Update: A new plan of action

I felt it was time to introduce a new angle to this blog. Without making too much of a big deal, time has been against me these couple of months and has affected my drive to keep up with this blog. This is hopefully going to change now as I dig into my ‘thought pond’ and propose a new direction to move this blog forward.

Since I started this blog, I have written numerous posts delving into a single artist or band. However, as I spent days writing up “hopefully interesting” articles, to my pleasure, the simmering pot of new artists and undiscovered bands is overflowing day after day. Unable to keep up on a regular basis, I needed to find a way to keep up with the Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) of Japanese music. So I made a plan.

Next week, I will introduce a new thread to this site – ‘Picks of the Week’. As the title suggests, it will involve selecting a small number of tracks in a week, talking a bit about each track to create a mini-playlist. This way, it will allow me to keep up with the rapid current of artists grabbing my eyes and ears, and hopefully provide my readers with greater opportunities to discover more great music from Japan.

While this idea is not yet concrete, I believe this is the way forward for this blog now. I hope my readers will stick along in this journey of Japanese music.

I.T

Advertisements

New Japanese Vibes (58) – Half Mile Beach Group ‘Chooman’

Vivid images of the beach meet the groovy sounds of indie rock infused with hypnotic sonic effects in Half Mile Beach Group’s new track ‘Chooman’.

The trio consisting of Yama, Mayufu and Tsuzu have enjoyed a 10-year camaraderie, each carrying their own distinctive personality and blending together to kindle an unusual yet seductive sound world. Spellbinding synth and vocoder colours, tropical percussion and rhythms that take inspiration from South American tradition, and the classic guitar sound collide with each other to spark an imaginative track that is full of life.

Other Info/Context

  • Half Mile Beach Group’s EP PARK C was released on April 23rd.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (57) – ENTHRALLS きょうはうまく眠れない

As with any genre, it is really difficult for an artist or band to set themselves apart from other peers in the musical game. For four-piece rock band ENTHRALLS, they have managed to carve out their individual personality while sitting neatly between their influences.

The opening chorus exchanges sounds like a direct incarnation from a Sakanaction tune, but closely follows with five-and-a-half minutes of magical, anthemic pop-rock stirred up by a fuel-driven rhythm line, sumptuous strings, a dazzling array of synths, bright piano chords and 井上佳子 Inoue Keiko’s heavenly yet full-bodied vocals somersaulting with freedom.

Other Info/Context

  • ENTHRALLS’ mini album Nemurenai Yoru ni was released on limited sale at the Shinjuku Tower Records in October 10th 2015.
  • The album was released nationwide on April 16th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (56) – 辻林美穂 Tsujibayashi Miho あぶく ‘Abuku’

After another hectic week, 辻林美穂 Tsujibayashi Miho’s new track あぶく ‘Abuku’ (‘Froth’) features in my lazy weekend soundtrack to cocoon my senses with sonic cushions.

Working in collaboration with illustrator 寺岡奈津美 Teraoka Natsumi, the song and video ripples away with a gentle river-like musical and visual flow. Tsujibayashi paints a feathery and wispy ambience with lyrical string and oboe melodies, twinkling percussion timbres, dainty pizzicato rhythms, tender piano harmonies and her sweet, warm-hearted vocals. As the clouds make way for the sun, and flowers bloom in parks and gardens, one cannot help but mark spring’s arrival.

Other Info/Context

  • Tsujibayashi’s new album Clarte will be released on April 20th.

© Isaku Takahashi

Ovall

Tokyo band Ovall’s spiritual jazz/hip-hop sound treads between the present and past. The trio looks back to tradition for creative juices, but is equally akin to the fresh and forward-thinking outlook that is a prerequisite for any modern musician or band.

‘Feverish Imagination’ from their 2011 EP Heart Fever is a slick fusion of classic hip-hop, soul, funk and contemporary jazz, dictated by voltage-driven guitar solos, dazzling jazz/soul piano chords and licks, punchy drum beats, mellow Rhodes harmonies and shimmering synths. It’s the ideal soundtrack fit for a warm evening at the beach enriched by a bright orange sunset.

Equally seductive are tracks ‘Take U to Somewhere’ and ‘I Need Your Music feat. Hanah’, both featured in their debut album DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS THAT. Both tracks meander through sumptuous yet spiritual nu-jazz vibes coaxed by twinkling electric piano riffs tinged with radiant effects, groovy electric guitar licks, vintage organ textures, foot-tapping rhythms and alluring, hazy vocal melodies that gently slip through the listener’s senses to wind their minds down. From the first chord, one knows that Ovall will take listeners through a magical journey like no other.

Ovall’s ability to resonate the universal appeal of jazz and hip-hop is also captured in tunes like ‘mistakes’ from their album DAWN. Describing their music as “Absolute Mixture Music”, the trio paints a rich fusion of styles and sounds ranging from laser-coloured synths, shimmering electric piano and vintage organ licks that ring the 70s and 80s back to life, jazzy bass lines, catchy drums and sensual vocals.

Other Listening:

  • Hold You feat. Yu Sakai
  • The Skin I’m In feat. Wayne and Kenn Starr
  • In TRANSIT

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (55) – D.A.N. ‘Native Dancer’

As I write this post looking for inspiration and stimuli, the clock approaches 12.00am midnight, and up came electro-pop band D.A.N. and their new track ‘Native Dancer’, a magical sonic affair perfect to indulge under the nocturnal gaze.

The track sees the R&B and pop worlds mingle together to coax an enchanting musical ambience filled with colourful synth textures, beautiful ghost-toned vocals, and seductive rhythmic phrases through flowing pulse changes and a gentle harmonic journey. The camaraderie of 桜木大悟 Sakuragi Daigo、市川仁也 Ichikawa Jinya and 川上輝 Kawakami Teru is showcased to great breadth in this alluring number.

Other Info/Context

  • D.A.N.’s new album will be released on April 20th, featuring the track ‘Native Dancer’.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (54) – Ken Kobayashi ‘Know You More’

Singer-songwriter Ken Kobayashi shares both Japanese and German origin in his DNA. Now based in London, his new track ‘Know You More’ exudes a gentle, melancholic pop/bossa nova vibe that echoes the ‘Shibuya-kei’ trend, the Japanese fascination for styles outside their borders.

While the track wanders through in its leisurely ambience ferried by the serene bossa nova propulsion, groovy and nostalgic licks, and Kobayashi’s cloudy and graceful vocal tones, electro synth colours and countermelodies beautifully weave their way into the mix to coax a unique sound world.

Other Info/Context

  • Ken Kobayashi’s new album Like The Stars will be released on April 6th, to mark his Japan debut.

© Isaku Takahashi