There have been a lot of Japanese compilation albums this year, largely organised by and for live venues that had been forced by the pandemic to scale back their operations. This compilation by Tokyo’s Discipline event team is different in that its focus is more specifically around the organisers’ own event.
Pinning down exactly what sort of event Discipline is (and therefore what sort of album this is) is difficult using the normal diagnostic tools of genre — it blends hardcore, grindcore, post-punk, EBM, noise, techno, drone, experimental and various points between, but nonetheless it adds up to a coherent sonic universe. Many of the electronic tracks (Golpe Mortal) have a raw, rough-edged quality to them that plays well with the punk-influenced entries (Klonns), some of which themselves bleed seamlessly into experimental territory (Granule), while experimental and noise acts happily cross back over into rough-edged electronica (In The Sun).
A good compilation album takes you on a journey through different landscapes that are nonetheless recognisable as parts of the same world, and what makes this Discipline compilation so interesting is how it constructs that world itself with such little reliance on the shortcuts provided by external signifiers. Part of that is perhaps down to the way it has already established and honed its identity through its regular events. Part may also be down to the disregard towards genre among young audiences in Japan (the Rokoh label’s 2020 Songs for Our Space compilation dances around similar sounds with a similarly gloomy sense of cool to Discipline, with members of the bands Ms. Machine and Strip Joint appearing on both). In this sense, the attitude is feels like an update of the post-punk era’s marriage of funk, dub, electronic and experimental music to various strains of rock’n’roll, all with a similarly stripped-back and raw approach. All of which is to say that if Discipline is the future of underground music in Tokyo, it’s one with a lot of promise.