The band seemed unphased by being given the closing slot in an impressive lineup of bands that included live veterans such as Ultra Bide and Melt Banana. Their decently produced 10 track CD-R named "Tora! Tora! Tora!" after the infamous code-word used by the Japanese in their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was only 100 yen ($1!) so how could I resist?

The band whose name roughly translates as "All Men are Brothers" (Jinrui = Humankind, Minna = Everyone, Kyoudai = Siblings) are a Kyoto 4-piece who look like they've been together since 2009. But despite what their moniker might imply these fuzzed-out, sleazy punksters sound about as far removed from their hippyish, free love namesake as you can possibly imagine.


Friday, 29 March 2013

Ichi - Mono

I is for Ichi

Ichi is the Pseudonym/solo project of multi-instrumentalist and artist Eiichi Shimasaki. Born in Osaka and raised in nearby Nagoya Eiichi is best known for his work as steelpan drummer with long standing eclectic, world music influenced rockers Nohshintoh. Eiichi performs delighful one man shows that utilize everything from accordions, steel drums, ping pong balls, typewriters and toothbrushes to his own hand crafted instruments like his glockenspiel-contrabass hybrid.  

Charming seems the most appropriate adjective to use when describing Ichi's music but doesn't really seem to do justice to just how marvellously charming his music and performances actually are. Fusing a wide range of World Music influences with field recordings and some light Jazz. Ichi comes off a little bit like a more ambient, slightly more psychedelic sounding Manu Chao. All sung in his bizarrely cartoonish high pitched muppet jibberish. This is Ichi's first studio which was released back in 2005 but he also released a second album entitled "Memo" in 2010. Ichi regularly plays plays shows in the UK and Europe so catch him if you have the chance. You won't forget it.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Helicoid 0222MB - Helicoid 0222MB

H is for Helicoid 0222MB.

Helicoid were an all girl Osaka 3-piece that formed in 1997. Regulars at the venue-of-choice for Osaka's experimental underground Bears Live House, the band quickly caught the attention of venue owner and former Boredoms/Omoidehatoba Guitarist Yamamoto Seiichi. The band made a number of appearances on compilations curated by Yamamoto before releasing their first full length album on Yamamoto's own label Ummo records. The band released 2 more albums before seeming to cease activity sometime in 2004.

A fetishistic love of Psychedelia, Prog, Noise and Krautrock which is fairly typical of Osaka's typically untypical underground vanguard is given the bands own spin by fusing it with some heavy influences from the more contemporary Shibuya Kei movement. A sub-genre that sprang up primarily around Tokyo's Shibuya district around the mid-90`s and most closely associated with the sound of bands like Fishmans, Cibbo Matto and Supercar. As a result Helicoid's sound is pretty ecclectic and manages to balance tangential spacey tracks with more immediate catchy grooves.. The bands 2 follow up albums "Ele Shock" and "Flying Startlyzer" are also worth checking out if you enjoy this one. Although they all seem to be out of print so could be tricky to track down.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Gnu - Suro

G is for Gnu 

Tokyo based Gnu (Pronounced as "Nu" the G is silent.) are a semi-improv unit formed by avant garde Jazz performer and composer Okura Masahiko in 1997. The band have had a couple of different lineups over the years switching bassists, drummers and guitarists with Okura being the only constant member. In 1998 Itoken joined the band as their drummer and in 2001 the ensemble began using a dual drum setup by throwing Kumada Takashi into the mix. The current 5 man lineup being Okura on Sax, Clarinet and Synth, Itoken and Kumada on drums, Taneishi Yukiya on bass and Chiba Hiroki on violin, contra bass and electronics.

The bands angular jazz/math-rock is probably most easily compared to genre figureheads Tortoise. The music is composed but live the arrangements of the songs are improvised with Okura taking the role of composer/master of ceremonies by communicating through hand gestures the length, tempo and dynamics of musical phrases and which players are playing etc.

Released in 2003 "Suro" is the bands 3rd studio album. The album represents a nice middle ground between its more accessible 2007 followup "Event" and the their most recent 2009 album the very cerebral sounding "Knowns". The dual drumming is fairly subtle on this release but check out "Knowns" to see the impressively nuanced beat juggling the band have developed over the years. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Funn - 1st Demo

F is for Funn

One of the fun things (No punn intendended.) about uploading things in alphabetical order is that it's allowed me to rediscover parts of my music collection that had been blanked from memory. No "F" bands immediately came to mind until I dove into my horded mountain of aural artifacts and I pulled out this Demo CDR by Funn. (Fabulous Vibrations and Freedom were also on my candidate shortlist.) 

Unfortunately there's not a lot I know about Funn besides what nuggets of info are contained in the CD liner notes and their defunct website/blog. The demo was recorded in 2008 and the band seem to have been inactive since 2009. The 4-piece are listed in the credits as Tamai Masae O0wng, MDLPitnblog and Kenn3 and the demo was recorded in Rinky Dink studios in Tokyo so I assume they're a Tokyo band.

Details aside Funn are exactly that, toe-tapping, head-bobbing, trashy, fuzzy, lo-fi Japanese garage punk. There's some decent variety in 9 track "Demo" CDR that show off the bands versatility. From mid-tempo grungier moments that sound reminiscent of Tokyo rockers Silver Fins to breakneck hardcore grooves that bring to mind the similarly styled D.I.Y. punkers Sika Sika all mixed in with some catchy retro-throwback guitar hooks. 

Also F is for Fucking Thee Oh Sees came to fucking Japan and fucking rocked fuck yeah! Thanks guys for making the expense trip to this tiny, distant island. Hopefully John returned home with enough money to buy a new shirt. Fucking bum!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

EAD - Lead Or Deadead? Head Or Ead.

E is for EAD.

EAD are one of the many bands that sprang up during the sudden peak in interest in the Japanese experimental underground scene in the mid-90's that followed on the heels of the success of bands like Boredoms, Ruins and Acid Mothers Temple.

"Lead Or Deadead?" was put out by renowned Osaka D.I.Y. label Gyuune Cassette in '97. The label was created by local musician Suhara Keizo in '94 as a way of documenting the local underground experimental scene. Over the years the label has been home to some of Japan's best known musical vanguard including Yamamoto Seiichi (Boredoms, Omoidehatoba), Hiroshi Na (Hadaka No Rallizes, Port Cuss, Niplets), Tabata Mitsuru (Acid Mothers Temple, Zeni Geva) as well as younger generations of cosmic sonic adventurers such as Afrirampo and LSD March. 

EAD were a 4-piece collaboration project (Junji Miike, Atsushi Shibata, Koichi Yoshimura, Manabu Ishikuma. Off the top of my head the members don't ring any bells but I'm sure most of them must have been active in other bands and projects. Kudos to any knowledgeable reader who can point them out to me.) that bare many of the hallmarks of the underground scene at the time. Genre-less experimentations into noise-psychedelia with heavy Krautrock, prog and No-wave influences. The album also features a number of guest musicians including members of Omoide Hatoba and Solmania.

It doesn't look like the CD is still available (I found my copy tucked away in the treasure trove of Japanese underground gems that is Forever Records.) but you could always try contacting Suhara himself through the Gyuune Cassette website to inquire about it. Yeah, when I say D.I.Y. label I mean D.I.Y. label.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Deracine - Deracine (デラシネ - デラシネ)

D is for Deracine.

This Tokyo based 3 piece create the sort of off-the-wall-bat-shit-crazy music that could only possibly have been produced by Japan. The sample heavy noise-punk Tokyo 3 piece (Drums, Bass, Samples/electronics.) are slightly reminiscent of art-punk veterans Melt Banana only injected with a little more humour and the weirdness dial cranked up a few more notches. Tracks are fast and frantic with more change ups than a Lady Gaga concert. The total running time of this 15 track album clocking in at just over 15mins. Lyrics come in the form of tongue-in-cheek awkward, misappropriated catch phrase English seemingly extrapolated from imported TV, movies and media and half remembered English lessons. 

Not too sure when the band formed but this is their self titled debut put out on Tokyo hardcore label Less Than TV in 2006. More recently the band put out a split CD with LA band Mikki & The Mauses.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Captain Sentimental - Sounds Of Powerspots (I & II)

C is for Captain Sentimental. 

Tokyo based improv collaboration project made up of members for Bossston Cruizing Mania, Panicsmile, Groundcover and Owlights. The band play loose flowing improvised sets of experimental "hip-hop" that sounds something like DJ Krush or Madlib's Quasimodo project on a Krautrock tangent. Grooves drift in and out of focus as members float ideas into a free flowing stream of consciousness until something snags.

Powerspots is a CDR the band put out a year or 2 ago and contains 2 live recordings roughly 20 to 30 mins in length.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Bolshoiz - 1st

B is for Bolshoiz. "Punk" project from Osaka's mysterious master of ceremonies Alco Degurutieni. Degurutieni is known for his elaborate stage shows and diverse performances with each outing being different from his last. Sometimes it could be a small affair with just a handful of musicians by his side shrowded in darkness illuminated by a sole red lamp. Other times he will have an ensemble of musicians and performers to accompany him with elaborate stage props that range from burnt out cars to metal grinders and scaffolding. Whether bombastic or eerily intimate you can be sure Degurutieni will put on a memorable show.

With a similar croak and a persuasion towards Junk-Jazz with an Eastern European slant Degurutieni could almost be the lost Japanese love child of the devil himself Tom Waits. Here Degurutieni teams up with regular band collaborators the exceedingly talented drummer Watanabe and amplified tuba player Daisuke Takaoka. Joining the motley crew is also Black Light Orchestra's Yannick Dupont.

The first 2 tracks off this 2007 CDR could definitely be described as a sort of punk (Albeit Degurutieni's own distinctive rendering of it.) while the last 3 tracks sound more like Degurutieni's usual exotic, sleazy, drunk Jazz. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Aleks Et Les Japonaises - Ojamashimasu (おじゃまします)

I always have trouble deciding what to upload next so to make the decision easier I will now start uploading things in alphabetical order. Well at least until I get bored of the idea or get stuck on a letter I can't find anything for.

A is for Alek Et Les Japonaises a Belgian based duo with Alek and his Japanese partner. Alek are purveyors of super catchy French lounge electro-pop. It's all lighthearted tongue-in-cheek fun with the pair alternating between amusing Japanese and French lyrics. My personal favourite on this self released EP is track 5 "Kuchi Kusai". A super catchy little ditty about intolerably bad breath so watch who's around when you inevitably start singing it to yourself in the mornings.

Alek frequently play shows at various places around Europe and also come over to Japan occasionally so check their official website for tour dates. You can buy their music at their shows or download it from their Soundclick page.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Mandog - Dream Of Liquid

Hope everyone had a good xmas and New Year. I was back in the UK for a week or two hence no updates.

There are few things I love more on this earth than a stone cold slab of psyched out Krautrock and Mandog serve it in spades. The Tokyo 3 piece (Guit/Moog, Bass, Drums) band very much evoke the sound of Can circa-the early 70's. Blissed out, indulgent psychedelic freakouts reminiscent of Can's legendary epic improv sessions. There's nothing better than the sound of a group of talented musicians cutting loose and letting it all hang out.    

The Can connections also runs a little deeper. According to the liner notes penned by non other than former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki Mandog's founder Keiichi Miyashita was a Jazz guitarist before hanging up his guitar and retiring from music in his early 20's. It wasn't until 10 years later when he saw Damo Suzuki performing with his travelling improv project "Netweork" that he was inspired to start his music career afresh. 

Mandog is essentially Keiichi himself with the band line-up changing with each performance. Sometimes it's solo with the aid of drum machines, synths and loops pedals and sometimes he's joined by a host of other musicians. On this particular recording he's accompanied by Drummer Masataka Fujikake and Bassist Akira Kikuchi.