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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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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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Satanicpornocultshop

Satanicpornocultshop

By integrating Levi Strauss’ concept of ‘bricolage’ (Tristes Tropiques, 1955) into hip-hop, the early duet comprised of Alan Folkroe and Ghammehuche cast the first stone of what will soon become the surrealistic castle randomly named Satanicpornocultshop in 1997.

The first Satanicpornocultshop album voluptuously titled ‘Nirvana or Lunch ?’ released on their own label NuNuLaxNulan in 1998, was followed by a series of participations in various compilations: Trip Trap, LD&K, Subject, etc. Art of confusion already prevailing in their work, their third opus ‘Baltimore 72’ (1999) was released before their second one ‘Belle Excentrique’ (2000). Since then, the gangrenous music of Satanicpornocultshop kept spreading over sick developped countries by using the saturated communication networks and mastering the art of satire and remixes.

Second act of Satanicpornocultshop story opens with the sudden and symbolic death of Alan Folkroe in 2001. As Ghammehuche could not be left alone with his steep schizophrenia and creative delirium, fellow members boarded the demonic vessel within a few months: Meu-Meu and his dubious performance style, *es the mixing master with nerves of steel, Vinylman turntable-ing with attitude and Ugh overusing electronics and puking MC skills. All together, they slownly moved Satanicpornocultshop from distorted and perverted collage territories to accumulation of sound layers pierced by one single beat, futuristic hiphop and eroticization of sounds, ‘erotronica’.

The holdall of Dada is conveniently used by music critics, but the main players still think that the more accurate word of ‘bricolage’ defined best their work. Satanicpornocultshop influences and productions are not limited to music and sounds, they are boiling over the borders of art, spilling over ideas and images with a unique and grandiose disrespect.

In the end of 2001, Satanicporncultshop are invited to perform at the peak time glory of the Batofar club in Paris, first collaboration is opened with the label Sonore with their participartion on the ‘Batofar Cherche Tokyo’ CD compilation. The first Tour de France is organized for Satanicpornocultshop, mesmerizing an incredulous audience with absurd performances. The next year 2002, their fourth and glossily produced album ‘Ugh Yoing’ is released on NuNuLaxNulan.

Lisa from the band La Bossa, hidden voice from Satanicpornocultshop, joined the gang officially in 2003 for the release of their fifth album ‘Anorexia Gas Balloon’ on Sonore. International listeners are getting aware of Satanicpornocultshop phenomenom, ‘Anorexia Gas Balloon’ get reviews and airplay in Japan, Europe, US and Canada. The very same year, their killing cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Candy Says’ appears onto the UK Wire magazine compilation Wire Tapper 10 and they participate to the ‘Music for Babies’ project from D*I*R*T*Y website in France.

A year long strenuous work is necessary to release their rich and complex ‘Zap Meemees’ 6th album on Sonore in 2005. Like a twin, a lighter, pop and instantaneous 7th album ‘Orochi Under the Straight Edge Leaves’ bloomed on the Polish Vivo label the same year. What other band could release a pop album on an indus/gothic Polish label? A Satanicpornocultshop tour de force!

They do their first European tour (Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy and France) in the end of 2005 with a climax on Prague’s Alternativa festival in front of 800 enthousiastic and frenetic people. At the end of this successful tour Meu-Meu split the band leaving Lisa, *es, Vinylman and Ugh with a sore note.

2006 is definitely opening the third act of Satanicpornocultshop. First they participate to the thematic Italian fashion magazine Uovo providing a track for their ‘Pink’ compilation. Then the album ‘Zap Meemees’ is nominated in the Research of the electronic music Qwartz Awards in France. Two new members join the band : MC Frosen Pine with his unique mimic rhyme style, and the magic organist Nakagawa aka Liftman.

(To be continued…)

© 2006 text : Franck Stofer, photo : Albane Laure

Download Satanicpornocultshop Music on: iTunes, Beatport, Juno Download

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Satoru Wono

Satoru Wono

Hyperactive with schizophrenic tendencies, Satoru Wono plays with the extremes and has fun blurring the tracks. Swimming against the tide of fashion and movements, he lays claim to the status of an “old-style” composer, although he uses the latest tools to push back creative limits. Without falling into the conceptual trap, his music speaks to the mind as well as the body. With hypnotic cells and rhythmic decortications, Satoru Wono explores the crossover paths that lead to trance.

Satoru Wono was born in 1964 and currently lives in Tokyo. A great lover of Hollywood films in his youth, he was enamored with their soundtracks. When, at university, he discovered that they were to a great extent inspired by the music of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, he threw himself into studying classical composition. However, in the Eighties in Tokyo, there was a passion for new electronic music and the young Satoru, who was becoming more and more interested in samplers, digital sequencers and other computer devices, spent his nights in the city’s coolest clubs.

In 1987, he was awarded a composition prize by the Association for Contemporary Japanese Music and started his career as a composer. After several years working in experimental music, he brought our Sweet Science and El Niño, a fusion of electronic music and Latin pop. Alongside this, he continued his research into experimental and electro-acoustic music in Sauvage and Sonata for Sine Wave and White Noise. An associate professor of the Faculty of Plastic Arts at the University of Tama (Tokyo), he teaches music and film and is the author of several works on music and technology.

A composer, DJ, author and critic, producer and arranger… it is by trawling through the abundant diversity of works that he is able to compose or produce something that shows just what he is capable of. By wearing more than one set of headphones, Satoru retains an atypical approach and a personal reflection regarding his work.

Satoru likes to recycle and integrate into his own pieces sounds that are usually used in other forms of music. Although fashioned extremely precisely, his works are nevertheless terribly jubilatory. Essential to the Japanese avant-garde scene, he is also the musical director of Maywa Denki.

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

Download Satoru Wono on: iTunes, Beatport, Juno Download

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Yudaya Jazz

Yudaya Jazz

What if beauty suddenly sprang from the superposition of the video of black American singer Minnie Riperton singing ‘Loving You’ with a scene from the film of Hitchcock’s The Birds? What could possibly come out of mixing some old 45s of a child playing an analogue synthesizer with a video showing a Sumatran vegetable seller accompanying his pitch on a small plastic piano? Sensory discoveries, collisions of meaning, these are the moments of miraculous chance that the video-artist Dai Soma (better known under the name Yudaza Jazz) searches for.

Yudaya Jazz mixes and synchronises images and sounds on a set of turntables equipped to mix DVDs, also using a camera and microphone to capture performers in real time, as well as a few audiovisual effects for enhancement. This set-up means he has a palette of images and an infinite variety of sounds and textures at the tips of his fingers. The compositional work is always carried out on stage, live, with nothing repeated or prepared, because the exquisite instants Yudaya Jazz looks for can only be the product of the fragile and the momentary.

Dai Soma remembers being fascinated as a child by an old Kamishibai (paper theatre) storyteller, who improvised stories by showing a procession of his drawings to astonished spectators. Later, Dai Soma began making his own films and showing them in a cinema that he hired in Tokyo. Finding the repetition of the same projection extremely boring, he started to play with the sound effects of the films, upsetting spectators and the owner alike. He obstinately continued in this direction and sought out his audience in Tokyo clubs.

Dai Soma is a front-row spectator at his own audiovisual performances, always looking for the unexpected moment, the subtle variation that turns everything on its head. He is excited by the risk of manipulating images live, the random nature of the editing. In love with all types of audiovisual devices, audio cassettes, VHS, 45s, DVDs or MPEG files, Dai Soma is not however an obsessive collector. He’s not interested in conceptualising his art and cares little whether the results are pop or avant-garde. What counts is to bring about the aesthetic moment capable of surprising him himself.

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

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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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Tatsuya Yoshida

Tatsuya Yoshida

A real octopus, Tatsuya Yoshida began the drums at the beginning of the 1980s. 25 years later, he has become a truly polyrhythmic monster with syncopated respiration. An initiate in progressive music from high-school days, Tatsuya Yoshida listened to Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Camel and This Heat. Although he cites his main influence as Christian Vander and Magma’s Kobaïan operatic choruses and interlaced phrasing, Tatsuya Yoshida also mines other seams to create a new, complex and concentrated style, incorporating the expressivity of prog rock, the freedom of jazz and the energy of punk.

The foundations of Japanese independent and alternative music were born in the Eighties. Tatsuya Yoshida was already playing in the group YBO2 beside Masashi Kitamura and K.K. Null (Zeni Geva) when, in 1985, he formed a duo, Ruins, with just bass and drums. Four bass players came and went: Hideki Kawamoto, Kazuyoshi Kimoto, Ryuichi Masuda and Hisashi Sasaki. With the departure of his last bassist, Tatsuya Yoshida set out on a quest for a new pretender, but abandoned his mission, unable to find a candidate up to the job. The music Ruins were creating had become so complex that electronic machines were now Tatsuya Yoshida’s ideal partner.

Ruins then became Ruins Alone. Like syrup or strong alcohol, Ruins make music that makes you grimace. Ruins is a lab of the Tatsuya Yoshida stamp, a direct interface between his brain and his drumsticks. You could get 15 rock records out of one Ruins album, just by adding a bit of fizzy water. Each composition could be developed in many different directions. Tatsuya Yoshida plays in over 20 groups; he needs to, to sustain sufficient space for his overflowing creativity.

Tatsuya Yoshida has worked with some of the greatest improvisers on the planet, such as John Zorn, Fred Frith or Derek Bailey. Today, above and beyond the Ruins Alone project, Tatsuya Yoshida is the composer and drummer both in Korekyojinn, an instrumental trio that pushes polyrhythmic complexity to its ultimate limits, and the Koenji Hyakkei ensemble, a quasi-orchestral formation that bridges the gap between prog rock and contemporary music. In his time out from music, Monsieur Yoshida compulsively photographs stones. He travels the world in search of the mineral beauty of monumental statues and the millennial energy of rocks.

© 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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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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Jon (The Dog)

Jon (The Dog)

Jon is a young woman, who, disguised as a dog, plays the harmonium and shows off her canine voice in light, burlesque songs. For over 10 years, after a disc on the Tzadik New York label in 1996 and a few albums on the Oz Disc label, Jon (The Dog) continues to trundle her portable show across Tokyo. A sort of Dadaist cabaret that has changed little over the years, remaining definitive and immutable. The artiste dissimulates her timidity by means of dynamic improvisation and narrates her incredible tales.

Born in 1972, Shoko Uehara began singing at a very early age, by imitating the sounds from the television and writing her own songs about cats, at tea-time. Her parents persuaded her to study classical piano, which she did between the ages of 5 and 15. It was only by leaving the family home that she created the link between her musical training and her highly personal world, channeling her gift for improvisation into an abundance of compositions.

Only on rare occasions does life in Tokyo allow the luxury of a piano, so she bought a small and cheap harmonium with a breathless tone that she still uses today. For her first performances, appeared in pyjamas with a cow motif before, from 1997, making the logical step to a repertoire, the major theme of which is her dog, with Shoko wearing an enormous and all-encompassing wolf costume with long synthetic fur, turning herself into Jon (Inu) [The Dog].

Coming from the huge body of an animal whose hairy paws are always rickety, her childlike voice underlines the extreme finesses of the words, albeit delivered with a strange conviction. The recordings on radiocassette players contain all sorts of ambient crackles and noises that, at the start, were more or less identifiable and create an atmosphere that is both funny, frightening and nostalgic.

Jon (The Dog) gives concerts 4 times a month, on average, and has released 4 albums, most notably the one on the Tzadik label (John Zorn); when she is not playing in a raft of parallel projects, she runs a bar in the à Golden Gai (a district of Tokyo) or reads tarot to passers-by in the Shinjuku district.

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

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Himitsu Hakase

Himitsu Hakase

A star of the post modern and an enthusiastic singer, Himitsu Hakase (Doctor Secret) magnifies the standards of the popular Japanese song, "Enka". With permed hair à la Marc Bolan, Himitsu Hakase is a superb crooner who has used the tremendous power of his voice on a collection of hits from another period. During his songs, Yuichi Kishino uses humor to improvise gestures suggestive of a jubilatory performance or a Technicolor mime- drama with scintillating and over-the-top sonorities.

At the start of the Nineties, Himitsu Hakase worked in London beside fashion designers who were part of the gay scene (Leigh Bowery). He returned to Tokyo and, amongst other things, designed the graphics for the CD covers of Japanese artistes who were part of the ‘minimalist electronic’ movement (Yoshihide Otomo). Nowadays, when he is not creating a series of ready-to-wear Hawaiian shirts, Himitsu Hakase can be found in the Tokyo club, with his band The Emperors or in a duo, aided and abetted by Yuichi Kishino in the improbable Gira Gira nights.

As a child, he was fascinated by the variety shows trundled out by family television and discovered the Pink Color Trio. He devoured the retransmissions of the famous Wolfman Jack Show in the US army section on Japanese FM radio. He threw himself into the American standards of the Fifties and Sixties and the first signs of rock and roll. A little later, he discovered the Pre-War Japanese singers, such a Hachiirou Oka and Tarou Shoji and their "Natsumero" (nostalgic melodies), followed by the successes of the Twenties and Thirties (Shizuko Kasagi, Hachiiro Kasuga). Their style, voice and attitude took over his head and became a real obsession.

His mother took him to singing lessons for 5 or 6 years (Mozart), but his classmates exposed him to punk (Sex Pistols, The Damned), followed by psychedelic music and glam rock (Marc Bolan, T. Rex, Queen). He was fascinated by platform shoes, bell-bottom trousers and layered soles.

A tireless collector, a few years later, he came across a 45 by Matsudaira Naoki "Blue Roman" Band, the star of the Japanese popular song known as "Enka". It was a terrible shock : Himitsu Hakase suddenly realized at what point he is "Enkadamashi" and at what point his soul is resolutely Enka. His passion then was for "Mood Chorus", a branch of Enka that was slightly more modern and powerful in style. His collection contains over a thousand Mood Chorus 45s.

In 1997, Kazunao Nagata (Transonic) and Yuichi Kishino, time-honored producers and instigators of the Gira Gira nights, asked Himitsu Hakase to come and "mix" with them. He accepted this role as an alternative DJ, but found it more exciting to sing over these dated hits that he knew by heart. During the songs, Kishino could not help using humor to improvise suggestive and synchronized gestures. This impromptu e then invented a jubilatory performance, a Technicolor mime-drama with scintillating and over-the-top sonorities.

© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure

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