One of the most interesting developments in the younger, hipper end of the Japanese indie scene over the past year has been the way its recent trend towards dreamy “city pop” synths seems to have provoked a reaction towards louder, more discordant music at the other extreme. In Tokyo, the influence of Harajuku record store Big Love Records has undoubtedly been driving a sudden interest in noise among kids who would never normally have even known about such scenes in their usual haunts, while the popularity of bands like Burgh and Qujaku (both bands in former times known by the eerily similar names of Hysteric Picnic and The Piqnic) has succeeded in making postpunk and noise rock fashionable.
Tag Archives: Sekaitekina Band
I’ve written about this Nagoya bands compilation album extensively, with a Japan Times review, an accompanying blog post, and a mention in my review of the year, so there’s little extra to add, but two small points come to mind. Firstly, I love compilations. Secondly, and related, I love finding out rich seams of new music that I hadn’t known existed before. Ripple introduced me to bands like Dororonica, Freedom, and Free City Noise, as well as giving me excellent new tracks from Pop-Office and Sekaitekina Band (their contribution, New, also appears in a re-recorded form on 51 Records’ split album Underrated).
While Ripple includes more melodic tracks like The Moments’ lovely indiepop janglefest Shining Eyes and Yoshito Ishihara’s yojohan folk style New Mexico Midnight Cowboy No.1 (I don’t wanna be killed by your romance any more), fundamentally Ripple is a punk album. It’s also the best punk album to come out of Japan this year, and it set down an essential marker in terms of quality and style for me in the organising and selecting of music for my own compilation album, which I put out later the same year.
Despite containing a trio of different bands, his three-way split album on 51 Records maintains a fairly consistent tone throughout by the careful selection of the participants (all of whom also appeared on 2011’s Style Band Tokyo Vol.1 compilation) and the clean but never overbearing production. Lillies & Remains are the most established and well-known and they kick off with four tight, efficient pieces of 80s-influenced postpunk/indie rock, with obvious similarities to the likes of Interpol and Bloc Party, a sound which in somewhere like London you might say is overplayed but which they are leading purveyors of in Japan, and which they have honed down to a fine art on this record.
Nagoya’s Sekaitekina Band take the middle position and make perhaps the most striking contribution. Earlier the same year they had released a rough and ready, Gang of Four-influenced album on Knew Noise Recordings but Underrated shows a remarkable amount of development in such a short time. New (New ver.) starts out like Human Cannonball by The Butthole Surfers before resolving itself into a krautrock mantra a la its near namesake Neu! while Liminal and Flying Saucer present a more stripped down take on Lillies & Remains’ postpunk-influenced indie rock built around repetition and taut rhythms, and the more deliberately paced Discord does pretty much what it says on the tin.
The last band are Purple, another relative newcomer, and perhaps the one with the sound least immediate and most reliant on texture and atmosphere. With vocals buried in cathedrals of gothic distortion they are the band that best rewards repeat listens from the Chameleons-like With Mary through the Bauhaus goth-grind of Voices and the schaffel beat vampire nightmare of Fly to the final, seven-minute space-out of Untitled.
It’s easy to dismiss the material on Underrated as pretty-boy indie for little girls and it could be debated what the export value of music like this is when some of it so closely resembles the sounds of relatively recent British and American bands, but perhaps due to the more persistently underground nature and low media profile of indie music in Japan, you get a sense from this compilation that the bands here have had to dig a little deeper to find their sound and are doing rather more than responding to easy commercial trends.
There’s a review I wrote of Knew Noise Records’ excellent new Ripple compilation of contemporary Nagoya indie and postpunk music in The Japan Times now, so please pop over there and check it out.
Here, I’m just going to add a few things that there wasn’t really enough space to go into over on the JT piece. Firstly, to expand on the comparison with the 7586 Nagoya Rock series, I feel that Ripple is kind of being pitched as a sort of “export-ready” compilation, focussing on bands who are going to be, or at least sound, familiar to non-Nagoya audiences. These are the kinds of bands that could support a good, offbeat, John Peel style UK indie band on the Nagoya date of a small Japan tour or that could satisfy a small crowd of Tokyo indie hipsters. It generally avoids the really esoteric, psychedelic or quirky acoustic stuff and keeps centred on stuff that satisfies some wider, more generic kind of cool. A compilation that says, “Look, Nagoya can do this too!” rather than, “Look what Nagoya can do that you all can’t!”
This isn’t a criticism, and in fact it’s something that’s close to what I try to do with my own music promotion activities in Japan. There’s enough stuff that sells itself on its quirkiness and wackiness, and Japanese music is already cursed enough by the perception of its pop culture as mad and (ugh) inscrutable, so it’s good that there’s someone out there showing that Nagoya participate in national indie pop culture on a level playing field with Tokyo, Fukuoka, Kyoto etc. just as I would hope that Japan itself can compete with the UK, US etc. on those same terms. Sure, express your uniqueness, but don’t wall yourself in. This compilation is a small but important part of maintaining that balance.
One reason it all hangs together so well, I suspect, is that so many of the bands share musicians. There seems to be some kind of crossover between various members of Nicfit, Free City Noise, Sika Sika, 6eyes and Dororonika at least, and those bands are very much at the core of what makes this album tick.
There are some bands that I didn’t mention, so sorry Dororonica but your track was a great piece of raw, uncompromising, jazz-inflected prog-punk, reminding me a bit of fellow Aichi punk-noise types The Act We Act. Jubilee’s track was a solid piece of high-octane punk too.
I drew a contrast between the 80s UK-style indiepop of The Moments and the 70s Japanese-style folk music of Yoshito Ishihara. You can hear The Moments’ track on their Soundcloud, here:
And you can get some idea of Ishihara’s more rambling, freeform style in this rather distant live clip recorded at London’s Cafe Oto:
Possibly my two favourites from this were Freedom and Free City Noise, and I was able to track down some interesting clips of them. This one of Freedom doesn’t feature their track from Ripple, but it’s interesting in its own right. Experimental and imaginative, but still fun and approachable.
Freedom: Noise Disco
It’s certainly reminiscent of Kansai stuff like Afrirampo and particularly the kind of thing Ni-Hao! were doing six or seven years ago, but it’s carried off with aplomb and a lot of charm.
Free City Noise have a full half-hour set online and it really is very good, as long as you take “very good” as meaning “exactly the same as Sonic Youth”, which let’s face it, is as comprehensive a definition as you’ll ever need.
Free City Noise live at Bar Ripple (appropriately)
I say in the review that Ripple makes a good jumping-off point for some of the other bands in Nagoya and Aichi, and you can find out about some of them in a pair of articles I wrote for The Japan Times last year. I’ve also written about Pop Office on this blog twice, so check those out too.
A couple of pieces from the Japan Times about the music scene in Nagoya and the general Aichi area here. The first one is an overview of the Nagoya music scene, focussing in particular on the role of the city’s independent record shops in developing and supporting bands, as well as keeping the scene up to date with new music from elsewhere. I spoke to Takehiko Yamada of the record shop File-Under records and the label Knew Noise to get some insight into the scene, so the piece also includes parts of an interview I carried out with him.
The second, shorter piece, picks out a few local bands from a variety of genres. I also did a similar pair of features on Fukuoka about the same time the previous year, so check them out here and here.