Tag Archives: Human Wife

Ten Years of Live Music in Tokyo Part 5: Tropical Death Metal

The newest band on the bill for my ten year anniversary event (September 27th just in case you forgot, kids!) is also one of the bands I have the most deeply rooted relationships with: Tropical Death Metal. The show on the 27th is their first ever performance, but all members are or have previously been involved with projects connected with or related to things I’ve done, so perhaps the best thing to do would be to go through the group member by member.

Guitarist Eugene Roussin has recorded for Call Ant Response twice as part of the magnificent stoner rock trio Human Wife, producing covers of electro idol trio Perfume’s song Game and most recently Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.

Bassist Shingo “Rally” Nakagawa you should already know through his past life as a member of The Mornings, whose debut album Save The Mornings! was my album of the year in 2011 and their song Fuji featured on Call And Response’s 2012 Dancing After 1AM compilation. Nakagawa and The Mornings have since parted ways, but a second Mornings album is due to come out very soon and Nakagawa has been active with another band, the drum machine postpunk/mutant disco of Han Han Art, who also contributed a cover of Paranoid to Call And Response’s free Valentine’s download compilation.

Drummer Sean McGee is active in a number of bands, most relevantly for the purpose of this blog the post-rock band Henrytennis, although he is a familiar face in a number of Call And Response-related projects either as a member or guest musician, including his own solo project which is currently in the works.

Lastly, the band’s other guitarist Ryotaro Aoki has been all over the place. I recently wrote about his new project Looprider on this site, he appeared on three tracks on my Sabbath/Paranoid covers compilation, he produced the Quit Your Band! zine with me, and Japanese indie fans with memories that stretch back a few years will remember him from the terrific Kulu Kulu Garden.

Tropical Death Metal then is the work of these four musical hired guns — Call And Response Records’ version of the Wrecking Crew, Swampers or Funk Brothers — and it’s obviously very exciting to have them debuting the material they’ve created together at my event. The band have recorded this demo as a taster.

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Filed under Call And Response, Live, Live previews

A Valentine’s gift from Call And Response Records

Every couple of years or so, my label Call And Response Records likes to put together a compilation project for Valentine’s Day, usually themed around cover versions of one band or another. The idea is always to do something lo-fi and throw together all sorts of things, regardless of genre or recording quality and to release it only in a limited fashion, either as a CD/R or download. Bands are encouraged to spend as little time on it as possible and just to mess around and have fun, although this is usually a pretty futile thing to ask given the neurotic perfectionism of most musicians we know. In any case, the result is always going to be more or less lo-fi.

I’m not sure where the idea of asking every band to cover Black Sabbath’s Paranoid came from, but I’m pretty sure it was partly inspired by the compilation A Houseguest’s Wish, in which 19 bands took turns covering Wire’s Outdoor Miner (and indeed Wire’s own album The Drill, where the band did numerous covers of their own song). The decision to pick Paranoid as a song came out of an ongoing obsession with Black Sabbath that the Quit Your Band! zine’s editorial team developed (and which culminated in our decision to rate albums using a system called the “Sabbath Scale”). It’s a good choice of song I think because it’s so utterly, utterly stupid and simple that it leaves huge amounts of room for interpretation by expanding, elaborating, or honing it in various ways. A similarly well known song like War Pigs or Iron Man would have imposed itself a bit too much on the artist and been less flexible in its scope for interpretation.

I also think the idea of a whole load of different bands covering the same song is artistically incredibly interesting in its own right, with the similarity of the underlying song forcing you to be conscious of what the musicians are doing to it in terms of structure, arrangement and performance. Over the course of an album, the repetitiveness of the same theme, each time in a different iteration, has a curiously trancelike quality to it as well. Rather like the documentary film The Aristocrats (also perhaps an influence), where dozens of comedians tell the same filthy joke in all manner of different ways, each adding their own twist on the familiar theme, I think seeing the same song played by a lot of bands gives an interesting insight into the creative process.

In any case, the response to this project overwhelmed me. I recruited bands pretty indiscriminately over a period of several months, assuming that for such a low-key project, it wouldn’t be particularly high priority for most of them. As time went by, I realised that interest in the project was way greater than I’d anticipated, and I started happily telling people that there could be as many as 15 different artists taking part. The 21st track arrived in my inbox at 8:30 this morning and the finished album runs to almost one and a half hours.

The tracks cover as wide a range of genres as my taste allows. It features mostly Japanese or Japan-based artists, although a couple of tracks hail from overseas. The core of the album was recruited from among the underground music oddballs who hang out at Call And Response’s monthly Fashion Crisis event at Koenji One, and it’s the inclusive, eclectic, but passionately knowledgeable atmosphere of Fashion Crisis that I think defines the overall feeling of the album. Some bands took their tracks very seriously, and the album contains moments of quite staggering beauty, while others followed my initial advice and took it as an opportunity to have fun, creating some moments of laugh-out-loud silliness in the process. Every track approaches the song in an interesting way, and there’s also I think a joyousness that runs though it that’s partly from the inherent qualities of Sabbath’s original song and partly from the sheer scale and expression of human creativity that’s on display.「チョコくれるのはいいが・・・、何を企んでるんだぁぁ!?!?」

DOWNLOAD 「チョコくれるのはいいが・・・、何を企んでるんだぁぁ!?!?」 FREE HERE (114mb so might take a long time — sorry!)

(Alternate link here)

The album title is 「チョコくれるのはいいが・・・、何を企んでるんだぁぁ!?!?」which basically means, “Thanks for the chocolate… What’s your agenda!?!?” (I’m just going to refer to it as “Choco Kureru…” from now on) and here’s a rundown of the track list:

1. Fidel Villeneuve
Originally from Wolverhampton, Fidel is near enough a hometown brother of Sabbath themselves, although with a rather different musical background on Atari Teenage Riot’s Digital Hardcore label and in London powerpop band Applicants. Nonetheless, the same hot Bovril runs through both Fidel and Ozzy’s veins, and his sample-based approach gives early warning of the excesses to come.

2. ロア/Loa
I had to get these guys on the album. There’s so much Sabbath in what they do anyway that it would have been criminal not to have them involved, and their high-octane approach to the track plays it more or less straight, but with the emphasis on speed and shot through with a prog rocky virtuosity.

3. 経立/Futtachi
This psychedelic band from Kagoshima on the southern island of Kyushu are the latest band from Iguz Soseki of post-hardcore garage-punk band Zibanchinka and their approach sounds like early Captain Beefheart, or maybe Faust covering I Want Candy. Apparently their aim was to do “Sabbath in the jungle”.

4. Human Wife
Usually feedback-heavy riff merchants, Human Wife’s take on the track slows it down and draws out the emotional core of the song, turning it into this really quite affecting junkie’s confessional.

5. Client/Server:Q
With music where drone and sonic texture are more important than melody and songcraft, the cover naturally takes on a more abstract flavour. you see this a few times on Choco Kureru…, but this is the first, building up a wall of noise and feedback that ebbs and flows throughout the track.

6. Abikyokan
Abikyokan are a genre unto themselves, although “avant-pop” serves them well enough most of the time. Here, Paranoid acts as a distraction to them from their current obsession with the influence of early Christianity on the Roman Empire, and they swing at it with all their synthpop electro-funk bats at once. They’re also one of a few bands on here to break down the original song’s structure and reconstruct it around just the bits that they like.

7. うるせぇよ/Uruseeyo
This Tokyo post-punk band exemplify something that’s actually true of a lot of the bands on Choco Kureru… in that they’re a band who usually play in a genre of which guitar solos aren’t really an integral part, but at the same time, the solo in Paranoid plays such an integral role in the minimal structure of the song, that something has to go there. They dive eagerly into the challenge and pull off a spiky, dance-punk solo with aplomb.

8. Han Han Art, featuring Fukusuke (Owarythm/Nature Danger Gang)
Former Mornings bassist Shingo “Rally” Nakagawa has been on a Z Records tip for a long time now and with his new band Han Han Art brings his love of no wave/disco in spades. The decision to recruit guest sax player Fukusuke came from listening to too much Pigbag, and this was probably unintentional, but I keep hearing the intro to Duran Duran’s Girls on Film in the guitar intro. Also on guitar, this track has another excellent example of a postpunk solo.

9. Under
This mysterious artist does another abstract, instrumental, drone-based take on the song, but uses more ambient tones rather than noise. A good example of the extent to which sonic texture alone can influence the mood of a track, and the result is beautiful.

10. Artless Note
Clearly recorded on an MP3 recorder or something while messing around in the studio, this track sounds like it’s an edit culled from a much longer improvisation session with the band playing around with a couple of key themes from the song. There are moments where it sounds impossibly messy, and then they do something suddenly out of thin air that reminds you that this is a talented, musically intelligent band. This is actually one of the most interesting tracks on the album, because the studio improvisation setting has seen them jettison the entire structure of the song, all the lyrics, and just focus on the famous, catchy elements, which they return to every time the intervening bits of musical deconstruction seem to lose their way. In that way, it’s similar to The Muppets’ famous rendition of Mahna Mahna and really quite funny in a music nerdy kind of way.

11. Umez
When this arrived in my inbox the night before the album was supposed to be released, I was busy working on sequencing the track list and working out how to balance all the different genres and styles, working out what gaps there were that needed to be filled. When I listened to it, a bell rang in my head and I thought, “Drum’n’bass! That’s what I was missing!” So thanks, Umez.

12. スロウマリコ/Slow-Marico
Lo-fi indie duo Slow-Marico are heavily influenced by The Jesus & Mary Chain and that shows through in this rough-edged and noisy cover, although the way they play it over a cheap drum machine gives it something of The Vaselines’ indie charm rather than the rock swagger of the JAMC.

13. Trinitron (featuring Gloomy and Ryotaro Aoki)
This is one of the ones I worked on, so fair warning about that. I have this idea that as music is more and more easily globally accessible, it also emphasises our mutual incomprehensibility, and Trinitron sometimes play games with this. Trinitron’s members are a mix of British, Japanese and Slovenians, and we speak at least four languages between us, often switching between them mid-song or overdubbing them so as to bury the meaning. In this case we decided to do the whole song in a language that none of us understand either, so we had a friend translate the lyrics into Italian and had the girls read them out without preparation, just as they imagined they might be pronounced. So apologies to any Italian readers (which basically means Mark and Zio as far as I know) but it’s not a calculated insult to your language: it’s art! With the music, we were aiming for a sort of Flying Saucer Attack-style Kraut/shoegaze vibe, with Tokyo synthpop chanteuse Gloomy providing the cute “ba-ba-ba”s in tribute to Stereolab and Ryotaro Aoki on cataclysmic thunderstorm guitars in tribute to the gods of Valhalla.

14. Carl Freire
Carl’s background is in the 80s and 90s US alternative and punk scene, and his downbeat, minimal cover has echoes of that, particularly in the Velvetsy repetition and combination of punk and psychedelic elements.

15. Kaki
Kaki is the alter ego of Zana from Trinitron, so this downtempo electronic track is her second track on Choco Kureru…, providing a more sophisticated and musically and conceptually pure take on the original than the mishmash of approaches that Trinitron usually ends up being.

16. Loser & Ribbons
Indiepop/new wave duo Loser & Ribbons’ track has echoes of Shibuya-kei, particularly early Capsule, in its arrangement, with the introductory synth pattern reminding me of the music that plays when you get the invincibility star in Mario and giving it a technopop, video game music vibe. One of the interesting things about their approach is that they place much more emphasis on the “Can you help me / Occupy my brain?” line that only appears once in the original, rewriting the melody slightly and repeating it over and over until it becomes a proper chorus rather than the interlude it is in Sabbath’s version.

17. Oa (featuring Hatsune Miku)
Ryotaro Aoki makes his second appearance on the album with this piece of bubblegum hardcore, clearly influenced a lot by Melt Banana and featuring the vocals of Vocaloid voice synthesiser character Hatsune Miku. As with the Trinitron track, this one plays games with language. The latest version of Hatsune Miku, which this is, can sing in English, but this track uses the Japanese version anyway, phonetically approximating the sounds of the English words, but unable to do so completely because of the different, stricter rhythm of Japanese, meaning that some parts of the song descend into incomprehensible babble.

18. Jahiliyyah
The longest track by far on Choco Kureru…, and one of the most brutal and hard-hitting. Jahiliyyah are basically a noise group, but the drum machine and synth pulse that they incorporate into this track give it a lot of industrial and EBM too, taking a page right out of the Throbbing Gristle playbook. The results are fearsome and brilliant.

19. 人魂/Hitodama
Dave from Jahiliyyah making his second appearance with another noise track, although where Jahiliyyah are more about melding numerous layers into a single, rich wall of sound, Hitodama allows the layers to breathe, to exist as discrete elements in a salad bowl of sound, dropping in and out as necessary and leading to a track that is more ambient overall.

20. Voided By Geysers
Confession: this is another of my bands. VBG are a tribute band to US lo-fi rockers Guided By Voices (hence the name) and it amused us that our only recorded output would be a cover of a different band entirely. The take included here was the second time we’d ever played the song and so there are a lot of rough edges to the performance, but we felt it was the take that had the most heart. The idea here was to have just one straight garage rock take on Paranoid right near the end of the album as a reminder of the original after the excesses that have gone before, although when the Loa track came in doing a similar thing with greater technical virtuosity, that complicated the plan. I’m still proud of this track and it gets across something simple and stupid in the original in a way other tracks on this album don’t, but if I was making this as an album for professional release, I’d have used the Loa track here instead of VBG. However, I was working on a strict principle of “include everything that’s in my inbox come the morning of the 14th”, so Loa and VBG act as kinda-sorta bookends to the album instead. Ryotaro Aoki appears yet again on this track as the bassist, while Carl Freire makes his second appearance, on guitar. Tokyo indie bandspotters might be interested to know that drums are by Sean from Henrytennis.

21. Tiny Tide
Basically the solo project of prolific Italian indiepop singer-songwriter Mark Zonda, Tiny Tide’s simple, slowed down version of the song is classy where most tracks on Choco Kureru… fought for the extremes, as well as genuinely touching and quite beautiful. It was the first track I received in Autumn 2013, just after I’d first conceived of the idea, and even before I knew what else was going to be included it was always going to be the closing track. Mark also wrote the Italian lyrics that Trinitron so wilfully butchered earlier, so sorry to him for that.


Filed under Call And Response, Features

Chocolate Discord: Noise inside idol music / Idol music inside noise

Moving on from Bo Ningen, Momoiro Clover and Dempa Gumi inc., it’s also worth looking into the mechanics of how compatible experimental/alternative music and idol pop really is. One way that some friends of mine and I examined this recently was by a number of us going away and trying to tackle songs by Perfume in each artist’s own style. The result, entitled Chocolate Discord (named after a band formed by some of my Fukuoka friends) was made just for fun and given out as a free gift to audience members at a friend of mine’s Valentine’s Day live event last month.

Chocolate Discord (Perfume covers project)

Firstly, a quick note on the artists who took part. None of them are famous, and nearly all of them produced their covers quite quickly (time frames ranged from a couple of weeks to a single afternoon). The majority of the songs are by non-Japanese artists based in or at least who spend a lot of time in Japan. There was no particular decision on my part to make it like this — it just ended up this way. Perhaps the short timeframe and the white man’s legendary lack of fastidiousness combined to exclude their more conscientious Japanese peers. The musicians cover a range of styles, but generally lean towards the avant-garde/noise end of the musical spectrum. However, there are electronic, indie and rock musicians also involved. I’ve added Soundcloud links where the artists have made their songs available online.

Now I think it’s kind of debatable now to what extent Perfume are an idol group anymore. In fact, apart from their naff “Akihabalove” diversion and maybe that pair of shockingly bad early songs they made in Hiroshima, they’ve always had a bit too much of Yasutaka Nakata’s post-Shibuya-kei fashion-consciousness to them, too much of a distinctive, easily recognisable style for them to be absorbed entirely into idoldom. However, it’s certainly fluffy, bubblegum pop that hits a lot of the buttons of idol music, so bearing in mind these caveats, I think there were some interesting points that came out of it.

One thing that was true almost right across the board was that nearly all the cover versions, and certainly those by artists at the more avant-garde end of the scale, tried to bring some degree of minimalism to Yasutaka Nakata’s original arrangements. Part of this, I suspect, was a combination of the short timeframe and musicians’ own laziness. It’s also a logical response for someone looking for a new approach to Nakata’s style, given that more than almost any producer in Japan, he prefers to over- rather than under-produce his music.

A lot of the groups extracted just one or two aspects of Perfume’s originals and built their own material around those. The no wave/postpunk band Uruseeyo’s take on Baby Cruising Love just takes the title, which the singer bellows over and over while the rest of the band build a doom-laden, crashing industrial cacophony around it. Human Wife’s brutal take on Game is also a case in point (you may want to turn your volume down to safe levels about now):

Rhythm guitarist James Hadfield (who doesn’t hate Perfume as much as drummer Clay Jarvis) explains the process thus:

“Human Wife instinctively recoil from any song with more than three chords in it (we’ve discovered that one chord is often more than enough), so it didn’t take long to rule out just about every track in the Perfume canon. In the end, it was a toss-up between “Game” and “Edge”, and since Trinitron were already planning to do the latter (and would probably do it far better than we could), we went for the former. I’d originally thought of taking the opening chord sequence and playing it in a monolithic sludge/doom metal style, but Clay, our drummer and Christian Vander-esque MD, felt that it sounded too much like grunge. He voted that we do it in a Brainbombs-esque midtempo scuzz rock version, which seemed to work better, and after a few run-throughs we’d pared the song down to a couple of basic chord progressions and a whole lot of distortion. We recorded three takes, overdubbed vocals on the best one, then Clay took the recordings home and spent about five minutes mastering them. Nakata would be proud.”

Electronic project Floppy Knobs’ version of Linear Motor Girl just takes the lyrics, translates them into English, passes them through a voice synthesiser and chops them up, combining the result with fragments the producer already had lying around.

“Well, it started out as something else. Lately, I’ve been making instrumental music using only an iPhone and had thought to try and remix an unused track I had previously been working on. Anyways, it ended up sparking my synapses in all kinds of un-usable ways and on the morning I had arranged to hand in the piece, it went out the window and thereupon it was decided to opt for a Jac Berrocal / Flying Lizards / pop-on-a-rope approach.”

Curiously though, despite the musical backdrop not being taken from the original song, the repetitive, chiming loop in the background is startlingly reminiscent of another Perfume song, Chocolate Disco, which appears in two versions by other artists on the collection.

Kanterbury, a.k.a. Kantaro Sato of indie rock band Randy & The Pyramids, did an irony-laced, exaggeratedly cheerful take on it. He says:

“The most important point in the song is the phrase “Chocolate Disco” itself. It’s a funny phrase. I liked it. The original has a story to tell, but my version is the anguished cry of a lonely guy who’s desperate to get chocolate on Valentine’s Day, although basically I just wanted to do a song like Prince. The other thing is the line “The classroom turned into a dancefloor.” I repeat that line twice because it’s the most ridiculous line in the song. It’s a good phrase.”

Kaki, a.k.a. Zana Fabjan Blazic also draws attention to this phrase in her epic, dark electro version of the song, intoning the line blankly during a lull in the arrangement:

Neither Kanterbury nor Kaki take explicitly minimal aproaches, although Zana’s vocals on her “Shockoladige Disko” are at least emotionally minimalist, and the beat grinds the original’s bounce down into a relentless, Teutonic panzer assault, stripping the original of its joie de vivre, leaving a hollow rhetorical shell. In this sense, it’s reminiscent of the approach to cover versions of Zana’s Slovenian countrymen Laibach, and like many of the artists on Chocolate Discord, it interprets pop music primarily by stripping layers away, even if it then builds it back up quite slickly in its own image.

I worked with Zana and co-vocalist Kaname K, as well as producer N’toko on Trinitron’s version of Edge. Again, we stripped away a lot from the song, basing it on the more minimal Love the World b-side version than the eleborate remix that appeared on Triangle and replacing the disco beat with a motorik Krautrock drum pattern. We also stripped away the heart-stopping harmonies in the “loving you” segment, instead having Zana and Kaname intone the lyrics, one in English and one in Japanese, overlapping their words to create a disorientating babble of voices:

Part of the reason for cutting this stuff is simply because it’s difficult, but also some of the sweeter parts of pop music just don’t work in alternative rock. If you’re The Jesus and Mary Chain or The Velvet Underground, you can take honey-sweet 60s pop and make it dark and forboding, but that’s because both types of music share a common set of blues-based chord progressions. J-pop on the other hand, does not have a common base with most alternative/indie rock. Krautrock tried to abandon blues, but in the case of the Neu! style minimalism that Trinitron sometimes plays with, they also abandoned pretty much everything else too. Playing motorik with more than two chords is gilding the lily.

Sato picked up on some of the same points with his and rakugo performer/former Lolipop Guitar Lesson backing singer Koyomi’s version of Vitamin Drop. Rather than gutting the original as Trinitron and many other groups did, they kept mostly to the original structure, but performed it as a guitar-led piece of 60s pop/indie rock. Says Sato:

“We chose Vitamin Drop because it was one of the most pop songs Perfume have, and we just tried to make an indie version of it. The chord progressions are actually very strange though, and quite complicated chords. Before I tried to cover it, I didn’t think of it as a J-pop style song. It sounded more sophisticated, simpler, but actually it was very J-pop. It uses a lot of jazz chord progressions, and the chord changes twice in the space of one bar, which is typical for Japanese pop.

On the other hand, the synth in the original version of Vitamin Drop keeps going on in one speaker, which productionwise is quite radical. There are lots of things that make it seem simpler than it really is.”

Jazz chords are a staple of Shibuya-kei, and should probably be attributed primarily to Nakata’s background, although Japanese pop generally has since the 50s and 60s been strongly jazz- rather than R&B-influenced. Deceptive simplicity is also a feature of Nakata’s work, but it’s also a feature of a lot of the best idol music. Something bright and brash to catch your attention, but something complex happening once you get in. Momoiro Clover take simple melodies and arrange them in an unusual and often complex way, not wearing the process on their sleeves so much as hitting you round the face with it, but with Perfume the complexity insinuates its way into you more subtly.

Tokyo-based noisenik Dave McMahon was possibly the most enthusiastic participant in the whole enterprise, producing three separate tracks with different groups or projects. I’ll leave him to outline each track in his own words:

Ne~e – Shigai:

“This was an obvious choice for Shigai to cover because of the way the jaunty form and insipidly optimistic lyrics seemed to present a nice potential contrast with our sexually repressed hooligan posturing. We’ve used samples of Yuukorin and Bakunyuu Yankie in the past, so I guess there’s a sort of intersection with the dank underboob of idol culture there. Our regular co-conspirators from Napalm Death is Dead / Frozen Panty and His Dirty Hearts are also confirmed Momoclo fans, so it seems to be a recurring thread – maybe even moreso in the psychosexually scatalogical noise/grind scene than with other areas of the J-underground because of the Maruo Suehiro esque Undo-Gi sporting paedopop qualities of acts like Aka Inu Shimai and the Akiba vibes of Kuzuha, Gejirekuto Orugan, Abisheika, etc… Chris and Kenny weren’t familiar with the track, so I boshed together the pitch-shifted tatters of the original track’s intro in my computer, before heading out to the studio, reaming that through all my effects and felching the results back into the PC for further abuse. I managed to get hold of Chris one night after work to record do a vocal take down a Nishi Shinjuku alleyway, around the corner from Los Apsom, just before last train time.”

575 – Jahiliyyah

“My initial idea for this was to do a ‘straighter’, chugging drone reading, following the actual song structure fairly closely and with a full, multitracked vocal. To this end, I supplied the others with a recording of me jamming along on synth and FX whilst listening to the original on headphones (in the same studio session as with the initial Ne~e detonations) and sent it to Ezra, James and Cal, hoping to get at least one sticky, four-way, collective session after they’d each had their own individually wicked way with my discharge. Schedule constraints ruled this out, but luckily the dark master Cal was on hand to sort it all out ‘in the mix’. The final cut is probably not recognisable as 575 even to those who know what they’re looking for, but it definitely sounds like Jahiliyyah and rest assured that to keep the lawyers fed and clothed, there are still some samples of the actual song drooping feebly forth at strategic points.”

Dream Fighter – Hitodama: 

“I got unreasonably excited about the prospect of recording this as an ‘actual song’ with ‘clearly defined’ multitracked parts well before I actually had any idea of how I was going to tackle it, having never ever done such a thing in all my years as a ‘musician’. I knew that I wanted to use my reed organ and guitar, and was thinking along the lines of Galaxie 500 and Space Needle, as well as Dolly Collins’ organ arrangements. With the deadline looming, I found YouTube vids of folk doing guitar and iPad covers, worked out the chords, improvised around them for a few days to try and strike something like a stylistic fit and then set about recording on the last night before the deadline. Unfortunately, in a schoolboy error, I neglected to lay down any type of rhythm track or metronome and started with two layers of reed organ taped in my kitchen, before decamping to the studio from 1am, to get the two guitar parts and doubled up vocals. Seeing as they were all simple parts, I’d expected to be done in about an hour, but the eccentric timekeeping of the organ tracks kept throwing me off and had me in the studio until after the first train had already gone. The timing is still clearly out, but hey ho… I’m not sure where the idea to use birdsong came from, but in the end the dawn chorus, replete with cock-a-doodle doing seems to fittingly frame a fitful night battling with the creeping fear and sadness of the subconscious… or… ‘dream fighting’… if you will…”

These are really the kinds of techniques that these musicians would employ in covers of pretty much anything — stripping away the parts of the song that don’t work with what they’re trying to do and either cutting out the beating heart to replace it in a new body, or just selecting a few prime cuts, dicing them and making a casserole. In terms of idol music, what does it reveal?

Obviously from a musical perspective, it reveals what we knew from the start: that these are two opposite poles of the music scene, with little overt similarity in sound or style. However, what’s come through in previous posts this week is also the idea of the “anarchic energy” and “anything goes” nature of idol music, as well as the power to bring you back to a childlike way of thinking about music. Bearing that in mind, I think what comes though in these covers is something similar. There is a cavalier air towards the source material rather than a sombre and respectful approach, a sense that the musician can pick and choose which bits they like, taking a bite here and there, chucking away, discarding bits that taste bad, mashing them up together into a paste like Jahiliyyah or only eating the red bits like Human Wife. There’s also an attitude like children kicking over towers made of building blocks in the gleeful way some of these songs are mutilated, or more subtly of rearranging letter blocks to say rude words as in the way the likes of Kaki and Kanterbury elegantly but mischievously altered the meaning of Chocolate Disco.

The full compilation is available to download from this link for a while, although obviously it is ABSOLUTELY NOT for commercial use:

V/A: Chocolate Discord

1. Ne~e – Shigai
2. L-I-N-E-A-R Motor Girl – Floppy Knobs
3. Edge – Trinitron
4. Chocolate Disco – Kanterbury
5. 575 – Jahiliyyah
6. Baby Cruising Love – Uruseeyo
7. GAME – Human Wife
8. Dream Fighter – Hitodama
9. Vitimin Drop – Kanterbury and Koyomi
10. Shockoladige Disko – Kaki


Filed under Features