This week: Next Music From Tokyo

The annual Next Music from Tokyo tour of Canada is celebrating its 10th run in 2017. The weeklong tour showcases up-and-coming rock bands from Japan, and this year’s lineup is stronger than ever. Listen for the noise of Hyacca, the genre-bending guitars of Yubisaki Nohaku, and more on May 19-24 in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

The Taupe

With their first full-length album, Coelenterazine, released this past January, rock quartet The Taupe leans toward dream pop in tracks like “Kaigan Enjou” (“Coastal Blaze”), where Kawamoto Yuki’s soft vocals overlay Shouhei’s reverberating drums. “GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA” is relentless, burning steadily through Onodera Emi’s bassline before she interjects “In this city,” and the guitar noise of Kawamoto and Neil Patti Patti Patti layer on top of each other with Kawamoto shouting, “Gorilla, gorilla, gorilla.” “The Taupe is not a band,” clarifies their website. “It is a monster.”

Yukueshirezutsurezure

As a part of Codomomental Inc’s metal idol groups, Yukushirezursurezure released their first single in 2015 and have been performing ever since. From the punch-jump of guitar in “Ware Ware” (“Ourselves”) to the gentle bells and dance beat of “Shinjuku Cinema Connection,” the four women of Not Secured, Loose Ends combine pop sensibility with hardcore vocals, resulting in a new idol music.

Yubisaki Nohaku

Guitar-driven rock quartet Yubisaki Nohaku has been playing music since 2008, operating under the name Raditz until a moniker change in 2011. The versatile musicians are adept in styles from the fast-paced ballad “Sou,” the harsh funk noise of “Motageru,” and the danceable “Nanigashi” (above), which is grounded in a keyboard riff and a verse of “Hey, hey, listen for a second.” As they have yet to release a full-length album despite their experience and skill, Yubisaki Nohaku is a band to watch.

Bakyun the everyday

Backed by a rotating cast of drummers and bassists, guitarists and vocalists Nanamure Nobumi and Ino Yuji are the main members of Bakyun the everyday, but their commitment to collaboration is all to support a hard-rocking joy of playing music. In “SEIKATSU ♡ YOU,” Nanamure and Ino trade off vocals in an anti-love song, pop-punk in its roots but more mature in its execution. The riff and gang vocals of “BASEBALL PLAYER SONG” are based in punk, but Nanamure’s delivery is light and tongue-in-cheek. Bakyun the everyday perform with such delight that it’s easy to miss the sophistication of the harsh distortion and crashing cymbals that might belong in the post-rock section.

Hyacca

The experimental noise rock quartet Hyacca (who had also been a part of NMfT’s third tour) might be the heaviest of the lineup. Their tracks range from the staccato off-beat of “Stress” to the full seven minutes of “Angel Fish,” in which the sludge of distorted, repeated guitar lines hidden underneath angelically apathetic vocals from Kajiwara is awakened halfway through by the march of Harajira Seiji’s bass and Sasaki Kimihiro’s drums. Goshima Masaru and Kajiwara finally scream through their guitars and abandon vocals in search of a post-shoegaze, post-math-rock world.

Tour dates:

May 19 – Toronto – The Rivoli

May 20 – Toronto – Lee’s Palace

May 22 – Montreal – Divan Orange

May 24 – Vancouver – Biltmore Cabaret

This week: Next Music From Tokyo

OL Culture, Rap, and Neon Lights – Charisma.com in Shibuya

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Photo: http://girlspiclive.com/vol03/report.html

On Halloween weekend in 2016 at Shibuya Club Quattro, a mysterious masked figure came out on stage to fiddle with the laptop. An electronic noise started, stopped, started again, and then turned into a song. Lights started flashing and the figure ripped off the mask to reveal DJ Gonchi as a Conehead, and dancing onto the stage was another Coneheaded MC Itsuka.

The electric rap duo of Charisma.com ripped through their first three songs on Halloween weekend without a pause, and then MC Itsuka addressed the audience. “Gokigenyou,” she said, the typical Charisma.com greeting. Itsuka directed everyone’s attention to Gonchi, but in the middle of introducing her, said, “Ah – I’m sorry, but she is not DJ Misoshiru,” referring to another female DJ who performs with another female rapper. The audience erupted into laughter. “The resemblance is there, but no.”

Charisma.com is made up of two school friends who formed the dance/rap unit when both were working as OL, or office ladies. The band has become known as an “OL unit,” but soon after this concert, they would announce they were quitting their jobs to release a full-length album (they said, instead of OLs, from this day forward they would be CEOs).

Their lyrics and stage presence attack social pretense and ideas about politeness: the lead single from their debut EP, Ai Ai Syndrome, was just titled “Hate.” The music video features Itsuka and Gonchi in sleek bob haircuts and lacy off-white dresses, sitting at a vintage table with plates full of flowers while figures in black bodysuits dance mechanically behind them. Halfway through the music video, Gonchi, smiling at the camera, kills the black figures with a series of different weapons, in a spray of CGI lime green blood. “You are cool,” sings Itsuka. “But fool.”

The 2013 album was a start into a new world of genre and gender. Itsuka said in an interview with the international music website MTV81 that when Charisma.com was first formed, she had a lot of anger, so it naturally came out in their music. But the response has been not one of rejection to the anger, but a recognition of it. “Hate” stands at over two million views on YouTube, as does the music video for “Iinazuke Blue” from their first full-length album.

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Photo: http://girlspiclive.com/vol03/report.html

The duo played “Mamemame Boy Gasatsu Girl” next, directing a call and response. The audience called out, “Mamemame boy,” while Gonchi responded, “I’m a gasatsu girl” – “Hardworking boy, I’m a rude girl.”

Itsuka’s deadpan humor and ambulatory command of the stage matched Gonchi’s sly smile and unwavering presence behind the laptop (except, of course, when she ran to the front of the stage for “Otsubone Rock” to place a ladder like the one in the song’s music video and briefly pose on it center stage with Itsuka).

The concert was a multi-band performance showcasing women musicians, Girl’s Pic, and after Charisma.com’s relentless set, matched with green lasers and a dancing crowd, the two artists crossed to the left side of the venue to talk to the Girl’s Pic MC’s.

One of the two MC’s, who said she was still 18, said, “I’ve never been to a club before, but that made me want to try going.”

“Ah, but you won’t find this sort of thing in clubs,” said Itsuka, adjusting her Conehead.

It is highly doubtful that you would find that sort of thing anywhere but a Charisma.com concert.

OL Culture, Rap, and Neon Lights – Charisma.com in Shibuya

“So I can be a girl, give me the color pink” – Oomori Seiko in Shibuya

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Photo: http://girlspiclive.com/vol03/report.html

It was the night before Halloween 2016. Girl’s Pic Vol. 3 was happening, the latest in a series of concerts put on by the television station Music-ru to promote women artists. After a band and a duo performed, a solitary young woman in a black glittering gown bound by a pink sash graced the stage of Club Quattro in Shibuya, holding an acoustic guitar.

“Zero songs,” she sang, the first line of the title track from her latest album, Tokyo Black Hole. “The mom-and-pop candy store in front of the station has been torn down/I used to think I’d destroy this city with water balloon bombs.”

The singer-songwriter Oomori Seiko presents to her audience a dichotomy of femininity and anxiety, girlishness and destruction. These themes aren’t contradictory: they’re inseparable. Her website profile calls her a “word magician of the new girl generation.” “Tokyo Black Hole,” the song and the album, begin softly, surreptitiously, but soon the pain beneath the description of Tokyo streets comes to the forefront.

“Hello hate,” Oomori intones. “That person who wanted me to die/Will die someday without anybody/And I will forget about it.”

In her albums, Oomori Seiko’s raw, pained lyrics are hidden in a soft, muted delivery, disguised within bubbly synth and pop beats. But on a stage, with just her guitar, she disguises nothing. She screams, strums, and sings, asking for the lights of the venue to be kept up so she can see the audience’s eyes. The connection with the crowd, for the sake of her own emotions and theirs, is placed center stage.

A little ways into Oomori’s second song, the lights started to go down and she said, still strumming, “Keeping them up is good!” The lights went back up, so she could see the crowd’s eyes.

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Photo: http://girlspiclive.com/vol03/report.html

The gentle, muted pop of Oomori’s albums is so at odds from her solo live performances that they might as well be completely different songs. The glittering synth is replaced with the metal of messy guitar chords, loud, loud, loud, with Oomori’s words pouring over them, drowning out any possibility of calm.

Her themes of innocence, sweetness, and girlishness do not mask pain, but instead, mix with it. Being feminine can be extremely painful. References to buying manga, distorted love affairs, and her at times strained relationship with songwriting run through her music.

“Music is not magic,” Oomori repeats like a mantra in “Ongaku O Sute Yo, Soshite Ongaku E” (“Throw Away Music, and, To Music”). “But music is…”

Oomori was never rawer than during the end of her set. At the climax of a song she stepped on a pedal to turn off her guitar and pulled away from the microphone while still playing, and sang directly to the audience, her voice reverberating in the small venue.

Not produced. Not edited in the studio. Just her voice and the sound of her guitar, nothing else. Vulnerability and pain shared with the audience as a way of mutual catharsis.

She did not perform “Magic Mirror”* that night, the song she wrote when she was thinking about quitting songwriting, or “Pink,” from her first physical CD (which makes an auditory cameo at the end of the “Magic Mirror” music video), but perhaps these songs are the most evocative of what it means to be Oomori Seiko.

“So I can be a girl, give me the color pink,” she sings in the song about the color.

What does it mean to be a girl? To have femininity?

“Why can’t girls play rock music?” she sings in “Magic Mirror.”

Oomori connected deeply with the audience, not only by making it a point to make eye contact and see faces, but also, changing lyrics to suit the fact that this concert was in Shibuya on Halloween weekend, and chatting about her day and the show whenever she paused between songs (which was not all that often). She was not trying to hide anything or present anything more or less than herself. Just be truthful.

Judging by Oomori’s popularity not only in Japan, but also among English-speaking fans, her complete honesty as a performer transcends boundaries of language. When an interviewer from Japanese entertainment website Natalie pointed out the range of ages and genders at Oomori’s concerts, she responded, “Everyone is interesting. I want to know about the lives of many different people.”

If the audience’s rapt attention in Shibuya was any indication, showing interest in others causes those people to be interested in your words, too.

*Please note that the “Magic Mirror” music video linked here contains nudity.

Website / Twitter / Facebook / YouTube

“So I can be a girl, give me the color pink” – Oomori Seiko in Shibuya

Upcoming Release: Shiina Ringo – Menuki Dōri

Shiina Ringo has announced the release of a new single to be released on April 20, titled “Menuki Dōri” (“Main Street”). The new song will be a duet with the singer Tortoise Matsumoto, and serve as the theme song for the new 19-story shopping shopping, Ginza Six, which will also open on April 20.

Tortoise Matsumoto has been the lead vocalist for rock group Ulfuls since 1992, and has also worked as a solo artist. Shiina Ringo has worked as a singer-songwriter and performer since her debut in 1998.

Read more about the song and shopping center on Shiina Ringo’s website here.

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Album artwork from Shiina Ringo’s website, kronekodow.com

Upcoming Release: Shiina Ringo – Menuki Dōri

Upcoming Release: Chirinuruwowaka – Kimi No Mirai Ni You Ga Aru

 

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Image courtesy of natalie.mu

Guitar-driven trio Chirinuruwowaka has announced their eighth album: Kimi No Mirai Ni You Ga Aru (There is Business in Your Future). To be released on May 10, the album features 7 tracks.

“We aimed for the feeling that the images you see in your mind are as though you are watching a beautiful movie,” said vocalist and guitarist Yuu, quoted on music website Natalie. After the album is released in May, Chirinuruwowaka will embark on a national “OctopusTour.” However, before touring, the band has announced two dates of “Chirinuruwowaka Kai Vol. 4” to premiere the new album before the CD is released. These will be on April 29 at Shindaita FEVER in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo and May 3 at America-Mura FANJ Twice in Chuo-ku, Osaka. The venues will also feature advance sales of the album. Ticket information can be found on Chirinuruwowaka’s website here.

 

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Image courtesy of natalie.mu

Tracklist:

  1. Dolce
  2. Creature
  3. Ikari No Fudesaki (The Tip of the Brush of Rage)
  4. Haru Wa Achira (Spring is Over There)
  5. Shidarezakura (Weeping Cherry Tree)
  6. Ukitsu Shizumitsu (Floating and Sinking)
  7. Kuusou Toshi (Daydream City)

OctopusTour 2017:

Keep up with Chirinuruwowaka by following them on social media below:

Website / Twitter (Yuu [guitar/vocals], Kousaku Abe [drums], Iwai Eikichi [bass]) / Facebook

Upcoming Release: Chirinuruwowaka – Kimi No Mirai Ni You Ga Aru

Introducing: Walkings

Did you miss Japan Nite this year? No worries: RokkuPanku has got you covered. We’re writing a series of introductions to the bands on the 2017 tour, so you can still find the freshest new artists on the circuit. First up: Walkings.

Walkings is a three-piece garage rock band that formed in 2012, playing the Rookie Stage at Fuji Rock Festival in 2015 and releasing a 7-track full-length album in 2016 (which you can buy on iTunes). Over the past three years, the band has released demos, live recordings, and covers on their SoundCloud and YouTube, but since the release of their self-titled debut they have been taking the stage in Japan and America alike.

The blues of Walkings are heavy – low guitar and bass buzz and hum through single “Muda” as well as “Saraba Ending,” a 96-second track in which Takada Fu’s falsetto verses off-set the crunch of his guitar. In “Flying fly,” Takanashi Takashi’s steady cymbal crashes paint a background for distorted screams and stuttering riffs. And Yoshida Hayato’s wry basslines in tracks like “Rock” feel like they’re winking at the audience. This is the kind of fun you’re gonna have if you see us play.

For updates on Walkings’ whereabouts, keep up with their social media below.

 

Walkings Website / Twitter / Facebook / SoundCloud / YouTube

Introducing: Walkings