Tag Archives: Buddy Girl and Mechanic

Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.8 – Buddy Girl and Mechanic – Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy

CD/download, Space Shower Music, 2014

A shifting collection of Tokyo psychedelic postpunkers of no fixed membership, Buddy Girl and Mechanic followed up their luxurious self-titled 2013 debut with this claustrophobic piece of clockwork mechanical nonsense, maintaining their position as one of the most distinctive and interesting bands in the Tokyo music scene.

Can are an obvious influence, most strongly on Circe’s Kitchen, but rather than Jaki Liebezeit’s slippery drumming, the rhythms of Topsy Turvy elsewhere employ more mechanical beats, either intricate, overlapping toy rhythms as on Release the Fish, direct and propulsive as on Mechanic Nonsense, or some combination of the two as on the closing Nature/Property.Mechanic Nonsense

Seemingly stitched together from a variety of home and studio recording fragments, Topsy Turvy is a patchwork of varied sonic textures, which added to the toybox of sounds that are poured into songs like Cats Scratching makes listening to the album feel like searching for a lost earring in an unruly but fearsomely imaginative child’s bedroom. It retains a fondness for bluesy vocal melodies though, which even the most eccentric parts of the arrangements is ensures there’s a branch to cling onto, if a wilfully unsteady one.

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Getting hold of indie CDs from Japan — Call And Response Distribution

In the course of writing this blog, I occasionally get messages asking where people can get hold of the music I review, and while Bandcamp has been a wonderful thing in facilitating distribution of indie music all over the world and giving listeners the opportunity to pay bands and labels the bare minimum they actually deserve for their work, there is still a lot of music where the answer is simply, “Japan. If you’re lucky.”

In the past there have been attempts by indie music entrepreneurs to set up online distribution systems for Japanese music in the form of music download stores, but from conversations I’ve had with they’ve tended to run into problems firstly with the fan community, as new releases instantly get shared over fan forums with sales dropping to zero within just a few days, and secondly with record labels, as especially major labels but also many indies, can be exceptionally fussy and controlling over their product, to the point where it becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth to work with them.

A third problem, at least from my subjective position, is that these stores have tried too hard to give fans what they want. From a business perspective of course this makes obvious sense, but honestly, fans of Japanese music as a collective group have pretty horrible taste. I’m utterly opposed to any music business model that involves following what the audience wants (as a non-coincidental adjunct to that, I’m also deeply suspicious of any music business model that makes money). People have got way to used to the notion that “the customer is always right” and are well on the way to embracing the Japanese notion that “the customer is God”. This is questionable at the best of times because it devalues the workers’ experience and rights, and it’s especially inappropriate in the world of the arts.

Now I love so much music in the Japanese indie and underground scenes, and I want people to hear it, so since I already have an online storefront for selling my own label’s CDs, it was easy enough to expand the store to include a Distribution section where I can make available some of the music I write about on this site. I shan’t be selling downloads — that’s up to bands to decide and set up for themselves — and I shan’t be dealing with any record labels that give me even the faintest hint of hassle. All music I make available will be from local Japanese artists and labels I’ve personally selected and recommend, so make sure to adjust your taste filters accordingly.

You can access the shop here.

Call And Response Records

There are currently four CDs available.

Buddy Girl and Mechanic: Buddy Girl and Mechanic

Buddy Girl and Mechanic

First up is Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s sexy, psychedelic, kraut-blues debut, which I raved about last year and was one of my top releases of 2013. Not much I can add to what I’ve already written about this other than that it’s great and that they’re an utterly singular and compelling band, unique in the Japanese indie music scene.

Buddy Girl and Mechanic: Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy

Also available is Topsy TurvyBuddy Girl and Mechanic’s second mini album from this summer (which I wrote about here). A more intricate and claustrophobic record than the band’s eponymous debut, it expands the range of sounds they play with while retaining the interplay between organic and mechanical elements that is their signature sound.

Macmanaman: Drunkendesignatedhitter

Drunkendesignatedhitter

The third CD is Fukuoka-based instrumental post-rock band Macmanaman’s ferocious live album Drunkendesignatedhitter, with the live recording environment really capturing the band’s virtues in their best light. I interviewed them earlier in the year around the release of this album, and as we near the end of the year it’s still holding its own as one of the most impressive underground releases of the year.

Compact Club: Compact Club

Subete wa Template

Lastly, we have new wave art-popsters Compact Club’s Subete wa Template EP (review here). Drawing on influences like the Plastics, Devo  and especially P-Model, but with a skronky, postpunk edge, they’re one of my favourite new bands, this is their debut release, but there’s hopefully going to be great new stuff coming from them.

This store is never going to be anything other than a narrow, tightly curated fragment of everything that’s out there, filtered through my own particular taste, but it will grow gradually as I add more stuff. Some new stock arrived today and I shall be writing it up and updating the store over then next week or so, and I’ll ensure I post any new arrivals here as they come in.

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Fat Fox Fanclub: Good Job

If you want to get yourself known in the Tokyo indie scene, you might as well know that these days it has no time for moping. Lately the events with the buzz about them have been all about fun and frolics, and be damned if you take yourself even remotely seriously. As you might expect, this leads to stuff that is irritating and frustrating just as often as it does simple charm and easy thrills. Fat Fox Fanclub are fortunately in the latter camp. Trading in a sort of funky, mutant disco goofiness, Good Job sees the antropomorphic amazons in fine Talking Heads-via-Was Not Was party form. As an Easter egg for Tokyo indie bandspotters, yes, that’s Xiroh from Buddy Girl and Mechanic in the wonderful video (she used to play in the magnificent LoveBuyLove with FFF’s bassist).

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Buddy Girl and Mechanic: Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy

CD/download, 2014

One of this web site’s top albums of last year was Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s eponymous debut, and it’s heartening that they’ve been able to follow it up so quickly (or at least what passes for quickly in the Japanese indie world). While a lot remains consistent with before, with the blues-inflected melodies combined with an obvious love of krautrock, and vocalist Xiroh’s habit of suddenly squeaking like a 1960s secretary who’s just been touched on the bottom by a roguish co-worker. However, the transition from the bands debut to Topsy Turvy is far from seamless, and it’s clear a lot’s been going on in the studio in the interim. While Buddy Girl and Mechanic was characterised by expansive, reverb-drenched sonic vistas, Topsy Turvy is a far more claustrophobic album, with the group’s “Mechanic” aspect expressing itself in the clockwork clinks, clanks, rattles and creaks of songs like Mechanic Nonsense and Cat’s Scratching, and the tightly compressed drums of the Circe’s Kitchen. Rather than all blending together into one sultry sunset soup as the 2013 model BGM did, the band’s 2014 incarnation sets each sound scrapping it out in a closet.

One effect of this more claustrophobic production is that where in the past Xiroh’s vocals have tended to be indistinct in the reverb and overdubs, here they are occasionally pushed closer to the surface, as on the title track. Language can often be a problem for Japanese acts as the needs, expectations and interpretations of domestic and overseas audiences can lead to very different responses. Most obviously this lies in comprehension, where Japanese is obviously easier to understand for Japanese audiences and English for those in many other places. Differences also lie in how exotic or fashionable a language can make something sound, and how the inflection the singer places on the words can affect the impression they make. The vocals on Topsy Turvy are in a mixture of English and Japanese, processed through a variety of effects, sometimes in the group’s familiar distant and abstract manner, sometimes right close up in the listener’s ear. Now where a group like Shonen Knife make a virtue out of the naïvety of their English pronunciation, Buddy Girl aren’t that sort of band. The persona Xiroh projects is more adult, more vampish, and this lends an odd sense of not-quite-rightness to the English language material, where the naturalistic and the obviously foreign grate against each other.

And yet break it down and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong going on in their either. Topsy Turvy kicks off with a song that purrs its desire to “make it nonsense” and is an album constructed entirely of sounds and ideas designed to clash against each other. Release the Fish sets what sounds like a sanshin, an instrument primarily associated with Okinawan folk music, against a song that’s comes over like one big sexual come-on, while closing track Nature/Property takes all the grinding gears, tensing wires and general “mechanic nonsense” that have clattered through the album and builds an ambient psychedelic crescendo around them before releasing it all into a throbbing, motorik conclusion that lasts for about a minute but could have gone on for about twenty.

So amid all this wilful chaos, does something coherent emerge? Well, firstly I’m not sure it really needs to, and secondly yes it does. Aside from the obvious point that the thematic clash of elements that runs through the album is in itself a point of consistency, the group also never let it sabotage the songs. “The melody, it’s my remedy,” is the opening track’s response to the “nonsense” it professes to promote, and while Buddy Girl and Mechanic play the mischief makers, they’re fundamentally a band very much like Can in that the fun and games is always set in service of the greater musical good.

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Call And Response Records — Appendix

As an appendix to the series of posts on the release history of my Call And Response Records label which started here, I’m just going to add a few more comments and thoughts.

First up, you’ll notice that the catalogue numbers often skip a few (and actually it doesn’t show here but in some cases are out of sequence). The reason for this is that some releases are free downloads or private CD/Rs and things that I chose to pass over in favour of the CDs I pressed and released professionally. They also sometimes fall out of sequence because I’m disorganised and sometimes things get delayed and something else slips into the gap. Anyway, this isn’t a big deal, but just in case anyone was wondering why the N’toko album was CAR-77 but the Black Sabbath Paranoid covers compilation was CAR-75, it’s because CAR-76 hasn’t been released yet die to production delays (next month, maybe?)Jebiotto (live at Kichijoji Planet K)

Looking forward, there’s a Jebiotto album (the much-delayed CAR-76) in the works, and a new issue of Quit Your Band! gradually taking shape, with Slow-Marico on the accompanying CD. There are friends of the label also working on new albums that even if they’re not on Call And Response, I’ll certainly be loudly cheering on, with Iguz Souseki’s psychedelic post-Zibanchinka band Futtachi foremost among these. September 27th 2014 will also mark the ten-year anniversary of the first Clear And Refreshing live event, so there’s going to be a big party to celebrate that.

Finally, in a purely hypothetical exercise (the last one was too recent for it to really be worth doing another one right now), I’m going to talk a bit about what a new Call And Response compilation in the Dancing After 1AM/1-2-3-Go! mould might look like if I were to make one now.

Firstly and obviously since it was only a year and a half ago, a lot of bands would be the same. Futtachi, Hysteric Picnic, Hyacca, Mir, Slow-Marico and Jebiotto would be right at the top of my list of people I’d be mailing. However, there are some bands who were on DA1AM who are probably a bit too famous or at least operate in a slightly more professional milieu now — bands who wouldn’t really benefit from being on the album and who I’m not really doing stuff at live events with these days. She Talks Silence, Extruders and The Mornings for example are bands I still very highly regard, but who are kind of above my level now, and while I’m not opposed to getting in popular bands who work musically with what Call And Response does, there is a balance between that and finding out new stuff that I feel should tilt more towards the latter than the former.Umez: Lingering Dream

Bands that have come onto my radar over the past year and a bit and who I’d definitely be trying to get something from for this hypothetical CD include indiepop jangleteers DYGL, noise-pop duo Umez, industrial/EBM duo group A, Fukuoka electronic glitchgaze duo Deltas, jittery Saga punk trio Hakuchi, Krautrock-kayoukyoku three-piece Fancy Numnum, new wave/artpunkers Compact Club, and Tokyo postpunk band illmilliliter. The marvellous Buddy Girl and Mechanic, who I missed out on with DA1AM, would be well up there among my priorities too, while it would please me greatly to get original 1-2-3-go! band Usagi Spiral A back to do something as well.Hakuchi: Suttokodokkoi

As I say, I’m in no hurry to make another compilation, but I’m not short of stuff I’m still excited enough by to do something with. Anyway, back to regular posting after this. Your attention has been greatly appreciated.

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Top 20 Releases of 2013: No.4 – Buddy Girl and Mechanic – Buddy Girl and Mechanic

I’ve already written so much about this band over the past couple of years that there’s really very little else I can add. This album came out at the beginning of 2013 and its seven tracks (three of which are available to listen on the band’s Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages) kept bringing my back over and over again. It’s breathy, bluesy and ambient, but with a motorik driving power that underlies it and gives propulsive force that prevents it from getting bogged down in the dreamy web it weaves. More recently the band made a cameo appearance in and contributed to the soundtrack of the Zellner Brothers’ forthcoming film Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, which will hopefully see them garner a wider following, and it’s easy to see how the Herzog-influenced, Austin-based filmmakers would be attracted to BGM’s spacious, dreamlike combination of intensely physical blues and out-of-this-world kosmische.

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Guardian Song of the Week: Buddy Girl and Mechanic, “A Very Ordinary Day”

This week’s pickup for The Guardian’s music from around the world guest blogging series is an ambient Kraut-blues psychedelic pop trip from one of Tokyo’s best new bands.

One of the best Japanese albums of the year was the self-titled debut by Buddy Girl and Mechanic, a Tokyo-based psychedelic pop quartet whose distinctive combination of Krautrock and sultry, ambient blues melodies has marked them at once as a band to watch but also served to hold them separate from any of the close-knit scenes that make up Tokyo’s Balkanised indie landscape.

Released as part of Japanese net label Ano(t)raks’ B.V.D.A. birthday compilation, Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s take on the birthday theme is typically dark and opaque with references to the atomic bomb and Hitler coming at you right from the get go. The group’s familiar musical motifs are also clearly on display, with a metronomic guitar and subtle but insistent drum pattern forming the song’s spine, embellished with occasional crashes of clattering guitar noise. The core dynamic that runs through both this song and the group’s whole catalogue is a tension between this mechanical rhythmical sense and the fluid melodies that float over the top. This juxtaposition of elements is embodied by frontwoman Xiroh herself, whose simple two-note keyboard threaten to give the song an almost technopop feel, while her sultry vocals insist on the organic.

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V/A: World Awake

World Awake

Download, Ano(t)racks, 2013

Net labels are something the indie scene (in Japan at least) is still in the process of coming to grips with. In many ways, a net label has more in common with music aggregator blogs that simply introduce new music, functioning primarily as a taste curator rather than participating actively in its creation, and with the financial investment the label makes next to zero, the relationship between label and artist is fundamentally different. However, the boundaries are more blurred than that, and on the basis of this compilation, Ano(t)racks are certainly putting some excellent new music out there.

One of the advantages net labels have is that because money isn’t the same issue that it was, they can afford to take a more relaxed and eclectic approach to the artists they select, with less of the ruthless honing and focusing in on specific types of artist and cultivating specific audiences in real, physical live spaces. The Web allows them to float more freely and catch their audience more passively. Still, the online environment naturally acts as a kind of filter in itself, and where punk labels thrive in the alcohol-fuelled, claustrophobic intensity of small live spaces, the audience for a net label is more likely to be found surfing the web, semi-conscious at 2AM, so it’s natural that the sort of music a label like Ano(t)racks gravitates towards is suited to that listening environment.

Ano(t)racks are a self proclaimed twee pop label, and there’s nothing much on this compilation to dispute that, with the exception of Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s vampish, defiantly lo-fi Fanaticalia. Built around a riff that Patrick over at Make Believe Melodies rightly identifies as having been stolen wholesale from The Kinks’ You Really Got Me (to be honest, something that iconic barely counts as stealing now; like the chord sequence from Hang on Sloopy, it’s surely public domain by now) it makes occasional diversions into Rolling Stones territory but fundamentally, like much of Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s self-titled debut album, released earlier this year and sure to be one of Japan’s albums of the year come December, its closest cousin in terms of construction is Can, with the way the music slips and slides over the disorientating rhythm and the emphasis on trancelike repetition.

Eschewing the lo-fi approach and emerging as genuinely lovely indie rock songs as well as highlights of the album are The Fin.’s Floating in the Air and Come to my Party’s Paraffin Lover. I can sense a distant echo of Frozen Years by British pub rock legends The Rumour in the former somewhere, but more than that, it’s simply a pure rush of sentimental, timeless guitar pop comfort food. The latter also provides some tunespotting opportunities for new wave geeks, with the main melody reminiscent of Echo and The Bunnymen’s Bring on the Dancing Horses, although sonically it has a lot in common with Japanese turn-of-the-millennium alternative rock, in particular Supercar (and particularly the song Aoharu Youth), with its mixture of shoegaze, synths and electronic beats. Ghostlight’s Koi no You na Uso also harks back to the turn of the millennium like a more laid back, lo-fi take on Quruli’s C’mon C’mon.

There are more low-key, acoustic numbers such as the gorgeous Coastline by Genki Sakuradani and the quirky, banjo-based 1940s cabaret jazz of Annie the Clumsy’s Gold Crescent Moon, as well as the beach pop of Superfriends’ How True My Love Was and the decidedly Lennonesque blues of Slow Beach’s closing Surfin’ Day and there’s really not a duff tune among the eight tracks on offer.

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Buddy Girl and Mechanic: Buddy Girl and Mechanic

Buddy Girl and Mechanic

CD, self-released, 2013

Buddy Girl and Mechanic were a band who, off the back of a smart little demo CD and a couple of live performances, I tipped as ones to watch in 2012. Now my recommendations can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing, so it’s something of a relief that the guitar and synth-based quartet has survived long enough to present us with this self-titled debut album.

There’s something in the breathy, downtempo melodicism that’s a little reminiscent of Mazzy Star, although it’s really more like a Mazzy Star that’s having slow three-way sex with krautrock and psychedelic desert blues on a hot summer night, while the cracked neon sign flickers through the window of a cheap New Mexico motel room. Buddy Girl and Mechanic are sultry, sexy and hot, yet at the same time there’s something quite rigid, theoretical and European about how their music falls together. Fenix has a bit of Ege Bamyasi-era Can to it’s funky rattle and Satan’s Son recalls the laid-back confluence of blues and spacerock of early Spiritualized, while Ultra Witch Crafty Fab autobahns ahead ahead like a sexy Neu!

Yeah, I know I’m using the word “sexy” a lot in this review, but it’s a key word: there’s even a song on here called Sexy. And partly because of so much of the language of indie having been defined by socially awkward British 1980s outcasts and partly because of Japanese rock having its roots more in the theoretical and technical nature of jazz rather than the more primal forces at work in blues and R&B, the Japanese alternative scene has never really felt very comfortable with sex and never really been very good at articulating sexiness. As a result, Buddy Girl and Mechanic often seem like something being beamed in from another world rather than just a bunch of people performing on a stage a couple of feet away, and yet somehow it still works, which has a lot to do with the aforementioned krautrock influences, the mechanical and the sensual tussling for dominance in the songs, linked and made coherent by the languid psychedelia that overlays it all.

And yes, it’s very good. It’s atmospheric, the melodies are often spine-tingling, the arrangements are inventive, and most importantly, it sounds like nothing else in the Japanese indie and underground scene right now.

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Top 20 albums/EPs of 2011 (numbers 11-20)

It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, partly because there were a few CDs I heard only towards the end of the year and I needed time to digest them, partly because I’m lazy, and partly because I spend so much time out at gigs that I don’t really listen to as many CDs as I thought I did. This is by no means meant to be a definitive list of what’s good in Japan — there were loads of albums this year that I didn’t hear — think of it more as a critically compiled list of what passed through my hearing range last year. I’ve included a few pop albums where I thought what was going on was particularly interesting, but despite my frequent writings on J-pop and K-pop over the last year or so, I don’t think there are many mainstream pop groups in Japan whose actual albums I rate. Kara’s album was appalling, perhaps even more so than AKB48, who at least have never shown any capacity to make music of even the most infinitesimal quality, the T-ara album was great for the first four tracks but sucked after that, Perfume’s album was half a good album but half meh, The Kyary Pamyupamyu mini-album was good and only just missed out. The Sakanaction album was good too, but again, I couldn’t quite justify to myself counting it as a particular favourite. It’s a personal list and therefore subject to all my usual biases and musical prejudices.

I’ve counted both EPs, albums and mini-albums in here since defining the boundaries between them can be difficult at the best of times and Japanese underground bands make it impossible (Pq’s Hausdorff has ten tracks and comes in at eight minutes, another CD in the list has three songs at double that length, and so on). Obviously I’ve not included albums from Call And Response Records since I run the label, so Zibanchinka’s (excellent, natch) Hatsubai Chushi has to sit this one out.

I’ll post the top ten when I get back from Kyushu on Monday, but here’s the countdown from numbers 20 to 11:

20. Kobayashi Dorori: Yarukoto Yattara Kaette yo

Notable for the way the group released this EP with an accompanying erotic manga drawn by the guitarist, Kobayashi Dorori strike an appealing balance between an undoubted tendency towards pop culture geekery that occasionally manifests itself through eccentric lyrical diversions and poker-faced erotic imagery, spiky, Gang of Four-influenced postpunk guitar, and melodies that sometimes nod towards the girly punk-pop of Chatmonchy and their ilk (apologies, but there are practically no decent recordings of them on YouTube or elsewhere on the Web) without compromising the songs’ essentially stripped down natures. The delivery is so dry that it’s hard to tell how serious they’re being throughout most of it (my guess: not very) but that only adds another layer of intrigue to a band that’s already ambiguous on plenty of levels.

19. Siamese Cats: Gum

First up, I’m not usually a fan of these kinds of melodic Japanese indie rock bands. I tend to find them simultaneously not poppy enough to make good, shameless bubblegum pop fun and not aggressive and experimental enough to satisfy on a more harsh and physical level. Nevertheless, this debut mini-album by Tokyo’s Siamese Cats genuinely did impress me with its sometimes Dylanesque melodies, freewheeling approach to rhythm patterns and occasional diversions into the outlying foothills of psychedelia.

18. 2NE1: Nolza/2nd Mini-Album

Yes, they’re a Korean group, but they had an official Japanese release this year (that differed from the Korean version only through the omission of Park Bom vocal showcase Don’t Cry, which was a ballad and therefore doesn’t count) and in any case, Korean music is promoted and sold as an adjunct to J-Pop rather than as “foreign music” (check which floor the K-Pop is displayed on in Shinjuku or Shibuya Tower Records). This mini-album would have made it onto the list thanks to the bonkers Dutch-electro-Bollyhouse-whatever of I Am the Best alone, although Hate You is a fine piece of synthpop in its own right and even annoyingly earnest pop-rock singalongs like Ugly have either an arresting lyrical bite or some interesting synth bleeps and bloops or both. The acoustic guitar-led Lonely is complete crap, but let’s just pretend that never happened.

17. Miila and The Geeks: New Age

Miila and The Geeks’ first full album had a struggle on its hands extending their sparse guitar/drums/sax sound over fourteen tracks and keeping it interesting, but they make a little go a long way, building each song around a single idea and then clinging to it for the whole two minute running time before moving onto the next one. This, along with the minimal, repetitive lyrics, means that while the sound is deliberately scuzzy and uncompromising, there’s always a easily graspable hook to snare the listener. It’s also hugely indebted to bands like Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, and the problem with this kind of music is that when it so obviously harks back to the postpunk era, it sets itself up for potentially unflattering comparisons with genuinely the revolutionary bands of the past. So yeah, while New Age is no Pink Flag and vocalist Moe’s playful, apolitical lyrics lack any of Lydia Lunch’s politically charged rage and gravitas (she has a lot of fun running through the alphabet on Alphabed but it’s hard to imagine her singing lines like “Suburban wealth and middle class wellbeing / All it did was strip my feelings” or “I woke up bleeding / You are my razor”), musically it stands up pretty well on its own, and certainly among those at the forefront of the group’s peers.

CD, Self-released

16. Pop Office: I Was Killed Here

I’ve written about this here and haven’t much to add. Pop Office do the 80s new wave revival thing that is the stock in trade of bands like Lillies and Remains and Plasticzooms, but they never sound like they’re trying to be anything other than themselves. I like.

 

CD, Self-released

15. Pq: Hausdorff

With ten songs in eight minutes, this self-released CD/R album by Tokyo experimental collective Pq typically dives straight into a song, rattles through a dozen New-York-no-wave-meets-late-Canterbury-scene-psych-punk-with-mumbling musical non sequiturs in the space of about 42 seconds, pauses for a second, and then does it again. On one level, it’s a jangling jumble of disconnected sounds, and yet… and yet… And yet step back and it’s gloriously coherent, sprightly, sparkling with fun and humour. This is what experimental music should be.

CD, Take a Shower Records

14. Bossston Cruizing Mania: Loaded, Lowdead, Rawdead

I’ve written extensively about this album too, so again there’s not much to add. Bossston Cruizing Mania are fierce, aggressive, cynical, funky, occasionally self-indulgent but often devastatingly effective. They make messy, lo-fi postpunk not in tribute to their idols but out of having absorbed, played and lived loud, dirty, uncompromising music for most of their adult lives. This is real, baby.

CD, Contemode

13. capsule: World of Fantasy

Fans are divided over this album, but the critics are wrong. World of Fantasy was fabulous at the time, coming in a blast of club-ready, hedonistic fun just as post-quake Tokyo was looking for escapism, and after nearly a year, it’s still a gloriously stupid, often comically silly record. Nakata told me last year that he’s able to get away with more complex, multilayered ideas with capsule than his work with Perfume which he said needed to have one big idea. Now this may be true as far as his remit goes, but the fact is that World of Fantasy was his big dumb blast of riffs and catchy-yet-meaningless slogans, while JPN was all fiddly (although often interesting) production, and many of the songs’ melodies meandered aimlessly, idly and vainly looking for the big chorus or catchy hook that they needed.

CD, White Lily Records

12. Sloppy Joe: With Kisses Four

Another one that I reviewed last year. Utterly unoriginal, but so shameless about it that it gets a big balls-of-steel award for bravado. Also Still Be a Little Roof is possibly the indiepop song of the year.

CD, Self-released

11. Buddy Girl and Mechanic: 4 Songs Demo

Another self-released CD that did the rounds of the Tokyo indie scene last year. I’m not sure if it was ever even made available on sale or if it was just a promo, but it’s really quite lovely. Brooding, ambient, Lynchian Kraut-blues, with breathy, almost whispered vocals. Opening track Satan’s Son sounds like early Spiritualized or some of Jason Pierce’s material with Spacemen 3, but its when they dive into Can territory, as on the skittering, repetitive, motorik UltraWitchCraftyFab and the abstract funk of Fenix Drops that it really takes off.

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