Tag Archives: Endon

Best of 2017 – More great sounds (3) – What does the rest of the internet say?

This site isn’t the only place on the internet that attempts to rank the best Japanese music of the year, and depending on where you look, you can get a very different picture of the music scene. This is of course very right and proper, because the Japanese music scene is broad and diverse, covering every genre you know and dozens you don’t. I’m not going to include any J-Pop-focused sites here, since I don’t really follow any of them, or even know if any of them made year-end rankings, but here are what a few other writers have come up with.

Beehype (top 20)
Beehype gathers new music releases from all over the globe, but it has a discrete Japanese ranking covering the top 20 Japanese music releases of the year. Beehype is probably the best place to go to get a general sense of the kinds of Japanese music the Japanese music consensus is gathering around, with artists like Satoko Shibata, Oomori Seiko and Tricot all making an appearance, although it deviates into a few interesting oddities of its own, like the recent album by Osaka jazz-skronk trio Oshiripenpenz.

Make Believe Melodies (top 50)
part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5
Make Believe Melodies, written by Japan Times writer Patrick St. Michel, tends towards soft-edged dance music and the gentler strains of indiepop and singer-songwriter music, but as the most extensive list among all the Japanese music countdowns here, there’s a fair variety on display around that theme. This list touches on indie-branded idols Maison Book Girl, rapper Zombie-Chang, the manic synth-pop funk of Chai and the pachinko machine noise of Pachinko Machine Music, along with MBM regulars like Taquwami and LLLL.

Muso Japan (best shoegaze and dreampop)
This does exactly what it says on the tin, focusing on shoegaze and dreampop, and while these genres in Japan can encompass slightly different material to what they do in the West, Muso Japan doesn’t stray far from its remit. Having such a narrow focus means that they can dig a little deeper than another site might, singling out material by lo-fi acts like FogPark, and Nurse alongside shoegaze scene veterans like Cruyff in the Bedroom, Shelling and Caucus.

Tokyo Dross (unranked list of 16)
Another list by a Japan Times contributor, this time James Hadfield, whose preferences lean towards more experimental rock and electronic music. There are more crossovers with my list creeping in here, partly because as the Listing Season drew in, we spent some time frantically sharing and picking over each other’s recommendations in private. His decision to include Phew’s Voice Hardcore despite it not being officially released until 2018 is legitimised perhaps by The Wire’s earlier decision to do the same.

Zach Reinhardt
Top 10 EPs & mini-albums

Top 20 albums (20-11)

Top 20 albums (10-1)

Zach’s lists also tend to have a lot of crossover with mine, as I think we both have very similar biases towards skronky art-punk and oddball avant-pop. One key difference is in the appearance of a lot of Call And Response stuff in Zach’s list (P-iPLE, Tropical Death, Looprider and the Throw Away Your CDs… compilation, all of which were disqualified from mine), and perhaps a little more washed-out indiepop/dreampop. Basically, though, if I missed something, it’s highly likely Zach caught it, and vice-versa.

Summary:
For anyone looking for areas of consensus, the crossovers between these various lists throw up a few recurring names. Cornelius’ Mellow Waves appears several times, topping the  Beehype list and getting honourable mentions in a few others, while Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Async, Phew’s Light Sleep, Endon’s Through The Mirror and For Tracy Hyde’s He(r)art were all rated very highly in more than one list. Miu Mau’s Drawing made appearances in most of the lists, while the Throw Away Your CDs Go Out To A Show compilation that I produced made an appearance in every list except my own (disqualified because I made it) and the Muso Japan list (wrong genre), so I feel validated in saying that’s a great record. Elsewhere, She Talks Silence, Crunch, BLONDnewHALF, Hikashu, Tofubeats, Oshiripenpenz, Sapphire Slows, Suiyobi no Campanella, Mondo Grosso, Tricot, Oomori Seiko and Satellite Young all made multiple appearances.

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Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.3 – Endon – Through the Mirror


One of the difficulties of producing a list like this of my top releases of the year is that nineteen other albums and EPs have to share space with something as brutal, powerful and beautiful as Endon’s Through the Mirror. Placed next to this roaring monstrosity of an album, anything else is doomed to look weak, finicky and ineffectual.

The opening Nerve Rain wastes now time with a buildup, exploding out of the speakers from the first moment in a storm of thundering dums and high-intensity, multilayered drone. Nerve Rain’s minor-key guitar soundscape incorporates increasingly frequent stop-starts as it progresses, which enables a transition into the even more explosive Your Ghost is Dead, where vocalist Taichi Nagura finally unleashes his guttural grindcore growl, giving a suitably satanic voice finally to the sonic hellscape. There’s more going on in Through the Mirror than simply blistering noise-metal intensity though. The vocals in Born in Limbo and Postsex are a frenetic cacophony of voices, and the riffs, while undoubtedly heavy, are buried in a tornado of violently swirling effects. Meanwhile the sonic textures are as rich as any dedicated noise act and the guitars are as capable of building shoegazey, post-rock cathedrals as they are at burning them down in black metal flames and crushing the stones to fine powder with crunching, colossal riffs. The ten-minute Perversion Til Death embodies all this and more, and while the title track occasionally taunts you that it might turn into My Bloody Valentine, it never seriously has any intention other than to kick you repeatedly in the eyeballs and scream at you. With the nine-minute closing Torch Your House, Endon finally make good on their promise to make a big old epic rock song, or at least as close to one as their constitution will allow them – like screamo being played by a thousand gargantuan and impossibly ancient robots as enemy armies flee in mindless terror. Writing this now, the idea that there could be two albums above it in this list feels insane or at least contrarian: Through the Mirror is exhausting and utterly extraordinary.

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