No.15 – Afrirampo – Afriverse
One of my most anticipated releases of the year, the comeback album of Osaka avant-garage duo Afrirampo following their return to the stage in 2016 was an instant re-encapsulation of everything that made them so thrilling and fresh — or everything that made them so mannered and irritating, depending on your mileage. Whatever your take, on Afriverse they are energetically and unapologetically themselves — even more so than in their original incarnation really, with the guitar-shredding rockisms cranked up further than ever before and the whimsical psychedelic pop of drummer Pika’s solo work edging in here and there in a sprawling one-hour-plus tapestry of childlike vocal nonsense and zigzagging prog-garage-punk energy.Afrirampo – Potsu Potsu
No.14 – Ms. Machine – S.L.D.R.
A short, sharp blast of shrieking noise-punk, S.L.D.R. made a small but significant impact on the Tokyo scene when it landed in spring 2018, attracting press attention not only for the band’s harsh sounds and sharp image, but also from their proudly political feminist stance in a cultural environment largely untouched by movements like #metoo. Live appearances have been sparse since its release, but S.L.D.R. promises great things for the future, should Ms. Machine choose to grasp them. You can read my original review here.
No.13 – DMBQ – Keenly
Massive, clattering drums, immense, stadium-filling bass, a swirling galaxy of noise and feedback, sustained drone advancing across the sonic landscape like a wall of death, riffs like granite blocks hurled from Mount Olympus, and howling guitar solos raining down, serpentine and electric — that’s what DMBQ do, and that’s what they do on Keenly. Magnificently.
No.12 – The Hatch – Opaque Age
Fourteen tracks of gruff post-hardcore, enlivened by dynamic, shifting rhythms, jazz-tinged guitar lines and unexpectedly uplifting horns. There are moments where everything comes together with almost transcendent ferocity and others where the parts grate against and struggle with each other like the jittery dynamics of postpunk, but at all times, Opaque Age is intricately worked and delivered with fearsome conviction and a touch of sarcastic humour.The Hatch – Sexgame
No.11 – Sonotanotanpenz – New
After collaborating with a variety of musicians on their previous 31 and promoting it with a series of shows backed by a full band, Sonotanotanpenz’ new New is for the most part an even more minimal affair than usual, although not one lacking in texture due the the fun the duo have with a diverse array of oddball synth sounds. The usual ‘tanpenz mixture of near-whispered tag team rap and overlapping vocal melodies is present and correct, although the stronger emphasis on synths brings means this short album presents sharper contrasts between its more plastic moments, like the squelchy Milovat’ and where their approach is more organic, as on the piano-led I Love You.