Tag Archives: Japan

Minyo Crusaders Armor Japanese Folk Music for the Post-Modern Age

Minyo Crusaders

In his short story “The Preserving Machine,” Philip K. Dick wrote that “music is the most perishable of things; fragile and delicate, easily destroyed.” The character who speaks that line sets about turning music into DNA to enable it to survive for future generations. In a manner of speaking, the Tokyo group Minyo Crusaders are pursuing the same ends—albeit without the assistance of a laboratory, or indulging in any gene splicing.

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On “Itekoma Hits,” Otoboke Beaver Give “Girl Power” An Infernal New Context

Octoboke Beaver

Photo by Itsumi Okayasu

Three years after their first proper international release, Okoshiyasu!! Otoboke Beaver, a collection of previously-released tracks released by Damnably in March 2016, Otoboke Beaver are one of the most hyped punk bands in the scene. The Kyoto-based quartet—so-named for a “love hotel” in their hometown they’ve never visited, and don’t intend to—are bonafide road warriors at this point: stints at SXSW, Fuji Rock, and Coachella, as well as multiple tours overseas. They’ve even attained some minor commercial success in the U.K. with 2017’s Love Is Short 7-inch, which enjoyed a four-week stay on the singles charts.  Continue reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Contemporary Jazz From Japan

RoninArkestraRecording-1244

Ronin Arkestra

American jazz was forbidden in Japan during World War II, when the swing era and the stirrings of proto-bebop were afoot, but listeners embraced it in secret. As the music continued its steady global expansion in the decades that followed, though, Japan’s jazz obsession was anything but hidden. William Minor, in his 2004 book Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within, cites a comment from veteran producer Michael Cuscuna: “Japan almost single-handedly kept the jazz record business going during the late 1970s.” And beyond consumers and fans, Minor elaborates, the country also produced its own wealth of jazz players: those who relocated abroad and flourished, those who remained and nurtured local scenes, and those who went back and forth, doing both. Continue reading

Coming Out Of His Shell: Chatting With Snail’s House Mastermind Keitaro Ujiie

snails-house-1244.jpgKeitaro Ujiie catches up with me a couple of hours before he has to go to a club in the backstreets of Shibuya for a late-night DJ set. The 22-year-old artist behind electronic projects such as the whimsical Snail’s House and the more uptempo Ujico stresses this isn’t his preferred evening activity.

“I just sleep,” Ujiie admits with a laugh. “I sleep so much. My parents once thought I was dying or something. Once, I slept, like, 22 hours straight.”  Continue reading

Beyond J-Core: An Introduction to the Real Sound of Japanese Hardcore

DJ Shimamura

DJ Shimamura

Japan’s hardcore scene is a vast web of substyles and fusions. There’s the grinding industrial elements of the label Murder Channel, the gothic speedcore of Japanese Stream Hardcore, the traditional four-to-the-floor hardcore rave sounds of Shimamura’s Dark Agenda, and the hyperactive aesthetic and energy of Psycho Filth Records. Yet as sprawling and exciting as the scene is, it often gets loosely tagged under the same umbrella: J-core. Continue reading

Trekkie Trax is On the Pulse of Tokyo’s Electronic Underground

Trekkie Trax

Japanese electronic music label Trekkie Trax came together because a group of adolescents wanted to spin tunes somewhere—really, anywhere—in Tokyo. “I still remember my brother Taimei, who records as Carpainter, searching Twitter, looking for anyone who needed teenage DJs. We didn’t have any kind of musical connections,” co-founder Seimei Kawai says, from a restaurant in the Shibuya neighborhood of Japan’s capital. Continue reading

Album of the Day: Phew, “Voice Hardcore”

Hiromi Moritani’s voice has always been central to her work as Phew. On her 1980 debut single, her singing lunged through skittering synths, demanding attention almost immediately. Her approach to vocals—practically whispering one moment and then screaming the next—adds even more tension to her already unsettling music. Built from aging drum machines, Moritani builds upon the atmosphere she reared up on last year’s claustrophobic Light Sleep.
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How Kansai Electronic Artists Got Around Japan’s No Dancing Law

Toyuma

TOYUMA. Photo by Pay, Illustrations by Griffin Keller.

Japan’s electronic music community faced no greater challenge this decade than the nation’s “no dancing” laws. Officially known as the fueiho law (adult entertainment business law), this legislation appeared in 1948 as a way of regulating the sex industry. Included within were regulations about what establishments could allow dancing, with specific size and lighting requirements. The laws were ignored for decades; over time, police began using them as a loophole to deal with unruly club-goers.

“Many clubs and live venues closed, or restricted their business,” electronic artist Yullippe tells Bandcamp Daily about her hometown of Osaka. While a sprawling metropolitan area like Tokyo weathered the laws thanks to the sheer overwhelming number of spaces, Osaka and other cities in the central Kansai region of Japan (including Kyoto and Kobe) were hammered. Parties had to end before midnight, and several of the region’s biggest clubs shut down.

“I think it lowered the number of people who enjoy nightlife out here,” Yullippe (who keeps her real name a secret) says. “I think it pushed away younger people trying to get into the community.”

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