Tag Archives: Anisakis

CAR-84 – V/A: Dancing After 1AM

Dancing After 1AM

CD, Call And Response, 2012

This is part of a series of posts talking about music I’ve released through my own Call And Response label. I explain in a bit more detail here.

As 2012 rolled around, I started thinking it was time to do a new compilation. It had been four years since my last one, the Post Flag Wire covers album, and obviously I’d discovered a load more bands since then and picked up new audiences along with them, so it was time to lay down another marker about where Call And Response was. I settled on the title Dancing After 1AM in response to Japan’s absurd anti-dancing laws that saw a bunch of club owners arrested in 2011 and 2012, and completely devastated the club scene in Osaka. In Tokyo we weren’t affected, but on tour in Kyushu you could see the poisonous effect it had had on the club scene there. I added the subtitle “Japanese electric music in the year 2012” as a way of instantly dating it, and then wrote some text in Japanese for the sidecap/obi strip reading “Compilation albums are a waste of time because they’re already out of date as soon as they’re released”. I did a little illustration of a dancing policewoman with a hippy flower in her hair and N’toko contributed by designing the sleeve around my drawing. I kept it to Japanese bands, which meant the design was his only contribution, but I tried to get all the other bands from the label involved. Praha Depart were very much doing their own thing by this point though, and when I mentioned it to them, they gave the impression that it would be difficult to get any new recordings done. Zibanchinka agreed to do something and then promptly imploded, but vocalist Iguz was keen to keep things moving with her new band Futtachi, who contributed a thundering psychedelic monster of a track in Kaiko no Oto. (One other band I really wanted to get on the album was the brilliant blues/Krautrock band Buddy Girl and Mechanic, but they were absorbed in the recording of their own album, which they released finally in early 2013 and was one of the best albums of the year, so they obviously used the time well.) Neither Mir nor Hyacca had released anything for a long time, so getting them involved was essential for more than just their role as the heart and soul of the label. They both needed a kick up the arse to get on and do something. Mir had lost their drummer somewhere between their recording of Wire’s Mannequin for 2008’s Post Flag and 2010 when some electronic recordings they’d done as a duo emerged. It was from these sessions that the version of their perennial closing number Dance (which naturally closed out the album too) came from. I chose that over their excellent 2010 version of the song TV partly because of its appropriateness to the compilation’s title, and partly because Mir’s TV is a song I’ve over the years become very superstitious about. it’s a beautiful song and the 2010 version of it is brilliant, but there’s a sadness at its heart that starts sucking you into itself the more you think about it, and the closing refrain of “Sayonara, sayonara” feels way too much like tempting fate. In Hyacca’s case, the bassist, Seiji Harajiri, was by this time managing the coolest and best venue in Fukuoka, Yakuin Utero, and so he and his band used Utero and its PA engineer to record a new song, Uneko. Uneko was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for from them, both catchy and musically intelligent — the exact right balance of smart and dumb that only they can really pull off in this particular way. The video we later made for it where I filmed them with a cheap pocket camera just goofing around and getting drunk in a karaoke box was actually one of the spare ideas for Zibanchinka that their indefinite hiatus had left us with, and Hyacca attacked it with gusto. Looking to the label’s future, Hysteric Picnic went on to record an EP/mini album for Call And Response, while hopefully Jebiotto and Slow-Marico will follow in one form or another.Hyacca: Uneko There were a lot of other bands on DA1AM who were in similar positions, having been out of the recording game for a while and happy for the opportunity (and the deadline) that the compilation gave them. Extruders had just recorded a wonderful live album at a Buddhist temple, and were looking to go into the studio to record an album proper soon (the result, Colors, was another of 2013’s best) and so they came up with Collapsing New Buildings (translate it into German and see what you get) with its constant electric buzz running through the whole song in the background, causing me and the friend who was helping make the master copy to spend a while debating whether it was intentional or not (it was). The Mornings’ debut had been my album of the year back in 2011, and they were just starting to put together material for the follow-up (Christ alone knows what’s going on with that — I heard a full album’s worth of rough mixes last summer but no final version has yet emerged) so Fu-ji was what got them back into gear. Puffyshoes contributed the short and sweet girl-group garage rocket Oh My God, went on to have a busy 2013 and released a great cassette album before exploding in a shower of unfulfilled potential, while Otori recorded the brilliant Hanten (which is their best song and I’m incredibly smug that I got it), Anisakis did the XTC-esque Popcorn Bata ni Kuroi Kage, She Talks Silence gave the album the eerie Long Ways, and New House did the sampledelic Natural Blessings (the last song to arrive, just a couple of days before the album went off to press, and which much to my shame I misprinted as “Nature Blessings” on the jacket — and which also ensured I’d be an insufferable grammar nazi come time to print the Hysteric Picnic CD jacket the following year).She Talks Silence: Long Ways The main problem was in knowing exactly what was going to be on the album, and as with the New House track, right up until the final day or so it wasn’t completely fixed. It wasn’t just a problem for printing the track listing, but also for the CD itself. Bands like Futtachi and macmanaman delivered songs that ran to over seven minutes, and at one point there was real danger of it becoming a double album (I went as far as making an alternative track list where I worked out how the tracks would divide over two discs just in case). There were also moments where tensions ran a bit high. New House didn’t make a fuss over the mistake on the jacket, but one of the other bands (no, I’m not naming names: they did a very good song and it didn’t turn into any kind of feud) was very particular about every aspect of how they wished to be presented with tempers flaring on both sides. The problem of projects like this where everyone (myself included) is working pro bono is that you never have the cushion of money to fall back on, so everything comes down to self satisfaction, and often in a related sense to pride. In a small society like the indie/underground scene, however, the axiom of “don’t piss people off” is a solid general rule. It’s a contradiction of rock’n’roll and punk: both bands and labels are in it in the first place because they’re in some way dissatisfied or disaffected, but within the circle you find yourself, you often have to keep under control the same impulses that led you there in the first place. In addition to Hyacca, fellow Fukuoka crazies macmanaman (the best band named after a twinkle-toed former Liverpool winger in the whole world) recorded a live version of their song Michael, which I retitled Michael in Utero partly because it was recorded at a venue called Utero and partly because the combination of a Michael Jackson reference and a Nirvana reference amused me. Along with Tokyo postpunk trio Tacobonds’ superb Ane with its deft boy-girl vocal call and response (by now you must know how I dig that sort of thing) and slowly building dynamic tension, that made three superb recordings at Utero by the same engineer. You want to do good recordings cheap? Get yourself your own live venue and get the staff to do it.Tacobonds: Ane Still in Kyushu, Kobayashi Dorori and cynicalsmileisyourfavorite from Kumamoto are also on there. The former contributed an oddball nursery rhyme about whales called Shepherd, while the latter contributed the baffling Carnival. I’m still not sure what I think of Carnival now. It has so much going on, with the insistent dance beat, the post-hardcore shrieking, and you’ve got to admire the balls of the way the one guy just throws everything he’s got into his bit of the vocal melody with zero regard for whether he even gets close to the right notes. But at the same time, cynicalsmileisyourfavorite are one of those bands that are all about what happens in the moment. Carnival is usually a chaotic babble of freshly improvised nonsense, but for the recording they tried to work something out and make a proper song of it, and so while the results are, well, they’re something, they’ don’t quite sound like the band when they’re just left to be themselves. Jebiotto are a very similar kind of band in that regard, but their track, Deacon Punk, with its mad cat meows, dirty synths and semi-inebriated sounding vocals, treads that path more assuredly. But like I said, with cynicalsmile you can’t not admire the sheer weight of passion they hurl at it and for some reason I always come out of hearing Carnival with a smile on my face. I’m just not sure why.The Mornings: Fu-ji One of the biggest motivating factors for me while putting DA1AM together was the existence of Nagoya label Knew Noise’s wonderful Ripple compilation of local Nagoya bands. Throughout the production process I was listening to Ripple and my gradually forming compilation and comparing them. I would just not be beaten by this collection from one mere city (and not even Tokyo!) Pop-Office contributed to both Ripple and DA1AM, and it’s interesting that both they and Extruders off this CD went on to make albums for Knew Noise. In any case, both albums to me seem to come from a similar kind of taste, and I’ve been keen to make more connections in Nagoya ever since. On the current rate, Call And Response’s next proper compilation is due towards the end of 2015, which will be just in time for the label’s ten year anniversary. In the meantime, there were new Mir and Hysteric Picnic releases to think of.

Dancing After 1AM is available now from Call And Response’s online shop.

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Anisakis: Uzu

Uzu

Vinyl/download, Taguchi Sound, 2013

Not really fitting into any niche in the Tokyo indie and alternative scenes, and yet viewed with a guarded sort of respect by increasing numbers of their peers, as if trying to work out whether this is a band they are allowed to consider cool, or perhaps if this is a band they’ll soon be kicking themselves for not sucking up to, Anisakis are misfits. Surprisingly so when you consider how accessible and downright conventional most of the music on this debut album, Uzu, sounds when set against the sonic lunacy of so much Japanese underground music, yet there’s definitely something defiant and distinctly independent-minded about them, with a penchant for the grotesque, as evidenced by the album’s striking artwork (by Adam Taylor of UK artrockers The Victorian English Gentlemens Club).

Anisakis inspire intense love in a small coterie of (let’s be honest here, mostly female) fans, but what makes them such a potentially important and valuable band is their dedication to wedding this occasionally confrontational, certainly dark-edged, artistic sensibility to music that sits firmly in a zone that indie rock fans will be comfortable with. They offer something similar to (although still somewhat more experimental than) what British bands like The Cribs provide, but in a way that never once feels like imitation, drawing equally as much from Japanese rock and singer-songwriter traditions as it does from contemporary UK/US indie and postpunk — something that shows up on the quirky, XTC-ish Popcorn Batake ni Kuroi Kage and what might be the album highlight, penultimate track Air Jinsei.Anisakis: Haru no Shitai

The one and a half-minute Gohan sees the band messing around with fucked up guitars, but you feel Anisakis are most at home with themselves when they’re rocking ever so slightly off-kilter, yet all the while remaining safely moored to something almost like pop music, as on second track Catastrophe, and Natsu no Hizashi to Virtual Boy. Because at heart, vocalist Jungo isn’t an avant-garde musician, he’s a balladeer in the 70s tradition, with the music a delivery vehicle for his oddball narratives. It shows up most in songs like Komori, where the music slows down and the beat loosens up enough to let his voice ramble over the top of it, but it manifests itself in a different way on the following track, Chodii Isu, where against the driving bassline and insistent beat, he comes across like a Japanese version of the world-weary storyteller Julian Casablancas plays on the first Strokes album.

I always feel it’s a bit cheesy when a punk band brings out the big, emotional ballad at the end of a set, and the same goes with this album’s closer Seoyogi no Senshu, although with Anisakis, you get the impression that the emotional rather than physical, dance-oriented electricity of the music is where the band see their main power as being, and so it fits that they would seek to climax on an emotional high rather than on a spasm of jerky nihilism. Still, if they were going to insist on that approach, the brooding Kaigandori o Aruku Hanashi with its explosive bursts of screeching might have sent the album out on more of a bang. Nevertheless, Uzu sees Anisakis defiantly announcing their occupation of a territory in the Japanese music scene that surprisingly few bands have tried for and which it’s hard to imagine many claiming so successfully.

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Anisakis: Yoru no Yume Koso Makoto-san / Seoyogi no Senshu

Self-released, Free download

Tokyo art-punks Anisakis have a new EP available to listen or download and after a period that saw the group reduced to a drum machine-driven duo and subsequently shift their sound away from the Monks-like garage-punk of their earlier material and towards a more synthetic, new wave reminiscent sound, these new songs see them back as a three-piece.

Lead track Yoru no Yume Koso Makoto-san is very much in the mould of earlier songs like Rosas, with a grinding, Contortions-like bassline punctuated with ragged, reverb-heavy postpunk guitars and vocalist (and occasional She Talks Silence bass player) Jungo yelping out the often nonsensical vocals with wide-eyed seriousness and a disconcerting sense that he can see something that you the listener haven’t been hit on the correct bit of the head to be able to see.

It’s backed by Seoyogi no Senshu, which being a slow song at five minutes length is always going to have its work cut out making an impact round these caffeine-addled parts. With songs like this, I’m never sure what I’m supposed to be doing as a listener. Do they expect me to sway from side to side with my eyes closed, contemplating the hopeless, beautiful tragedy of it all? I hope not, because that’s the indie equivalent of raising your lighter at a Bon Jovi concert. Then again, given that this is the band of a guy who not only once painted his dick blue and used it to make a relief print, but then subsequently put the whole process on YouTube (might want to think twice before watching this at work), it’s probably best not to try to second-guess what he’s thinking.

In any case, Seoyogi no Senshu is a slow, emotionally driven song with guitar effects set to “shoegaze”, and a chorus with one of those undeniably effective chord sequences that tap into the angsty teenager in everyone, but lacks the wired delivery and teetering-on-the-edge jittery paranoia of the opener.

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