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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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.
Asa-Chang & Junray create devastatingly beautiful music that takes our world and turns it into the realm of folklore (or is it the other way round?!). Junrei means “pilgrimage” in Japanese and this one soon becomes an unexpected and luminous journey into the surreal. En route, you’ll make contact with Indian percussion, drums, trumpets and vocal collage. Asa-Chang & Junray’s music is rooted in the Chindon’ya (Japanese street musicians), circus music and barrel organ playing and has an undeniable Sixties (the Showa period) insouciance about it.
Percussionist Asa-Chang started Tokyo Ska Paradise Ochestra but left in 1993, just when it was becoming successful. Several years later he founded the two-piece, Asa-Chang & Junray with Hidehiko Urayama, producer and composer of film music (and guitarist with the group Arepos at the end of the eighties). Their first EP, Tabla Magma Bongo, came out in 1998. However Hidehiko Urayama doesn’t play live, his amazing vocal collages all studio work. So Asa-Chang & Junray took on a third member in 2000, U-Zhaan, a peerless tabla player who spends half his time in India following the teachings of the master Ustad Zakir Hussain.
The track ‘Hana’ got Asa-Chang & Junray a reputation outside Japan and an album of the same name was released in England on The Leaf Label, to much critical acclaim. John Peel played ‘Hana’ on his show on BBC Radio 1 and in 2002 the album was voted fourth best album of the year by magazine, The Wire. It was also in the top 40 albums of the year in Mojo that year. In Japan in 2004, the track ‘Senaka’, a collaboration with singer Kyoko Koizumi, gave the band wider exposure. ‘Senaka’ was also remixed by Rei Harakami on the album Minna No Junray, out in 2005.
Disturbingly sensitive, Asa-Chang & Junray have invented a new music that is played at ground level on woven straw mats or in the middle of gardens. It is difficult to qualify, cinematic, almost excessively expressive. The group occasionally works with the dance troupe, Idevian Crew. Asa-Chang also plays with the jazz band Asa-Chang & Blue Hearts, and UZhaan can be found in the company of various different musicians, L?K?O amongst them, with who he released a debut album, Borsha Kaal Breaks, under the name Oigoru in 2008.
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick
Tokyo toy-pop icons, Mayutan, Candy and Fredy are surrounded by little children. Their universe, peopled by fantastic characters and fluffy men gave birth to Applehead, who transform nursery rhymes into FM hits with comparable efficiency. Disappearing behind virtual doubles, letting images take care of the dance, they fade away into dreamland.
Since his childhood, Mayutan has been so passionate about music that she was not happy just to listen to it : she very quickly developed a taste for imitation, playing and dancing to what he parents where listening to. Little bits of naive, fantasy choreography that was soon backed up by her own recordings onto cassette. At that time, she realized that she could work with sounds, play with her voice, express herself and, above all, let out all the energy that was inside her.
As part of the discothèque family, discs by DEVO, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Jun Togawa (one of the first Japanese artistes to play the pseudo pop singer in the techno pop style at the start of the eighties) were to have a lasting influence on her. Since her adolescence, the Lolita-like timbre of her voice and her numerous disguises made her reputation from her very first appearances on stage.
A techno-pop trio
Very quickly, Mayutan found the right combination that would allow her to develop her vocal and her stage talent : a techno-pop trio ! Joined by Fredy and Candy who arrange the songs for her, by mixing the spirit of the early Eighties with the sounds of the start of this century. The trio uses toy guitars and electronic snare drums to create a strange, fun-filled universe which is specific to them.
Their live performances are accompanied by the projection of manga-type cartoons. "Very quickly, artistes from the new Japanese scene such as ASTRO-B, Hi-Posi, Techma and Yuichi Kishino were collaborating on their albums and joining them on stage. Versatile, Mayutan also produces pop music for children and her voice is often used in for advertising. However, it is at a concert that she has to be seen! Her childhood disguises have not been consigned to the wardrobe – far from it! As she says, "Applehead’s music comes from a world that is not human, halfway between childhood and the world of animals..."
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
Akane Hosaka’s lunging rhythms and deliciously retro melodies hook you into a universe of gleeful wallabies, little drummer boy monkeys and motley robots; think Yellow Magic Orchestra reworked by Jacno, a Web 2.0 style 21st century referencing of the Sixties precursors of electro.
Strangely, images are the initial source of Akane Hosaka’s musical inspiration. Landscape, exhibitions and children’s books; images that become emotions which evoke the music she then transcribes. She is particularly sensitive to the graphic forms and architectural fantasy of artists such as Keiji Ito, Archigram and Bruno Munari. And just try questioning her on the stop-motion films of sixties and seventies France! It takes a true expert to catch her out on Colargol (Barnaby or Jeremy the Bear in the English-speaking world), The Magic Roundabout and Chapi-Chapo.
Overly nostalgic? What?! Akane Hosaka was simply born in another space/time continuum and has a penchant for the glory years when artists with unlimited imagination cleared whole expanses of creative ground. Same goes for her musical influences: Raymond Scott, Perrey & Kingsley and Dick Hyman have pride of place, but pretty much anything relating to the golden age of analogue synthesizers gets a ticket. Akane Hosaka has taken this stuff in, processed it and is now turning it out in an interpretation of her current cosmology. Tune in for musical reworkings of daily incidents in the life of…
Akane Hosaka is a naturally reserved performer and her concerts are rare, precious and sometimes destabilizing because of the contrast between the playful music and the austerity of her onstage persona. But here is a perfectionist, a sort of blacksmith in the smithy, most at ease honing her electronic compositions in the studio. She says, “Making sound has been my all consuming passion since I was a kid and I think about little else. Composition has become second nature for me.” She shuns strict labelling of her music, resisting being categorised as “electronic pop” and preferring to allow her imagination free rein.
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick
Exo-Chica, fiery blond, incisors bared, poses in front of a heavy velvet drape. Raveman stares out from behind her, all electric-red stare. This Tokyo-based outfit are Aural Vampire, a classic beauty-and-the-beast pairing who’re behind some highly contagious tunes and well on the way to conquering the planet.
The meeting between vampire songstress, Exo-Chica, and the manic-electronic Raveman (think Jason from Friday the 13th, think an uptight Darth Vader, but uptight!) was always going to be explosive. After a maxi, Vampire Ecstasy, in 2004 and a single release, Death Folder, in 2005, Aural Vampire have now brought out their first album, Zoltank (2010) on Japanese major Avex.
Labelled synth pop / dark wave, Aural Vampire’s work is a real mash-up. Exo-Chica is a fan of popular Japanese song genres such as kayokyoku or enka, while Raveman finds inspiration in German techno and dance. The formula makes for a weird, catchy mix, some sort of of J-pop electronica that contrasts with their macabre imagery to give an exhilarating live show. On stage, Raveman plays the rascal, lining up absurd gags to knock the beautiful Exo-Chica out of her stride.
Aural Vampire are perfectionists and leave nothing to chance. From the conception of the graphics for their discs, to their stage dress, everything is given careful consideration. While at times they’re reminiscent of Japanese comic book characters, Exo-Chica and Raveman shouldn’t be confused with role players from the world of cosplay. Think, rather, industrial and goth. Think cross-dressing, fetishism and horror.
“In horror films, you obviously get all those cries of fear but there’s also a certain beauty and tension. It’s this ensemble we want to express. If any one of these elements were missing, the balance would be gone,” says Raveman. Raveman’s music is chiselled and precise, techno-pop that makes references to 1980s new wave, giving, at times, unrelenting results: see tracks such as ‘Shonan Zoku’ or ‘Darkwave Surfer’.
To get more of an idea of where he’s coming from, it’s also worth giving Raveman’s solo project, Futon Disco, a listen. “Aural Vampire is consciously pop. Futon Disco’s personal. Futon Disco gives him the outlet he needs to stop him burning up. It’s crucial for his mental health.” (Exo-Chica).
Text: Franck Stofer
Translation: Jack Sims
Photo: Eric Bossick