CD, Provoke, 2017
One of the most interesting developments of 2016 (for this site at least, with all its attendant biases) was the Provoke compilation of young, mostly male postpunk-influenced rock bands. While the compilation itself may not have had a massive impact in the grander scheme of things, it offered a reassuring corrective to Japanese indie’s dreary drift into City Pop Hell. One question it left unanswered at the time was where it could go next.
2017 saw a partial answer to that question with the simultaneous release in November of new albums by two of the Provoke bands, both released through the imprint that had begun with the compilation. Of those releases, Nagoya’s WBSBFK continue most closely in the same vein as the compilation, all spindly, atonal postpunk guitars, jittery rhythms and selfconsciously disaffected vocals.
However, where much of Provoke was drenched in distortion, WBSBFK here are confident enough in their own mastery of Wire-like postpunk dynamics that they seem to feel no need to hide within a tornado of effects. The result is a short album of ten songs in just over twenty minutes that trade in visceral energy for sparseness and sophistication, each song a jagged clockwork machine in monochrome. In an era where feelings are frequently taken as the alpha and omega of cultural import, it’s a special kind of pleasure that can be taken from music that is simply interesting.
Filed under Albums, Reviews
CD, Provoke Association, 2016
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.
This compilation was put together by a consortium of these young, distortion-minded indie musicians, centred around the band Deviation in Tokyo and WBSBFK in Nagoya, and draws two songs each from seven bands — with the exception of Qujaku, who offer just the closing Metabolic. They and the remaining bands — Kobe-based Douglas, Tokyo’s Burgh and Klan Aileen, and Nagoya’s Sekaitekinaband — offer a scuzzy, doom-laden take on early-80s post-Joy Division rock.
One of the challenges of putting together a compilation album is how the curator balances the need to express each band’s individual sonic characteristics with the need for the album itself to project a consistent personality of its own. Provoke is clearly weighted towards consistency. Not only are nearly all the musicians young, skinny guys in black clothes (Qujaku’s bassist Hiromi is the only woman on the entire album) the bands themselves all share so many of the same influences that the album could easily be taken as the work of a single artist. That’s not top say it’s devoid of texture though. Klan Aileen’s Wire-soundalike Kunanan delivers some intense, one-note dugga-dugga-dugga for nearly eight minutes, while Sekaitekinaband’s Test is a three-minute burst of catchy bubblegum Krautrock. The grinding, minimalist basslines of Douglas contrast with the reverb-drenched psych-punk of WBSBFK and Burgh. The result is an undeniably rough-edged yet focused document of a not-quite-scene that, if the organisers have the commitment, may yet be willed into becoming one.
Filed under Albums, Reviews