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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

FAKY, Yup’in And FEMM Come Together To Form FAMM’IN, Release “Circle,” Break My Mind

Let’s just lay this one out in text first — combining Avex artists FAKY, Yup’in and FEMM into one special unit should result in something totally average given the pedigree of the individual acts involved. FAKY and Yup’in have had their moments, but overall neither artist is the sort you get worked up about in any capacity. FEMM…well, FEMM are a bit more divisive, as plenty of people love the mannequin-themed duo’s jarring electro-pop. I’m not one of them though, and feel like most of their approach works better as cynical .GIF files than music. So put the three together and…I don’t know, a try-hard number about being young and having a good time and bleating EDM synths?

So what the fuck is this??? The group going by FAMM’IN shared their song “Circle” yesterday, and it is a nearly seven-minute-long meditation full of Auto-tune gurgles and traditional Japanese instrumentation. It has something resembling a drop, if a drop was imagined after hours of misogi. The lyrics zoom away from usual topics in favor of koan-like pondering about the circular nature of life. This from a group featuring a duo who once compared themselves to Shane Victorino.

Part of me feels drawn in by the simple existence of this — the sprawling nature of a mega-label like Avex allows for all sorts of acts who disrupt the notion that J-pop is a sterile, unchanging thing (see you Oomori Seiko, what’s up BiS). But this…look, using words like “weird” in relation to J-pop always smells suspicious, but a label taking three acts who primarily exist to make high-energy pop and letting them create a slow-motion cut slamming trap up against gagaku samples is…unexpected. The press release calls this “Japanese trap,” and that is underselling it fiercely.

I initially was worried this seems so cool because of how unexpected it is — do I like this because of the music, or because Avex found the least expected way to utilize these three? Well, this has been on loop all morning, and I’m just floored by everything going on here — how this manages to link traditional sounds with modern styles without sounding like a total cheese pit, and how it does that while still sound like mist in the air. This is as great a shock as you can ask for. Listen above.

Gimme Some More: Kikagaku Moyo’s “Green Sugar”

Tokyo five-piece Kikagaku Moyo has been kicking about for about three years around the capital, playing the sort of guitar-centric psych rock that thrills rock fans who see Japan as “Boredomes and some other nutty stuff.” But despite this potential pitfall — a lot of these avant-garde bands aren’t actually doing anything interesting! — Kikagaku Moyo (mostly) avoid meandering guitar passages in favor of something more comforting, which the band themselves describe as “feeling good music.” “Green Sugar,” off of their upcoming album House In The Tall Grass, is an especially absorbing number, an early wave of distortion giving way to a shuffling guitar number full of whispered vocals and bell accents, which makes the closing guitar solo all the more dramatic. Listen above.

Away From Here: Saori Kobayashi’s Terra Magica

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Something that I personally have been struggling with lately has been the enthusiasm to seek out new music, both from here in Japan and outside of it. It’s probably something to do with simply getting older and watching that once youthful energy that drove me to stay up until 3 am SoulSeeking the night away recede, and maybe a little bit with how draining the Internet feels in 2016 (wooo boy don’t get me started on the music side of things). It’s far easier to just lean on what I know I’ll like then dig deeper to find new sounds.

So it has been a nice surprise to be caught up in Terra Magica, the new album from composer Saori Kobayashi, an artist best known for making the soundtracks to the video games Panzer Dragoon Saga and Panzer Dragoon Orta. I’m not usually drawn to big, swooping numbers composed of strings and sky-bound vocals, but the ten original tracks here are deeply engrossing and epic (no, really epic, not Internet “epic”). It’s sonic world building, something I’m not sure I have heard from anyone since…Noah’s Sivutie or Taquwami’s Moyas, with this being a bit more cinematic (with one absolutely savage number, “Tribulations,” included for good measure). Get it here, or listen below.

New LLLL Featuring Yeule: “Breathless”

Tension has always been central to the music Tokyo’s LLLL creates, the shadowy electronics giving way to moments of ecstasy and hope…although they never come easy. “Breathless” is a series of reflections and emotional bursts, moving from slower passages to split-seconds of silence bursting alive right after. The key, though, is a guest appearance from Singaporean artist Yeule, whose vocals ebb alongside LLLL’s music to make the emotional core of “Breathless” all the more powerful. Listen above.

New Soutaiseiriron: “Flashback”

Of course Soutaiseiriron’s first full taste of their new album — out this week — is the final track. I mean, they did put out a trailer too.

Over the last few years, Soutaiseiriron have proven to be one of the more influential Japanese bands of the last decade, lead singer Etsuko Yakushimaru’s near-whispered sing-speak and the group’s pre-90s-derived sound picked up by major-label acts and indie outfits in equal measures. So now, at a point where Soutaiseiriron could legitimately just sink into the sonic background, they’ve shared “Flashback,” what would constitute a jarring shift for any other project, but feels natural for Soutaiseiriron. It’s a shuffling number, sporting the sort of cold tropical rhythm you’d expect from The Knife and…well, familiar singing from Yakushimaru…but eventually making room for string plucks and even a heavy breakdown. Listen above.