Tag Archives: 5kai

5kai – Untitled #2


Originally from Kyoto but these days based in Tokyo, 5kai are a raw, taut, minimalist and decidedly Albini-esque alt-rock band who sit in a meandering but identifiable lineage of disconcerting rock that runs back through bands like Slint and This Heat. Their self-titled 2018 debut album was a strong statement of intent, and since then they seem to be on a course of releasing annual reports in the form of digital EPs that have seen them digging further into this vein of rough-edged post-hardcore and progressive rock. Despite the sparse instrumental setup, Untitled #2 covers a range of sonic ground with the tight drum sound and studio polish of second track Ato standing in contrast to the creatively deployed lo-fi aesthetics of the closing Jazz — a track that gnaws a groove of its own around your brain on repeat listens, with sounds that start out feeling like mistakes or accidental sonic artifacts becoming essential parts of the music through repetition. As with its equally-untitled 2019 predecessor, Untitled #2 carries a sense of exploration around the core of the sound 5kai established on their album, maintaining their identity as they prod with curiosity at the edges. They’re working towards something and even the band themselves seem uncertain but interested to discover what it is.

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Top 25 Releases of 2018: No. 10 – 6

qujaku - qujaku

Vinyl, So I Buried, 2018

No.10 – Qujaku – Qujaku
Leading lights of Japan’s current wave of noise-rock, Hamamatsu-based Qujaku’s debut album is a powerful statement from a band who are now really starting to grow into their ambitions. In the past, there has often been a nagging sense that Qujaku were playing over the heads of their audience to some imagined stadium rock crowd that they were imagining just over the horizon. Recently, however, they’ve learned to modulate their performances better and channel their strengths to suit the spaces they’re in, without compromising their more expansive tendencies. On this self-titled debut they proudly peacock across its two discs with swaggering gothic elegance, from the frankly ludicrous 20-minute opener Shoku no Hakumei to the cracked, fragile closing Sweet Love of Mine.Qujaku – Yui, Hate No Romance

ryo asada - code

CD, Gyuune Cassette, 2018

No.9 – Ryo Asada – Code
Veering from free jazz to acoustic balladry to a capella harmonising to minimalist synthpop (although mostly the former two to be honest), this “debut” album by Fukuoka artist Ryo Asada isn’t really a debut, as he has been playing and occasionally releasing with the band tepPohseen for years. It has the feeling of a debut though in the hyperactive, unfiltered way it tries to be everything, in love with every musical possibility it discovers. It’s one of the strangest Japanese releases of the year, and perhaps strangest in how much fun it is.Ryo Asada – Timetrial Again

jim o'rourke - sleep like its winter

CD, Newhere, 2018

No.8 – Jim O’Rourke – Sleep Like it’s Winter
In addition to the five releases in his Steamroom series that he put out over the course of 2018, Jim O’Rourke released this wonderfully eerie piece for new ambient/drone-focused electronic label Newhere Music, which in many ways feels like he took one of his Steamroom releases and then built on and refined it. Seeing him perform it live, it’s clear that the piece we hear on this record is really just a point in the evolution of O’Rourke’s experimental soundscapes. In the ever-shifting topography of O’Rourke’s music, however, this release stands as a significant landmark.

5kai - 5kai

CD, self-released, 2018

No.7 – 5kai – 5kai
Emerging in Kyoto out of the ashes of the short-lived Lego Chameleon, 5kai’s debut album is a stark mix of post-hardcore and math-rock that manages to be both icily, almost confrontationally reserved while at the same time allowing a sort of fragile, melancholy beauty to filter through in the sparse melodies and plaintive vocals. The intelligent, rhythmically complex arrangements ensure that the minimalist components keep leading the listener through fresh patterns and makes this album one of the year’s most accomplished debuts.

phew - voice hardcore

CD/Vinyl, Bereket/Mesh-Key, 2018

No.6 – Phew – Voice Hardcore
The release of this album by eclectic experimental former postpunk artist Phew straddles the edge of 2017 and 2018 (The Wire included it in their 2017 best) but is included here mainly because I wanted to include Phew’s also excellent analogue synth album Light Sleep in my top albums of 2017. Voice Hardcore might seem a misleading title depending on the associations the word “hardcore” has for you, being an album much of which is characterised by spectral ambient drones, but it’s nonetheless brutally uncompromising in its core creative premise, that every sound on the album is one created by Phew’s voice. The undulating choral tones she layers on many of the tracks sometimes stand alone, but on others they form the backdrop to disconcerting yelps, tortured utterances and simple phrases repeated, looped, overlapping. 2018 also saw Phew working with London-based Ana da Silva on the excellent Island, but Voice Hardcore stands as a singularly unique and fascinating record from one of Japan’s most reliably distinctive artists. (NOTE: The CD edition features 9 tracks, while the vinyl and download editions feature 6.)

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