New Japanese Vibes (32) – Cettia 月夜 ‘Tsukiyo’

Young Japanese singer-songwriter Cettia’s new track 月夜 ‘Tsukiyo’ (‘Moonlight’) brings a bright stream of warmth to a gray February climate.

Cettia expresses a deep message about isolation and moving forward:

「どうしようもなく寂しくて、
そんな孤独に押し潰されそうな夜が、    
きっと誰にだってあると思います。

… 寂しい夜を越えて、朝が来たら
また歩き出せるように。
大丈夫、わたしたちはまだ。

月だけがわたしを見ていてくれた。」

‘Surely anyone and everyone has felt hopelessly alone and experienced a night being emotionally crushed by this sense of solitude.

… but overcome the lonely night, and as the morning approaches, set off on your feet. We are still ok, only the moon kindly gazed upon me.’

The serene yet calmly propulsive spirit of the music (perhaps mirroring a Take That-like sonic narrative) embodies the uplifting message the song conveys. Gleaming synths, radiant guitar chords, spurring drum energy, and the blissful chorus melody relay between the stereo field and breathe an aura of emotion through every corner.

Other Info/Context

  • Cettia’s single Tsukiyo will be released on February 3rd.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (31) – Hiroto Kudo ‘Tripper’

Penned by Sendai producer Hiroto Kudo, Tripper’ traverses through a sumptuous and dreamy electronic voyage.

The track evolves from a luminous synth idea humming away with mellow harmonies and enriched with a deep dronal resonance. Stuttering beats, glitch samples, exotic melodic inflections, various synth textures and percussion timbres lend an evocative oceanic atmosphere as the sonic journey intensifies inch-by-inch, then suddenly plunging down to the opening embryonic foundation that casts away into the distance. It’s music that is delicately spellbinding.

Other Info/Context

  • Kudo also released a new EP this month called Vanish.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (30) – 入江陽 Irie You おひっこし ‘Ohikkoshi’

A certain kind of ‘swagger’ accentuates 入江陽 Irie You’s intricate track おひっこし ‘Ohikkoshi’ (‘Move out’).

One can hear influences of Flying Lotus, the rhythmic language of IDM and an undeniably alluring trip/hip-hop groove through this strange and sultry sonic journey. The track takes the form of an arch, transporting the listener in an unearthly world filled with ambiguous harmonies, wobbling synths and entangled rhythms. The middle section jumps into a seductive neo-soul vibe until the track finally engulfs the listener back into the spine-chilling sounds of the introduction.

Other Info/Context

  • Irie You’s new album SF was released on January 20th.
  • During his academic life, he played the oboe, jazz piano and also took part in punk bands and free jazz sessions and performances.

© Isaku Takahashi

THE NOVEMBERS

Music’s potential to cross cultural borders and therefore influence the artistic awareness of particular cultures has always been a thought-provoking concept. Treading between the borders of shoegaze, electronic, hardcore and indie rock (to name a few), four-piece rock band THE NOVEMBERS is an archetypal result of alt-rock styles making their mark on the Japanese music scene.

Boasting a diverse career, THE NOVEMBERS’ have thrown many facets of their musical sounds and influences to rock enthusiasts. The band’s predilection for dreamy shoegaze aesthetics is captured in tracks like ‘Harem’, from their 2012 EP GIFT. Its hazy and hypnotic production consisting of reverb-laden vocals, blurred guitar riffs and languid melodies and harmonies stimulates a never-ending feeling of reverie that is so alluring to the ears.

Dogma’ is a stark contrast from their previous record. From their 2013 EP Fourth wall, ‘Dogma’ carries a sinister façade right from the outset. Immersing one’s audible senses with a commotion of noise and gothic rock, the track explodes with macabre-like sonic punches and a perpetuating warped guitar riff, sustaining a rhythmic urgency throughout this turbulent, nightmarish ride with Muse-like vocal undulations and a storm of distortion.

Building on the shoegaze traditions of British/Irish bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Romancé’ (from The Novembers’ 2014 album Rhapsody In Beauty) flows through a tranquil ambient rock stream, opening with some percussion timbres and rhythms that offset the balance of the track with its exotic quality but is equally effective in injecting a touch of mystery. Jangling guitar chords and phrases, silky synths and rich, velvety vocals unfold in a melancholic ambience, gently rubbing down the listener’s senses.

Their eclectic bank of solid shoegaze tunes, seductive vocals and powerful guitar work affirms The Novembers’ recognised musical efforts and the band’s considerable reputation in the burgeoning rock scene in Japan.

Other Listening:

  • きれいな海へ ‘Kireina Umi E’ (‘To a beautiful sea’)
  • こわれる ‘Kowareru’ (‘break’)
  • Flower of life
  • Misstopia
  • she lab luck

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (29) – Negative Headphone ‘Calling’

The rather enigmatic figure that is Negative Headphone takes us into an intense and sumptuous 8-minute ambient sonic journey.

Perhaps ‘Calling’ speaks to the idea of ‘process music’. It is a painfully gradual transition from an opening melodic riff that expands harmonically, and the sonic palette slowly snowballs with various sparkling electronic samples, mellow piano tones sporadically appearing and vanishing like little water droplets, a perpetual electric guitar-like propulsion and sonorous drumbeats cumulating towards an opulently textured pinnacle of ambient bliss, and then descends back to its original idea.

Other Info/Context

  • Negative Headphone also creates videos to accompany his music.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (28) – origami jp 車窓から ‘Shasou Kara’ EP

Newcomers in the math-rock scene, origami jp released their 2nd EP車窓から Shasou Kara (‘From the train window’).

Packed with intricate rhythmical details, multi-coloured textures, harmonies and full of originality, origami jp captures the essential qualities of math-rock to maximum capacity with subtle elements of Sigur Ros’ dronal post-rock language infused in their palette (particularly in the opening of title track 車窓から ‘Shasou Kara’ (‘From the train window’) and marked by the distinctively British indie rock personality of guitarist and main composer Ono Shun (who spent his childhood in Hampshire, UK and was influenced by their music), which is heavily pronounced in ‘Trains’.

Other Info/Context

  • Shasou Kara EP will be released on February 2nd, their last release before their hiatus.

© Isaku Takahashi

ART-SCHOOL/killing Boy

木下理樹Kinoshita Riki started musical life in alt-rock group ART-SCHOOL and in 2010, killing Boy was formed, made up of musicians from different rock bands (in similar fashion to 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon and Indigo la End/Gesu No Kiwami Otome, a decade earlier). These alt-rock groups are just some of many bands that unsettle the generic Japanese rock formula by submerging listeners with their distinctive rock character that is equally attractive to their contemporaries.

Speaking for the post-grunge legacy, あと10秒で ‘Ato 10 Byou De’ (’10 seconds until’) by ART-SCHOOL tinkles between the heavy distortion of Foo Fighters and the mainstream rock/power pop appeal of Nickelback or U2 with an economical yet effective arrangement of jangling guitars tinged with nostalgia, powerful vocal melodies a motoring bass guitar and drum pulse. By contrast, ‘Illmatic Love’ flirts with a distinctive new rave sensation, filled with neon synth colours, dingy bass sonorities and an anthemic chorus melody that would electrify the nightclub.

The foot-tapping groove of ‘Frozen Music’ (from killing Boy’s debut self-titled album in 2011) belies the sphinx-like quality that permeates the track. Exuding a particularly similar vibe to Brian Eno and David Byrne’s Help Me Somebody’, the track opens with a brooding bass line whose introspective mood swims through the journey with the silky and celestial synth pad, the world-beat influenced instrumental section and the fatigued tone of Kinoshita’s vocals.

The nostalgic sounds of the electric guitar in ‘1989’ acts for the track’s strong 80s façade. Bringing to mind bands like Au Revoir Simone, 1989’ sits comfortably between the infectiously rhythmic indie rock (from the chiming guitar riff, the tireless drumbeat and bass line, and the eccentric vocal tone of Kinoshita) and the ethereal textures of dream pop (marked by the perpetual and streamlined synth blanket).

Both ART-SCHOOL and killing Boy have cleverly marketed themselves as indie rock bands that express their own identity and capture the eyes of wider audiences in equal measure.

Other Listening:

  • LOST IN THE AIR
  • you and me, pills
  • その指で Sono Yubi De (‘With that finger’)
  • 14souls

© Isaku Takahashi