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.

loud volume:

max volume:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Кобыла и Трупоглазые Жабы

So, my translator is probably broken as fuck, but the band name here is "Mare and Toads Trupoglazye searched Cesium found late morning Whistling Henna" also known as "Кобыла и Трупоглазые Жабы Искали Цезию, Нашли Поздно Утром Свистящего Хна".

I discovered this group, who knows how, just recently.  So as I said in my Gate write-up, something has to make quite an impact for me to write about it right after hearing it.  And in fact, I've probably only listened to about 15 minutes of this group, but I find it odd, and to my liking.

It's likability comes from a simplicity in the type of music.  Clearly made from a drum machine, simple synthesizers, and a bass guitar sometimes, it's melodies never get overly complex, and ease of the sounds gives the vocals an odd company.  The man behind it, whose first name is Anton (he goes by the nickname "Mare"), definitely has a strong and durable voice, it's riddled with a sort of strength and odd sound that you just don't hear much.

The tracks have an industrial, rhythmic feel, very measured and precise.  This clashes well with the unpredictability of the singer, who is quite sporadic at times.  Other times, it fits right in, keeping time as exactly as the metronome drumbeat.  It's the minimalism, and the vocals that really drew me into this artist.  That and the fact that all of his releases are available for free online.

His only music video is very fun as well, check it out here.

Check out his bandcamp online at:

The first release it defaults to, Саяны, is really good.  I especially like the first and the last track.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The "Other" Kevin Drumm

Quiet Noise should be, and now according to this website is, just the introduction piece to Kevin Drumm.
Much has been written and said about this titan of Noise music, from his early beginnings to the current day.  Prolific releasing, a huge Noise release that has been rated as one of the top of all time, and constant experimental music releasings with other musicians have strengthened his influence and his fan base.

His beginning was part of this whole "quiet noise" idea, the self titled Kevin Drumm came out and was recognized for what it wasn't was, vs for what it was.  What is wasn't:  loud, abrasive, ear-torturing noise.  rather it was quiet, droning, and static-y with jolts of sounds and long periods of questionable sound soaring everywhere.

He followed it with Second, Comedy, and several pairings with musicians like Taki Sugimoto, Martin Tetreault, Ralf Wehosky, Peter Rehberg, and Brent Gutzeit.  The majority of time he still seemed to be focusing on the quiet, the sickness that was involved in the anticipation for music, the anticipation of the onslaught of sound.  He turned a very sharp corner when he released Sheer Hellish Miasma in 2002.

I highly recommend the written review on Pitchfork:

This may just be one of the most intense, varied, crushing releases of all time.  The strength of the noise is pure, the motive is destruction, and it is more than satisfied.  What I find most fascinating about this release is that is far more structured, measured, and thought out than pretty much any other noise music I have heard.  The release works terrifically as a 4-6 song release (in the three different releases of this album, the number of tracks has varied).
 It also, however, works great as just individual tracks.  The tracks all have different "themes".  Track one, (going off of the 5 song, second release of the CD) is "Impotent Hummer"  presents a repeating drone sort of vibration sound with a crisscross of noise overlapping it, constantly changing and giving the drone either emphasis or drawing attention away from the drone.
"Turning Point" is a short, sweet number, a jumpy little bug of a song that is slowly overshadowed by a noise screech.  "Hitting the Pavement" and "The Inferno" noise it up, as long beatings of noise sink further and further into your skull.  A barely recognizable trumpet is introduced into the noise during Inferno and it somehow fits in perfectly with the rest of the noise.  (for more interesting noise music with trumpets, check out the Kevin Drumm release with Axel Dorner, or Fennesz's release with Max Nagl)
he ends things perfectly with "Cloudy" a meditative, calm-after-the-storm type track that is just the right length, as a drone at this point would feel out of place.

Kevin Drumm started to have more releases, and a barrage of noise heavy experiments.  In highlight, the beautiful Imperial Distortion explored both heavy and softer tones, while the deluxe 5 CD Necro Acoustic explored older, less available material of his.  He started to self release titles in 2010, and now a lot of his hard to find material is on his bandcamp website,


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quiet Noise: Kevin Drumm

There is a subgenre of noise, and it is truly still noise versus being "ambient" or being "electronic".  This subgenre does not have a lot of subscribers to it, mainly because it is hard to master.  But the preliminary master is Kevin Drumm.  The music is what I'm going to call Quiet Noise.
No, it's not just noise music with the volume turned down low.

The essential part of quiet noise must be the darkness, the foreboding presence to be felt.  You might be saying, but then what is Dark Ambient?  Dark Ambient is different because it is more structured, more built around "creepiness".  Quiet Noise exists because like noise, it is structure-less, impulsive, and if it did get loud enough, it would qualify as noise music.  
Kevin Drumm has released many a noteable album.  He is one of the front-runners of the American noise music scene, and a very intriguing dude.  He started to release things via his blog website a few years ago, always limited, usually via CDr or cassette.  Many of these releases are ultra limited, so if you're interested in them act fast.

Anyways, they really change up what the "theme" or "type of music" they are from release to release.  You might buy one and hear a droning, processed accordion (The Kitchen), you might hear fragments of electronic bustle (The Back Room), you might hear an intensely quiet "barely there" whine (Blast of Silence).  It is these later releases I'm focusing on now.

The real start for me was "Twinkle Toes"  which even Kevin described as "airy romantic bs".  It is just that, barely there, single blips of sound, and a throttling background of what sounds like a police siren slowed down about 200%.  It's music that I don't know how to understand, it escapes all rudimentary classification.

Following in its footsteps were "Moving", "UGH", "Quiet Nights", "Tannenbaum", and "Earrach".  I think "1983" is going to be the same, but I have yet to buy it (I know, just kill me now).  That's okay, I literally opened up a new tab and bought it just now.  So there.

I don't know how else to describe this music or to extend to you, my casual viewer, that is is very unique.  Especially if you get your hands on Moving.  I have only heard an excerpt (I don't buy cassettes, sorry!) and it's amazing.  And I would love for anyone with a copy of UGH, to just add a description of it, online, for the rest of us.