Monthly Archives: November 2015

DYGL: EP #1

DYGL are the best indiepop band in Japan, a feat made all the more impressive by the fine line they walk between the obvious influence of British and American indie rockers like The Strokes or The Cribs and the expression of their own inherent charm and energy.

It could so easily tip over into embarrassing pastiche, and you can hear wobbles on the tightrope in the affected estuarine glottal stops vocalist Nobuki Akiyama doesn’t quite nail in Just Say it Tonight. Akiyama and DYGL remain aloft though, largely through the way they barrel through the songs with such effortless good humour and sincerity.

I’ve written before about DYGL’s rare knack for delivering UK/US-influenced indiepop with the sort of passion and punch that many of their more delicately constituted peers can barely dream of, but it’s only recently that their recording has begun to catch up with the impact of their live performance. On EP #1 the lead guitar chimes clearly over the crunching rhythm guitar, while the drums clatter away beneath, giving the sound a thickness at its base to balance out the prettiness of the trebly high end. At the same time, with every passing year, Akiyama’s voice grows more and more into the cracked, angelic, lovelorn bad boy persona he seems to be writing the songs around.

The increasingly high profile of DYGL’s sister band Ykiki Beat, whose When the World is Wide album was absolutely everywhere this summer has set alarm bells quietly ringing among some of DYGL’s fans (myself included) but this EP is arguably the superior release and for now we can just hope that some of Ykiki Beat’s success bleeds through and ensures DYGL have the continued impetus to keep going and realise more of their apparently still enormous potential.

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Call And Response online store — new stock update

2015 has been a busy year for this blog’s sister label Call And Response Records, with new releases from the label itself as well as a couple of excellent new releases from bands and labels we like in the distribution section.


CALL AND RESPONSE DISTRIBUTION


otori_i-wanna-be-your-noiseOtori: I Wanna Be Your Noise (CD)

This blog’s album of the year for 2014, Otori’s tightly-wired, laser-guided debut was a long time in coming, and turned out to be well worth the wait. These eight controlled explosions take earsplitting no wave ferocity and bottle it, deploying the fury with deadly precision and focus. (Gyuune Cassette, 1620yen)


yougotaradio_carnivalYou Got A Radio: Carnival (CD)

A follow-up to You Got A Radio’s 2010 self-titled debut, Carnival draws on similar postpunk and new wave influences to its predecessor, but synthesises them into a darker, more portentous sound that shares elements of similarity with Joy Division and Magazine. The songwriting revels in this darker palette, with melody and discord playing off each other to dynamic effect. (Drriill Records, 2160yen)


CALL AND RESPONSE LABEL


sharkk-smallSharkk: Sharkk (Cassette)

This five-song EP is the solo project of Sean McGee, who in addition to his own music plays drums with a number of bands in the wider Call And Response circle. Sharkk draws together a variety of alt-rock and punk influences with a clear, pop songwriting sensibility. (Call And Response, 500yen)


hakuchi_chindondingdongHakuchi: Chindon Ding Dong! ~ Minokurui March ~ (CD)

Saga-based spazzcore junk-punk trio Hakuchi’s debut album takes frenetic, lo-fi postpunk and crashes it headlong into a parade of children’s songs and 1970s Japanese pop, with this album the bloody, chaotic result. (Call And Response, 1300yen)


lo-shi_bakuLo-shi: Baku (12-inch vinyl)

Lo-shi are a Tokyo-based French instrumental duo, whose unsettling soundscapes combine electronic beats, samples and effects with ringing, reverb-heavy guitar. This album it themed around the nightmare-eating creature of Japanese legend, in a cathartic journey into a dark dream world. (Call And Response, 2000yen)


looprider_myelectricfantasyLooprider: My Electric Fantasy (CD)

Combining heavy metal, J-pop and shoegaze influences in one album, Looprider’s debut is a bold, brash statement of the band’s refusal to be tied down to specific genres and scenes, but it’s also a carefully crafted pop album that for all its eclecticism is never less than plain and direct in its accessibility. (Call And Response, 1500yen)

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Under: Under / Brinicle / It is like cumulonimbus. ((And me))

Keeping track of enigmatic drone/shoegaze artist Under’s output remains a task requiring constant attention, not only for the constant flow of new material, but also for its frequent Stalinesque erasure. 2015 began with the February release on the US Fire Talk label of Loosen, an EP that had appeared and then suddenly vanished the previous year. After that, a string of free releases emerged, with a self-titled EP in May followed by August’s Brinicle EP and most recently the lone track It is like cumulonimbus. ((And me)) – eccentric punctuation presumably integral to the effect.

The divisions between these releases are sonically meaningless to the outside observer, and really the whole appeal of Under’s work is the way her songs and noise pieces blend into one. It’s music that doesn’t need to progress because it draws from something timeless and pagan: eternal and ephemeral, like mist descending over long barrows.

There are perhaps two threads that run through Under’s music though, with it leaning one way or the other as whim takes it. One thread, perhaps best represented by the self-titled EP, deals in layers of primal, throbbing drone. The other, which Brinicle explores to a greater degree, especially in its gorgeous opening track Foehn, casts out minimal guitar and bass lines, reeling in ambient, psychedelic folk melodies. Layers of guitar effects and tape distortion link these two approaches together, but variations in the balance between them seem to form the core dynamic of Under’s music.

There’s still time for Under to drop another EP before the year’s out, so perhaps attempting this summary of her year’s output is a little premature, but even based on this handful of releases alone, it’s an impressive body of work for a tireless artist.

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Burn Your Hometown

Another prolonged bout of quiet over here may have had some of my few remaining readers wondering if this blog is dying out, although any longtime readers will probably have noticed by now that updates tend to come in fits and starts. In this case, however, there has been a bit more to it than that as for the past two months or so I have been travelling around northeastern Japan on a bicycle, researching the local music scenes in various places and just generally going mad from loneliness and isolation in the middle of the Japanese countryside. In the course of my travels I’ve been keeping another blog dedicated solely to this trip.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve made reference on a few occasions to a book I’ve been writing about my experiences in the Japanese music scene and some of the issues I discuss on here and in my Japan Times column. That book, Quit Your Band (subtitle as yet undecided) is with the publisher and due out spring or summer next year. It became pretty clear quite early on in the process of writing the book, however, that its focus was inevitably very much on Tokyo, and this new project, which I titled Burn Your Hometown as a sort of answer to my book’s title, was intended in part to remedy what I felt were some of my book’s limitations in scope.

The fourteen prefectures I visited over the course of this trip amounts to less than a third of the forty-seven that make up Japan, although they cover about half of its geographical area. I have a few places I want to visit over the winter (without my bicycle) before embarking on the epic final stage in the spring, covering everything from Kyushu back to Tokyo.

The blog as it currently stands begins in Sapporo and threads its way through Japan, back to Tokyo over the course of six weeks or so. A lot of the posts are long and many have very little directly to do with music, but they do develop a handful of increasingly interrelated themes over time, so if you want to read the whole thing in order, start here.

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