Tag Archives: Amorphous

Diary of a Japan tour part 7: March 21st at Fukuoka Utero

After the Thursday night DJ party, we were ready to kick off the weekend with a live show at the same venue. This was perhaps the show I’d been most looking forward to on the tour, partly for the reasons I outlined in the previous entry in this tour diary (Fukuoka is always an enormous amount of fun, and it’s great to hang out with friends there) and partly because of the bands.

As I’ve said before, I always keep in contact with Harajiri from Utero over the lineup, and make suggestions where there’s something I think is relevant, but at the same time, I will nearly always defer to his judgment when it comes to booking. He knows my events and my artists well enough by now to be able to choose bands who fit the sound and the vibe I’m looking for, and he’s also eager to constantly introduce new people into the mix, which ensures that through my roughly twice-annual events there, I’m able to keep a step ahead of most other people in Tokyo when it comes to cool music from Kyushu.

There was another reason why Friday was a big one for me as well, because it was the day that my friends Futtachi from Kagoshima would be hooking up with us for part of the tour. Futtachi is the new band that Iguz Souseki formed after the implosion of Zibanchinka, and their first recording was a song they did for Call And Response’s Dancing After 1AM compilation. They’d also contributed a track to my recent Black Sabbath Valentine’s covers project, and Iguz and I had been working on plans to put out their first full album through Call And Response. Futtachi are a psychedelic band, but grounded in garage-punk roots which gives them an earthiness and directness that lots of other psychedelic bands lack. They operate on quite complex principles though, with the band existing in four different incarnations depending on which members are present, all of which play quite different music.

The recordings they had done for me had been of the group’s four member incarnation, Futtachi’s most common touring incarnation is a duo of Iguz and guitarist Omi, and Fukuoka was the first chance I’d had to see them. Based around a slow, minimal, throbbing rhythm loop, Iguz wails hypnotically over spectral guitars and droning keyboards. It’s psychedelic but it teeters on the brink of industrial, insistently coaxing you into a hallucinatory, nodding trance. It’s an amazing sensation when you see a new band do something that just plows you away, but it’s something else when someone you’ve known and admired for years does something totally unexpected and completely brilliant. You’re knocked sideways not just by the surprise, but also by the fact thay you’re able to be surprised. Futtachi were astounding.

The first band up, however, were Escape From New York, a sort of progressive/post-rock band of a sort that you get a lot of, especially in Tokyo, but nonetheless a very good example of the form. They don’t have much in the way of recordings but you can get a bit of an idea from this rough-edged demo from Soundcloud.

The Perfect Me were another very good, young Fukuoka band. A difficult band to describe, they’re essentially an avant-pop band, with elements of postpunk, a little something of Animal Collective to them, and a bouncy, almost Madchester party vibe. If that isn’t very helpful, it could be that after a month, my memory is a little foggy, but I remember being mightily impressed. Their recordings are a bit more low-key and lean more towards the postpunk elements of what they do, with Joy Division, Fad Gadget and Wire jumping to mind, but it really has to be stressed how much fun they are live.

AmrFas is the current preferred spelling of Amorphous (the illogical English spelling was probably causing problems for their Japanese fans), a dance-pop duo who had played with N’toko on his previous Fukuoka tour. They’re one of those bands you suspect would be dreadfully fashionable and end up playing exclusively in cafes and boutiques with other bands who sound exactly like them if they lived in Tokyo, but being in Fukuoka they’re often forced to play together with punk, post-rock and other assorted noisy fuckups, which I’m going to suggest here is definitively a Good Thing. The multiple layers of sound they employ gives their music a richer, more textured feel than the Tokyo boutique bands they sometimes resemble, which is perhaps partly the result of being forced to stand alongside other bands on their music alone and not just the quality of their wardrobe and rolodex. They also helped balance out the lineup to place N’toko closer to the centre ground in a lineup that inclueded at the other end the furious funk-punk of Accidents In Too Large Field.

N’toko’s set was probably the best show I’ve seen him do in Fukuoka. In the past, he’s struggled with the sound system a bit, but the venue seems to be getting used to him now and he was able to hit as hard as any punk or post-rock band. With the almost industrial throb of Futtachi and the richly layered electronic pop of AmrFas already burned into the audience’s minds alongside the more conventiopnally guitar-structured bands, he was positioned in just the way I had hoped he would be on this tour, and being his third visit to the city, there were a growing number of people there who knew him. It gave that warm feeling of making progress again.

Accidents in Too Large Field are local legends and they blow the roof off pretty much any show they play. They’re one of those bands who whenever I meet them, they always seem to be looking at me sidelong with this mocking twinkle in their eyes, as if everything I do and say is hilarious and deeply uncool, so I’m always torn between the conflicting urges to hug them like brothers or punch them hard in the face. There’s something of that in their music too, mixing these joyously funky dance beats with music full of discord and aggression. They drove the audience into a crowdsurfing frenzy, as you might expect from a crowd many of whom had been charging around piggyback at the same venue the previous night over not much at all really.Accidents In Too Large Field: Nonfiction Rakka

I was DJing again, this time alongside TKC from macmanaman, one of my favourite DJs and an old friend from back when he was with the wonderful Ruruxu/sinn. With none of the technical problems of the previous night, it welt off pretty well, and playing between bands allowed me to come off whatever the previous band had been doing and then work my way towards the kind of thing I knew the next band would be playing.

One of the best nights of the tour so far, I was worried it had set the bar impossibly high for subsequent shows, but neither of us were complaining. By this point, we were more or less breaking even on hotel and travel expenses, although the next few dates would see us exploring more challenging ground in towns without the musical heritage and scene magnetism of places we’d played so far. But then what kind of progress would it be if we were just going over the same ground again and again?

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Amorphous: TheeDisco / Same Hearts

Amorphous are a boy/girl electronic pop due who I mentioned briefly in a piece I wrote about the Fukuoka music scene a year or two back. Unlike a lot of bands I recommend, who have an annoying habit of splitting up within six months of me committing record of their awesomeness to print, Amorphous are still around and still making music, including a couple of rather fine tracks over the past month.

It’s a band format that since the days of Pizzicato 5, through capsule, to any number of chirpy, cheerful chiptune and technopop acts nowadays has been a mainstay of Japanese dance music for a couple of decades and counting. Amorphous, however, take a less frenetic approach to their disco than many of their technopop and electro-fixated contemporaries, which sees them sitting at the third corner of a triangle that might have Yasutaka Nakata or similar at one corner and the the dreamy pop soundscapes of Tokyo’s Canopies & Drapes at another. It shares the slick, electro sophistication of the former without its relentless 128bpm intensity, and has a similar easygoing vibe to the latter without taking on the whole twee aesthetic.

The most recent of the two tracks is TheeDisco, a simple, laid back, almost minimalist disco groove with repetitive, mantric vocals and a neat little synth bass breakdown in the middle. It’s the kind of track that goes nowhere in particular at very much its own pace, like a hot summer evening sipping piƱa coladas by the beach.

Going up a couple of weeks prior to that was Same Hearts, which is structured along similar lines and shares much the same mood with its emphasis on simple, repeated phrases that float over a mid-paced groove. It’s a richer, busier production though, with multiple layers of synths, some some rather nice distorted vocals in the middle and some tingly bleeps and whistles. The group describe it as “psychedelic pop”, which it isn’t, but you can hear where they’re coming from, with the vocal echo and tastefully phased synthesisers that gradually come in as the song progresses. Like TheeDisco, there’s something languid and late-night about it, but with the fuller sound, it’s less chilling by the beach and more cruising the neon streets.

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