What separates the 2012 incarnations manic noisemakers Polysics and EeL? Both made vital albums of spazzy rock in the early 2000′s, unpredictable stuff that kept you focused on the noises bam-powing into your headphones. Both acts also pretty much do the same thing now as they did in 2004. Yet whereas, at some point, Polysics unchanging love of Devo’s discography changed from thrilling appreciation to “oh, Polysics put out another album…hmm yeah I’ll pass,” EeL’s jittery blend of electro-powered cuteness remains captivating today. “Peekaboo” features the hallmarks of EeL’s sound – drum ‘n’ bass percussion, no-concern-for-anything charge forward, steel drums at the end – but it captivates because every song EeL releases has the potential to spin off into a new dimension mid song (where Polysics have become, well, predictable). “Peekaboo” is catchy, sugar-laced pop full of fun little details – catch the cartoon “sproing” sound effect, for one, or the various little sonic twists and turns – that doesn’t take EeL towards any new sonic direction, but she doesn’t need to because her entire style is built around controlled chaos. Listen below.
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The fledgling Fantasing label really making this summer count – they’ve released two split EPs in about two months, both of which featuring music that seems designed for the scorching months and no other time. I can’t picture any of the songs put out by Fantasing’s main bands, Talon and Young Agings, hitting Bandcamp in December. It would be like pouring snowcone flavoring over all your food in a desperate bid to recapture the summer…ultimately a hopeless endeavor. The label’s planning yet another split in the coming weeks, and have a preview of it with Talon’s “Miss You.” It’s another fast-paced guitar song, lasting a whole minute and a half (long for Talon, actually) and featuring nothing more than fuzzy guitars, drums and slightly clouded vocals. It doesn’t wast time establishing itself as catchy, because Talon knows nobody wants to waste July listening to a five-minute intro. Quick, catchy guitar pop from a young group that proves Tokyo’s indie scene is moving in the right direction, what with Teen Runnings being the obvious inspiration. Listen below.
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This, the latest track from Shiga-based artist Magical Mistakes, has been online for a little bit now, but it’s a laid-back number that matches up well with the season, the keybaords and wafting vocals just drifting by all lovely like.
“Bright Light” also was remixed by two California-based artists – San Diego’s Illuminauts makes it bass friendlier, but Los Angeles’ Matthewdavid shines with his remix, which stretches “Bright Light” into a seven-minute-long introspection, all the sounds slightly muffled and seemingly turned inwards. Listen to those two takes here.
Though this line gets rolled out anytime I write about Osaka’s 99 Letters, it’s still a vital disclaimer – this is not simple novelty, nor is it the sound of some kid desperately clinging to his youth by rocking out to the Kirby’s Pinball soundtrack in his room. Nope, this is someone taking a particular set of sounds (in this case, 8-bit audio) and transforming it into something that moves, music that’s meant to jog more than just memories of your first NES. Many of 99 Letters previous songs turned these noises into ragers, banging and bleating bashes to the skull reminiscent of Crystal Castles more fist-forward moments, good music concerned primarily with the physical. Lately, though, 99 Letters has been growing more complex – see the recent shimmering beauty of “Dexters Laboratory,” which this blog missed but warrants repeated listens. “Night Walker” builds on this by being a constantly morphing number, one still capable of moving bodies but now more thought out, showcasing more craftsmanship from the young producer. It’s a good step for him, and a great track. Listen below.
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Zone out for a second, or let your preconceptions win out, and you will miss the real hook of Beat Is Murder’s debut EP. More on that later, though, because I almost blinked past it too. Beat Is Murder is the new moniker of the outfit NUBACK, who is the founder of the label Too Young Records. Too Young is home to Memory Girls, a group I wrote about a long time ago and promptly dropped off the radar…only to reappear on this two-song release, singing back-up. The two songs here – and that’s being really fair, because “Green Monday” is basically a remix of the first song “This Is Our Answer” – are the sort of limb-moving joints DFA Records in New York rose to fame on, snippets of funky guitar next to vintage synth all set to an unobtrusive beat. The vocals move in lock-step, and Beat Is Murder work in one great detail with the drum machine, one beat sounding like it’s covered in digital fuzz. Overall, it’s a great bit of indie-dance music.
Yet, after a few listens more, it dawned on me this is more than that – this is an anti-nuclear song, one of the first tracks from this year to directly comment on Japan’s use of nuclear power. This came out Monday, which also happened to be the day of a giant anti-nuclear protest here in Tokyo. In more “I don’t believe I missed this” details, the Bandcamp page declares “NO NUKES. THIS IS OUR ANSWER.” The clearest line here is “we don’t need any plants, any plants, anymore.” This is a strangely subversive song – for half an hour, I was bobbing around unaware Beat Is Murder was urging Japan to ditch nuclear power. Even though the presence of a political message doesn’t make this EP good music in and of itself (that’s what the groove is for!), I have to admit it’s nice to see an indie artist in Japan not shy away from saying…anything about this. Listen below, or get here.
MTV Iggy interviewed 2012`s most interesting J-Pop star, and you should read the interview right now. Personally, the biggest highlight is that she listens to K-Pop acts Big Bang and 2NE1…that and she doesn`t seemed particularly pumped to listen to J-Pop. Related – this Japan Times inteview with her. She mentions the K-Pop thing there as well, but I had forgotten about it.
Last year’s Salyu X Salyu project, a collaboration between J-Pop siren Salyu and inventive producer Cornelius, was an exploration of an individual, in this case Salyu herself. Long a middle-of-the-road J-Pop star blessed with some incredible pipes that seemed wasted by most, Salyu X Salyu allowed her to just let go, an artistic rebirth urged on by Cornelius’ unobtrusive sonic creations.
It’s an intensely individual project, yet that hasn’t stopped Salyu and Cornelius (real name Keigo Oyamada) from touring behind Salyu X Salyu. They assembled a Salyu X Salyu Band and have toured all over Japan and, recently, Europe, including a stop at Spain’s Sonar music festival this past June. Augustus KKB, of London outfit Kero Kero Bonito, recently talked to Salyu, Oyamada, Yumiko Ohno and Asa-Chang of the Salyu X Salyu Band on June 15, before the group played a show at London’s Jazz Cafe. Ken Kobayashi handled translation duties.
Listen to the interview above, or read a transcript after the jump.