Tag Archives: The Moments

Top 20 Releases of 2012: No.2 – V/A– Ripple

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.

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Boyish: The Hidden Secrets EP

It’s a constant source of wonder to me the way so many Japanese indiepop bands seem to spend hours ensuring the reverb on their guitars is just so in order to create the scientifically optimum level of Cure/Smiths/Close Lobsters style jangle and then when it comes to recording and mixing the vocals, they suddenly discover that of all the bands they could be mimicking, Sonic Flower Groove-era Primal Scream (the second-worst period of this utterly horrible band, and largely because of the shuddering craptitude of the worst vocalist in British indie history, Bobby Gillespie) is the pinnacle of their aspiration.

I dig Boyish and there is a lot to love about them on this new EP. On title track The Hidden Secrets, they fashion a neat energy rush out of the little pause between each loop of the main guitar riff and on Quarrel, the xylophone that dances over the top of the guitars seems to be saying, “Want some jangle on top of your jangle? You got it!” while the repetitive chorus burns itself into your ears and the abrupt halt that closes the song is an enjoyably snotty way to end. Closing number, Crazy For You is the weakest of the collection, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the once that sees Boyish aping Primal Scream the most, with the vocals smeared blandly across the otherwise solid track, nailed down to no clear melody and expressing no particular character or personality.

I realise that this, more than many other things, is a matter of taste (I really do dislike Primal Scream a lot, and Bobby Gillespie in particular I can’t stand), and there is a certain sort of person who finds this sort of emotionally drained vocal style the peak of washed-out beauty. I also don’t want this to seem like I’m gunning after Boyish in particular, since they’re a band I very much like. It’s a general point about the mixing of vocals in Japanese indie records that I’ve touched on before when discussing Nagoya’s The Moments and which some people have mentioned as a criticism of Friends/Teen Runnings (I don’t strictly agree as far as Teen Runnings are concerned, since their music has a more abrasive, punk edge, but it was enough that they themselves decided to remix their album and clean up the vocals) but it really does seem to me that these bands are all missing a trick by neglecting the musical opportunities offered by such an important instrument as the vocals.

(More on this over at Make Believe Melodies)

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V/A: Ripple

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.

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