Tag Archives: Burgh

Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.12 – V/A – Drriill Session

va - Drriill Session

CD, Drriill, 2016

When writing about the Provoke compilation (No.20 in this rundown) I mentioned the balance between consistency and diversity that anyone putting together a compilation like this has to navigate to make an interesting record. Provoke achieved consistency by drawing from a set of artists who all shared very similar musical (and visual) aesthetics with the result that the album felt very naturally a single piece.

Released later the same year and featuring one of the same bands in Burgh (who also graced the Rhyming Slang Tour Van indie compilation in 2016) Drriill Session is another postpunk compilation, this time put together by scene veterans You Got A Radio. Drriill Session aims for consistency by the more elaborate method of bringing most of its five bands together into the same studio and recording them with the same engineer (Jungo from Anisakis, who also released the fine Butsukari Ie no Akaritachi through Drriill in 2016), with the exception of Nagoya-based Vodovo, who recorded under basically the same conditions in their hometown. This No New York-esque approach gives the album a similar sound and weight while at the same time bridging the gap between the minimal synth hysteria of D.I.S. and the almost Britpoppy Black & White.

There’s a ragtag feel to the selection of songs, as if the bands poured whatever ideas they had to hand into the sessions rather than carefully honed and selected a polished, finished product, with the D.I.S. tracks in particular functioning more as intermissions dispersed throughout the album than as a finished collection of songs. That looseness is part of the album’s appeal though, making it sound like a creative process still partly underway.

Elsewhere, Vodovo are a relatively new band, although their roots in the older Nagoya band Zymotics are audible. With Zymotics already having been a heavily bass-led band, Vodovo literally double down on that sound with a grinding, doom-laden twin-bass-no-guitar relentlessness. It’s You Got A Radio themselves who are the real standout, however, in what seems like it will be their final recorded outing together as band. they contribute three songs, with the first two, Parsec and What I Need? showcasing the band’s emotionally taut, jagged art-punk side, while their fine sense of new wave pop craftsmanship is on display on I Can See The White Horse.
Drriill Session (2-minute digest)

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews

Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.20 – V/A – Provoke

va - Provoke

CD, Provoke Association, 2016

One of the most interesting developments in the younger, hipper end of the Japanese indie scene over the past year has been the way its recent trend towards dreamy “city pop” synths seems to have provoked a reaction towards louder, more discordant music at the other extreme. In Tokyo, the influence of Harajuku record store Big Love Records has undoubtedly been driving a sudden interest in noise among kids who would never normally have even known about such scenes in their usual haunts, while the popularity of bands like Burgh and Qujaku (both bands in former times known by the eerily similar names of Hysteric Picnic and The Piqnic) has succeeded in making postpunk and noise rock fashionable.

This compilation was put together by a consortium of these young, distortion-minded indie musicians, centred around the band Deviation in Tokyo and WBSBFK in Nagoya, and draws two songs each from seven bands — with the exception of Qujaku, who offer just the closing Metabolic. They and the remaining bands — Kobe-based Douglas, Tokyo’s Burgh and Klan Aileen, and Nagoya’s Sekaitekinaband — offer a scuzzy, doom-laden take on early-80s post-Joy Division rock.

One of the challenges of putting together a compilation album is how the curator balances the need to express each band’s individual sonic characteristics with the need for the album itself to project a consistent personality of its own. Provoke is clearly weighted towards consistency. Not only are nearly all the musicians young, skinny guys in black clothes (Qujaku’s bassist Hiromi is the only woman on the entire album) the bands themselves all share so many of the same influences that the album could easily be taken as the work of a single artist. That’s not top say it’s devoid of texture though. Klan Aileen’s Wire-soundalike Kunanan delivers some intense, one-note dugga-dugga-dugga for nearly eight minutes, while Sekaitekinaband’s Test is a three-minute burst of catchy bubblegum Krautrock. The grinding, minimalist basslines of Douglas contrast with the reverb-drenched psych-punk of WBSBFK and Burgh. The result is an undeniably rough-edged yet focused document of a not-quite-scene that, if the organisers have the commitment, may yet be willed into becoming one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews

Top 20 Releases of 2015: Afterword

With the end of this latest countdown of the past year’s top Japanese music, it’s worth drawing attention to what other writers did for their own rundowns. The other main English language sites that go deep enough to put these kinds of extensive lists together are Make Believe Melodies and Beehype. Neither list had anything in common with mine, and precious little in common with each other, which just goes to show how diverse the indie scene in Japan is. In any case, both lists are worth checking out in order to get a different perspective on what Japanese indie (and a bit of pop – Patrick at MBM remains inexplicably attached to E-Girls) music has to offer.

Make Believe Melodies: Best Japanese Albums of 2015
30-21
20-11
10-1

Beehype: Best of 2015 – Japan

As I said before embarking on this latest countdown, the fact that my own label’s releases were disqualified had a big influence on the makeup of this list. It’s always an issue, but it was a bigger one than usual this time round since we released so many albums and EPs featuring so many of our favourite bands in 2015.

Looking forward into the rest of 2016, I’ll be dealing with a similar situation next time round, with a lot of new Call And Response releases already in the pipeline. Looprider’s debut only came out six months ago, but they already have a second album recorded and ready to go this spring, and a third album written. Lo-shi have already recorded their third album and first CD release, with the album currently being mixed with a view to a summer release. Mechaniphone, whose first EP came in at No.4 in my best of 2015 countdown, have a new EP ready to go, which I’ll be helping them put out in a limited release very soon. Other bands in the wider Call And Response family have new material at varying stages of completion, including Han Han Art, Sharkk, Trinitron and Tropical Death.

More broadly, I’m (maybe hopefully) picking up vibes that indiepop may have peaked and that the cool kids are ready for something a bit more discordant. If there is even the faintest possibility of a postpunk/no wave revival, I’ll be doing everything I can to jolly it along and then report on it as if it’s some spontaneous thing I just discovered.

Basically, my theory is that the indie hipster cred Hysteric Picnic/Burgh have been building up over the past couple of years has now reached such a level that young, cool kids want to hang out with them and be in bands like them. There has always been a seam of arty, angular Japanese underground music scraping away metalically beneath the surface of the music scene, and the emergence of younger bands like Deviation and Ms. Machine, as well as the welcome return of the still ludicrously young and inspired Nakigao Twintail, suggests that at least in some limited sense Japanese skronk might be getting a shot of young blood.

Any look at stuff to look forward to should probably begin with Afrirampo’s spring reunion tour, followed by an appearance at the Taico Club festival in June. Whether any new recordings will emerge is still uncertain, and I’m not sure if that would even be a good idea at this stage. Pika already has a new album titled Sun Ra New, in collaboration with Yuji Katsui and Yoshihide Otomo, and quite what role Afrirampo could play in her ever-evolving musical explorations I don’t clearly see.

New releases I’ll be looking out for include Kyoto bubblegum hardcore/postpunk band O’Summer Vacation’s new 7 Minutes Order, which I’ve already heard and is awesome, and hopefully a full album by my favourite band in Tokyo right now, the wonderful Falsettos.

I’ll also be embarking soon on the second stage of my travels to every prefecture of Japan to research its indie music scene. Following my return to Tokyo, my long-promised book on the Japanese indie music scene is now back from the editor and pencilled in for a summer release, so keep your eyes open for more on that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features

Top 20 Releases of 2015: No.8 – Burgh – All About Techno Narcisse

burgh - all about techno narcisse

CD, P-Vine, 2015

If the towering wall of angry, scratchy, trebly sound Burgh assault you with on All About Techno Narcisse (or “Techno Narcisse no Subete” as it is alternatively referred sometimes) sounds familiar, then it might be because you’re one of the select group of people who knew the band under their old name of Hysteric Picnic.

Now first let me declare an interest here and point out that the second of the three EPs Hysteric Picnic released prior to this debut album came out via my Call And Response label in late 2013 (it’s called Cult Pops, it’s brilliant and you can buy it here), although the band have evolved in some significant ways since that point.

Firstly, where the band began as a duo playing along with backing tracks stored on a series of heavily overdubbed cassettes, they are now a full band and all their songs are about twice as fast. Shigeki Yamashita’s ringing, reverb-heavy guitar and Sou Oouchi’s barking Mark E Smith-meets-Jello Biafra non-singing are a constant though, and contribute towards a sound that, while retaining clear points of similarity with a number of ’80s postpunk bands (notably The Birthday Party), is now instantly recognisable as theirs — at least in the context of the Japanese indie scene.

Assisting them in this are producer Hajime Yoshida of avant-garde anti-rock band Panicsmile and engineer Ryo Hisatsune of disco-kraut band Transkam, who worked with Burgh over a hectic schedule to record the whole album in two days, and the sound of the album reflects this frantic atmosphere. There are also similarities with Yoshida’s work on z/nz (No.19 in this countdown) in the lo-fi approach, although the presence of a bassist in Burgh’s lineup adds more of a contrasting dynamic with the scuzzy ambience at the high end. This shows up most strongly on Womb, with its throbbing bass and chiming guitar battling for your attention in the musical foreground while the vocals deliver a weary lament from somewhere in the distance.

Despite the rough-edged, noisy approach to performing their music, Burgh are still recognisably a rock’n’roll band in the old fashioned sense, with melodic rather than rhythmical dynamics driving the songs, with big, bold, catchy riffs at the heart of songs like Cult Pop, Meitei and Tonight. An important part of Burgh’s appeal, however, is the mischief and contrarianism that lurks behind their immaculate indie fringes.

Aside from the decision to change their name to something incomprehensible just a few months after a potentially breakthrough performance at Japan’s biggest rock festival and then name their album after a musical genre that has nothing to do with the actual music they play, they also gift All About Techno Narcisse with the occasional sonic curveball. The avant-garde exercise in discord that is 950 welcomes you into the album’s more challenging second side, while Case Study does an excellent job of recreating DAF-style Teutonic EBM with the bass guitar doing a terrific impersonation of an early-‘80s sequencer. As with the way the synth-based Obecca Dance closed off the Cult Pops EP, this brief nod to electronic music may only be a subtle deviation from their core sound, but still gently taunts fans to make sure they’re paying attention in the right way.

All About Techno Narcisse is very much a debut album in that it’s all about nailing down the band’s sound rather than taking it anywhere in particular, but that’s also its strength, underlining Burgh’s position as a band who, even if they can’t keep their own name straight, have a musical identity that’s strong and distinctive.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews