CD, Instant Tunes, 2016
One of the best bands of the 2000s Tokyo underground scene was synth-punk trio The Warm, and when they dissolved following 2006’s guitar-enhanced/tainted (delete as appropriate) full-length Fantastic Something, the Tokyo music world lost one of its most distinctive players. The return of The Warm’s Rikinari Hata in 2016 as Soloist Apartment is therefore a cause of some rejoicing to his old band’s tiny coterie of fans and admirers (including the band Code at No.18 in this countdown, who recruited Hata as a guest on their album). From the opening synth loop of Idiot Idiot, it’s clear that Hata is back in his early 80s minimal wave stamping grounds and every bit as comfortable there as he was ten years ago.
However, while Soloist Apartment is clearly playing amongst the same set of influences as The Warm (Liaisons Dangereuses, DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, early Mute Records) it is also clearly at the darker, more industrial end of that spectrum. From the start, it hits you with aggressively minimal beats and tetchy bursts of dentist’s drill synth noise, while Hata’s voice barks like an angry computer suffering from a bout of ennui. The only time this EP makes any sort of concession to prettiness is on the untitled third track, where the bass sequencer and soundscaping synth drones recall some of the more sublime moments of Cluster and Eno before fading away, replaced by the stuttering EBM of the closing Fu Tei.
More recently performing as a duo with guitarist A/D/M (a.k.a. Adam from The Oversleep Excuse) under the name Second Apartment (the excellent 7-inch Pulse Wave/Subhuman is already out on Hata’s own Instant Tunes label, with Soloist’s Soloist Anti Pop Totalisation EP following), Soloist/Second Apartment marks a welcome return to action for an artist who some of us always knew had more in the tank.
Filed under Albums, Reviews
CD, Mangrove, 2016
The birth of Japanese punk was officially announced by a compilation album called Tokyo Rockers in 1979, and it’s the sound of “Rockers” bands like Friction and Lizard that Code are channeling with this album. To seal the link to that first generation of Japanese punk, the photograph adorning the cover was taken by Reck from Friction, while the album’s release through the Mangrove label (run out of punk record store Base in Tokyo’s former weird punk heartland of Koenji) anchors it in what counts as the genre’s present.
This site doesn’t really cover much in the way of straight-up punk, and there’s always going to be an element of “people-who-like-this-kind-of-thing-will-like-this-while-people-who-don’t-like-this-kind-of-thing-won’t” about music from a scene that has such little interest in the outside world. Nevertheless, Code get a mention here because, while this self-titled album doesn’t break any new ground, it inhabits old ground in such a comprehensive way. It’s also important that Code do this not as revivalism so much as as a continuation of a way of doing things that has carried on in its own hermetic way for nearly 40 unbroken years. The guitars buzz away in the background or solo away shrilly, the drums clatter, the vocals harangue, and the chords go through their motions in just the way you were expecting them to. This is Japanese punk wearing a leather jacket or tatty t-shirt (or some combination thereof) that rocks on and throws its shapes in earnest defiance of the speed and violence of hardcore, the pop-punk confections of the post-Blue Hearts era, the anarchic everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach of junk — it is, simply, just what an old-school Japanese punk rock record should sound like and would be betraying itself if it ever tried to be more.
Filed under Albums, Reviews