For the tenth band in this roundup, I’m going to talk about Nakigao Twintail again. I only discovered them last year, and they’ve already split up twice by my count (soon to be three times if we’re to believe them in asserting that this next show is to be their last), but in a way all the chaos and uncertainty around their existence is a reflection of their essential appeal.
When Ryotaro and I started work on a Japanese indie zine last year, it was Nakigao Twintail’s lyric, “Yamete yaru! Konna band yamete yaru!” (from about 11:00 in the video below) that inspired us to name the zine Quit Your Band! and that trashy, anarchic negativity sounded utterly thrilling to us amid Tokyo’s pose and poise. One commenter under my initial raving exposition of their virtues dismissively referred to them as a “second rate local punk band,” but then exploring the musical value in much depth feels like missing the point with something as explosive, wilfully ephemeral and pointedly unformed.Nakigao Twintail live at Fukuoka Graf, 2013
When I first wrote about them, it was in the context of idol music, and Nakigao Twintail embody the wild, hyperreal, theatrical presence of idol music at its best but at the same time the live band format allows them to be genuinely spontaneous in a way that the rehearsed and choreographed world of idol music can only attempt to simulate: Their career isn’t tied down to a management contract, their music isn’t tied down to a backing track, and their performance isn’t tied down to a pre-rehearsed choreography. This isn’t just to make a banal point that rock music is better than pop — for a start, I seriously doubt the band members really understand the difference between the two — it’s that this particular rock band are better pop than pop: their music is disposable, their performance is a rush of raw, if often bizarrely-directed enthusiasm (check out vocalist Kanami exuberantly yelling out the name of mass murdering Tokyo underground gas attack cult leader Shoko Asahara about 12:30 in), and the whole package wraps you up in the moment and at the end spits you out, breathless.
Nakigao Twintail say farewell (again) with their own version of the 9/27 anniversary event flyer (designed by guitarist Konatsu Yamaguchi). You can see the full event details on the Call And Response Records blog here.
I’ve written extensively about Hyacca before, including posts here, here, here and here, so I’ll keep this relatively short except to say that they’re one of the best bands in Japan, an incredible live act, and always a treat to have on the bill at one of my shows. They embody all of the qualities I look for in an artist, mixing something accessible with an anarchic sense of unpredictability and a refreshing disregard for doing things the “right” way, be that adhering to pop conventions or adopting the posture of vacuous, Rockin’ On Japan-style, festival-ready designer indie.Hyacca: Uneko
Vocalist Hiromi Kajiwara will also be taking part in the September 27th anniversary event as part of Miu Mau, and the contrast between her role as Miu Mau’s refined avant-pop guitarist and Hyacca’s agent whirlwind of unmoored chaos is part of what appeals to me about having both bands on the same bill.Hyacca: Hanazono
Hyacca will be headlining my anniversary event on September the 27th, and there are very few bands I’d risk putting on after them.
Along with Futtachi, the other album I helped release this past summer was Jebiotto’s synth-punk party monster Love Song Duet. This album was in some ways the mirror image of the Futtachi album. Rather than something avant-garde that gradually reels you in with its hidden accessibility, Jebiotto’s music comes on accessible and then sets to work sabotaging itself. It’s pop music played by people who don’t know how to make pop music.
Jebiotto are one of the most fun bands on the Tokyo live circuit and a group I’ve been friends with for a long time before this release. I first encountered vocalist Madoka (Madca) back in the early days of my event and label through this marvellous punk band she was in called Inkakugoten (“Clitoris Palace”, which remains one of my favourite band names ever) and then I discovered Jebiotto a few years later through the live venue 20000V, which in its old location near Koenji Station became my favourite venue, and which in its new Higashi Koenji location is playing host to the anniversary event that Jebiotto and the other bands I’m writing about in this series are all performing at. Matt Schley’s short documentary about the band is a 100% accurate depiction of the group’s personalities and the band’s ethos.
In addition to commemorating ten years of me putting on events and parties in Japan, the show on September 27th is also partly a release event for the bands Jebiotto and Futtachi, whose albums came out on my Call And Response label last month. With all that in mind, Metropolis magazine were generous enough to devote a double-page spread to an interview with me and a short rundown of five of my favourite Japanese albums. This interview gave me a good opportunity to think a bit about what my philosophy with the label and my events was, and I think the key quote is:
“I love music like Futtachi’s, that takes something avant-garde and draws you in; or Jebiotto’s, that takes something really pop and sabotages it.”
What I describe as the “tension between discord and harmony” is what I keep coming back to. People are so used to thinking of themselves as consumers who should be served by musicians, and that can make them lazy listeners. The (true, actually) idea that pop music is just as deserving of critical attention and praise as “serious” music can seep through into a state where we unconsciously start judging pop and underground by the same standards, allowing ourselves to write nonsense about the supposed subversive nature of pretty mundane pop (yes, guilty, although I do usually try to express that strictly in the context of pop), or slipping into the Internet-assisted habit of skimming through a few seconds of a new indie or underground track on Soundcloud and picking up or dismissing it based on its immediate appeal.
Futtachi in one of their incarnations are a thrilling heavy psychedelic rock band, and songs like Kaiko no Oto (from Call And Response’s Dancing After 1AM compilation), Siam, and their version of Sabbath’s Paranoid are top class freakouts. However, their first CD, Tane to Zenra, takes a different, more minimal approach. It is an album composed on a single thirty-minute track, Kako wo Omou Monoga Mita Yume, and it’s not something designed for easy access. It’s something you have to meet halfway, but which is accessible enough to then reel you in. Performed live as a stripped-down guitar and keyboard duo, this material was mesmerising, and on disc it’s hypnotic. The short, edited sample here is just a teaser:
Another band with roots in Kyushu who are playing at my ten year anniversary event on September 27th are Miu Mau. I know Miu Mau through guitarist Hiromi Kajiwara, who I’m familiar with through through another band she’s in, although both drummer Miwako and keyboard /vocalist Masami both have venerable backgrounds in the Fukuoka music scene too, with Masadayomasa and Coet Cocoeh respectively. With Masami now living in Takamatsu, the group is split between different islands, but they continue to write, record and play together.
In fact, Miu Mau are a band who I’ve never quite been able to believe my luck that I’m able to book, because they really should be huge. They have great tunes, a sophisticated sense of style, and they’re female (which in this idol-obsessed pop cultural environment is marketing catnip). But perhaps due to their geographical remoteness or the relative connectedness of their scene, they’re an oasis of fabulous pop, somehow out their on their own.
Which like I say is lucky for me, because in a lineup that leans so much towards noisy, energetic things, having something so purely but idiosyncratically pop gives the whole experience an extra edge of excitement and interest.
The part of Japan I have the strongest connections and know most about outside of Tokyo is Kyushu, particularly the city of Fukuoka, and one of the bands who exemplifies my experience of the Fukuoka music scene is Macmanaman.
Like yesterday’s band, Usagi Spiral A, Macmanaman are an instrumental band who deliver progressive or post-rock elements with a punk-influenced approach, with Usagi providing the sole live mix on Call And Response’s first compilation in 2005 and Macmanaman doing the same on the most recent compilation in 2012. However, where Usagi are all about pummelling you with brutal, pounding noise, Macmanaman come at you with music of frenetic, dizzying complexity, played at breakneck pace with a staggering level of technical skill. Both bands are equal in intensity, but their differing approaches are something I’m really excited to see together on the same bill at my ten year anniversary party on September 27th.