Tag Archives: In The Sun

Best of 2017 – More great sounds (1)

Every year when I write my top 20 Japanese music releases, there’s always a lot of good stuff that I leave out either because I didn’t hear it in time or because I just decided not to in the particular moment of compiling everything. And as always, I didn’t include any of my own Call And Response label’s releases, even though they were all excellent.

As well as my own releases and the other favourites that slipped through the net, there are a handful of other dedicated people out there cataloguing the best indie music Japan has to offer from their own particular perspectives Obviously their perspectives are all to varying degrees wrong (except where they agree with me, obviously), but if you’re wrong in the same way as them, you might find their 2017 rundowns of value.

In this first of three posts, I’ll be running quickly through some of the releases that missed out on my own top 20 but which might easily on another day have found their way in:

Born Shit Stirrers – I Hate Your Fucking Band

Based in Fukuoka and apparently on a sort of Wowbaggerian mission to slag off, one by one, everyone in the city, Born Shit Stirrers put out two albums in 2017, with Richard and Judy following in the summer. I’m singling out I Hate Your Fucking Band here mainly because of the title, but both albums are packed with fast, profane, utterly squalid, Anti-Nowhere League-esque punk rock smacks to the gob, featuring nothing in the way of subtlety, refinement or artistry.

V/A – Rhyming Slang Covers

The second Rhyming Slang compilation after 2016’s Rhyming Slang Tour Van compilation, this covers compilation sees some of the same bands, like DYGL, Yüksen Buyers House and Half Mile Beach Club, plus a host of new ones like the increasingly popular Luby Sparks and up-and-comers Tawings. With the exception of Nengu’s math rock take on Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, most of the tracks are pretty straightforward covers of vaguely hip classics from bands like The Jesus & Mary Chain, New Order, Lou Reed and so on, but there’s a particular sort of value that can be gained from the peek they offer into the influences underscoring the younger end of the Tokyo indie scene.

Kuunatic – Kuurandia

Dropping right at the end of the year, this EP by Tokyo-based psychedelic trio Kuunatic is the ethnic transcendental music of a minimalist alien space tribe who worship Charles Hayward as a god.

The Routes – In This Perfect Hell

This site doesn’t cover a lot of garage rock because it’s a genre so rooted in the past and in its own retro revivalist scene that the usual tools I use to assess new music (what’s fresh about it? how does it stand out from its contemporaries?) would miss the point. It’s music that lives by its ability to sound the same as something else, to ape the past, to avoid challenging its contemporaries. So how can a garage rock band in 2017 Japan stand out? Basically by doing what The Routes did: writing a tonne of really good songs and playing them really well.

DYGL – Say Goodbye to Memory Den

The real superstars of the Tokyo indiepop scene, DYGL had a fantastic 2017, making it to one of the big stages at Fuji Rock, selling out a show at the Liquid Room, and releasing this fun, energetic full-length debut. The band are clearly deeply indebted to bands like The Libertines and The Strokes (Albert Hammond Jr. produced this album) but in the context of the Japanese music scene, the raucous, punkish energy that comes with those influences sets them apart from the soft-focus dreaminess of many of their peers.

In The Sun – El Energy

Coming out just at the end of 2016, this ferociously intense noise-rock album missed out on last year’s list simply because I didn’t get my hands on a copy until way too late. Like early Nisennenmondai performing from behind a battery of modular synths and effectors, In The Sun have all the krautrock and This Heat you could want, with all the sparseness replaced by a relentless barrage of joyous, angry noise.

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Top 20 Releases of 2015: No.11– In The Sun – Circlenation

in the sun - circlenation

CD, self-released, 2015

Travelling around northeastern Japan this autumn, I made a point when talking to musicians and music scene people of paying attention to what their reference points for Tokyo music were. One band whose name kept recurring was S-Explode (pronounced “explode”) – actually a Saitama band, although if my travels taught me anything, it’s that that distinction is meaningless to pretty much anyone outside Saitama itself.

S-Explode’s current status is either stopped or on hiatus, but one of their successor bands, In The Sun, have been making waves with their explosive brand of instrumental avant-garde rock. Consciously nodding to This Heat, there are also obvious comparisons with Nisennenmondai in the energetic, propulsive, insistent and repetitive rhythms and guitar loops, albeit with a far fuller sound and more prominent role for synths than Nisennenmondai currently employ.
In The Sun: Hot Spots (live)

And it’s in that fuller sound and willingness to let the music burst out of its tightly coiled container and slash jagged wounds through the air that In The Sun distinguish themselves as more than simple imitators. Opening track Hot Spots makes the group’s intentions clear from the start with its dirty, growling sequencer loop and frenetic drumming, and the EP/mini-album continues to push upwards and outwards from there, layering in guitar texture and feedback even as the drumming maintains its intensity through numerous rhythmical shifts.

Along with another relatively newcomer, Transkam, as well as Yolz in the Sky’s continuing evolution in a dancier direction, the borders between avant-garde rock and dance music seem to be dissolving, driven perhaps by the increasing ubiquity of loop pedals and musicians’ growing command of their use.

With such a limited number of artists, it’s too soon to declare a trend, but if such a thing were to emerge, it culd do a lot worst than have bands like In The Sun in its first rank.

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