Tag Archives: Narcolepsin

Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.3 – Narcolepsin – Mojo

Narcolepsin - MOJO

CD, Headache Sounds, 2016

The power of aggressive music to provoke has been a constant thread in the development of rock and various forms of electronic music and hip hop. The word “provoke” was the title of a Japanese postpunk-themed compilation album (No.20 in this list) this year, which, intentionally or not, raised an interesting question of what it means for music to be provocative in the 2010s.

Listen to a lot of early punk and, while you might understand on some intellectual level that this was shocking music in its original context, it rarely feels that way on a visceral level. The Clash might have bellowed, “No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones” but their music feels now far closer to those classic acts than it does to the kind of extreme music that followed fairly swiftly after them. Nowadays, even noise, which emerged in the ‘80s and remains through artists like Merzbow, Hijokaidan and Incapacitants some of the most sonically abrasive anti-music ever, is no longer really shocking as a stance: it’s simply a medium in which artists can operate, experimenting based on texture rather than melody and rhythm. The extremes of the noise path have now largely been charted. and if it doesn’t sound exactly conventional, it certainly has its conventions.

So what can a musician do nowadays to shake a listener out of their comfort zone if simply battering their ears with noise no longer works? One way is to irritate them, which is perhaps one of the reasons why many artists from the postpunk era who retain the greatest power to provoke are not those who used the raw power of sonic missiles but the insistent, needling irritation of a small child singing out of key as they repeatedly kick the back of your chair. The erratic, hysterical, amped-up fairground prog-psych of early Cardiacs annoyed the NME so much that they banned the group from their pages for ten years or more. The confrontational, droning, repetitive standup of punk-era comic Ted Chippington continues to be divisive even among the more esoteric fringes of the British comedy scene.

It’s that wilfully unbalanced, needling, insistent aural aggravation that is at the heart of what makes Narcolepsin such a silly, fun and challenging band. On stage, drummer Ami plays a minimal kit consisting of just a kick, snare and hi-hat, while synth player Popo Copy taps impassively away on a single note like an icier Ron Mael. In contrast, Naoki Sakata (formerly of tepPohseen — yes, this is another Fukuoka band) plays sax, two different guitars, and yaps away atonally like a confused, angry chihuahua.

Narcolepsin’s songs confound the traditional structures that some more nominally extreme music can at times unconsciously cling to, as in Equal, which teases you with the possibility that it has finished over and over again only to return laboriously to the start. Si builds layers of sax, scratchy guitar and playground taunt vocals over a relentlessly repetitive two-note synth part. The title track, meanwhile, takes delight in its rhythmical inconsistency, each instrument seeming to play along to an idiosyncratic beat of its own, Sakata’s vocals yowling incoherently in the distance.Equal (live)

While Narcolepsin employ many of the tools of progressive rock, with overlapping rhythms, deviations from standard rock chords and key, and an evident jazz influence, they are nonetheless distinctly postpunk in the way they present their chaos of sounds with the join still clearly on display, feeding a fractured, angular soundscape that plays out over the album’s short 21-minute runtime. It’s annoying as hell, but it’s also playful, silly and fun in how it teases you and mocks your expectations. Like all extreme music, it demands you step out of your comfort zone and approach it from their perspective, and like all extreme music, part of its appeal is the subsequent pleasure in being one of the ones who gets it.

1 Comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews

Strange Boutique (June 2015) – Is music in a slump? (No, it isn’t.)

My June column comes out of some of the thoughts that I had going through my head while I was in Kyushu in May, on tour with first Sayuu and later Umez.

The little dialogue I relate at the beginning is literally something I hear whenever I travel around Japan or meet an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long time. I hear similar complaints all the time, from people of all ages – it’s not just me getting old: there genuinely is a sense that music is in a slump.

But is it? It’s so big that it’s hard to say, but I’d be wary of people who say that these things all just go in cycles. Technology has completely removed many of the barriers to creating and distributing music that used to exist, and all art is to a very large extent defined by the constraints within which it has to operate. I don’t know to what extent technology is behind this perceived slump, but if it is, then its changes may be more permanent than some people think.

However, as I say in the article, a lot of it really is down to perception. If we just click a few of the links that whiz by us or even better actually get out to a show, (Hint: there’s an excellent show I’ve organised coming up VERY SOON!) there are loads of really good bands still out there.

What there isn’t, from what I can gather, is quite so much in the way of a scene these days. This makes it more difficult to perceive any sort of unified energy coursing through indie and alternative music as a whole, but on the other hand, it makes what value there is that much more eclectic and exciting.Falsettos: Dig

In the article I mention a handful of bands, mostly deliberately limited to ones I’d discovered in the previous month or so, although I made a point of mentioning the Falsettos who I’d known for rather longer simply because they’re so fucking awesome. My editor Shaun went through and sought out links to most of the bands, so you should check those out within the article itself. I’ll also probably be writing about some of them in more specific detail on here soon (Mechaniphone and Platskartny both have new Eps out, so they’re going to feature here for sure, while both Platskartny and Falsettos are also playing at my next event).

One band that doesn’t have a link in the article is Narcolepsin. They have been around for a long time, but only since they settled into their current three-piece lineup with a keyboard player have they really started to jump out as something really cool. A few scrappy YouTube clips are all that’s available online of them in this form.Narcolepsin

Missing out on Sonotanotanpenz is a source of terrible shame to me when not only did I find their name scrawled on a napkin two years ago by a Fukuoka-based friend of mine but also discovered that one of the members is someone I’ve known for years and has played several times at my own events, albeit in different bands.

Finally The Noup I picked up old-school on the recommendation of Takehiko Yamada from File-Under Records in Nagoya. It’s got to be said that having reliable curators of taste who can filter the information for you is invaluable. Every time you fail to follow up on a recommendation from someone like Yamada, you’re killing music.The Noup

Leave a comment

Filed under Strange Boutique