Monthly Archives: February 2018

Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.8 – Hikashu – Anguri

hikashu - anguri

CD, Makigami Records, 2017

One of Japan’s most reliably prolific bands, Hikashu’s near annual releases are always going to be among the year’s highlights. Combining elements of free jazz, no wave, guttural, growling Beefheartian experimentation and a demented yet catchy take on pop, the band have over nearly twenty albums developed into one of the world’s most reliable and assured agents of musical chaos.Anguri

Anguri covers a range with which fans of Hikashu’s recent albums (at least from 2006’s Tenten onwards) will be familiar. Koichi Makigami’s versatile, hyperactive and nonsensical vocalisations take centre stage in tracks like Chakuriku Shinaikei and Zenhoui Ayashige (the latter assisted by fellow vocal weirdos Afrirampo), while at the other extreme the band produce some gorgeous, idiosyncratic pop music. Aisenaiyo Sonnanja comes on all energetic passion and burning spirits like a 1970s boys’ anime theme song filtered through Hikashu’s distinctive prog-jazz internal machinery.

Tomei Sugiruyo and the closing Iishitumon Desune! also sound like lost classics of the 1970s, albeit with a more psychedelic bent. On both, various members are provided with the platform to solo their hearts out, with the former seeing the piano and Makigami’s theremin go wild aand the guitar stealing the show in the latter with the disconcerting way it veers from wailing cock rock to fractured no wave noise.Tsubuyaku Kai

Where Anguri differs from other recent Hikashu albums it is perhaps the way it front-loads some of the most experimental songs and only allows the pop moments to gradually assert themselves as the album nears its halfway point. One of Hikashu’s great strengths, however, is the way that they do both with in a way that’s instantly recognisable as them and no other band, their most freeform and discordant moments always imbied with a sense of fun and their most melodic moments underscored with an experimental, exploratory spirit.

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Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.9 – Compact Club – Temporary Coffin

compact club - temporary coffin

Vinyl LP, self-released, 2017

Beginning life as the distinctly Plastics-influenced new wave band of 2014’s Subete wa Template EP, Compact Club have been tilting in a more experimental direction via an evolving lineup, drawing comparisons with the New York no wave scene thanks to the Contortions-esque use of sax and the increasingly sparse arrangements.

Compact Club are always playful rather than po-faced in their experiments, letting themselves go wild in the studio with this uncompromisingly analogue first full-length album. Dear Sette Scène Glat Glat? appears in a different version to the one that opened the band’s 2015 Shine Out Musique cassette, here with the drums all aggressively panned left and the sax to the right, with the guitar veering wildly between the two speakers. Variations on the track U, meanwhile, crop up throughout the album, with Perfect Suicide apparently based on a slowed-down version of the same track, and Telepathic Test similar enough that you’ve got to hope the band were plagiarising themselves on purpose. In between all this, Temporary Coffin is scattered with musical interludes, partially-finished ideas and studio experiments accounting for about half the overall tracklisting, all of which add an oddball, exploratory dimension to a band whose creative imagination has never felt quite at home within the confines of three-song EPs.

Of the more fully worked-out songs, the spindly no wave guitars and atonal sax have to share space with vocalist Canan’s baby-doll coos and intermittent squeaks, often delivered in a nonsensical jumble of Japanese, English and French. Like another of the band’s influences The Honeymoon Killers, quirky pop of the sort that that defined Compact Club’s early material asserts a strong presence through songs like the piano-led Look Pale, alongside the minimal postpunk of the Liquid Liquid-esque tribal beats of Ghostwriter.

What makes Temporary Coffin of particular note in the context of the Japanese indie scene is the way the band have clearly set out to craft an album rather than simply a document of their live set, recognising the visual theatrics they lose in the transition and making up by using the studio to create effects they never could onstage. You can feel the band’s glee at all the new toys they’ve been given to play with, and that transfers into a particularly anarchic pleasure for the listener too.

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