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22/05/2013

Plapla Pinky at Villette Sonique on Saturday 25th May

A great piece of news that is sure to please a good number of you: Plapla Pinky are playing at the Villette Sonique festival on Saturday 25th May at 7pm.

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Daido Moriyama

Daido Moriyama

Born on October 10, 1938, Daido Moriyama is a Japanese photographer who created a radical change on the photographic arena both in Japan and the West. His works mirror the breakdown of Japan’s conservative tradition, especially during the post-war. Moriyama is a member of PROVOKE magazine, a theorist and a lecturer.

The Life of Moriyama

Daido Moriyama grew up in Ikeda, Osaka where he got his first training for graphic design before he decided to take photography lessons with Takeji Iwaniya, a legendary photographer of crafts and architecture.  In the year 1961, he moved to Tokyo where he became the assistant of another photographer named Eikoh Hosoe. He worked for the man for 3 years until when he got the interest on the trenchant social critiques created by Shomei Tomatsu. Daido Moriyama further obtained his inspiration from the confrontation photographs of William Klein. Andy Warhol is also among his inspirations, particularly when the former silkscreened several newspaper images. The writings of Jack Kerouac and Yukio Mishima were also among his motivations.


From Moriyama's Memories of a Dog

 

Work and Career

On most instances, Moriyama takes his photographs in the Shinjuku regions of Tokyo. His works are often seen in grainy, high contrast, black and white images. He is well-known for taking shots in odd angles. His works were largely influenced by Seiryu Inoue, William Klein, Shomei Tomatsu, Andy Warhol, Eikoh Hosoe, the dramatist Shūji Terayama, the writer Yukio Mishima, as well as Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Moriyama became prominent during the mid-1960s with his grainy representation of the Japanese life. His personal approach to photography yields results with graininess, high contrast, and tilted vantages. These images depict the fragmentary nature of life.

All throughout his career, he won several recognitions. The year 1967 brought him his New Artist Award from the Japan Photo-Critics Association. He obtained the coveted Annual Award from the Photographic Society of Japan in 1983. The year 2003 gave him his The 44th Mainichi Art Award and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh) in 2004.

His use of small automatic camera provides his photos with causal artistry. Moriyama’s works were featured in several collections, both private and public. Some of these are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has his share of solo shows too at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland, The Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, and The Folkwang, Essen, Germany.

 


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Acid Mothers Temple

Acid Mothers Temple

Aproject created by Kawabata Makoto, along with the entire post-hippie community in Nagoya, far from the limelight of Tokyo or Osaka. 12 people, a dog, and a cat appear on their first album. The ethnic impromptu guitarist Makoto and his friends Higashi Hiroshi, a fisherman-style guitarist, Koizumi Hajime, drummer “à la monk”, Tsuyama Atsushi, the Akaten / Omoide Hatoba bassist, and Cotton Casino (from Mady Gula), a singer who uses her keyboard to create sounds similar to those of an X-ray machine gun. Their records bring together a mad combination of zen and the psychedelic, in which all sorts of new sounds are left to the imagination. A number of ethnic, and at times newly invented instruments are used by Kawabata-san. Listening to their music leaves you feeling high. Within the first five minutes you start seeing red and orange spirals and your clothes soften and drape loosely around your body. It’s enough to just look into a mirror : your hair, your beard (yes women, yours too !) will have grown dark and curly, and you are now a member of the Acid Mothers Temple family. Parts of this music could well have been taken from Pierre Henry, who, after a night spent drinking, would start mixing two discs of Musica Transonic at once. I think the word “bizarre” best describes this group, which lies somewhere amidst random psychedelic noises and long serene pauses, both ethnic and “concrete”. Acid Mothers Temple is also a collective record label which allows for a limited edition in the hundreds of copies (the Golden Series collection) of the most intriguing projects of the guru Kawabata Makoto and his friends.


The above text is lifted from the collaborative effort of Japanese Independent Music book+CD published by SONORE in 2001.To update this version, JAAPAN welcomes your suggestions. For comments, updates, and corrections, feel free to contact us.

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YMCK

YMCK

At the beginning of 2008, YMCK took on the stature of an international group. Their first two albums, Family Music (2004) and Family Racing (2005) were both released on Usagi-Chang (Sonic Coaster Pop, Macdonald Duck Eclair, PINE*am), an independent representing a new Japanese electronic pop scene that was taking over from the declining “Shibuya-kei” movement. YMCK surprised a lot of people when they announced that they were releasing their third album Family Genesis on Avex Trax, a phenomenally powerful Japanese label with a mass market policy (Ayumi Hamasaki, Kumi Koda, Namie Amuro). Did this mean a new niche strategy for Avex? The news shook up the independents.

The video games consol Famicom (Family Computer Disk System) is known outside Asia as NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). It’s a sweet memory in the tender years of many young adults across the globe: the charm of a pixellised world of monophonic music. Today, this universe, which influences numerous artists, is known under the sobriquet “8-bit” in homage to the microprocessors of the first computers and video games consoles of the 1970s and 80s. This is the world that YMCK have set about extending. And who knows where they’ll end up with it?

Yokemura (musical programming), Nakamura (visual programming) and Midori (vocals and scenography) brought out their first CD-R in 2003. At the beginning, Yokemura wanted to produce original electronic music, but soon fed up of the techno/house fare in vogue at the time, he chose to take another direction altogether. He wanted to manipulate simple sounds and create a “picopico” style, clickety and poppy. He found the ideal raw materials for his music in the world of early 1980s video games. Yokemura was clever enough to avoid the clichés; his main influence is jazz in any case. As you can imagine, his approach has taken YMCK well beyond video game music.

Constraints stimulate creativity. Out of a limited visual and musical aesthetic, the YMCK imagination has run riot. Burningly balanced ternary rhythms support majestic surges of synth choruses. Midori adds a suave, vaporous voice and space voyage airhostess chic to the ensemble. The coherence and quality of the visuals developed by Nakamura indicate that the music is only the first stage in an ever-expanding YMCK world.

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys

Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys

The Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys look like a real bunch of outsiders. They are a singular mix of good humour, electro and… mambo! Each Tokyo Panorama Mambo boy is a member of numerous projects, a true band of incorrigible adventurers: Gonzalez Suzuki, a radio presenter on Love FM and the leader/producer of the jazz club group Soul Bossa Trio; Paradise Yamamoto, first official Japanese Santa and the celebrated inventor of Mambonsai; Comoesta Yaegashi, a Japanese DJ pioneer who regularly officiates alongside Yasuharu Konishi (Pizzicato Five) on the label Readymade.

The origins of the Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys date back to the end of the 1980s; 1986 to be precise. A strange formation (2 percussionists and a DJ) to say the least, they launched themselves onto the Tokyo club scene and were soon in the Oricon charts (information and statistics on the Japanese music industry). The adventure lasted 6 years. In 1993, they decided to take a break to give some time to their (numerous) other activities. 2008 is the year of the big comeback. Like an exotic phoenix rising from the flames, the Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys have resumed service. Energy and bonhomie intact, they are embracing the dance floors once again with their sparkling made-to-measure mambo.

Mambo? Damaso Perez Prado introduced mambo to Japan at the beginning of the 1950s, first on record, then on stage when he visited the archipelago for the first time in 1959 and performed several memorable concerts in Ginza and Asakusa. Mambo took Japan by storm, even the celebrated enka (Japanese popular music) singer, Hibari Misora, put her melodies to latin rhythms. The energy of the mambo was the perfect accompaniment to the atmosphere of post-war Japan, the Showa period, “the 30 glorious years”. A veritable process of hybridisation began, which lasted until the introduction of rock.

What remains is the memory of the energy and ecstatic atmosphere that reigned over the bars and dancehalls of the capital. And it’s this energy that the Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys want to access. There is no nostalgia though. The Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys are simply worried that the music of today has become too cold. So they’re getting out the congas and putting on their frilly shirts to go out on a new mission; warm the hearts.

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Project Oh!Yama

Project Oh!Yama

Although they were all trained in classical ballet from early childhood, the five young women who make up Project Oh!Yama are far from being your straight up ballet rats. They have always wanted to keep a distance between their art and professional careers (to preserve the pleasure of dancing intact?). They got to know each other on the lecture hall benches of the “Litterature and education” course at the “Art, expression and activities” department, option “Teaching choreography”. So it isn’t altogether by chance that they’re doing what they’re doing! That said, Project Oh!Yama was first conceived among girlfriends, as a way of keeping in touch after finishing college.

Project Oh! choreographer, Yuri Furuie, lives to be creative. Books of images, little ditties on the piano, choreography, no matter; it’s the creative act itself that’s important. With an almost social approach she says: “I have never believed that age or lack of experience are a handicap; nothing prevents anyone from creating anything.” Her choreographies often come from sensations or images. An example: “two cornered crabs that can’t escape”. Then the girls play around with what she has given them, invent poses, try out moves. The choreographic ideas distil themselves into gestures that are then selected, discarded, repeated and put together into routines.

Project Oh!Yama shy away from conceptualisation, as if the idea of attaching words to their work would automatically limit it, throw a net over the imagination. Yuri Furuie’s artistic intention is nevertheless unambiguous: “I simply aim to produce unexpected happenings on stage and give the public things to see that they don’t get to see in everyday life. I want to wake the sleepers!” No real critical dimension to the onstage clowning there then, or at least not consciously.

Project Oh!Yama’s choreographic impact is undeniable. The speed and precision of their bodies, the faultless orchestration of movement, their liveliness and spark. The stage is bare. They ornament it themselves; frank, straight up, uninhibited, unhampered. Their rapidity is astonishing, the juxtaposition of situations frontal, then absurd. To the point where you ask yourself if the Project Oh! girls might not, by some mysterious filiation, be the direct descendants of Dada.

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Picopico

Picopico

Picopico is an artist and creator of what are known as “kaiju” monsters. The word “kaiju” comes from 17th and 18th century Japan, the Edo period, when it was used to refer to strange and fantastic animals with magical powers. Today “kaiju” is a term that tends to be used for imaginary, usually big, animals. The word came back into usage in modern Japan after the release of the first Godzilla film in 1954, followed by the TV series Ultraman at the end of the 1960s. In the 1970s there was a “kaiju boom” on television.

While a literature student, Picopico, almost by accident, started making little characters out of modelling clay. He then moved onto monsters with wigs that he showed at his first exhibition. He slid graually into this new activity rather than becoming obsessed all at once. The desire to make things he had never seen did eventually start to take him over however. Over the last 5 years, Picopico has consciously kept a sketchbook to record his “kaiju” each day, keeping his hand in and exercising his imagination.

Picopico’s monsters are earthlings, not extraterrestrials or fantasy figures. They each have their own characteristics or specificities. Take the monsters “Beckos” and “Neba” for example. Picopico says, “The name “Beckos” comes from a northern Japanese dialect and means “cow”. Beckos is a horned monster. He and I are very close. I like his colour, blue, and his shape, nothing special, rather standard actually. But he has a long tongue, like the gods in Papua New Guinea. “Nottokaiju Neba” stinks and sticks to you. That’s his particularity! That’s why he’s made of natto (fermented soya seeds)!”

Picopico’s “kaiju” aren’t nasty. They live beyond the manmade concepts of good and evil, justice and injustice. “A huge “kaiju” can crush furniture or people when he walks but he does it without realizing, just because he’s moving around,” Picopico explains. The monsters spark various reactions: fear among children and a cult for the strange among adults. But monsters amuse and intrigue everyone, don’t they. They have an incredible power just by dint of being!

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Paradise Yamamoto

Paradise Yamamoto

Mambonsai is a new pop culture pastime that involves decorating bonsais with small plastic figurines. Bonsais, miniature trees, bound and cultivated in pots, are part of Japanese cultural heritage. No surprise then that Mambonsai is seen as heresy by the purists. But at the end of the day the activity is perhaps not all that absurd. Much in the way you might place little plastic people alongside model electric trains, Mambonsai requires a little scenographic imagination. The aim is to recreate a slice of life, ordinary or strange, inspired by the forms of dwarfed trees.

Mambonsai won the best new idea award at the Japan Hobby Association in 2001 and the number of adepts has been growing round the world ever since. As an activity, it lightens the weight of tradition in the art of bonsai. It appeals to all ages and only requires a good dose of humour. Invented in the fertile mind of Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys percussionist, Paradise Yamamoto, Mambonsai is a portmanteau word that reflects his passion for two diametrically opposed worlds: the mambo and bonsais. A Master of Mambonsai, Paradise Yamamoto makes regular TV appearances in Japan to share his enthusiasm in public.

Paradise Yamamoto is an unusual character. Born in 1962 in Sapporo in Hokkaido in the north of Japan, he began his career as a car designer but quickly developed skills in half a dozen other disciplines. A great Mambonsai master of course but also an expert in bath salts, a critic of “luxury” eat-as-much-as-you-can buffets, a connoisseur of gyoza (Chinese ravioli) and, proudest of all, the first Santa in Japan to be accredited by the World Santa Claus Congress, based in Greenland. An atypical career that Paradise Yamamoto cultivates with natural good humour and aesthetic tastes.

Several works have been published on the elfish art of Mambonsai. Photos of these pastoral scenes are a real delight. Hole in One is of a group of golfers absorbed in the game on a carpet of moss, Capturing Bin Laden ~ Just Round the Corner shows the capture of public enemy number 1 at the summit of a miniature rock and in 2020 A Space Odyssey a team of scientists clad in anti-bacterial suits analyse huge extraterrestrial mushrooms.

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Oorutaichi

Oorutaichi

Oorutaichi (aka Taichi Moriguchi) wants to make music nobody has heard before: imaginary electronic folklore. He makes drifter music, strung through with expert percussion and electric rays, flowing on a river of magical chants, inspired loops and choruses written in an invented language, undiscovered country left and right. It is exalted and resolutely pop. Titles such as ‘Beshaby’ or ‘Jimaji’ sound as if they might have been composed on the edge of a volcano. Onstage, Oorutaichi is not chained to his machines but sings with them in a deluge of extravagance and colour.

Influenced by the aesthetic of the bizarre favoured by mid-90s Japanese groups such as Unicorn and Kinniku Shoujo Tai, Oorutaichi began improvising layers of sound on cassette with a four-track back in 1999, bringing out a debut album entitled “?”. The later discovery of reggae dancehall was a revelation. He completely changed his method of composition and began programming. Since then, Oorutaichi has travelled his own road through an ethno-futurist electronic land, absorbing the musical elements he comes across on his way.

Oorutaichi is a solo project but Taichi Moriguchi works with others to explore different musical horizons.  Urichipangoon is a more progressive, melodic, four-piece folk pop project with Ytamo, Muneomi Senju (ex-drummer of the Boredoms) and Naoko Kamei.  Obakejaa is bonkers home studio improv with DJ Shabu Shabu.  Berebo, with guitarist Taku Hannoda, is slightly more experimental. Oorutaichi also produces sumptuous remixes and is developing his own indie craft label, Okimi Records, on which he generally brings out his own music.

With acknowledged but wide-ranging influences (The Residents, The Doors, T.Rex and Aphex Twin), Oorutaichi seems to be in key with the same sung colourful electronic universe as in vogue international artists Panda Bear, El Guincho and Lucky Dragons. Originally from Osaka, Oorutaichi’s music is already known outside Japan. His records, Yori YoYo and Drifting My Foklore that came out in 2003 and 2007 respectively, both gained international critical acclaim (Pitchfork, BBC Radio). He opened at the Juana Molina concert in the USA in 2009. Oorutaichi’s live gigs are well-known all over Japan and he is clearly becoming an artist of international stature.

© 2009 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Michiyo Yagi

Michiyo Yagi

After rubbing shoulders with the American avant-garde and, in particular, John Cage with whom she taught, Michiyo Yagi went back to the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument related to the cithara. She breathes into this instrument expressivity of unsuspected force and develops her harmonic potential into virgin musical lands. She has played with the avant-garde (Ruins, John Zorn, Zena Parkins), in traditional Japanese music groups, has appeared worldwide in Hoaio (with Haco and Sachiko M) and Kokoo, and has taken part in the album made by the pure techno pop marketing product techno pop vivant that is the singer Ayumi Hamasaki.

Although she grew up to the sound of the koto played by her mother, far from accepting its presence and sound as evidence, Michiyo Yagi, during her formative years, considered this instrument to be an object that demanded a lot of work, a prisoner of a fossilized repertoire with slight harmonic potential compared to that of western classical music.

The eminent traditional apprenticeship that she followed did not really give her any opportunity to blossom in her own musical environment: living at her teacher’s home, in the company of her co-pupils, she performed the daily chores of cleaning, washing and cooking, viewed as equally important as the lessons themselves. During the rare public performances, still be their teacher’s side, the disciples had to pay him for the privilege of playing by his side. Rigid in the extreme, this teaching was, however, the first step towards an expanded conception of music, with her teacher Kazue Sawai being the true pioneer of a traditional Japanese music that was open to experimentation and modern compositions.

In 1989, she appeared as part of the Sawai group at the Bang On A Can Festival at New York, where she was struck by a work for percussion by John Cage that shattered her compartmentalized conceptions of "tradition" and "modernity". In 1991 during one year as guest teacher at the Wesleyan university (Connecticut), where Cage also taught, she helped create several pieces with, amongst others, John Zorn and Christian Wolff, and helped in the extraordinary prolixity of the young students, whose pared down creations (mixing Balinese dances and western music) had a profound effect on her and persuaded her to write her own works.

On her return from the United States, her personal approach to composition the rules of the game that she was discovering did not sit well with the immutable teaching of Sawai and Yagi chose the breakaway route to independence. Her style was initially characterized by an unusual strength, a expressivity with a power that was almost masculine. As a logical extension of her robust finger plectrum, she sometimes has recourse to small hammers and hooks to strike her instrument’s strings, insisting on their percussive potential. This is also how she discovered the polyphonic potential of the koto produced by phantom vibrations of the vibrating strings on the strings at rest, giving rise to subterranean motifs and melodies.

The aim of some of Yagi’s research is a new form of “Japaneseness”, a modernity that is free from the influence of the West and the accepted homage, but these great plans do not stop her taking pleasure in exploring repertories that are over 400 years old …

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

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Maywa Denki

Maywa Denki

“Seamoons” robot singers with paper lungs, "Ultra-folk" automatic guitars and "Koi-beat" mechanical rhythm box¸ the creative genius of Maywa Denki outs its efforts into paradoxes: passionate goldworking / off-the-wall public presentations; innovative artistic pretentions/assumed marketing strategy. Like Bruno Munari, Nobumichi Tosa breathes life into his resin and aluminium robots, irresistible and capricious machines, whose vain mechanical beauty are much vaunted by Tosa.

Old Tosa created Maywa Denki in 1969. One of the multitude of small businesses that used their flexibility for the benefit of the major Japanese companies and that formed the basis of Japan’s growth and dynamism during the Sixties. Unfortunately, like many others, Maywa Denki suffered a downturn in fortunes and closed its doors in 1979. In 1993, Mr Tosa’s two rejects, Masamichi and Nobumichi, created the artistic group known as Maywa Denki.

Initially performing in the shopping malls of Tokyo, after a few appearances on television, Maywa Denki become an unmissable artistic machine. They use business words and images to disseminate their work. On the one hand, the uniform reassures the Japanese, but, on the other, the effect produced by a team of blue men wearing caps who struggle to present cranky creations is simply irresistible.

In 2001, there was an internal reorganization : big brother Masamichi, a little cranky, retired at the age of 35. Nobumichi Tosa, the hard-working and applied younger brother, was then, naturally and officially, appointed President of Maywa Denki. In fact, the concept was born out of Nobumichi Tosa’s end of study project. He created a series of instruments of absurd, fish-like design that he presented, wrapped up, to the July. Since then, he has kept his hand on the tiller and steers a course between creative work and public presentations: the Grand-Guignol aspect.

These objects are manufactured in single copies. Doomed to remain prototypes, their usage is very limited, almost nil. Nobumichi Tosa works with gold in his workshop, where he lauds the mechanical beauty of his creations that are the result of fusion between resin and aluminium. Some machines are sometimes reproduced in small production series, simplified and purified versions of the prototypes. A third level of objects is marketed commercially, signature Maywa Denki gadgets: electrical extensions in the shape of a fin, small plastic men who tap their head...

Maywa Denki’s work fall into one of three classifications : Naki, Tsukuba and Edelweiss. Although these series are distinct from each other, there are points of connection between them. Naki is the first series to be developed by Nobumichi Tosa on the theme of Who am I ? 26 objects in the shape of a fish focus on him and his relationship with the world. The Naki series comprises some of Maywa Denki’s emblematic instruments Denki with the Koi-beat, a portable rhythm box in the shape of a carp with incorporated electrical switches, or the famous Pachi-moku, a type of two-tone marimba worn on the back like two metallic wings and played by clicking one’s fingers.

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

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Maruosa

Maruosa

Charging out of a supersonic maelstrom, Maruosa performances are of a violence worthy of XVth century Italian frescos. Alone on stage, this man gives off an energy more or less equivalent to that of an entire death metal band put through the breakcore grinder. With cries from beyond the tomb and a whirlwind of hair that would delight shampoo sellers the world over, Maruosa shows that musical ultra-violence isn’t necessarily synonymous with disgust and destruction.

Offstage, Maruosa is a calm, composed young man, concerned about food and body hygiene. What he aims to transmit is positive human energy. Maruosa says, “There are many people in Japan who listen to calm, airy, ambient music to console themselves when they feel bad but I think they’re making a mistake. They should be listening to music like mine to raise their spirits.” Electroshock therapy as the title of his album, Exercise and Hell, suggests, a paradoxical transmission of positivity that finds its source in loud, chaotic music.

Music didn’t really interest Maruosa at first. He preferred to lose himself in his favourite manga (Gegege no Kitaroby Shigeru Mizuki!). One day however he heard a piece by YMO and discovered that music isn’t always accompanied by words and can be purely instrumental. He continued to explore instrumental music until the day a friend showed him a piece of software that would allow him to make his own music. He started with pop (!) around 2001 and was invited to work with 2 Gameboy players. He accepted but, to give himself a new challenge, took up the mic, started yelling into it and was away! His music suddenly changed direction under the influence of this new all-powerful arm.

It was an explosive formula. In the space of a few years, Maruosa did a series of marathon tours around Japan and Europe, appearing at Sonar in Barcelona in June 2008 before setting off on a series of concerts in Oceania. Maruosa is a mover and a shaker. He has developed contacts through organising concerts in Tokyo and even manages his own label Rendarec, which broadcasts recordings and news from musician friends such as MIDIsai, aaaaa, Ove-Naxx, Bogulta, DJ Scotch Egg and Doddodo.

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

Download Maruosa on: iTunes, Juno Download

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Yuichi Kishino

Yuichi Kishino

A cross-genre symbol, in the same way as the penises, with which the young girls are portrayed on the canvases of Henry Darger, the moustache stuck under the nose of La Veuve Moustachue creates confusion. Confusion of the sexes – a black dress, a little hat and a veil as a sign of mourning– and confusion of styles, promoted by the particular flavor of the game played by Yuichi Kishino, who brings together comedy and tragedy, evening news and poetry, optimism and despair.

Public comedian, musician, cinema actor, critic and teacher at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Yuichi Kishino was born in Tokyo in 1963. His family raised him to enjoy and respect the theatre and the popular arts that were so specific to ancestral Japan.

Very active on the Japanese musical scene, he has played in several groups, including Watts Towers and Space Ponch, and directs his own label - Out One Disc – which has produced the CD Les Vacances de… La Veuve Moustachue.

For La Veuve Moustachue, Kishino dresses up as a transvestite on the stage, but, in real life, is neither gay nor a drag-queen. This is the style he has chosen to depict their scenes of predilection, such as the universal feelings of love and loss or the lack of communication in the world today.

During his appearances, he improvises cues whilst Yoko accompanies on the piano. Very quickly, this changes and gradually becomes part of the context of written songs, before regaining his freedom. These two areas cross-infect and it is soon hard to tell them apart : we do not know what has been composed and what has just been invented. It is this tension that gives the performance so much charm.

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

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Kicell

Kicell

Kicell is a dream, Kicell is a journey, a folk pop sound to carry you to places in the memory that time has erased. Escape the agoraphobic blue skies and get down, all the way down to destinations unknown. Take the epic, lyrical stroll through Kicell’s surrealist lands. Not rock but roll, measured background rhythms that push towards emotional harmonised summits, the distinctive trait the timbre of Takefumi Tsujimura’s voice, one in a thousand, clear, fragile, delicate and precise, like the point of a needle.

Kicell is two brothers: the big one, Takefumi Tsujimura (vocal, guitar), and the little one, Tomoharu Tsujimura (vocal, bass and musical saw). Takefumi is deep, an introvert. Tomoharu is more distracted yet delicate. Takefumi was already recording his songs on a four-track, doubling his own voice, when they started playing together in 1999. The brothers’ voices are very similar and this is what gives such a recognisable balance to their work. Takefumi’s passionate love stories become experimental pop in Tomoharu’s hands and the fusion/separation inherent in their arrangements is what gives Kicell its force.

Kicell have released 5 albums since October 2000, the date when they left their native Kyoto to head for Tokyo. All have sold over 20,000 copies. The last to date, “Magic Hour” (2008), has a tragic beauty and is out on Kakubarhythm (Sakerock, Illreme). It is an amazingly produced post-pop opus, a success. Emerson Kitamura (Jagatara, Mute Beat), the discrete third member, sometimes joins them both for recordings and on stage. Emerson adds a very light dub touch to the Kicell sound and the odd melodic line that really hits the spot.

Kicell were invited to play in New York in 2005 by the celebrated artist entrepreneur, Takashi Murakami but they are still mostly unknown outside Japan. They seem to lack a little confidence in themselves, as if their influences (Robert Wyatt, Sigur Rós and Young Marble Giants) might betray them abroad. Of course, we can all be blind to our own originality, but it’s time for Kicell to leave Japan and find new audiences. There can be no doubt that reaction to their quality and adventure will be positive. Could this be the beginning of a new Kicell chapter?

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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Kentaro!!

Kentaro!!

Kentaro!! surprised everyone at Yokohama Dance Collection R 2008, by walking away with the French Embassy Prize for Young Choreographers. He also snapped up both the Audience Award and the Nextage Special Award in the Toyota Choreography Award 2008. All died hair, skateboarder clothes and false nonchalance, Kentaro!! is a young dancer blurring the edges in the Tokyo contemporary dance world. “Direct expressivity” or “crude spirituality”; the critics are still struggling to define this new phenomenon. Totally imbibed in urban electro culture, Kentaro!! hasn’t put a step wrong over the last few months, dancing in all the right places.

He got bitten young, watching the TV show “Dance Koshien”, Takeshi Kitano presenting a high school street dance competition. Kentaro!! was only 11 but made his decision. He trained endlessly in front of a video of Michael Jackson, imitating moves in front of the telly. At the beginning of the 1990s, hip-hop and breakbeat had only just been introduced into Japan. Kentaro!! found his way to the only studio in Tokyo giving classes in hip hop. Eager to learn, he also took house and lock dance classes; he was 13.

He quickly assimilated the different techniques. During his teens his tastes matured as he mined this American genre, getting to know more New York hip-hop: Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest. He also saw that he had to find his own style. Kentaro!! wasn’t an African American from the projects. He was Japanese and he had to learn how to use his own physique, his build.

Kentaro!! mixes hip-hop with a sort of Japanese spirituality. He adapts rap motifs and moves into the dance without ever losing sight of who he is. Very acute musically, with faultless technique, he projects his body into the mix. Electro, pop rock, hip-hop, he doesn’t simply use the beats as a canvas; his moves are extreme and penetrate the music like a needle on the record.

© 2008 text : Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo : Eric Bossick

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Kan Mikami

Kan Mikami

Kan Mikami sings the blues, brutal, universal, sad. He sings fado. His voice hits you in the guts and resounds like the howling of the wind. There’s something immutable about his ballads, slowly weathered over time under the lights and in the shadows. A clear electro-acoustic guitar contrasts with his powerful voice that rasps slightly as if damaged and torn countless times.

On September 14 1968, Kan Mikami got on the train to Tokyo from his native province of Aomori. He was a poet and wanted to publish. In the meantime, he worked in newspaper distribution, sporting a Mohican. One day a bar owner, intrigued by his appearance, asked him if he could sing. Kan Mikami took up his guitar and soon had the whole bar crying. At that time he was part of the student demonstrations, joined the barricades and played in front of 30,000 people at the celebrated Nakatsukawa folk festival. Those were the good times. He signed with Columbia and then Victor, bringing out a dozen records. He had to tighten his belt at the end of the Seventies however, when the student rebels became salaried workers and the concerts dried up.

The Eighties signalled the beginning of a long period of musical introspection for Kan Mikami. He played exactly the same repertoire for 10 long years, once a month at the Mandala-2, a small club in the area of Kichijoji. He had no desire to move on and instead discovered the real essence of his playing. At the end of the Eighties, his American alter ego, John Zorn came to the club to hear him. Then came Yoshihide Otomo and later Keiji Haino and Motoharu Yoshizawa. They all encouraged him to take the plunge and record some new albums on the independent label PSF, slowly helping him re-emerge from the shadows.

Litterature had a big influence on Kan Mikami when he was growing up. Surrealism, the Beat Generation, Jean Genet, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir and Shuji Terayama were just some of these revelations. However Kan Mikami says, “With music, I discovered that before words, it’s sound that creates the world, outside language, beyond it. (…) Language is at the service of sound and not the other way round. It doesn’t matter any more whether or not my poems are understood.”

© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick

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