Tag Archives: Limited Express (Has Gone?)

Top 30 Releases of 2020: No. 30-26

2020 was a year in which I both discovered and experienced music primarily from the confines of my home, cut off from the thrill and physicality of the live show and the intangible thread that ties the recording to that experience. I also spent a lot more time and money exploring new releases from overseas this year, which brought their own revelations and frustrations about the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese music scene. So all that may have added up to me listening to music in slightly different ways last year, while spending most of it locked indoors (live events continued in a limited manner around Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan, but I mostly steered clear, producing a few audience-free shows for live broadcast and curating some home recording projects to raise money for local venues) created its own psychic pull towards both ambient sounds and those that held out the angry promise of parties to come. The slow drip, drip, drip of deaths, some hastened by COVID-19 – Gabi Delgado Lopez, Cristina, Ennio Morricone, Harold Budd, Andy Gill, Tony Allen, among too many others – brought an unintended poignance to some of the new music I heard last year as well.

Meanwhile, Japan embraced online music in a way it had previously been slow to accept, with quiet times in the live scene seeing a lot of Bandcamp releases, either by bands or in the form of compilations put together by struggling venues. Streaming subscription services like Spotify grew too, with some bands seeming to find them a more acceptable partner for the physical releases than Bandcamp, which perhaps has a less professional image to some and threatens to chip into physical sales for others. For what it’s worth, I’m resistant to Spotify’s model of making us all unpaid salespeople, driving listeners to their service, so if you want to find any of this music there, you can search it yourself and enjoy at your leisure, but the only links here are basically going to be Bandcamp or sometimes YouTube. I know it’s annoying, but carrying all these snotty, impotent principles about ownership of music infrastructure is annoying for me too, so live with it as I have to. Ha.

Anyway, on with the countdown.

30. Limited Express (Has Gone?) – The Sound of Silence
Limited Express (Has Gone?) are are by now reliably deranged mainstays of the Japanese punk and underground scene, and this short mini-album or long EP is a welcome check-in with some new material from the band, its breakneck, easily-distracted, chatterbox party-punk coming quite comfortably off the back of their last full-length, 2016’s All Ages. The title of the album comes from the Simon and Garfunkel hit of the same name, which might seem like an odd reference for a frantic punk whirlwind like Limited Express, but they nonetheless tackle the song with a surprisingly straight cover to close the album. Whatever their reason, it hangs poignantly in the midst of the personal isolation and closed venue doors that many in the music scene find themselves dealing with (although Limited Express themelves have been one of the more energetic bands on the circuit in hurling themselves into shows where possible). The song’s lyrics also speak to an undercurrent of political voices that are increasingly unsatisfied with being unheard on a range of issues as the pandemic crisis persists, which may point to interesting times ahead as the music scene in Japan reassembles itself.

29. Ziguezoy – Cherish Your Teeth
Sitting somewhere between European minimal synth letter-jumbles like NDW, EBM etc. and Japanese multicoloured techno candy vomit, Ziguezoy is a theatrical force of nature onstage and an anarchic explosion of megaphone barks, unforgiving mindless beats and anime synth sparkles on record. Cherish Your Teeth revels in cheapness but the broad strokes it daubs these songs in are nonetheless powerful, atmospheric and well balanced, with third track 114,198,239 demonstrating a deceptive subtlety even as the closing Mo-da-finil drags the EP screaming back into defiant DAF territory (Sex Unter Wasser to be specific). More than anything, Cherish Your Teeth is a fierce and gloriously trashy party waiting for us whenever we escape from pandemic times.

28. Takeshi Yamamoto – Gaslight
A more focused effort than his 2019 solo album Somewhere, Gaslight’s ideas radiate out confidently through four long tracks rather than its predecessor’s fragmented collection of ideas. As a result, it loses some of the appeal found in those two-minute ambient quirks but instead, those little ideas now glow and resonate in bolder-strokes as Yamamoto develops each into a richer and more encompassing embrace, still both delicate and simple. There are people doing more elaborate and technically intricate things with ambient and drone in the Japanese underground, but the shimmering warmth of Gaslight appeals precisely because of how plain and unembroidered it is.

27. LLRR – < = >
The six songs of this EP make for a release that’s short and sharp yet never repetitive, intricately and precisely structured yet explosively energetic. With origins that share ex-members with similar bands like Otori and O’Summer Vacation, there’s a familial resemblance in the manic, shrieking art-punk nuggets they produce, and it’s done superbly here. The only problem with < = > is that it’s currently more of a streaming services thing rather than something you can own (update: just found that Japanese download site Ototoy sells it, as does iTunes, so you can at least own a digital version if you hunt it down). Fingers crossed for a physical edition this year though, because this is marvellous.

More about this release here.

26. Forbear – 10songs
Perhaps the sweetest, sharpest and most to-the-point Japanese indie rock album of the year, 10songs rides the line between Bob Mouldesque (Bob Mouldy?) punk-derived fuzzy pop-rock and shoegaze through its run of scuzzy, hook-laden, two-and-a-half-minute nuggets.

More about this release here.

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Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.6 – Limited Express (Has Gone?) – All Ages

Limited Express - ALL AGES

CD, Less Than TV, 2016

Emerging out of Kyoto in the early 2000s, Limited Express (Has Gone?) were among the prime movers of the Kansai “zero generation” of explosive, trashed-up junk punk bands centred around them and Osaka-based bands like Afrirampo, Zuinosin and Oshiripenpenz. They were also part of an environment specific to Kyoto where the legacy of the city’s big late ‘90s export Quruli hung over the city, generating perhaps unrealistic expectations of the sort of mainstream access bands coming up at that time could expect to achieve.

Listening back on the sort of music Limited Express (Has Gone?) were making at that time, it seems in sane that they could have had any hope of making it big in a rock mainstream where Asian Kung-Fu Generation counts as edgy, but throughout albums like 2005’s Makes You Dance, the way the band are constantly grasping for big pop hooks is key to the tension with their trashier, noisier instincts that gave the album such vitality. After moving to Tokyo, Limited Express (Has Gone?) seemed to retreat from their pop ambitions, settling into a relationship with the punkish Less Than TV label and stripping their music down to a combination of rhythmical dynamics, coarse guitar textures and Yukari’s shrieking vocal gymnastics.

With All Ages, none of that has changed, but there are hints that the band might be finding their way cautiously back into pop via the back door, not so much compromising their confrontational sonic dynamics as refining them into raucous, infectious party music entirely on their own terms. Gya Gya Sawage barrels forward in a way fans of Melt-Banana will find instantly recognisable but Looking For Inspiration comes at you with a no wave dance-punk groove and wailing sax (courtesy of Ryota Komuro of Miila & The Geeks) and even the odd bit of melody. Neither of these songs is pop, but they’re both ruthless in their dedication to the noble cause of what works.

There are echoes of newer bands like Otori in the increasingly sleek postpunk grooves the band seem to be pushing, which also highlights the way the not-quite-rapping Yukari scats here over tracks like Good Night Kids and the opening No Mean may have influenced the delivery of bands like Otori themselves. Whatever the flow of ideas, this perhaps speaks to Limited Express (Has Gone?)’s ability to integrate and adapt into the Tokyo underground scene without ever seeming to really change, as well as the subtle impact they themselves have had on their adopted home.

The most important thing about All Ages, however, is how unforced and immediate the sense of fun that permeates the album is. It ricochets from one idea to the next with irrepressible energy, taking in eleven songs in comfortably under thirty minutes. The music may be complex and disdainful of easy musical conventions, but it’s nevertheless music a child could enjoy, which maybe points towards a possible future for all of us hoping for an alternative to J-Pop homogeneity — if pop music won’t have us, why not just make our own?

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