Preview: Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising

For any of you based in Tokyo, I did a short preview for The Japan Times of tomorrow’s Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising event. It’s an indie festival using venues all over the Shimokitazawa area, with more than a hundred artists performing. For what it’s worth, here are the ones I recommend.

Chi-na: Really quite charming violin and piano-led alt-pop band. Their last album, Granville, was really good and they put on an energetic live show.Chiina: Granville Island Market

Deepslauter: At the other end of the scale, I’m not familiar enough with all the various subgenres of hardcore, metal and thrash to say with confidence exactly what kind of band Deepslauter are, but they’re ace.Deepslauter live in Kobe

Lagitagida: Lightning speed instrumental prog rock. The guitarist is a fucking maniac but the whole band is just a circus of these lunatic musicians just showing off, and it’s a pretty intense experience.Lagitagida: Terrible Boy

Tadzio: Presumably named after the character from Thomas Mann’s A Death in Venice, Tadzio are a thrilling and brutal, somewhat avant-garde garage-punk duo and one of my personal favourites from the whole event.Tadzio: Worst Friends

The Keys: On the gentler side of things, The Keys are a solid, melodic guitar pop band and will make a nice break from some of the more intense stuff on the bill.The Keys: (Everybody Was Leaving) Chinatown — Acoustic version

Mitsume: New wave-edged indiepop band who don’t always make a big impact at first impression, but reward attention with a lot going on under the bonnet. Probably another of my personal favourites from this lineup.Mitsume: Entotsu

Sono na wa Spade/The Lady Spade: Not really a music act so much as an eroticism-tinged cabaret parody of otaku culture, they’re worth watching at least once in your life. It’s hard to know to what extent what they’re doing is satire and how much is just genuine, sincere geekery, but it’s, um, interesting.Sono na wa Space: Sweetholic

Wrench: Probably the best of all the properly loud bands at this event, Wrench take in elements of industrial, EBM and hardcore. They’ve been at it for years and have a semi-legendary status in the scene now, so they’re well worth watching.Wrench, live at Shibuya O-East

There are lots of other bands worth watching, like Nacano, Ana, Lite, Shonen Knife, Kettles, and even some of the idol stuff that’s still busy colonising the indie mindset, like Dempagumi inc. and BiS is likely to be fun to watch. it’s also worth just checking out something you’ve no idea about, just for the hell of it. Anyway, if you go, good luck, and bring your walking shoes, because there’s a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover.

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6 Comments

Filed under Live, Live previews

6 responses to “Preview: Shimokitazawa Sound Cruising

  1. perfumeophile

    thanks for all of this…glad i heard it

    the aging prog-rocker in me instantly took to lagitagida, while the woman from tadzio was like yoko and wilko [johnson] inhabiting the same body…

    and you’re right about mitsume…their strengths aren’t immediately obvious, but sticking with the song is extremely rewarding

  2. UltimateMusicSnob

    Each of these bands has a piece, or several pieces, of the full musical picture, that they knock out of the park. Chiina doesn’t show it off, but they clearly have technical ability to burn and then some. Lagitagida also has amazing chops (especially the bass player)–I do wonder why they spend that technical ability on heterophonic music (a music texture which is neither chords nor counterpoint, but one basic melody with simultaneous elaborations on it in several instruments); it’s like Black Sabbath speeded up to 270 bpm. The Keys know how to write a gem of a chord progression, and a great melody over it–I did keep hoping for a surrounding foundation of bass/rhythm section/keyboards to kick in and fill it out sonically. Mitsume has the sonic imagination in spades–textures and texture combinations/contrasts that are novel and effective; I may want more musical ideas for a piece this long. Sono no wa Spade (I’m going to ignore the floor show, because, wtf) may be the closest musically to big commercial success, because they have a very dance-able beat absolutely nailed to the wall, and the arrangement milks the heck out of it, as it should. Wrench has the most musically complex material, but (because, I take it, they’re very experienced) does an excellent job (as Chiina does, in a completely different way) of making them not only fit together but do so with impact. If they were all playing and I could only use one ticket, I’d probably go to Mitsume, just because I love hearing something that is sonically surprising and compelling as this band is, especially around 4:30, when they really hit their stride.

  3. perfumeophile

    @ ultimatemusicsnob
    probably because you brought up yes in another comment thread lagitagida made me think of a metal version of the classic howe/wakeman lineup.

    i listened to other live stuff from them at the youtube link and heard zappa and return to forever as well….

  4. UltimateMusicSnob

    Especially the virtuoso chops on their instruments does remind me of Yes. Musically, Yes will layer textures of complex interlocking contrapuntal parts–these guys in this track are playing the same melody when doing the speed-thing. I don’t know how the bassist does it, that shouldn’t even be possible.

  5. I was only able to catch the post-midnight portion of the event because I was at a different show in the evening, but Mitsume were excellent and Spade were… well, they were Spade, with everything that entails. They went on after this naive but weirdly charming discopop live set by the porn actress Aino Kishi, which I wasn’t expecting. One band I forgot to mention but who were the absolute stars of the night by a mile were Uhnellys though. A sort of psychedelic jazz-funk hip hop duo, where the guy builds up these layers of guitar, voice and trumpet loops with a delay pedal and does these really propulsive, almost cinematic narratives over them. I was getting worried that as they’ve been getting more popular, they’ve been letting themselves get a bit too commercial, but no worries about that last night — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tX3BsezoTM

    • UltimateMusicSnob

      Great stuff! Very infectious beat, no wonder they were stars.
      Here’s what I hear: up top in the guitar, voice and trumpet are playing all sorts of chromatic notes (notes not in the nominal key–we’re in F minor). But the foundation underneath is straight blues-rock pentatonic scale in bass and guitar, and a back-beat rock pattern. The guitarist playing the Danelectro Longhorn is doing a nice extension to blues materials, adding in extra chromatic passing tones (in 3 notes going the same direction up or down, the middle note is a passing tone) to the basic blues scale.
      Once that familiar foundation of blues pentatonic and backbeat is laid down, even straight-pop listeners will accept practically anything over the top of it, as their ears always have a “home” pitch and a “home” beat to relax into. This is one instance of what I meant about blues-rock taking over the world–not the style, but the underlying basic musical materials. There’s no inherent reason why pop musicians around the world should adopt the flat seventh scale step (E flat note when the key is F, you hear it over and over here)–but 99% of popular music has it. Same with the 4/4 time signature with backbeat–it owns the world–although this drummer continuously modifies and decorates the core beat pattern, wonderful additions, without ever losing the central rhythmic pillar. I especially like the way she leaves you hanging in midair, so to speak, for a long 15 seconds at the beginning, then brings down the 4/4 and locks it in.

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