About

Clear And Refreshing is a dumping ground for thoughts, reviews and links related to music in Japan. My name’s Ian Martin and I’m a British expatriate living in Tokyo. The name of the blog was taken by my girlfriend (now wife) from the side of a can of chu-hi in 2003 and has stuck ever since, despite my constant worries that it sounds tremendously arrogant and hopelessly inaccurate in view of my convoluted writing style.

I get a lot of messages from overseas bands asking me to write about them, so I should make it clear at this point that this blog is exclusively about Japanese music and the music scene in Japan. I sincerely wish your bands all the best, but I don’t take requests.

I write the Strange Boutique column for The Japan Times, as well as various other music related articles, interviews and reviews. I also run a postpunk/new wave label called Call And Response Records, help organise a monthly DJ party in Koenji called Fashion Crisis, put on various live events, mostly in Tokyo but also sometimes in Fukuoka, and occasionally help out with bands’ tours, especially in the Tokyo and Kyushu areas.

Through my label, I’ve released the bands Hyacca from Fukuoka, Zibanchinka from Kagoshima, Mir and Praha Depart from Tokyo, and N’toko from Slovenia, so anything I say about these artists on the pages of this blog will be coloured by the enormous, planet-engulfing love I have for them. Other than that, I have a deep love for new wave and postpunk, as well as various species of psychedelia, Krautrock, technopop, indie, synthpop, industrial, avant-garde, and bubblegum, plus whatever else floats across my radar. I have no time for the sort of dippy nitwits who get upset by subjective criticism and analysis of music they like, but I welcome comments, criticisms and corrections of my own writing, and promise to respond with the minimum possible sarcasm.

In addition to my own posts, my friend and collaborator Ryotaro Aoki, with whom I make the Quit Your Band! Japanese indie zine and who blogs at Don’t Cross The Streams, will sometimes make appearances as a guest contributor.

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37 responses to “About

  1. hello;i’m french and try to promote my new realease in japan.Have you some good link i can contact or post.I’m crazy of this country and hope play in one day!(sry for my deficient english:)
    http://nightfeelingclubedit.viinyl.com/

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  3. Hi

    We are growing the Bondi Beach Radio station (bondibeachradio.com.au), streaming / broadcasting from a small studio in North Bondi and from mobile rigs at pop up bar and club venues in Sydney, working our way towards a community digital broadcast licence

    We are keen to get a presenter / DJ onto the station who can focus on the latest indie and underground music scene in Japan, working to provide the musical bridge into Sydney for our local and global listeners

    Would be a commitment of 2 hours a week broadcast time, and would potentially suit someone looking to build their own exposure and the broader exposure of the music they feature – perhaps an up and coming DJ, music blogger, with strong ties to both Australia (Sydney) and Japan

    If this resonates with anyone please get in touch with chris@bondibeachradio.com.au

  4. Felix

    Finding your site has been a great way to discover another side to Japanese music. Thank you! Some bands, like deltΔs, I can’t seem to figure where to get their music, other than streaming from Soundcloud. Do you know where it can be purchased?

  5. Maponus Monk

    I’m a writer living in the Kyushu area. Looking for j-punk/jazz scene to write about. Can you point me in the right direction? Email me and I’ll tell you the city I’m living in.

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  7. I really enjoyed your blog. I traveled to Japan in 1985 as part of a student exchange, and have been transfixed by the culture ever since.
    In the meantime I had a chance to run my own show, based on British indie/indie-pop (http://indieshop.diagoro.net). And while the show is long over, I’m remain on the lookout for new music.

    Which brings me to your blog. I’ve always been curious about Japanese indie, especially bands that might relate closer to British/American indie (ie, bands like Belle & Sebastian, Pulp and modern equivalents). I’m having a hard time finding a good source, though I did come across some great music on your blog. if you might have the time, any suggestions would be most welcome!

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hey there, cheers.

      It’s kind of hard to find good Japanese bands who work as direct equivalents to UK/US music, and hunting for them can be an obstacle to appreciating the qualities that a lot of Japanese bands do have. Often the bands who are most heavily and directly influenced by British indie are kind of bad, or at least don’t feel quite “right” because they’re imitating something without really understanding the context of the original.

      That said, I guess there are some. Sloppy Joe are a pretty much direct copy of The Smiths, The Pale Fountains or early Aztec Camera, although the whole indiepop scene is more or less like that, with bands like Hearsays, Wallflower, Homecomings, Boyish, Taffy etc. (I think DYGL are the best of that crowd, although they don’t have much recorded). Lillies & Remains are a solid UK/US style indie rock band in the mode of Interpol or Bloc Party, and there are bands like Plasticzooms and Purple who have a similar vibe. One band I often mention who got very famous about 10-15 years ago was Supercar, who started out as a full-on shoegaze band, sort of like a Japanese version of Ride, but later got more electronic, and actually there are a few shoegaze bands who do the sound pretty authentically, like Luminous Orange and recently this Aomori band called The Earth Earth (who are practically an Isn’t Anything-era MBV tribute band). There are lots of bands who are very influenced by American alternative rock, although it’s hard to pick them out off the top of my head. Pop-Office are good, and I can definitely hear a lot of Yo La Tengo in what they do.

      I can’t think of anything like Pulp though, and can’t even guess whether a “Japanese Pulp” would even be possible. If it existed, it would sound nothing like the British Pulp anyway.

      • I think a “Japanese Pulp” -at least later Pulp (This Is Hardcore-era) would sound like tastefully done Enka music. Which probably isn’t possible, so you’re right.

      • That’s a great point. This is Hardcore was Jarvis in full-on Scott Walker territory, which is precisely US/UK enka. In that sense, you’d be looking at Ringo Shiina as your Japanese Pulp.

      • Or else you’re going right back to the 70s and it’d be RC Succession or something.

  8. Hello from Texas!! My band Sub Oslo played in Shibuya a little while ago at a club called Liquid Room, was on a label called P-Vine. 2 of us are now Wire Nest- very Dub leaning. I was wondering if you could recommend any labels/ other blogs to send links to. Our downloads off bandcamp are FREE! We would like to spread our music to Japan and beyond. Thanks for your time. -Frank

  9. Simeone Lo Stilita

    Interesting blog, indeed, even if i’m losing fascination over J music since i left Tokyo almost 9 years ago. I was living in Shimokitazawa, but seems like they’re destroying it lately. Do you know Simon Bartz who also writes on Japan Times? We were good friends back then. Good luck and ganbatte!

    • Hi there, thanks for the message. I was in Shimokitazawa yesterday and the construction is still underway so it’s hard to tell what the extent of the damage will be. The station is just horrible though. The live venues are still going strong and even growing, so it might not be all bad.

      Yeah, I know Simon a little. I’ve met him a few times but not recently. We keep in touch on Facebook though.

  10. Rose

    I am a Los Angeles gal who loves going to indie rock shows at our local venues. I’m lucky to live in a place with such a great music scene. I am currently planning a trip to Tokyo in the fall and would love to check out some local music. Do you have a list of venues you recommend? Small, hole in the wall type places are great.

    Thanks for writing such a great blog!

    • There aren’t really reliable places you can go so much as people and organisers who put on good stuff, and those people often work on a pretty unreliable schedule, not to mention the fact that a lot of the best shows are organised by bands themselves. Some venues have more of those good shows than others I guess. Near me in Higashi Koenji there’s 二万電圧 (Ni-man Den-atsu, a.k.a. 20000V) and the UFO Club, in Shinjuku there’s Motion, in Akihabara there’s Club Goodman, in Shibuya there’s O-Nest, in Shimo-Kitazawa there’s Three. Those are just for the kinds of bands I like though, and a lot of other shows happen all over the place depending on the organiser. Tokyo Gig Guide is the only web site that really does a useful job of listing the range of shows that go on, and even that is very selective. If you’re around, I’ll be doing a sort of mini-festival at 20000V on September 27th since that day is the 10th anniversary of my first event in Tokyo. No idea who’s playing yet, but there’ll be about nine bands, one of whom will be Mir but all of whom will be basically the kinds of things I write about on here.

      • Rose

        Thanks so much for the info. I’m going to be in Japan in either October or November so I will be missing your festival but maybe I can check in later this year & see if you have other events going on then. Thanks again!

  11. GinaMaldina

    Hi,

    My band Screaming Maldini have just arrived back home from our first Japanese tour with P-Vine records. I’m gutted I didn’t find you before our tour or it would have been fantastic to meet you or at least attempt to convince you to pop to one of our Tokyo shows at O-Nest. Well nevermind, it was just the best week and we should be coming back next Summer. So weird seeing ourselves in Tower Records alongside bloody Bruno Mars & Temples. But if you fancy having a look at the tunes anyway: https://soundcloud.com/screamingmaldini

    Awesome City Club were one of our support bands in Tokyo and they are only 6 months old as a band. But my gosh they’re good. So I suggest seeking them out in Tokyo. https://soundcloud.com/awesome-city-club

    Hopefully hear from you soon.
    Gina
    Screaming Maldini

  12. Hi!
    we’re the Japan Suicide, a darkwave band from Italy
    last 11th of July was released our new video – Nothing – and as you can understand, we’d like so much to reach Japan with our music! Can you help us? You can fin our video @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsO6eH3Gvg4

    Thanks!

    https://www.facebook.com/Japan.Suicide

    • Hi, there’s not much I can really do to help myself at this time, but your sounds are nice so maybe if someone else is reading this, they might be able to do something. Good luck.

  13. 0407nts

    Hello, I stumbled upon your blog after finding Aoki’s “Don’t Cross The Streams” blog. I’m really interested in what you do/how you got started in the Japanese indies business. I’m currently living in Osaka and I too have a love for Japanese indies bands. I also work part time at a live house in the city where I get to meet and discover many artists.

    I am really interested in also doing something related to Japanese music as a career. Not opening a record label or that, but in regards to promoting, holding events, and writing columns for online zines etc. I want to move to Tokyo next year and hope to get my foot in the door in this profession. If you have the time, I would love to talk to you.

    Thank you 🙂
    -Natasha

    • I’m happy to talk, sure, although I have a pretty dour view of the industry as a whole. The first thing I’ll probably tell you is that I don’t make any money at all from either the label, events or 90% of the writing I do — as a professional environment, the music industry is pretty much creatively bankrupt, and as an artistic environment, it’s more or less financially bankrupt, so trying to balance those two things is an impossible task. Be prepared to make compromises on one side or the other. Feel free to contact me though: http://callandresponse.jimdo.com/contact/

  14. Hey Ian,
    Discovered your blog after reading your review on Oversleep Excuse. Awesome band. I’m a big fan of Matt Guay’s other band Glow and The Forest, who I imagine you’re probably also aware of. It’s great to see someone writing about the local Tokyo indie scene. I’d like to recommend Metro-Ongen and Mothercoat as two really awesome and original Japanese bands, well worth writing about. I know you don’t take requests so forgive me for saying this, but as a Brit with an interest in Japan inspired music, I thought perhaps you might be interested in The Watanabes (yes I’m a member!) , a Japan inspired Brit-pop band who have been based in Tokyo for 8 years and released 3 records nationwide. If you are, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to send you a copy of our latest EP released only a few months ago and produced by Glaswegian David Naughton (Belle&Sebastian, Teenage Fan Club)
    Best wishes

    • Hi,
      Yeah, I know Glow and the Forest. My musical policy is usually pretty strongly biased towards stuff that makes your ears bleed, but I’ve put them on at a couple of my events in the past and they snuck into my 2013 top 20 a year or so back. I like Mothercoat too. Metro Ongen I’d need to check up on — I know the name but can’t remember if I’ve seen them. If you’re in The Watanabes, I guess you know Julian from Jimmy Binks? I was out drinking with him in Koenji the other night.

      • Hey Ian, I never thanked you for your reply! Better late than never I suppose. That’s right, I am a friend of Julian! Just wondered if you’d checked out Metro Ongen yet? Soon to release a new album!

  15. tokyovitamin

    Hey, we’re a japanese music group called tokyovitamin and I wanted to share our stuff with you. Couldn’t find a email address so I’ll leave the links here. Thanks!

  16. Natalya Kovalenko

    Dear Mr Martin,

    I work for an American media company that is looking to collaborate with a music expert who could provide consulting services covering current trends in the Japanese music industry.
    We are trying to find a journalist or a producer who would be able to display genre expertise of the music popular in the region.

    If it is something that could potentially interest you, I would greatly appreciate if you could get back to me to discuss the project via e-mail.

    Sincerely,
    Natalya

  17. Hello Mr Martin

    We are yahyel the electro unit based in Tokyo.
    I was working with a member of DYGL for quite while and the article on Japan Times brought me here. We are also highly influenced by music outside in another way, trying to break thorough domestic music scene.

    Hope you are interested in our music. Please check them out.
    I leave our soundcloud and band camp links.

    https://yahyel.bandcamp.com/releases

    sincerely,

    Shun (yahyel)

  18. George Art Baker

    Hiya, I’m a British musician also living in Tokyo, my artist name is Smoke Thief. I just released an album featuring some Japanese musicians from the Nintendo era.

    I don’t wanna spam ya, but please let me know if you’d be interested in sharing the album or interviewing me, that’d be ace!

    This is the album:
    http://store.bravewave.net/album/heart-beat-circuit

    And this is the interview I did for Rocketnews: http://en.rocketnews24.com/2015/08/20/british-musician-collaborates-with-japanese-video-game-composers-for-stunning-concept-album/

    Thanks for your time.

    Cheers.

    George george@bravewave.net

  19. George Art Baker

    Hiya,

    I’ve just released my album in Japan. I collaborated with reknowned game composers Manami Matsumae, Saori Kobayashi and Takahiro Izutani. If you’d like any more information or press photos etc for an article, drop me an email at george@bravewave.net

    This is the album.

    http://store.bravewave.net/album/heart-beat-circuit

    All the best.

    George

  20. Miro

    why did you stop to review and post? 😦
    did you start another blog or website for japan indie music?
    If there is, pls tell me. if not.. well.. good bye ;-;

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