Tag Archives: LLRR

Connect And Receive – Summer 2021 Japan underground picks

I’ve put this blog on hold while I’m trying to finish writing the terrible book I’ve been putting off working on for the past five years, but as a compromise, I made this mix of tracks from Japanese underground and weirdo punk releases that have come out during the first half or thereabouts of this year. You can listen to it here:

TRACK LIST:

OOPS – Riso no Morning / 理想のモーニング
An up-and-coming punk band from Osaka, taken from their Out of Pictures 7-inch single.

LLRR – Anonymous
Released on streaming sites last year, this Kyoto art-punk band’s debut < = > EP got a limited cassette release this spring (full disclosure: from my Call And Response label).

THE QUESTONS – I am I
This garage-punk trio from Okinawa have put out a couple of releases this year, with this track coming from their Koi no Yokan EP in February.

M.A.Z.E. – Spread the Germicide
Punk with oblique no wavey flourishes, from this reliably in-your-face band’s short, sharp, sub-15-minute 9-song collection II.

Ignition Block M – Houses of Fire
There’s a lot of buzz around this Tokyo punk band, with this song the title track of their recent Houses of Fire EP.

KLONNS – Gehenna
One of the core bands of the Discipline event, usually held at the great Koiwa Bushbash live venue, which combines punk, metal, psychedelic noise and intense techno, Klonns hold up the ferocious, gothic grindcore end of the spectrum on this single. The label Black Hole has also carved out a noteworthy space as a key hub for young, stylish, noisy artists in Tokyo. Aisha from Ignition Block M appears as a guest vocalist on this track.

Ms. Machine – 2020
Another young band with connections to the Discipline and Black Hole crews, Ms. Machine’s debut album was one of the few underground releases to really attract a buzz in Tokyo this year, combining simple hooks in swirling, gothic no wave squalls of noise.

Barbican Estate – White Jazz
Another hotly tipped Tokyo indie band, this 4AD-esque psychedelic swirl came out as part of the Rhyming Slang label’s Japan/China compilation cassette early this year.

yokujitsu – Just Vibes
This Tokyo psychedelic band released a live EP earlier in the year, followed up with this cassette single in the spring.

concrete twin – Nigella
Lo-fi shoegaze that builds up towering walls of distorted sound around its fragile melody in this track from their “Re​:​encounter” sound source #04 EP. The band claim a trip-hop influence, which is hinted at in the shuffling drums, although I get more of a Madchester vibe from it.

BD1982 – THEW3ST
One half of the team behind Tokyo’s fantastic Diskotopia label, this track hails off BD1982’s excellent Ryuichi Sakamoto-meets-Throbbing Gristle solo album Distance Vision.

Jesus Weekend – Forever Breeze
A welcome return from what was once a curiously meandering Osaka lo-fi band and is now a more ambient-focused Tokyo solo act, with this Eno-esque piece taken from the lovely Rudra no Namida cassette EP.

rima kato – today was so bad
This is an old track, from the Four Songs EP, originally released by the aotoao label in 2010 and just re-released this year. Rima Kato’s simple, melancholy melodies and gentle, warm delivery are always worth checking out.

Mitsuru Tabata – Nichijo Part 1 / 日常パート1
Another old song, re-released this year as part of eclectic underground legend Mitsuru Tabata’s (ex-Boredoms, Zeni Geva, Acid Mothers Temple and a billion other bands) large archive of tracks released for compilation albums over the years, Compilation Breakdown.

Closh – I don’t care bcz I’m just ????
A curious and always interesting presence in the Tokyo indie scene, Closh released a couple of mini-albums with the band Doodless before joining alt-rock band Wetnap. As far as I know, this is her first solo release but her exasperated vocal howls and catchy, lo-fi indie-punk guitars are instantly recognisable.

Merry Ghosts – Scotch Egg Struggle
Previously known as Trespass, Merry Ghosts are a post-punk-edged Osaka-based (I think originally from Kobe) alt-rock duo, with this track a deceptively catchy, scuzzy highlight of their very good new album Pink Bloom. It’s not available on Bandcamp, but there’s a CD out there if you can track it down.

Worst Taste – New creation
A mainstay of the Tokyo alt rock scene over the past 15 years or so, this piece of sparse yet intense art-punk comes from their recent Ultra Power EP, which seems to be available only as a cassette directly from the band at the moment.

PANICSMILE – Have You Seen The Bridge
Another album not available on Bandcamp, but the self-titled CD album it comes from is available pretty widely from label Like a Fool Records (and you can find it on the evil Spotify if you don’t want the band to get any money). Put together last year through a sort of pass-the-parcel remote recording process between Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka, this album revels in its fragmentation and unexpected turns, but comes together with an urgency that it’s amazing a band with such a long career can still summon.

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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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Punk roundup (Summer 2020)

With the remarkable increase in new music releases finding their way onto the web since the COVID-19 pandemic cut off or restricted live outlets for bands to get their music out to people, it’s been a struggle to keep on top of it all. Punk bands in particular thrive in a live environment, but there’s been a lot of new releases keeping things alive on the noisy side (including a couple from my own label, which I’m not going to be ashamed about sharing here too). With that in mind, here’s a roundup of some of the releases that from the first half (or two thirds or whatever) of this year.

The MSGS – Ghost
Based in Fukuoka, although with guitar/vocal “Mr. Paal” recently relocated to Korea, The MSGS specialise in three-minute blasts of pop-punk that find a neat balance between clean harmonies with razor-cut guitar buzz and just enough of a rough Get Up Kids edge to retain the natural feeling of a band playing the songs together in a room. This means that while songs like opener September Sky are as effective a shot-in-the-arm of hyper-efficient melodic punk as you’ll find anywhere, when the band ease off the gas and give the songs a bit more space to breathe, there’s a mature pop songwriting heart beating there, with third track Victoria in particular embodying the best of both worlds. (Album will be released on August 19th)

Daiei Spray – Behind the Wall
Raucous, punk rock in a Hüsker Dü vein, Daiei Spray’s Behind the Wall is a deliriously rough buggy ride through ramshackle harmonies, distortional detours and rebel yells, from (at least in part) Tokyo’s always reliable Debauch Mood label (who released the My Society Pissed 12-inch also featured on this page). The lyrics ricochet back and forth between Japanese and English anti-authoritarian sloganeering with a thread of almost self-help positive thinking for the rebel masses, while despite the music’s rough-and-ready delivery, there’s also a willingness on songs like Overdone to play with more complex or unpredictable dynamics.

getageta – EP + 7 songs & Hell
This collection of tracks originally recorded around 2013-2014 seems to represent the complete recorded output of this thrillingly unhinged, band. I already reviewed this album as part of the Undrcurrents blog’s second Bandcamp roundup in June, so have a look over there for more of my thoughts.

My Society Pissed – Stomach
Another release featured in my contribution to the Undrcurrents blog’s second Bandcamp roundup in June, this cassette EP by My Society Pissed helped make April a particularly productive month for the band, with their 12-inch also coming out around the same time. A short but versatile blast of off-kilter punk rock, it’s a powerful introduction to the band.

Born Shit Stirrers – Lester
From song titles like Old Punks Are All Cunts and Fuck My Fucking Life you wouldn’t think it, but Lester is in many ways a cheerier, more lighthearted, more functional version of Born Shit Stirrers than they’ve shown us on any of their previous albums. The short, incoherent punk punches to the face are all present and familiar to anyone who’s encountered the band before (despite the promise of its title, the song Two Minutes Back In Hartlepool doesn’t even make it to 40 seconds), but musically the palette is wider, making room for cheesy rock solos, laid-back interludes and even the treacherous territory of pop in places. This isn’t a retreat from the band’s hardcore principles though, so much as a more effective expression of what the band always were. The machine gun etiquette of Born Shit Stirrers’ rage was always self-mocking, with the band themselves as much the butt of the joke for their whirlwinds of impotent fury as the petty grievances of life that they railed against were. On Lester, the band are still losers and scumbags, but we’re all brought just a little bit more in on the joke — and as a result, maybe it’s a little easier to see the squalid Born Shit Stirrer in ourselves.

Sassya- / VACANT – Sassya- x VACANT split
Harsh post-hardcore abrasions juxtaposing explosions of effects-drenched guitar and panic-wrought vocals with tight, sparse, intricate rhythms define Sassya’s approach on the first two tracks of this split EP. Vacant bring a heavier, riff-driven grind to their two tracks, but nonetheless share some if the same mathematical repetition and angular dynamics with their disc-mates. The result is a brutal and caustic sounding EP with music underscored by intricacy and intelligence.

M.A.Z.E. – Tour Tape 2020
This cassette EP was initially meant to support a split tour with US post-punk/no wave band Warm Bodies, which was cancelled due to the onset of Covid chaos this spring. The EP, made of six one-minute shots of brittle, post-punk-tinged garage recordings, has the muddy, fleeting feel of a moment of live energy captured on tape, and looking back over past releases this “this is us, this is what you get” simplicity seems to be the space that the band feel most comfortable in.

LLRR – < = >
Kansai-based LLRR’s background pulls in connections to bands including Tokyo’s Otori, Kobe’s O’Summer Vacation among others, and listeners familiar with those bands will feel get a sense of where LLRR are coming from immediately from the hyperactive, jittery rhythms and Minami Yokota’s shrill chatter that kick off opening track Shūmatsu no Fool. This EP uses those familiar sharp post-punk slashes, wandering bass lines, effects-enriched guitar textures and unpredictable rhythms to carve its own path between the experimental and downright pop. All of which makes < = > an extremely impressive debut, albeit one currently with no physical release, means to purchase online, or full lineup to play live with. The whole EP is available on subscription services though, for those who have access to them.

My Society Pissed – Locked Room
In addition to their Stomach cassette EP, this April also saw My Society Pissed release this six-song EP which expands on the band’s tortured, deviant take on punk rock. Opening song Circle Dancing sets things up with its relentless, doom-laden bass line and scratchy, discordant guitars, while Volcanic Reaction kicks things into a more frenetic pace, while retaining some of the scratchy, disconcerting internal sonic disorder. Throughout the record, the band walk a line between arty post-punk deviation and a core of raw, Stooges-like 1970s rock’n’roll riffs and thrills.

illMilliliter / TG.Atlas – 900%
The first of a couple of releases that I’ve worked on through my Call And Response label here, so think of this less as a review than as just my own insider’s take. This split EP comes from a similar place to the Sassya-/Vacant split earlier on in this article, with both bands taking a post-hardcore approach, playing with the juxtaposition between intricately constructed arrangements and blasts of harsh guitar noise and distortion. Of the two, Tokyo’s illMillliliter take the more precise and minimal approach, the opening Short Sleeper building a menacing quiet/loud dynamic while Powerpoint is uncompromisingly fast and furious, if no less brutally sharp. Hokkaido band TG.Atlas slash their way across the canvas in a more expressionistic fashion, with a similar consciousness of and willing to play with the spaces inside the music, but less mathematical in how they unleash the storms of sonic violence across it all.

jailbird Y – Secret Code Y
Another release from my own Call And Response label, this single by Jailbird Y was originally recorded while on tour in Taiwan last year (the cover photo is of the entrance to Taipei underground record store Senko Issha) and released as a fundraiser for Tokyo live venue Moonstep. The opening Y War combines hyperactive almost bubblegum new wave delivery with hardcore energy, while the second track, Love Letter (a new recording of a song that the previous lineup of the band recorded for their 2017 Sex Trip EP) comes in darker and more portentous, before the band’s anarchic, frenzied approach to song arrangements takes over and wreaks its customary mayhem.

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