New Japanese Vibes (104) – Ivy to Fraudulent Game ‘Dear Fate’

Featuring in their upcoming mini album 継ぐ Tsugu, Ivy to Fraudulent Game’s new track ‘Dear Fate’ sees the rhythmic aggression of hard rock, the intricacy of math rock and the soulful and introspective ambience of gothic rock and shoegaze collide and burst in sumptuous fashion. Once you hook onto the song’s bullet train, there’s no chance for a pit stop – voltage-charged guitars, soul-searching vocals and relentless drum rhythms strike a lightning of potent sonic power.

Other Info

  • Ivy to Fraudulent Game’s new mini album Tsugu will be released on March 7th.

© Isaku Takahashi

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Picks of the Week #14

Radio-friendly yet experimental in equal measure, ゲスの極み乙女 Gesu no Kiwami Otome just keep delivering an impressive array of tunes that everlastingly grab hold of their listener’s minds. Led by 川谷絵音 Kawatani Enon, 勝手な青春劇 ‘Katte na Seishungeki’ (vaguely translates as ‘A youth drama of its own way’) is a lush potpourri of colourful piano and guitar runs, adrenaline-rushed rhythms, a fleeting meter change, and rich harmonies enriching Kawatani’s spontaneous vocals. Find out more about Gesu no Kiwami Otome here, and listen to more of their music here.

  • Predawn – ‘Universal Mind’

My personal soundtrack for the autumnal season now welcomes Niigata-born singer-songwriter Predawn (清水美和子 Shimizu Miwako) and her ethereal folk-rock track ‘Universal Mind’. Her floating vocals, acoustic guitar harmonies that picture a vivid campfire scene, poignant narrative and nostalgic electric guitar solos shimmer an ambience that would be perfect in a chapel’s surroundings. If she were to come to perform at the Union Chapel in North London, show me the ticket queue.

  • フレンズ Friends ‘DIVER’

Featuring in their mini album ショー・チューン Show Tune, DIVER’ by フレンズ Friends quite simply dives into a harlequin musical fiesta. Consisting of five ‘friends’, this track sounds like the perfect number to light up Tokyo’s night time vibes. With funk-pop colours, laser-beam synths, luminous vocals and foot-tapping beats radiated from every surface of the stereo field, there is simply no choice but to let your senses get in sync with the band’s energy.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (83) – TK from 凛として時雨 Ling Tosite Sigure ‘Wonder Palette’

TK from 凛として時雨 Ling Tosite Sigure is peerless when it comes to musical identity and innovation. ‘Wonder Palette’ is the latest track to emphasise his eminence as an emblem of Japanese prog-rock. A radiant undercurrent shimmers with bristling energy from the outset, while rhythmic piano riffs, voltage-laden guitars, clamorous drums and TK’s somersaulting vocals in the chorus urge the track to soar above the sonic stratosphere. If you allow me to express my thoughts on this track in the most superficial way, it simply takes the listener to another musical galaxy.

Other Info/Context

  • White noise was released on September 28th.
  • TK from Ling Tosite Sigure will begin his “Signal to Noise’ Tour on November 3rd.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #5

  • Hearsays – ‘Talking Across The Room’

Gorgeous 70s/80s vibes ooze out from Hearsays’ music, including ‘Talking Across The Room’. Upbeat and tranquil in equal measure, the four-piece indie rock band based in Fukuoka fill an evocative sound world with reverb-laden guitars, dreamy riffs and harmonies, driving drum pulse and wistful male-female vocals, taking their listeners as well into the nostalgic musical journey.

  • ゆだち Yudachi – ‘(die staadt) Norm’

Music has the power to transport listeners to otherworldly experiences. ゆだち Yudachi coaxes a smooth, ethereal soundscape in their track ‘(die staadt) Norm’ from their first album 夜の舟は白に折りたたまれて The Night Boat is Folded in White. Filled with glassy synth harmonies, tranquil guitar lines, rippling crescendos and beautifully languid vocals, the track will hypnotise listeners in a blissful musical trance.

  • 宇宙コンビニ Uchuu Konbini – ‘Pyramid’

The intricate rhythms and propulsions of math rock and prog rock collide in ‘Pyramid’, a track by Kyoto-based three-piece “progressive pop” band宇宙コンビニ Uchuu Konbini. Above the precision-engineered rhythmic drum patterns, time signature changes, lush harmonies and colourful guitar timbres lies Ohki Emi’s feathery and wistful vocals rippling away with elegance and emotion. ‘Pyramid’ embodies the true qualities of post-rock awesomeness.

© 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

凛として時雨 – Rin Toshite Shigure (Ling Tosite Sigure)

The commercial, and arguably manufactured landscape of ‘J-Pop’ rarely produces artists or bands that possess an “auteur” frame of mind. However, the penetrating sounds that come out from Rin Toshite Shigure (or as many people/websites render, Ling Tosite Sigure) is one anomaly in the equation.

Formed in Saitama prefecture, the trio has built a considerable reputation for their punishing hardcore and progressive rock tunes, with elements of experimental or math rock penetrating their musical idiom. They set the tone with tunes such as ターボチャージャーOn ‘Turbocharger On’ from their debut album #4 back in 2005. This particular example models their rampant musical personality, from abrupt changes in tempo, crescendos of wailing vocal lines and moments of extremely dense walls of noise and distorted harmonies that strikes the audible senses.

On the other hand, ‘Moment A Rhythm’ is a 17-minute rock symphonic story. The first half sustains a subdued indie rock pulse that weave its way through fleeting crescendos until a sudden rise in intensity is triggered by the drums and howling guitar solo. As the movement dies away into silence, the latter section is like an after-thought, as it decelerates to a more airy, contemplative atmosphere driven by guitar arpeggios and sonic effects that perhaps evoke the aesthetics of post-rock band Sigur Ros. As the track approaches its conclusion however, the arpeggios get more intense and vocal and distorted utterances creep out of the stereo field that seems like it would conduct a gradual crescendo, only to be deceived by a sudden lapse in harmony and manipulated vocal samples of TK engulf the sonic universe in a cliffhanger ending.

While vocalist TK (Toru Kitajima) retains the fiery enthusiasm that has served him well with Ling Tosite Sigure (e.g. in moderately propulsive songs like ‘Haze’), his solo career is a platform that allows listeners to discover a different angle of his character. ‘Daylily’ is perhaps the biggest step towards a completely different musical periphery. With minimal piano melodies and delicate guitar and faint synth chords that weave in and out (bringing out reminiscences of A Winged Victory for the Sullen or the airport music of Brian Eno), it has the potential to evoke a vivid imagination of a natural wonder.

The amount of colour Ling Tosite Sigure manages to pack in their creative output is enthralling. For sure they will have a pivotal role in influencing the directions Japanese popular music will take in the near future.

Other Listening:

  • Abnormalize
  • 夕景の記憶 kei no Kioku (‘Memories of Sunset’)
  • Unravel (by TK)
  • Fantastic Magic (by TK)

© Isaku Takahashi