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 (20) – yuichi NAGAO ‘White Wind’

yuichi NAGAO’s attention towards various sonic palettes is spoken clearly through his spellbinding music. Evocative of the dream-like sound world of Slow Magic, ‘White Wind’, the latest track to come out of PROGRESSIVE FOrM record label’s SoundCloud, speaks for both the futuristic and nostalgic. The track is laden with a rich array of cosmic synth colours, hazy ambient effects, heart-pounding drumbeats (drawing from techno, dub and downtempo influences) and heavenly vocoder samples, all weaving through each other to radiate a beam of polyrhythmic sonic bliss.

Other Info/Context

  • yuichi NAGAO studied under Japanese jazz musician 菊地成孔 Kikuchi Naruyoshi.
  • His music’s inspirations stem from things like surrealism art and the soundtrack to the anime film 銀河鉄道の夜 Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru (‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’).

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (19) – かしわ Kashiwa ‘Gero’

A newcomer in the Japanese music scene, かしわ Kashiwa is full of surprises judging by their intriguing tracks like ‘Gero’ from their new album Psychedelic Earth.

Its dreamy yet pulsating alt-rock façade is found in the jangling guitar arpeggios and chords, persistent bass bedrock, strident drum line and occasional glittering piano riffs. Yet offsetting the rock foundation is a catchy vocal melody that would be fit for any pop/rock hit, but instead is heavily submerged in colourful android filters.

You read the description and one is likely to feel muddled. But let the sounds float through the audible universe and one may discover a unique charm about Kashiwa.

Other Info/Context

  • In order to buy the album, customers need to send their relevant details (e.g. name, address, purchase method etc.) to their independent record label email address.

© Isaku Takahashi

SEKAI NO OWARI

In a culture dominated by sickly sweet ‘idol’ pop, one is always quick to dismiss the Japanese music scene as exhaustive, lacklustre with little insistence towards creativity and innovation. Fortunately, SEKAI NO OWARI is here as the agent of change, peaking at just the right time to expose the audience in musical alchemy.

Initially launching their career as an indie pop band, the quartet from Tokyo were slowly finding their voice in the Japanese indie scene. They set a quirky first impression with their debut single ‘幻の命’ (‘Maboroshi no Inochi’, meaning ‘an imaginary life’). Their individual character is represented through Satoshi Fukase’s pleasant, down-to-earth vocal nature, a subtle injection of android textures and a witty mascot, in the form of a clown masked DJ.

Despite making a considerable move to the major label Toys Factory, they continue to assert their eccentric personality, not only through innovative music making, but also differentiating themselves from other bands with their extravagant, ‘fantasy-world’ themed music videos. ‘RPG’, a hit tune that instantly grabbed full attention of the Japanese cultural consciousness is a visual spectacle that enhances the irresistible jamboree groove, electronic embellishments on the vocals and the grand choral waves that elevate the chorus.

The youthful quartet is not only respected for their visually striking performances. With songs like スターライトパレード (‘Starlight Parade’), they have the ability to touch the emotions of listeners. The more intimate setting gives the Christmassy instrumental colour, the foot-tapping four-on-the-floor beat and Fukase’s charming voice the chance to sparkle and create a sense of camaraderie between the listener and himself.

SEKAI NO OWARI are four fearless musicians that have re-defined the Japanese music scene. The global interest they gained, partly from their recent collaboration with Owl City is a testament to their visionary musical flair. Their ambitious visual imagery, ability to arouse emotional resonance, and their imaginative sound world has transcended the expectation of J-Pop listeners for a breath of fresh air in the Japanese musical mainstream.

Other Listening:

  • Dragon Night
  • INORI
  • 炎と森のカーニバル (‘The Flame and Forest Carnival’)
  • Tokyo (Written by Owl City, featuring SEKAI NO OWARI)

© Isaku Takahashi