Tag Archives: Barbican Estate

Connect And Receive – Summer 2021 Japan underground picks

I’ve put this blog on hold while I’m trying to finish writing the terrible book I’ve been putting off working on for the past five years, but as a compromise, I made this mix of tracks from Japanese underground and weirdo punk releases that have come out during the first half or thereabouts of this year. You can listen to it here:

TRACK LIST:

OOPS – Riso no Morning / 理想のモーニング
An up-and-coming punk band from Osaka, taken from their Out of Pictures 7-inch single.

LLRR – Anonymous
Released on streaming sites last year, this Kyoto art-punk band’s debut < = > EP got a limited cassette release this spring (full disclosure: from my Call And Response label).

THE QUESTONS – I am I
This garage-punk trio from Okinawa have put out a couple of releases this year, with this track coming from their Koi no Yokan EP in February.

M.A.Z.E. – Spread the Germicide
Punk with oblique no wavey flourishes, from this reliably in-your-face band’s short, sharp, sub-15-minute 9-song collection II.

Ignition Block M – Houses of Fire
There’s a lot of buzz around this Tokyo punk band, with this song the title track of their recent Houses of Fire EP.

KLONNS – Gehenna
One of the core bands of the Discipline event, usually held at the great Koiwa Bushbash live venue, which combines punk, metal, psychedelic noise and intense techno, Klonns hold up the ferocious, gothic grindcore end of the spectrum on this single. The label Black Hole has also carved out a noteworthy space as a key hub for young, stylish, noisy artists in Tokyo. Aisha from Ignition Block M appears as a guest vocalist on this track.

Ms. Machine – 2020
Another young band with connections to the Discipline and Black Hole crews, Ms. Machine’s debut album was one of the few underground releases to really attract a buzz in Tokyo this year, combining simple hooks in swirling, gothic no wave squalls of noise.

Barbican Estate – White Jazz
Another hotly tipped Tokyo indie band, this 4AD-esque psychedelic swirl came out as part of the Rhyming Slang label’s Japan/China compilation cassette early this year.

yokujitsu – Just Vibes
This Tokyo psychedelic band released a live EP earlier in the year, followed up with this cassette single in the spring.

concrete twin – Nigella
Lo-fi shoegaze that builds up towering walls of distorted sound around its fragile melody in this track from their “Re​:​encounter” sound source #04 EP. The band claim a trip-hop influence, which is hinted at in the shuffling drums, although I get more of a Madchester vibe from it.

BD1982 – THEW3ST
One half of the team behind Tokyo’s fantastic Diskotopia label, this track hails off BD1982’s excellent Ryuichi Sakamoto-meets-Throbbing Gristle solo album Distance Vision.

Jesus Weekend – Forever Breeze
A welcome return from what was once a curiously meandering Osaka lo-fi band and is now a more ambient-focused Tokyo solo act, with this Eno-esque piece taken from the lovely Rudra no Namida cassette EP.

rima kato – today was so bad
This is an old track, from the Four Songs EP, originally released by the aotoao label in 2010 and just re-released this year. Rima Kato’s simple, melancholy melodies and gentle, warm delivery are always worth checking out.

Mitsuru Tabata – Nichijo Part 1 / 日常パート1
Another old song, re-released this year as part of eclectic underground legend Mitsuru Tabata’s (ex-Boredoms, Zeni Geva, Acid Mothers Temple and a billion other bands) large archive of tracks released for compilation albums over the years, Compilation Breakdown.

Closh – I don’t care bcz I’m just ????
A curious and always interesting presence in the Tokyo indie scene, Closh released a couple of mini-albums with the band Doodless before joining alt-rock band Wetnap. As far as I know, this is her first solo release but her exasperated vocal howls and catchy, lo-fi indie-punk guitars are instantly recognisable.

Merry Ghosts – Scotch Egg Struggle
Previously known as Trespass, Merry Ghosts are a post-punk-edged Osaka-based (I think originally from Kobe) alt-rock duo, with this track a deceptively catchy, scuzzy highlight of their very good new album Pink Bloom. It’s not available on Bandcamp, but there’s a CD out there if you can track it down.

Worst Taste – New creation
A mainstay of the Tokyo alt rock scene over the past 15 years or so, this piece of sparse yet intense art-punk comes from their recent Ultra Power EP, which seems to be available only as a cassette directly from the band at the moment.

PANICSMILE – Have You Seen The Bridge
Another album not available on Bandcamp, but the self-titled CD album it comes from is available pretty widely from label Like a Fool Records (and you can find it on the evil Spotify if you don’t want the band to get any money). Put together last year through a sort of pass-the-parcel remote recording process between Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka, this album revels in its fragmentation and unexpected turns, but comes together with an urgency that it’s amazing a band with such a long career can still summon.

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Top 30 Releases of 2020: No. 10-6

10. Barbican Estate – Barbican Estate
This cassette EP was one of the year’s early delights, introducing a band who radiate promise at a time when the future seemed to be closing down rapidly. Barbican Estate released another three excellent new songs over streaming services, but the dark, dramatic psychedelic 4ADream with which they introduced themselves was a powerful statement you can actually own.

More about this release here.


9. nessie – salvaged sequence
Hailing from Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido, Nessie are a curious and subtly uneasy band — smooth and clinical in their delivery but fanatically dedicated to upending every possible expectation in their melodies and rhythms. They were featured on the Mitohos compilation featured earlier in this list and definitely fit in with the curious musical Galapagos ecosystem that album sketches out, but their queasy art-pop witchcraft is all of their own.

More about this release here.


8. Nisennenmondai – S1 / S2
Released to raise money for underground music spot Ochiai Soup, these two long tracks add up to an EP formed of the ghostly outlines of rock music, where the band’s minimal structures sketch out the spaces where parties might once have lived. Needless to say this was one of the most 2020 releases of the year.

More about this release here.


7. Eiko Ishibashi – Orbit
Like her frequent collaborators Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and Jim O’Rourke, Eiko Ishibashi filled 2020 with a string of experimental online releases, comprising six albums and album-length works. In that sense, picking just one from this series of undeniably individual yet also semi-permeable entries feels like it diminishes the context in which they arrived. That said, if I was to pick just one, Orbit, which snuck in towards the end of the year, takes the listener on perhaps the most extraordinary journey across the most expansive terrain. Ishibashi is an artist whose singer-songwriter material and experimental work feel increasingly part of the same dreamlike continuum — something she shares with Riki Hidaka (with whom Ishibashi and Jim O’Rourke collaborated this year on another impressively textured soundscape) — and Orbit is perhaps the place where that can be felt most strongly, the music frequently falling within gauzy visibility of the spaces you could imagine her vocals beginning to play.


6. meiteimahi – Aru Bakuhatsuteki na Nani ka
This EP/mini-album from newcomer duo Meiteimahi was one of the year’s most unexpected delights — a raw, tortured but playful and obliquely catchy collection of songs that recalls early Phew (including her Aunt Sally days) and on third track Kubi the insistent clang of This Heat, but nonetheless sounded completely at home in the unreal permanent hangover of 2020 Tokyo. Beginning its course deep in a pit of drunkenness, derangement, squelchy synths and distortion, it gradually emerges into something sweeter, although no less distorted and psychedelic, and with a lingering trail of corruption at the end.

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June 2020 Bandcamp recommendations

Earlier this month, I wrote a rundown of ten recent Japanese Bandcamp releases over on the US-based Undrcurrents blog, covering punk, experimental, indiepop and a little bit of electronic and hip-hop, with releases by Barbican Estate (also covered on this site), a new Puffyshoes, My Society Pissed, Uhnellys, Tatsuhisa Yamamoto & Riki Hidaka, Phew, Yoshida Shoko and Getageta, plus compilations from Tokyo’s Discipline underground event and from the local music scene in Kumamoto, Kyushu. Check out my comments and links to the music here.

And if you’re still in the mood to explore, my own Call And Response label has been going through its back catalogue and uploading old releases to Bandcamp where the artists themselves haven’t already made them available. The page also has Call And Response’s new release, the Secret Code Y single from Hiroshima noise-punks Jailbird Y, so check that out if you only check out one new release today (all funds go to helping out one of our local live venues, Nakano Moonstep). All non-compilation releases are now available to listen/buy, with links to them all on the label’s top page here.

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Barbican Estate: Barbican Estate


Barbican Estate are new on the scene in Tokyo, but at least within the young, internationally-minded niche of the Japanese indie scene they look like gathering particular attention as Ones To Watch over the course of the next year or so. On this debut EP/mini-album cassette (four songs in 26 minutes), the trio give a powerful and impressively complete account of themselves, with the opening Angel combining ethereal, sweetly delivered vocals that sound like they’ve dropped straight off a 4AD sampler circa the early 1990s with psychedelic-tinged alt-rock guitar lines that chime menacingly, pregnant with the threat to unleash an arsenal of distortion pedals, holding off impressively for 70% of the song’s runtime. That combination of otherworldly vocals and indie-psychedelia guitar soundscapes is what defines the core of the Barbican Estate sound, but that still leaves them with a wide playground to explore, with the Indian-tinged melodies of the instrumental Gravity of the Sun striking out in their own distinctive direction, while the spoken-word vocals and sharp-edged guitar ruptures of the closing Successive Sliding of Pleasure recall hints of Movietone at their raw, early best. Barbican Estate are not only one to watch over the coming year but more importantly one to pay attention to right now.

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