Taking a different approach for the next couple of posts.

In my spare time, I often engage in a bit of ‘SoundCloud surfing’, as it’s a great platform that allows us to discover hidden gems from a variety of cultures. My latest discovery comes from Fukuoka prefecture, an independent music label called DEAD FUNNY RECORDS.

Established in 2012, this record label is a catalyst for releasing some of the most breathtaking new music from various regions of Japan and parts of the globe (e.g. BEST FRIENDS and MAZES from the UK and TOPS from Canada). The next couple of posts will put the spotlight on a couple of Japanese artists that have emerged from the young music label.

Kensei Ogata, lead singer of the band Talk based in Kumamoto prefecture first captured my attention. He crafts a sensual ambience through blending post-rock aesthetics with dreamy vocal lines and tranquil synth drones evocative of dream-pop/shoegaze. His unique sonic landscape brings to mind the rhythmic pulsations of Coldplay ornamented with chillwave sonic textures of Tycho.

On the Beach’, the first track from his 2012 album Her Paperback is a euphonious overture to the record. The discotheque drumbeat that carries some rhythmic impetus is glazed with a tuneful little guitar riff, glittering and shimmering synth lines covering the stereo field and hazy, ethereal vocals, orchestrating an atmospheric yet infectious ‘wall of sound’ that immerses the listener in sonic bliss.

The sound world created by Ogata and his band has led to reviews interpreting him as:

「あらかじめポスト世代」 “Naturally Postmodern generation”

Tracks like ‘Golden Hair’ and ‘Tonight, Flight’ personify the statement above. The sepia-shaded vintage synth pads that navigate the musical journey amplify a sense of nostalgia, but Ogata remains a musician of today. His sleek dreamlike voice, and creative awareness and skill in varying instrumental, textural colour and arranging meticulous rhythmic and harmonic figures to create organic sonic narratives with moments of intimacy and sparks of anthemic crescendos, is exclusive to his contemporary artistic vision.

Ogata’s defiantly indie musical details, like in ‘My Small Garden and ‘Happy Sunny March’ from Her Paperback transport listeners to glimpses of 90s British indie rock/pop: witty titles that speak for the ‘everyday life’ aesthetic, laid-back vocal exchanges and solid guitar driven vibes. However, hidden amongst this indie landscape is a sentimental nuance that is perhaps induced from his misty yet beautiful voice and the influence of ambient, shoegaze styles that has permeated Ogata’s musical voyage.

Starting my audible travels through the wonderful musical environment curated by Dead Funny Records has rejuvenated my quest to stumble across fresh and exciting musicians. From my perspective, the works of Kensei Ogata and Talk are influential in conducting the popular soundtrack to the present, and future generation.

Other Listening:

  • 涙 (‘Namida’, ‘Tears’) (Spitz cover)
  • A Certain Letter
  • In Refrain Rain (from the album Dead Funny Compilation Vol. 1)
  • Night Dance
  • Waltz for Feebee (Album)

© Isaku Takahashi