Tag Archives: DMBQ

Top 25 Releases of 2018: Extra

In addition to the albums and EPs covered by my, admittedly selective and only vaguely ranked, top 25 list, there were of course plenty of other releases I listened to and enjoyed. Fukuoka insult-punks Born Shit Stirrers put out another extremely fun album, Depressed Fathers Club, which featured a song namechecking me, titled Ian Martin Thinks You’re Shit. Synthpop/technopop duo Motocompo re-released their fantastic 2008 Chiptop Lips album towards the end of the year, while their all-boy “ska-electro” successor band (M)otocompo released their daffy new Yokoshima Borderline EP at the same time. Fukuoka-based operatic jazz-prog trio Kelp put out the fascinating Intake album, while there were some interesting cassette compilations in the alt-rock-themed Life Is Music and Tokyo indie event Rhyming Slang’s collaboration compilation with Korean indie collective Freshalwayson. There was plenty more that I either didn’t get a chance to listen to or that I’ve somehow forgotten in the swirl of events and noise that usually makes up my year.

My own Call And Response label also put out a couple of new releases, which for obvious reasons I didn’t feel right including in my personal ranking of best releases. However, since this site seems to be the only place on the Internet that covers this sort of Japanese art-punk, underground and experimental rock music with any real affection, I’m going to make a point of recommending them here because (like all Call And Response releases, natch) they’re both excellent albums.

car-55 cover

CD, Call And Response, 2018

Sea Level – Dictionary (Handwritten) – BUY HERE
In a review by Ele-king magazine, Sea Level were described as “centreless music”, which is to say music that doesn’t have an obvious, easy-to-define core identity but rather defines itself through the fluid, free-floating and dreamlike way it dances from idea to idea, pulled outwards in various directions by the diverse creative talents in the band, but nonetheless linked in a stream of consciousness. Musically, it’s in the zone that we can comfortably call post-rock in that it combines electronic music with progressive rock, with diversions into various other genres where appropriate, but that doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this record — less a linear journey than a hallucinatory, melancholy landscape that you’re left to explore freely by yourself.

CAR-54 jacket

CD, Call And Response, 2018

Velvet Ants – Entomological Souvenirs I – BUY HERE
I’ve mentioned a couple of times in these year-end countdown posts that 2018 was a great year for the loose category of sonically or rhythmically distorted experimental rock and (post)punk music I like to classify as noise-rock, and Velvet Ants by all rights should be considered an important part of that wave of great music. Recorded and mixed by Shinji Masuko of DMBQ (whose monumental Keenly also featured in my top albums list), Entomological Souvenirs I combines jittery rhythms, heavy riffs and ferocious Sonic Youthian freakouts, delivered with a disarmingly loose sort of confidence.Velvet Ants – Cicada (single edit)

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Top 25 Releases of 2018: No. 15 – 11

afrirampo - afriverse

CD, Supponpon Record, 2018

No.15 – Afrirampo – Afriverse
One of my most anticipated releases of the year, the comeback album of Osaka avant-garage duo Afrirampo following their return to the stage in 2016 was an instant re-encapsulation of everything that made them so thrilling and fresh — or everything that made them so mannered and irritating, depending on your mileage. Whatever your take, on Afriverse they are energetically and unapologetically themselves — even more so than in their original incarnation really, with the guitar-shredding rockisms cranked up further than ever before and the whimsical psychedelic pop of drummer Pika’s solo work edging in here and there in a sprawling one-hour-plus tapestry of childlike vocal nonsense and zigzagging prog-garage-punk energy.Afrirampo – Potsu Potsu

ms machine - sldr

CD, self-released, 2018

No.14 – Ms. Machine – S.L.D.R.
A short, sharp blast of shrieking noise-punk, S.L.D.R. made a small but significant impact on the Tokyo scene when it landed in spring 2018, attracting press attention not only for the band’s harsh sounds and sharp image, but also from their proudly political feminist stance in a cultural environment largely untouched by movements like #metoo. Live appearances have been sparse since its release, but S.L.D.R. promises great things for the future, should Ms. Machine choose to grasp them. You can read my original review here.

dmbq - keenly

Vinyl, Drag City, 2018

No.13 – DMBQ – Keenly
Massive, clattering drums, immense, stadium-filling bass, a swirling galaxy of noise and feedback, sustained drone advancing across the sonic landscape like a wall of death, riffs like granite blocks hurled from Mount Olympus, and howling guitar solos raining down, serpentine and electric — that’s what DMBQ do, and that’s what they do on Keenly. Magnificently.

the hatch - opaque age

CD, Jusangatsu, 2018

No.12 – The Hatch – Opaque Age
Fourteen tracks of gruff post-hardcore, enlivened by dynamic, shifting rhythms, jazz-tinged guitar lines and unexpectedly uplifting horns. There are moments where everything comes together with almost transcendent ferocity and others where the parts grate against and struggle with each other like the jittery dynamics of postpunk, but at all times, Opaque Age is intricately worked and delivered with fearsome conviction and a touch of sarcastic humour.The Hatch – Sexgame

sonotanotanpenz - new

CD, self-released, 2018

No.11 – Sonotanotanpenz – New
After collaborating with a variety of musicians on their previous 31 and promoting it with a series of shows backed by a full band, Sonotanotanpenz’ new New is for the most part an even more minimal affair than usual, although not one lacking in texture due the the fun the duo have with a diverse array of oddball synth sounds. The usual ‘tanpenz mixture of near-whispered tag team rap and overlapping vocal melodies is present and correct, although the stronger emphasis on synths brings means this short album presents sharper contrasts between its more plastic moments, like the squelchy Milovat’ and where their approach is more organic, as on the piano-led I Love You.

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Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.11 – jailbird Y – Sex Trip EP

jailbird y - sex trip ep

7-inch vinyl, Pexpox, 2017

Jailbird Y had a rough year in 2017, with the release of this EP of explosive noise-rock coinciding with the entire band quitting, leaving vocalist Anndoe to reconstruct the band anew from the ground up with each successive gig. This chaos in the band’s internal life can perhaps be viewed from afar as simply an extrusion into physical space of the hyperactive, swirling insanity of their music. In that sense, one has to admire their dedication to their art.

The Sex Trip EP consists of just two main songs, with the one-minute noise instrumental Chinboru rounding the vinyl EP out the three tracks in total. As squalls of machine noise overlaid with what sound like the the warbling oscillations of a 1960s sci-fi movie teleporter go, the instrumental is very much of a piece with the hyperactive, loosely hardcore-influenced junk of Jailbird Y’s typically playful songwriting.

Playful is the right word too, because in contrast to the posturing machismo and earnestness of much hardcore and hardcore-influenced music, Jailbird Y can be deliciously camp at times. The vocals on Goemon come across like tortured, demonic chipmunks, but when they bring the noise, it lands like a metric tonne of sheet metal. Love Letter, meanwhile, opens like a Teutonic nightmare, the stamping boots of a conquering robot army, before lurching into gear in a frenzied flurry of screams, twisted guitars and dubby effects.

The download retails, rather confusingly, for ¥100,000 on their Bandcamp, or ¥1000 for the vinyl. The EP also includes download-only remixes of Love Letter and Goemon by Shinji Masuko from DMBQ. Remixes are usually a pointless addition at best, but Masuko clearly gets what makes the original songs tick and takes them in his own, Love Letter From Berder Kingdom drawing out and expanding on the song’s dubby elements, and Goemon Had Formed a band in 2000s remaining true to the song’s – and the band’s – chaotic heart.

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