Nag Ar Juna: Doqu

Nag Ar Juna have probably been around for a bit too long to really count as “hotly tipped” nowadays, and are perhaps better described as well-regarded mainstays or journeymen of the indiepop scene. Their 2012 album, the melancholically tweely titled How Many Friends Can Die Happily, came out on HNC’s White Lily Records, one-time home of Sloppy Joe, and the video for Doqu is directed with characteristically monochrome instagram delicacy by She Talks Silence.

The title track of this 12-inch is the more interesting, switching disorientatingly between keys mid-song and employing a wealth of eerie, psychedelic effects in the interludes. Distant, deadpan vocals treated with heaps of echo are pretty much a given in the Japanese twee/indiepop scene, but rather than sounding like a coy, affected cop out as the so often do, they are far more of a piece with the spectral aura the song radiates. The other side of the disc features the more upbeat jangle of Sasage, which is a worthy foil to Doqu, if rather more conventionally structured and lacking the title track’s edge of mystery and darkness.

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Reviews, Track

3 responses to “Nag Ar Juna: Doqu

  1. These two songs are trying make do with highly restricted materials. Sasage has “beginner’s” chords, in beginner’s fingerings: G – D – Am – – C – G – D. The bridge contributes just one more chord (Bminor – a barre chord!!) The drummer is playing a beginner’s beat, and barely changes up anything–a fill here consistts of two tentative hits on a snare or tom. Both are standard song form. Doqu has more harmonies to draw on, with the chromatic descent from G down to the E major (V of ii, and sure enough, Am is next), but these materials are also standard progressions, in a more easy-listening jazz genre. The lead and rhythm guitar in Doqu both add extra pitches to the chord (often an added major 7th or 9th), for a pan-diatonic effect (any pitch in the standard 7-note scale is acceptable), which has a blurring and softening effect on the harmony. That’s nice, but there’s not a lot to work with here.
    BUT, the melodies are lovely, as graceful and expressive as anything you can find in pop music. They completely carry both songs, to my ears. Much less to analyze here, as what makes a great melody, especially in songs so simple, is still largely a mystery, just part of the magic that songwriters make.
    I will say, the air raid siren softly in the distance at the end of Doqu is a freak-out moment. It suddenly makes me re-interpret the entire song I just heard.

  2. Lzy

    This blog is fantastic. I was searching for some way to find out more about indie music in Japan and the best things I found were this blog and – surprise – your articles in The Japan Times. I’ll be following religiously! Thanks for your work. 🙂

    • Thanks for the nice comment. Sorry I’ve not been updating lately. I was without a computer for a long time, and then I got snowed under with a huge pile of work. I’ll try to get back to regular posts before long.

      My JT colleague Patrick St. Michel also writes a blog on Japanese music over at http://makebelievemelodies.com and he writes about a lot of different stuff to me, so that’s worth checking out too.

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