Tag Archives: Barbican Estate

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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