Tag Archives: Masami Takashima

Top 30 Releases of 2020: No. 20-16

20. Coet Cocoeh – Anthology
Coet Cocoeh (the Coet usually seems to be silent) is the name under which Masami Takashima of avant-pop trio Miu Mau released her solo work prior to 2016’s Fake Night, and while she put out a string of luxuriously smooth singles under her own name over the course of 2020, this collection of her earlier lo-fi work was a particularly striking release. Most of the releases these tracks are drawn from are only available on difficult-to-find CDs or CD-Rs, so this collection, while by no means complete, is a gorgeous collection of sweetly transparent hypnagogic pop.



19. Various Artists – We Need Some DISCIPLINE Here.
This compilation blurs and screams through several genres, but is unified by its curators’ dedication to manic, elegantly scruffy darkness, all of which adds up to a mood that’s harsh, chaotic, sometimes experimental, sometimes brutally on the nose. Taking its name from a Throbbing Gristle reference, it channels metal, grindcore, noise, drone, EBM, no wave and scuzzed-out electronic influences into the raw (although at the same time assiduously style-conscious) disaffected hedonism of an abandoned factory rave in a 1980s B-movie dystopia.


More about this release here.


18. NOISECONCRETE x 3CHI5 – Chiisana Moment
This Nagoya/Aichi duo comprising noise/hardcore sonic terrorist Noiseconcrete and witchy vocalist 3chi5 (also of the excellent Ghilom) established themselves on their first two albums with an atmospheric sound that mixed industrial beats with the spectral vibes of trip-hop. 2020 seems to have seen the sound branch off in different directions, firstly with a ferocious COVID-themed Noiseconcrete solo album, followed by a very interesting Bandcamp release of some of the duo’s more experimental side. This album, released in December in collaboration with the new OOV label, takes the band’s beat-led sonic sorcery down a route that sees their earlier echoes of the Bristol sound flower into a sort of sparse drum’n’bass combined the shimmering synth tones reminiscent of European 1980s minimal wave (hints of Bene Gesserit on the track Bokura Kurage perhaps). A 15-minute live extract closes the album out, but rather than simply appearing as a bonus to flesh out the album length, also serves to link the album back to the duo’s earlier material and flesh out the spaces between the skipping beats, minimal wave synths and sequencers, and lingering industrial throb.


17. Riki Hidaka + Tatsuhisa Yamamoto – decalcomania
Until now rarely the name above the title in the Tokyo experimental music scene, Tatsuhisa Yamamoto chose the locked-down environment of 2020 as his time to take the limelight, releasing eleven or so albums (or album-length releases at least) this year under his own name. With that in mind, it feels a little like missing the bigger story to focus on this collaborative release with guitarist Riki Hidaka here. Nevertheless, the two artists are well matched on Decalcomania, with Hidaka’s sometimes harsh guitar tones subdued in Yamamoto’s mix, brought out to provide raw texture to the submersing synthesiser waves.


16. Gezan – Klue
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Gezan. Starting out bringing a fun, raucous sort of Kansai Zero Sedai sort of theatrical junk with occasional nudity, they gradually became one of the great hopes of Japanese underground music, achieving borderline mainstream popularity with some decidedly pop-leaning efforts, while continuing to use their newfound influence to promote the underground scene around them in a way that so few other bands manage. I was settling into seeing them as something like an underground Asian Kung Fu Generation — audience-friendly but middle-of-the-road (and often frankly inane) pop-rock tunes combined with a genuinely admirable attitude towards the independent music scene — but Klue surprised me by turning out to be a genuinely exciting record on pretty much any level you look at it.

The deep turn into dub and psychedelia brings a richer, multilayered sound from which some truly explosive moments emerge, as well as being (a couple of grating exceptions aside) a far more comfortable background territory for Mahito The People’s anarcho-chipmunk vocals. It’s also a sound that suits on a quite fundamental level the mood and atmosphere of the album’s main muse: the city of Tokyo. And despite their origins in Osaka, it’s the band’s current home of the capital that really feeds this album, running through the veins of its grinding, pulsing rhythms and layers of noise and effects. It’s the primary lyrical focus as well, pulling political concerns from the world scale all the way down to everyday existence in the shadow of the machinery of the status quo, which also by the same nature represents a focus and crucible for the possibility of revolutionary change. Klue is an ambitious and timely album, as well as a striking expression of musical maturity from one of Japan’s most important current bands.

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Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.1 – Miu Mau – Drawing

miu mau - drawing

CD/download, VYBE Records, 2017

A full-length collection from Kyushu indie supergroup Miu Mau to follow up 2008’s Design was always going to be a contender for album of the year, and Drawing really is excellent, exceeding its now long-distant predecessor in both the range and depth of its songwriting.

Followers of the band will quickly recognise most of the material on Drawing, with the core of the album made up of a trio of singles and EPs that the band have put out over the past few years. The only brand new material comes in the form of new songs Ryuukou-iro no Pallette and Mishiranai no Basho de, while Monochrome appears in a new, mostly Japanese language version as well as a new remix at the end of the album. All that is to say that if you have been following Miu Mau over the past few years, you’ll already know that basically everything on this album is beautiful, sparse, sophisticated, melancholy, synth-led new wave pop.

Of the new material, Ryuukou-iro no Pallette is the most immediately striking, with the stabs of noise that interrupt the song’s sparse, piano-led melody and harmonies, making explicit the note of dissonance that subtly underscores much of the material on Drawing. The source of that dissonance is most usually Hiromi Kajiwara’s guitar, which is delivered with a harsh, metallic reverb that contrasts with Masami Takashima’s lush washes of synth and pristeen vocals. On the new wave Asiatica of Future Classic / Mirai no Classic and the minimalistic dance-pop News, Kajiwara’s guitar cuts throught he songs, the strokes of her plectrum scratching percussively against the sweet melodies, while on songs like Iro wo Matou the guitar adding texture to the music like an additional voice wandering through the background of the song.

There’s a sparseness to Miu Mau’s music that it would have been tempting to try to fill out in pursuit of a more commercially pleasing sound. Similar bands like the now departed Merpeoples have tried something like that and lost something of their own identity in the process, so it’s to Miu Mau’s credit that over the years they have always kept the spindly, dissonant aspects of their music in play, all recognisably within what the three members can comfortably reproduce live together.

Of the Monochrome remix, it’s a decent take on the song, but unnecessary and largely out of step with the atmosphere of the album, but it also feels unnecessarily querulous to complain about being given too much. The remix is there if you want it, but if you don’t, you can be more than satisfied with the collection of nine immaculate avant-pop songs that remains. Album of the year without a doubt.

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Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.5 – Masami Takashima – Fake Night

MASAMI TAKASHIMA - FAKE NIGHT

CD/cassette, Twin Ships, 2016

Fake Night is singer-songwriter Masami Takashima’s first album under her own name, although for a long time she has been perorming under the name Coet Cocoeh, first in Fukuoka (yes, another Fukuoka connection) and in her adopted home of Takamatsu in Shikoku. Fake Night isn’t really a debut, with the song Tsukiyo no Dance Party having already appeared on Coet Cocoeh’s 2015 album Glass Collage and an older version of the closing In a Fog dating back even earlier. The same blend of pop balladry and distant club vibes informs the songwriting too, but there is nonetheless a sense of a new start about it.

It’s a richer album from a production point of view for a start, with Takashima’s synth bass throbbing powerfully in contrast with the spacious piano that it shares the album with as its twin dominant defining sounds. At her heart a pop songwriter, Takashima nevertheless delights in juxtaposing these two elements, with the chanson-like piano ballad Romantics following right hot on the heels of the aforementioned synth-heavy Tsukiyo no Dance Party, while the beautiful Somewhere bounces back and forth between sparse piano chords and a sudden intrusion of thundering bass. Cosmic Sea, meanwhile, sets a simple, looping piano line over a lackadaisical club backdrop.

Piano aside, Takashima’s rich singing voice is the other most distinctive aspect of her work, and a common thread linking Fake Night to both Coet Cocoeh and her band Miu Mau. Here, shorn of the harmonies provided by her Miu Mau bandmates, she stretches her range to cover subdued rapping/spoken word on Cosmic Sea and the just-short-of-melodramatic tour de force performance that is Romantics. There’s a world-weary quality to Takashima’s voice that ensures that even uptempo songs like the bouncy On the Town Square/Machi no Hiroba de are imbued with a faintly melancholy, dreamlike quality.

This way of these disparate elements — piano balladry, house music, reggae, electro, hop hop — are integrated with such assurance and such a distinctive atmosphere is perhaps what makes Masami Takashima such an interesting musician. She’s one of those artists who creates a world of her own through her music — a beach, illuminated by the setting sun from the west and the lights from a party at a nearby beach house to the east: where you’re a bit lonely but never completely alone.

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