Monday, June 8, 2015

DJ Krush

I know it's been a long time since I wrote on this blog.  But given that I kind of doubt anyone reads it anyway, I don't feel that bad about it.  My post was going to be titled "End".  Guess what it would've been about.  No, not the electronic band from New York.  Guess again.

I realize that I kind of took on a task I was not ready for in the writing of this blog.  Since I am always searching for bizarre music, and sometimes finding it, I thought it would be interesting to read about the outskirts of music.  The border, where things get all blended and weird.  And I'd like to think, in a way, that I did.  In the beginning.  But the draw to write about artists I just like was too much.  I mean, even a band like Skullflower.  It's not Strange Music.  It's just sort of noise rock that's a bit under the radar.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't know if I'm "qualified" to write a blog about Strange Music because I don't really know much of it, and I'm always going to be swayed by my own personal opinions.  I love nothing more that hearing a bizarre band for the first time that I really like.  I'd like to think there are others out there who don't care what language their music is delivered in, and that actively wonder "I wonder what Canadian death metal is like?"  Cause I do!  I got into Russian, Japanese, European, Chinese, African, Canadian, and all sorts of other music because of my endless search for other ideas of music.

Music to me is an experience.  More than a way to have fun, it's a way to experience creativity, humanity, and existence.  My own existence has been fucked up enough to make me feel like I need to look for others who have the same artistic pain that I do.  Nothing is worse than being born artistic in my opinion.  I'd trade my stupid drawing skill or my knack for color and font for solid technical skills any day.

What does this all have to do with DJ Krush?  Well, tons, can't you tell?

DJ Krush was introduced to me via Japan For Sale, Volume 4.  Yes, it was 2004 or so and I was at the height of my anime interest, having just watched FLCL.  I purchased this CD somewhere in Japantown, and I put it on ASAP.  It had some awesome musicians on it, including the amazing Tommy Heavenly, Guitar Wolf, and Polysics.  But the track I had the most interest in was DJ Krush's Still Island.  Off the album Jaku, this was cool Japanese music.  It sounded like traditional Japanese music (think the music made with wooden instruments) put through a modern filter to make it an IDM type of track.

It was something I'd always wanted to get into:  traditional Japanese music, and it was in a form I already liked:  almost IDM, heavy on the drums, calm in parts and crazy and others, and just the right length.  Turned out a lot of Jaku was like this song.  Still Island, The Beginning, Univearth, and Song 2 became my quick favorites.  But the trip hop feel of other tracks like Road to Nowhere, Distant Clouds, Transition, etc, also were cool because I was someone who really liked (still like) Massive Attack.

If you know DJ Krush at all, you'll know he is always making rap songs, trip hop, jazz, and downtempo music.  Several tracks on Jaku represent that, and while I hated them at first they slowly grew on me, to where I was actually listening to the rap songs even, and the bizarre lyrics in them.

So then I listened to and enjoyed his album Zen, then I liked The Message at the Depths, and then I bought his all jazz album Ki-Oku.  Ki-Oku is the only one where I'll still skip some tracks, as it's just a little bit too much jazz for me.  But most of the tracks are very nice, kind of a mix of drums and trumpets, and they're accessible.

DJ Krush aside, is my blog over?  I really don't know.  You can check out my other blog, Grindhouse Review, where I talk about my love of bad and weird movies.  And I won't say this is the end.  I think if I find something interesting I'll bring it on here.  I still want to write the blog entry about Christian Fennesz also.  But, I must say, my posts are going to keep being slow.  Sorry 'bout dat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sigur Ros - Kveikur

Warning, I may go overboard with Jonsi's tremendous voice.

So I'll admit I am a giant nerd from Sigur Ros.  And that is perfectly fine.  I fucking love Jonsi's voice above everything else in the world.  I would have sex with Jonsi's voice if I could.  It lends a beautiful other worldly feel to everything.  Sigur Ros is the true definition of "Space Rock" as my friend labeled them.  Looking onto, I don't see that as a classification.  It needs to become one.  Is this term my friend's own creation?  I know ambient, ethereal, post-rock, experimental, electronic, abstract, all these and more certainly apply to their music.

But my feeling is that Space Rock is a moniker that truly applies to them.  Because you fucking feel weightless listening to this.  You feel like you're flying through the fucking stars, or at least you feel like you're ina  weird alternate dimension.  At times.  Or maybe you're a fucking scrooge and you feel like it's just music.  Well, shut up, and go away.  Jerk.

Their early stuff, as many people discovered, was just great.  It was really Ágætis Byrjun that catapulted them into the mainstream acceptance.  Which is pretty good for the second release.  ( ) was met with some people finding disappointment, some finding it even better than the last release.  I am one of those that finds ( ) to be amazing.  I don't know if I could pick a "favorite" between them at all. ( ) is perhaps slower, more contemplative, and more focus on the vocals.  But I clearly have no problem with that.

Takk... was the firs tone I remember thinking was not as good.  I felt like some of the songs were just throw away, or ones I would skip because of their blandness.  It didn't seem to focus on anything, it was a bit faster, it was a bit more kooky and "fun" sounding.  Which, I'm sure, some people loved.  "fun" music sometimes means "popular" music.

Everyone has a moment in their lives when they become detached from the world, for me it was from about 2008-2011.  Several things happened in my life, I became broke, I moved about 3 times, I went through 3 relationships that were plagued with trouble, in short, I did not keep up on music and thus missed 4 Sigur Ros releases.  Going back in time recently I listed to Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, and Valtari.  It seemed though maybe the originality of Sigur Ros was wearing thin, or maybe they had lost their "magic touch".  In fact, I only gave one song between those two entire albums 4 stars.  And that's iTunes, so that's out of 5.  If you don't count the Japan only track Heima that is.  That song fucking kills me with how goddamn good it is.

So then Kveikur came out.  And, WTF?!  It was hard!  it was aggressive!  It was like someone took Sigur Ros, put the vocals in a blender, put industrial rock behind it, and then vomited it onto a release, but in a good way.  Delicious, wonderful vomit.  Now, I'm not sayign they reinvented themselves.  I'm not even saying every track is good.  I;m just saying that thousands, ten of thousands of bands, have never done this.  I was expecting a downward spiral.  I think we all were.  And Kveikur is a huge, amazing surprise.  It shows everyone Sigur Ros was not just a flash in the pan of brilliance.  It shows they are true musicians, innovative, and up for a challenge.

Whether you liked their old stuff or not, it's worth a listen.

that's right, sing that sexy voice.  that sexy, sexy voice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A look at pop songs in general and Japanese pop and eventually a review of Kenji Omura

This is a throw away post, feel free to not read it.  

I think I know what it is that interests me about Japanese pop.  I'm not saying, by the way, that all Japanese pop is like this, and I'm also not saying that other pop is not like this.  I'm just saying that if I really love a Japanese pop song, it has these qualities...

1)  Somber, solemnly spoken and sung, unfocused vocals.  This for me is the number one key thing that will determine if I like a track.  I like the sort of downbeat, very tired, end-of-the-day sounds to a song, with not a lot of focus on the vocals, not a lot of stress on the voice or weird vocal noises.  I like to have the singer almost drowned out by the music, like maybe they mixed it wrong or just didn't give a flying fuck.  
2)  Synthesis.  Yes, I will eternally love a good Moog or a synthesizer of any kind.  I love the electronics especially if they clash with other real instruments, if you have a guitar and real drums but then some weird singular or multiple sound effect going on, that sells a song for me.
3)  Focus on the drums.  Don't fucking have the drums do that same boring shit as every other song.  This is one of the reason I truly love Yukihiro Takahashi and why Phil Collins is great.  Singers that have a knowledge of what drums should do in a track are often better.  Yes, certain songs just need the beat and that's fine.  But every once in a while I think there should be a focus on the drumming.  I love a song that has a strong focus on good, interesting drums.  
4)  Slightly off kilter lyrics.  One of the things I love about 80's songs and Japanese songs is that when it comes down to it, what the fuck are they saying, and WHY?  Japanese songs you can blame translation, you can blame their accents, you can blame a lot of things, but personally I just love it.  I love the lyrics to a song like Haruomi Hosono's Focus as sung by YMO, especially how sometimes it's in Japanese and sometimes in English...  I love the nonsense sentences in Ryuichi Sakamoto's tracks.  I love it as both an interesting look at how they might view our language and culture, singing in their second language, but then also it lends a real interesting dynamic to the song, showing that it's not important to focus on what they're saying and why, it makes you focus on how well the lyrics blend with the rest of the music.  I find that with a lot of regular pop bands, the focus gets put on letting people sing along, rhyming schemes, and if it makes sense.  Look, it's music, music is art, and art as a form doesn't have to make sense, nor should it.  5)  Repetition.  This does goes without saying, it seems to be the nature of a lot of music, but it does need to be mentioned because there is a right way to do it and a lot of wrong ways for me.  This one is hard to say what is right and wrong...  I don't know if I can elaborate on it too much.
6)  The ability to do a lyric free song, do it well, and not only do one.  One of the things I love about Genesis was that often each record had a lyric free jam session song, or two.  I loved this because it gives the band a time to focus on just the music without the bother of lyrics.  I truly believe not every track should have focus on lyrics, nor should some tracks even have them.  If your song without lyrics is just the same 8 sounds and a drum, its probably not a very well written track.  A song should be able to stand on it's own as just an instrumental endeavor.  I think it's very important to properly weigh a song.  Next time you're listening to the radio, try and cut out every sung part of a song and focus on the instruments only.  It's amazing how very simple some songs are, it's literally like 5 chords, a repetitive bass, and the same drum pattern the whole track.  
7)  Uncertainty about a sound.  For me, this is like an Easter Egg in a movie.  I love small details, hidden things, small homages, and peculiar sounds.  It adds a certain level of intrigue, like a riddle to an otherwise pretty straight forward medium.  Even if I don't understand it, if it means something only to the writer of a track, if it's too insignificant to matter, I still just love to find these things.  I still remember when I was listening to a song and I discovered one of the drum sounds was actually a voice, chopped up, altered, and then inserted into the songs, and it actually functioned as one of the drum beats!  What?  Why!?  You know?  It was interesting, and upon re-listening to the song I couldn't believe I missed it for so long.  It just makes me wonder what the story there was.  Why would the band do this?  It just adds something neat to the song, to the band, and to music in general.
8)  Darkness.  Yes, it's no secret I'm depressed.  I'll be the first to tell you.  Not like the funny kind of depressed either.  The "What the fuck is the point of life?  Fuck it." depressed.  I like things I can relate to.  Hence, songs about loss, pain, etc.  Or at least songs that question the norms.  You won't easily find this in your radio hit.  People seem to much too preoccupied with dancing, with feeling good, with positivity.  I say fuck all that bullshit.  Why not embrace the fucking darkness that infests humanity, that is inside all of us, and that I've felt like I relate to more than anything else for my entire life?
9)  The kind of song that takes your mind to a certain place, emotionally, every time you hear it.  This is just as indefinable art.  This is when you know you're listening to a good track.  I'm not talking about a track that makes you want to dance, that makes you sad, that makes you happy.  I'm talking about a track that makes you feel a very certain, specific, different way.  I remember listening to a Fennesz track once and I had the oddest feeling.  I listened to it again, and again, until I identified it:  Curious.  This track made me want to discover things.  Learn things.  This track made me want to research things, know things, it filled me with a lust for knowledge, mainly knowledge about how in the world Fennesz made these sounds, grant you, but that is a weird way for a song to make one feel, agree?  I love the way certain tracks make me feel, especially the ones that make me feel better when I'm angry and upset.  That's a skill that is great for a musician to have.  It's a necessary thing too, in my case, since I seem to be angry a lot.
10)  The live experience.  Now, my artists I like seemingly never tour, at least not in the US, but my wife likes a lot of bands that do tour, and that I've seen, and I can say that I pretty much know what makes a good show.  One thing the artist can't obviously control is who comes and how drunk and or idiotic they are, so you have to forgive some bad live experiences.  But, if they're just up there playing the songs and asking the same questions every band does, and they kind of seem like they'd rather be asleep, or anywhere else....not the best show.  Just sayin.

So on to Kenji Omura.  Mr. Omura is no longer with us unfortunately, having passed away almost 20 years ago in 1998.  Which is terrible, because he was an extremely skilled guitarist, he had a great melancholy singing style, and if you like jazz, he did some very famous (in Japan) jazz tracks.  He definitely had number 1-8 down to a science (that's such an odd term, when you think about it).  9, he's maybe going to get there for me one day, and unfortunately, 10 can never happen.  So check him out.

(not the song I would've chosen, but not much on youtube, apparently)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Psychedelic" Noise: Sunroof! and other Bower-isms

Wow who the hell decided what the font sizes on this blog were going to be?  What is this, like "medium jumbo" font size?  I need to switch this shit the fuck up.
Going back to "normal" size now.  Screw you, if you can't read it get glasses.  Although I might change my writings to black to help out any grandmothers/disabled veterans who need to read my blog.

So moving on, I decided I'm overdue to write about some of the music that I sort of love to hate.  I wonder about Mr. Matthew Bower sometimes.  If you have not lived through reading his blog, I highly (think like, high on drugs) recommend it:

On his blog you can read about his kittens, see his artwork, and occasionally be treated to news about upcoming tours or releases.  My favorite part of his blog is that the post about Skullflower's latest release, Draconis, starts with like 8 pictures and posts about cats.  Ahh, Matt Bower, you crazy son of a gun.

He must lead a very interesting life though.  I might do a post about him, alone.  But then, I'm kind of lazy.  So maybe not.  His first project was Pure, a fairly large band (as these things tend to go) and its a bit of garage rock, very loud, not super rhythmic, and fairly decent, I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing (which I'm not).  Splitting from that he started his own band Total, which was pretty much just him with occasional guest appearances.  Also he started Skullflower, which was a several person ensemble, starting with 3 people on their first release.  Oddly enough the first Skullflower release was with two other people that would "make it" in other bands, Whitehouse and Ramleh respectively.

But I'm not writing about Skullflower really.  Not until Argon did Skullflower dabble in "psychedelic" noise, and they didn't embrace it completely until 1995's Transformer.  It was also around that time Bower started a new project.  In 1997 he launched Sunroof!  The first real Sunroof! release, Slipstream, was actually not too bad, a bit more drone than we were hearing from Skullflower or Total, but the psychedelic-ness crept in as the CD played on, especially showing itself in the last 3 tracks.

Now, I'm sure this type of music has its fans.  I'm not one of them, however.  Its just so loopy and weird, so completely out there.  When you are putting Sunroof!  next to a band like Kemialliset Ystavat, you are really doing some loopy music.  (just youtube them, I'm not putting in a link)

Then Skullflower followed suit, with releases such as This Is, Exquisite Fucking Boredom, and Tribulation.  But luckily this was a short lived venture, and from there Skullflower grew harsher and screechier and then finally reintroduced hardcore with Desire for a Holy War.

Within this time, Bower also started the band Hototogisu with Marcia Bassett.  Hototogisu was the closest Bower would come to Skullflower, but sort of if like Sunroof and Skullflower had a illegitimate child.  More drones, more screeches, the absence of any structure or form or a beat, Hototogisu is really one of those bands where every track....kinda sounds exactly the same.  Which, again, I'm sure there are fans....but no, not here.  I like the joint venture with Prurient, because Dominic Fernow's presence was felt and heard, but otherwise, its pretty skip-able.

This, Sunroof!, Skullflower, and some Hototogisu, is really the closest I'll come to "psychedelic" noise.  There may be more of this out there, if it's your thing.  Is it yours?  If so, listen to this:

Monday, October 6, 2014


What the hell exactly is a Pimmon?  Well, I'm actually pretty sure it's just a made up word.  And much like all electronic experimental music, it's odd, deceptive, and twisty.  I'm kind of just making up what might sound like a descriptive word at this point.
Pimmon came onto the scene about 17 years ago when there were an array of IDM artists making big names for themselves, and he didn't exactly make a huge impact.  Perhaps it is because he is from Australia and most big names were in Europe at the time.  I didn't first hear about him until he released Secret Sleeping Birds in 2001.
I think the best thing about Pimmon is that he is able to have that very experimental, "what the fuck is this" type of approach, the chin-stroking, contemplative IDM music approach, and he is also able to have truly beautiful ambient masterpieces.  It seems almost all of his releases feature one or two of each of these type of songs, sandwiched in between beat driven songs, odd experiments, and one or two other ventures.
One other thing I love about Pimmon is the sense of humor that is conveyed throughout his song and album titles.  He seems to have fun creating words and phrases to suit the songs.  When you have a song made up of electronic noise, a title is both unnecessary and always a challenge.  Unless you want to take the path of simply not naming your creation, which many artists do, the title process is a challenge.  We see artists like Pimmon making up words, or using codes, or simply stringing along unrelated words sometimes.  I truly don't know what is expected of an artist, but song titles I have always thought to be both a benefit and a drawback to songs.  Even a pop song, the title is expected to be like a "summary" of what the song is.  If the chorus says "I love you baby darling" or whatever, you can name the song "baby darling".  What the fuck do you name a song though that is a bunch of machines grinding into your ears?
Hence you have Pimmon making names like "Curse You, Evil Clown", "Electronic Tax Return" and "Snaps Crackles Pops".

I realize my posts, my writing is getting shorter.  I'll do better I promise!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


So Aube continues to rake in the views, oddly enough.  My first (and second) post continues to be the most popular.  So I thought I'd follow it up with more odd Japanese noise (Japanoise).

How about.......Yximaloo?

To accurately describe Yximallo, I feel like one would have to be on drugs.  There is simply no rational words to describe this acid trip of a musical experience.

To call it music is a stretch.  Like most of the music on here, that can be said, however this is hard to call music even within that context.  It's sort of more like finding some ancient radio at a thrift store, turning it on, and having the last dying breath from it's speakers come out, mixing with rotting wires, faulty electronics, and general disease.  The sound is essentially inorganic, mechanical, and robotic.

Then alternate of his tracks are firmly rooted to actual music.  Although backed by his odd voice, some of them could almost be mistaken for an odd take on a folk song.  This is what truly marks it as weird.  Were it just odd noise music, well, there's plenty of that bullshit.  But to have an element of folk and childishness to it, that is genuinely a WTF moment.
I speak of this track:

Almost like the closest thing Japan might have to Tom Waits?  In that really weird, every song sounds like a really bad acid trip/hangover sort of way.

I have about a dozen track by this dude, he's impossible to find much information on, and surprising her has actually played live not far from where I live.  But I didn't see him, this was years ago.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Prurient "Mash-ups"

So.  Prurient could almost be described as death-core grind-metal meets synth-pop poetry.  It's extremely hostile at time, defiant, and in your face.  Yet it's also catchy, sing-songy, and somehow innocent.  It basically defies all logic and all understanding and smashes you in the face with its weirdness.
"If I could, I would take a tree branch, and ram it inside you.....but it's already been done,"  Dominic Furnow says, as innocently as you might ask someone how their day is going.  It's demented, it's creepy, and it's simply amazing.
But his "mash-ups" or the releases where he is accompanied by other artists always bring a fresh and deep vibe to his music.  I have specifically listened to:
Hototogisu and Prurient: Snail on a Razor
Kevin Drumm and Prurient:  All Are Guests in the House of the Lord
Burning Star Core and Prurient:  Ghosts of Niagara
Sutcliffe Jugend and Prurient:  End of Autumn

I was initially introduced to Prurient through Kevin Drumm (please see the two Kevin Drumm reviews in this blog) on the amazing All Are Guests in the House of the Lord release.  It's intensity, the reserved-ness of it, the sheer abolition of restfulness, is something unmatched in my opinion.  Whether it is the two musicians working together to create it or it just happens, this release has a sort of a trepidation to it, and uneasiness that fucks with your mind.  It makes you think the music is both really loud and very quiet, really scary and yet relaxing.  Very chaotic and yet soothing.

It is matched by the excellent, super long Ghosts of Niagara.  I am just sort of getting into Burning Star Core and C. Spencer Yeh, and this is what I would call a necessary step into the BSC world.  It's less vocal than a lot of Prurient releases, and sometimes when the vocals are there they are warped and completely incomprehensible.  But that's good, I think, as it makes the vocals more like the distorted fuckery that is floating around in the music.

The Hototogisu release I would classify as "weak" and or "needs to be listened to again".  I tend to dislike that version of Matthew Bower's music, it's too drone-oriented and "shimmery" for my taste.  The addition of Furnow helps, and I'm glad that these guys teamed up, but it leaves something to be desired I thought.
And as far as End of Autumn, I have only heard a bit, but it sounds promising so far.  Very dense.

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