New Japanese Vibes (137) – katyusha ‘I Like Me’

Katyusha, also known as えつこ Etsuko from pop trio DADARAY embarks on her solo project with ‘I Like Me’, the headline track from her new album of the same title. She proved to be a key name in the development of the handful of bands 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon gave birth to, and while her solo music strays away from the relentless rhythmic propulsion of indigo la end or ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome, ‘I Like Me’ radiates a feel-good vibe with its vibrant vocal harmonies, bubbly rhythm section and katyusha’s belting and tender voice.

Other Info

  • Katyusha’s new album I Like Me was released on November 22nd.
  • Listen to DADARAY on my blog post here.
  • Find out more about indigo la end and Gesu No Kiwami Otome here.

© Isaku Takahashi

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New Japanese Vibes (121) – indigo la End プレイバック ‘Playback’

A smoky yet vibrant musical universe oozes out when indigo la End bursts through the speakers. Their latest track プレイバック ‘Playback’ is not exception – led by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon’s sweet and mellow vocals, the track shines an opulent mix of precision-engineered drums, heavenly backing vocals and sparkling harmonies and catchy licks in the guitar. The band turns up the sonic euphoria in the final chorus before the final guitar chords glisten away into the horizon.

Other Info

  • Indigo la End’s new album Crying End Roll will be released on July 12th.
  • Find out more about Indigo la End in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #7

Putting aside the recent chain of events and controversies surrounding 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon, mastermind behind Indigo la End (and sister group Gesu no Kiwami Otome), 藍色好きさ ‘Aiiro Suki sa’ (‘I Like Indigo Blue’) showcases the alt-rock band’s creative potential to great magnitude. The four-piece skips away with intricate drum rhythms, shimmering guitar riffs, electric piano harmonies and pulsating bass lines. The whole rhythmic vibe is lightened up by Kawatani’s dainty yet rich vocals.

  • Shespider – ‘Imitation’

It seems as though rock music has taken much of the limelight on my blog, so it’s time to dive into the vibrant sonic colours of electro-pop with Tokyo-based trio Shespider and their track ‘Imitation’. While the punctuating beats keep the rhythmic energy alive, the reverb-laden sound world, glittering guitars and serpent-like vocals intensify the track’s mysterious flavour. The track will be featured on their upcoming mini album Imitation early next month.

  • ya-to-i – となえるよ ‘Tonaeruyo’

Hidden within the P-VINE archive is an unusual number by three-piece band ya-to-i. となえるよ ‘Tonaeruyo’ (‘Chant’) is born from the creative minds of 山本精一 Yamamoto Seiichi, 岡田徹 Okada Toru (from 70s band Moonriders) and 伊藤俊治 Itou Toshiharu. Making use of the stereo field in spellbinding fashion, the track is a rich mix of android vocals, bright guitar licks, and styles see-sawing from post-rock to dance and ambient vibes.

© Isaku Takahashi

Indigo la End/ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome

Japanese rock continues to reveal itself in many unique forms while maintaining an eye for mainstream attraction, none more so than Indigo la End and ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome, both bands headed by the mastermind of 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon.

さよならベル ‘Sayonara Bell’ (‘Goodbye Bell’) is a perfect choreograph of catchy J-rock. Reminiscing of his ex-girlfriend, Kawatani and his rhythm entourage dream up a pleasant mix of smooth harmonic progressions, a rousing falsetto chorus melody and dynamic rock guitars, drums and jazz-tinted bass lines, all of which are filtered through a subtle and hazy shoegaze breeze.

On the other hand, younger cousin group Gesu No Kiwami Otome boast a more unusual and progressive yet equally enticing musical charisma. The band consists of Kawatani and three other members from different musical units and roots whose main motivations were to just enjoy playing and experimenting with each other without any direct mainstream goal (the irony being that they are now a popular, unique and successful J-rock group). However, their ethos centered around experimenting has led to unrivaled tracks like 私以外私じゃないの ‘Watashi igai watashi ja nai no’ (‘It’s not me, except me’). The organised melange of styles (from contemporary jazz piano figurations, alt-rock/new wave ensemble forces, catchy funk and math-rock guitar licks) under an essential ‘J-pop’ energy makes this track totally distinctive.

One of Gesu No Kiwami Otome’s latest track 無垢な季節 ‘Muku na Kisetsu’ (‘Pure Season’) featuring in their upcoming album 両成敗 Ryouseibai embraces a Fox Capture Plan-like math-rock introductory piano solo which sets the driving momentum of the track, further supported by some relentless drum rhythms and bass grooves. Offsetting the high-tempo treadmill is the eloquent tone and lyricism of Kawatani’s vocal melody, which imbues a refreshing quality.

Regardless of any language barrier, both Indigo la End and Gesu No Kiwami Otome are sublime examples of J-rock that propels any listeners into blissful experiences.

Other Listening:

  • オトナチック Otonachikku
  • パラレルスペック Parallel Spec
  • 悲しくなる前に Kanashiku naru mae ni (‘Before I Get Sad’)
  • 夜汽車は走る Yogisha wa Hashiru (‘The Night Train Runs’)

© Isaku Takahashi

 

New Japanese Vibes (14) – THE BED ROOM TAPE 命の火 feat. 川谷絵音 ‘Inochi no Hi feat. Kawatani Enon’

景山奏 Kageyama So (one quarter of instrumental group ナボワ Nabowa) is the mastermind behind solo project THE BED ROOM TAPE. 命の火 ‘Inochi no Hi’ is the opening track of Kageyama’s latest release YARN EP, enlisting the help of Indigo la End’s lead vocalist 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon.

The track itself is a journey through a blend of styles that complement each other very nicely. It opens with a faint brushed drumbeat and a swung acoustic guitar rhythm, moving towards a mahogany-coloured melodic riff from the guitar until Kawatani utters gently through the track with heightened moments in the chorus. The song evokes a tranquil ambience that is further enriched by injections of jazz, soul and electronic tastes. The song eventually reaches an outro driven by a summery electric guitar solo, vibrant drum textures and the uplifting chorus melody sung fluently by Kawatani.

While the summer-inducing vibe offsets the track’s time of release, it brings shimmering warmth that would comfort listeners in a season where the bitter, cold winter threatens to come by.

Other Info/Context

  • YARN EP was released on December 2nd.
  • Kageyama is the guitarist in instrumental four-piece Nabowa.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (6) – ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu No Kiwami Otome オトナチック ‘Otonachikku’

Formed by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon, frontman of the band Indigo La End, Gesu No Kiwami Otome released their new track オトナチック ‘Otonachikku’ that further accentuates the band’s creative intentions: To write J-rock that appeals to the musical mainstream but equally bold and daring in palette choices.

It’s quite difficult to categorise their sound in a convenient sentence. Describing themselves as a ‘hip-hop/progressive’ group, there is more in this tune that belies their simple stylistic description. A progressive rock idiom plays a prominent role in the opening exchanges between the driving drum rhythms and muscly bass groove. To counter that, the delicate piano chords in the first verse, the rippling guitar strums and neon-coloured synths in the pre-chorus act as a stylistic counterpoint, instantly taking the song to another avenue until the chorus nudges the musical narrative back to its playful rock setting. Wild neoclassical/post-minimalist harmonic progressions from the piano glisten the second verse as Kawatani’s muffled voice and lilting backing vocals stir up a slightly eerie ambience. Highly syncopated rhythmic exchanges trigger the middle instrumental section where prog rock solos and warped electronic embellishments meet one way and right through the final chorus.

Other Info/Context

  • Gesu No Kiwami Otome translates as ‘Girl at the height of rudeness’.

© Isaku Takahashi