Tag Archives: The Neso

Top 25 Releases of 2019: No. 15-11

transkam - ep2

Casseette, Zot Redcords, 2018

15. Transkam – EP2
OK, so I’m cheating a bit with this one, as it’s a late-2018 release that I didn’t get my hands on until deep into 2019, but I didn’t want to let a new Transkam fall through the cracks. On this cassette EP, progressive/post-rock trio Transkam expand on the trancelike, metronomic sound of their 2016 album Blueshade of the Omegasound, starting out more or less where they left off with the track Gnosis, before pushing away with the swirling, shoegazey Ex, and then pulling back into something far sparser, subtler and more daring with the seven-minute Mathvoid. Between these three tracks, Transkam scope out fresh territory within their familiar instrumental setup, exploring not only richer sonic textures but also making more effective use of space.

As an additional note, not listed on the track listing, but somehow downloading together with the others as a fourth track in the version I bought was also the unexpected surprise of the band’s achingly romantic cover of the icy-sweet Ai no Kobune wa Uchikudakarenai by Japan’s greatest unknown band, Mir (full disclosure, an earlier mix of this song was released on a 2015 tribute album via my own Call And Response label). I’m not sure whether this additional download is exclusive to the cassette edition of the album, but in any case, hearing the song here in the context of Transkam’s more customary sound made for a disconcerting but charming swerve to the left at the end of the EP.


the neso - my world

CD, self-released, 2019

14. The Neso – My World
Despite almost completely changing their lineup since 2018’s New Me EP, The Neso are still rocking the same line in Au Pairs/Delta 5-style post-punk with no loss in quality. The xylophone that they had already introduced on a couple of songs now stands alongside all the other instruments on a more or less equal footing — never really feeling completely necessary, but at the same time adding a unique element to a sound that otherwise draws from a lot of familiar elements. Most importantly, The Neso’s core elements of blank, disaffected vocals combined with surprisingly catchy hooks, choruses and harmonies are here in force, and their streak of releasing top quality EPs on an annual basis is still going strong.


deracine - deracine

CD, Mistake Studio, 2019

13. Deracine – Deracine
The appearance of this third album from oddball hardcore punks Deracine (or “Delasine” as some places are now spelling their name) and their first in more than ten years last autumn was a welcome surprise and they don’t seem a day older than when they last left us. Eleven micro-bursts of camp, bass-led, sampling-assisted hardcore in nineteen minutes, containing a heady mixture of anti-consumerist, anti-establishment agit-prop and wilfully dumb shitposting nonsense, this album (which confusingly has the same eponymous title as the band’s first album) is the rush of joyous, dadaist, lo-fi, anarchist party energy we all need.


the omelettes - the omeelettes

CD, self-released, 2019

12. The Omelettes – The Omelettes
Originally from Oita in Kyushu, I initially had The Omelettes down as essentially an indiepop band, and the selections of songs they’ve chosen to represent themselves with online tends to lead the curious listener to that conclusion, but on this belated self-titled and self-released debut album they reveal themselves as something stranger than that. There is a rich seam of fairly straightforward 90s alt-rock in here, but it’s offset by something more experimental and rhythmically unpredictable — a dynamic that’s at work in the two competing sections of the song Mitsubachi, one part stop-start staccato guitars, the other a fuzz-laden indie rock chorus. In a music scene where pop-orientated acts tend to be very pop and experimental acts tend to be very experimental, it’s a rare delight to see a group like The Omelettes who treat the more offbeat aspects of their arrangements exactly the same way as they treat the moments of outright pop (even if they hesitate to share the former online). It’s interesting to note the role of Hajime Yoshida of Fukuoka-based avant-rock legends Panicsmile in recording the album, and the way his own band’s work often embodies a struggle between pop and experimental elements forms an interesting parallel with what The Omelettes are doing here (albeit from a far more experimental starting point), but on this album the precise recipe of their sound remains very much their own.


Noiseconcrete x 3chi5 - Trick Passport

CD, Dizcollage, 2019

11. Noiseconcrete x 3chi5 – Trick Passport
Squeaking over the line at the end of the year, Nagoya duo Noiseconcrete x 5chi5 released this fascinating remix album, in which a handful of beatmakers deliver their own takes on Nx3’s songs. This album could have been an exercise in unnecessary and untidy self-indulgence, but the results are uniformly intriguing, with 3chi5’s ghostly, witchy vocals working as a constant element around which a diverse range of rhythmical approaches — from skittering, minimal beats to industrial and EBM to drum’n’bass — work their necromancy. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Features, Reviews, Uncategorized

Top 25 Releases of 2018: No. 25 – 21

2018 was a good year for new music releases in Japan, although as usual very little of it received much attention beyond the usual underground word-of-mouth circles. There were a handful of releases that I was anticipating intensely, like the Falsettos’ full length debut, and some nice surprises like the Doodless EP, but the story that ended up colouring this list most strongly was a number of strong releases in that loose category at the intersection of postpunk, post-hardcore, psychedelia, krautrock, industrial and experimental rock that for the sake of convenience I’m increasingly just bracketing all together as noise-rock. There were a lot of releases I enjoyed this year, though, and no doubt past visitors to this site will recognise personal favourites who keep cropping up in my year-end reviews.

In past years, I’ve posted these reviews individually, but this time round I’m doing them in batches of five. Partly this is because a fair few of these are very short as I wrote longer reviews over the course of last year, partly this is to accommodate a slightly longer than usual list, and partly it’s because a busy calendar with my own musical activities and those with Call And Response Records means I don’t want to still be posting these updates a month from now.

the neso - new me

Cassette, self-released, 2018

No.25 – The Neso – New Me
Tokyo-based trio The Neso finished the year out by shedding two thirds of their members, but not before finishing this top-notch new cassette EP featuring four new jittery postpunk tunes in a Delta 5/Au Pairs/Kleenex mould. The songs Fasting and Dawn also serve as powerful reminders of what an effective instrument the xylophone can be in a postpunk or new wave song (see also Electricity by OMD, Gone Daddy Gone by Violent Femmes).
The Neso – Dawn (live)

milk - all about milk

CD, KILIKILIVILLA, 2018

No.24 – Milk – All About Milk
Tight yet raucous punk rock is Milk’s stock in trade, dashing through a dozen songs in seventeen and a half minutes characterised by shouty, fist-pumping choruses and knocked off kilter by some delightfully wonky guitar solos and unexpected mid-song rhythm changes. It’s performed with the frantic energy of hardcore, but Milk never quite cross the line into the sort of sonic claustrophobia hardcore can often produce. Instead, their guitars twang with a reassuring cheapness and and there’s a bouncy energy to the drumming. A seriously fun punk record with a touch of weirdness.

subarashika - nimaime

CD, P-Vine, 2018

No.23 – Subarashika – Nimaime
Taking its musical cues from 1970s American folk-rock, and in particular The Band, Tokyo folk rockers Subarashika are a young, infectiously enjoyable band who revel in their retro influences and are all the better for it. There are a lot of young Japanese indie bands drawing on folk-rock influences, but they rarely explore beyond Happy End, so a band like Subarashika are a welcome expansion of the scene’s sonic palette with the deep infusion of Americana they offer.
Subarashika – Kakusou to Shiteru dake! (live)

manon - teenage diary

CD, CATICORN, 2018

No.22 – Manon – Teenage Diary
Teenage Diary is an unexpectedly charming oddball pop album from sixteen year-old model Manon and producer Yuppa (a.k.a. HNC/Hazel Nuts Chocolate). Sonically it takes a lot of cues from the lo-fi beats, playful sampling and post-Shibuya-kei mix of scattershot rapping and whisper-voiced melody of HNC’s 2009 album Cult, albeit with a touch more electro polish, the occasional glaze of autotune and more self-conscious lyrical nods to teenage life in the Instagram age.
Manon – Beat the Bad Luck

falsettos - falsettos

CD, P-Vine, 2018

No.21 – Falsettos – Falsettos
When this album came out, towards the beginning of the year, it was a shoe-in for one of the year’s best, with its combination of slightly deranged postpunk or off-kilter new wave and baroque J-pop melodies. Read my original review here.
Falsettos – Six

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Features, Reviews

Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.15 – The Neso – Obey

the neso - obey

Cassette, self-released, 2017

Like BLONDnewHALF, The Neso are a postpunk band very much in the old-skool sense, drawing from late-70s art-punk touchstones to give definition to music that is in essence straightforward garage rock. On the Obey cassette EP there’s the Keith Levine guitar sound, plus the snotty schoolgirl shouting of Delta 5 or Kleenex. This whole review could easily be a list of great bands who The Neso remind me of. Luckily for them, however, the band they remind me of most is The Au Pairs, and this is really down to their warped way with catchy songwriting. It’s the key to this EP’s success, with the title track in particular a short, sharp, bubblegum-punk classic.

All four songs on this EP are intelligently crafted, deceptively simple – if shamelessly retro – oddball punk nuggets, all spiky guitar lines, clattering beats and infectious harmonies. Importantly too, it never comes across as anything less than natural in The Neso’s hands.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews