Skip to content →

カテゴリー: English

entries written in English

日記

東京にいます(一ヶ月ぶり)。

20日。

まずは学部生時代の友人が開いたギャラリー(LEE SAYA)を見に行く。こけら落としとなったのは須賀悠介の個展。須賀さんもまた学部生時代に京都でのグループ展を手伝ったことがあり面識がある。李さんにあいさつし、展示について話を聞く。たまたま在廊していた須賀さんとも対面。なんかこの歳になってくると出会って10年くらいの知り合いがぐんぐん「やっていき」かましているのを目の当たりにするようになる。なんか時空が変にショートカットしたみたいな気分になる。

その後、TOKYO2021に一瞬だけ寄った。すでに展示自体は一度見ているので、だめおしというか。最終日というだけあって人が多かった。HouxoQueさんに会う。初対面、「デカいですね」「髪ほんとに赤いですね」というよくわからない距離感の会話をはさみつつ、出展作品について聞く。階段を降りたどん詰まりに液晶ディスプレイが設置してあり、床には水が張ってある。高速で変化する色彩のスピード感とは裏腹にロスコルームのごとき静謐さが印象的。しかし水を張ってあって多分循環とかもしていないゆえに虫が発生、会期中に展覧会場に生態系が生じるという展開に。ヤバい。別会場では高山明《個室都市東京》にすごい行列ができていたのがウケた。ウケていたら伏見瞬さんがいてビビった。会場を出るタイミングでもデリックメイこと森下さんにも会い、さすがカルチャースポットだな……と思う。

そのまま東京駅から大宮へ向かう。「大宮なのにカワイイ」を見に行くのだ。浦上・想起と松木美定のデュオ、Kabanagu、Tomggg等々出演、かなりトリッキーなラインナップのイベントだ。浦上松木のデュオは浦上さんのマイクがやや遠かったもののふたりの息の合い方に感動、お互いの曲を歌い合う流れも、浦上さんのキーボードも松木さんのトランペットもよかった。Tomgggさん、KOTONOHOUSEさんらのDJプレイもよかったし、Corneliusや星野源からガバやハードスタイルまでを行き来するKabanaguのDJセットにビビる。その後持ち時間の半分を使ってKabanaguが披露した弾き語りもほんとに素晴らしく、これだけ歌える人なのか、と思った。イベント出演はしばらく休止とのことだけれどまた歌う姿が見てみたい……。

同日にCircus TokyoでDJ Clentの初来日があったので、せめてClentのプレイだけでも間に合うように…と大宮を早めに後にする(不義理ですみません)。Circusに着くとFulltonoさんがハードミニマルクラシックをベースミュージック的解釈でプレイしていて、Bens SimsのManipulated (Adam Beyer Remix)のエディット(?)がかかったために思わぬ上がり方をしてしまった。その後、フットワークのダンサーたちのショーケースで温まったフロアにDJ Clent登場、最初はダンスマニアのクラシックをがんがんに連発、その後怒涛のジューク/フットワークゾーンに…… コスりの入れ方もかなりタイトだし、大ネタをかますタイミング、フリーキーな地獄サブベースをぶちこむタイミング、「これが『格』ってやつか…?!」とマジで感銘を受ける。ほんとによかった。これはほんとに行ってよかった。フットワークのダンサーが踊りまくり、客は絶え間なくブチ上がり、ワタシは体力がゼロに。フットワークはほんま最高の音楽やでぇ……としみじみ宿に戻る。

21日。

朝から宿で仕事。なんでか知らんが滞在中に締め切りを設定した仕事があって、まあいけるでしょと思ってたけれど地味に焦っている。いや大丈夫です。書けます。お昼はミッドタウンに池田亮司見に行った。池田亮司ってあんまり感心したことなくて「ああ、かっこいいっすね、いいんじゃないっすか」という感じのことを思ってしまうのだけれど、今回もそれを更新するということはもちろんなく……。

栗原裕一郎さんが東京新聞のコラムで拙著を取り上げたという情報を入手したため、池田亮司を見たあと赤坂の図書館に向かって該当記事を確認。がっつりと紹介していただいていて、かつ、拙著を貫く問題意識自体を正面から評価していただいている内容で、ちょっと泣く。ほんと、客観的に評価するのはめちゃむずいのだ。だめかも、だめかも、とずっと思ってしまう。もうちょっと自信持とうと思った。

その後、場所を転々としながら仕事をし、夕方にはblueprintで打ち合わせ。拙著の今後の広報についてであったり、次に書く記事についてだったり、いろいろと話す。拙著に絡んでは「正気か?」というような案件が次々やってきててんてこまいなのだけれど、まだまだ舞いは終わらない……。

宿に戻る道すがら、渋谷のタワレコとTSUTAYAに寄る。タワレコ、というかタワーブックスっていうんですか、あそこ見に行ったら10冊くらいばこーんと拙著が置いてあって、いくらなんでもそんなには売れねえだろ、と弱気になってしまった。一方TSUTAYAには見当たらなかった。梅田の蔦屋書店にも見当たらなかったんだよな。平積みで展開していただいている京都の岡崎蔦屋書店は別として、TSUTAYAとは相性が悪いのか。なんなんだ。というわけで渋谷タワレコに行ったら確実に買えます。がんがん買っておれの不安を吹き飛ばしてくり~!

Leave a Comment

『リズムから考えるJ-POP史』刊行記念、関西ツアー日記

10月5日(土)

19時半~京都は出町商店街の出町座にて『リズムから考えるJ-POP史』刊行記念トーク。関西ソーカル主宰の神野龍一さんを聞き手に1時間半しゃべる。Traktorで音出ししつつホワイトボードに図示しつつがんばった。

導入として、神野さんから「音楽批評の四象限」があるとして拙著がどんな位置にあるか、という話をしてもらう。「プロ‐アマ(個人的には「つくる‐聴く」かなと思ったが)」と「データ‐印象(「データ」には楽曲の構造分析も含む)」の2軸を交差させて整理するのは結構すっきりかも。拙著は割と両軸の真ん中にあるかも? みたいな指摘。

話を渡してもらってこちらからのプレゼンテーション。宇多田ヒカル「誓い」をはじめとする2018年リリースの邦楽に登場するポリリズムを紹介。ついで、MISIA「つつみ込むように…」を例に和製R&Bとヒップホップソウル、ティンバランド以降のチキチキサウンドについて話す。小田和正「ラブ・ストーリーは突然に」における四分三連と付点八分の連続性とトラップ以降の三連符を比較する。などなど。まあ拙著で書いていることを実際に音源聴いて確かめてみよう、みたいな感じでした。

30人くらい? 入ったのかな。トーク後の手売りではなんと18冊も売れてしまった。言うて売れても最大で8冊とかそんくらいか、と思っていたのでビビった。そのおかげで翌日のOtohatobaに持っていける在庫がたったの2冊に……。嬉しい誤算。しかしとりかえしようがない。どーすんだろこれ? と思いながら会場を後にする。

tofubeatsから刊行祝いにもらったiLoud Micro Monitorを持ち込んで鳴らしてみたところ、めちゃくちゃいい感じでした。学校の教室よりこころもち狭い? くらいのスペースで、サブベースとは言わないまでも重低音をかっちり鳴らせていて、すごかった。

10月6日(日)

さて翌日はOtohatoba。Otohatobaは行ってみたかったスポット(やはりYu-Koh体験版の様子など伺うとね)だったしイベントの開催を提案していただけただけで嬉しかった。拙著を口実にして日曜の昼間にJ-POPを聴きながらいろいろおしゃべり、みたいな感じがかえって心地よさそうで、3時間の長丁場もゆったりいけるでしょ、とゆるふわアプローチで当日に臨む。

しかしここでまたしても嬉しい誤算、ワタシのほかに登壇してくださったtsudio studioさん、酒井匠さん、推しに推して入るプッシュさんがかなり拙著の内容について突っ込んだ話を深堀りしてくださって、こっちもなんか熱が入ってしまい、がんっがんに3時間喋り通す結果に。出町座でのトークとかけた曲とかはだいたい同じなんですが、拙著の音楽的な内容だけでなく広く比較文化論的というか社会論的な話もできてすごーく楽しかったです。

ここに持ち込んだ残りの在庫2冊も売れてしまったので手売り用に出版社から仕入れた在庫は全部はけてしまった。どーしたらよいのだろうか。。。

雑感

この滞在中に大きな書店をまわってきたんですがだいたい入荷していてなんなら面陳か平積み。マジでビビる。恐縮っすわ……。自分の本が書店に並んでるってすげー変な感じですね。本になってるだけでめっちゃ妙なのに。売れてくれ~ッ

Leave a Comment

Examining gender (in)equality among four major music festivals in Japan

In February 2018, PRS Foundation launched a campaign named Keychange. By encouraging music festivals to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022, it aims to make the music industry more inclusive and create a better future. Initially, their partners were 45 festivals around the world but now they include more than 130 festivals.

Nowadays, music festivals are the industry’s most important opportunity to reach a major audience. Moreover, as some big festivals started to stream their stages via YouTube, music festivals became not only a place for the live experience but also a crucial platform of the business. So Keychange’s activity is to the point. Festivals could epitomize the whole industry in many ways.

While Keychange aims to create the future, some media is examining the status quo statistically with vivid visualization. In May 2018, Pitchfork published the result of their own research for the festival’s gender equity in America. According to the report, in 2017, festivals’ lineup in the US festivals had 74% male acts, 14% female, and 12% mixed. The next year’s had 70% male, 19% female, and 11 % mixed. For a more detailed investigation, you can read this article.

Then, how’s it going here in Japan?

Since the first Fuji Rock Festival in 1997, music festivals in Japan saw rapid growth throughout the 00s. By the early 2010s, music festivals became one of the most popular leisure activity. This given situation even encouraged some rock bands to invent “Festival Rock,” which features uplifting four-on-the-floor drum beats and sing-along friendly melodies.

Thus, although music festivals have been playing a pivotal role in Japan’s music industry, there are few mentions on gender equality. I couldn’t find statistics on it so I decided to collect data by myself.

There are four major music festivals in Japan: Fuji Rock Festival, Summer Sonic, Rock In Japan Festival, and Rising Sun Rock Festival. The former two are known for their international lineup in contrast to the latter two focus on acts that are based in Japan. I limited the scope of this research to those four festivals’ lineup for the last five years. I scraped those festivals’ web site by Python and checked out each acts’ gender as far as I could find.

Below is what I found.

SUMMARY

  • In 2019, the lineup for major festivals in Japan was 65% male acts and 35% female or mixed acts.
    • Comparing those festivals, it seems there’s no big difference between them as far as concerning male : female (or mixed) ratio.
    • The festival that included the most female acts in 2019 was Summersonic (22%).
    • The festival that included the least female acts in 2019 was Fuji Rock Festival (12%).
  • From 2016 to 2018, the lineup for major festivals in Japan had been 69% male acts and 31% female or mixed acts.
    • Looking at annual changes, there is hardly a particular tendency on the male : female ratio.
    • However, some festivals’ transitions show possible intentions to reduce the male ratio.
      • In 2016, Fuji had 75% male acts and Rock In Japan did 68%. On the other hand, in 2019, the former was 64% (11 points lower) and the latter was 65% (3 points lower).
      • Given that, I’m planning further research for the transition throughout Fuji’s and Rock In Japan’s entire history.

Then, is Japan’s gender equality in music festivals better than the US?

As seen above, Japan’s gender equality in the festivals’ lineup seems a bit better than the US. There might be many explanations for this, but I don’t have any clear opinion now.

Having said that, I am not so optimistic. It’s because Japan’s society as a whole seems very sexist. I’ve been disappointed at our society’s indifference to any kind of gender gap. (One of the most shocking news was this… worth reading. Two more Japanese medical schools admit discriminating against women | World news | The Guardian)

I think the gender ratio I mentioned above is a baseless and arbitrary consequence of the society’s indifference. Even though the score looks better than other countries, it doesn’t mean there’s less gender inequality in Japan. If we don’t consciously deal with the problem, it can be worse in the future.

Anyway, this is merely a score just calculated numbers on spreadsheets. A more precise analysis is needed. I hope this would motivate someone (and help me tidying data…).

Tables

Leave a Comment

People In The Box, Kodomo Rengou (2018)

Honestly, I had very little knowledge about People In The Box until their latest Kodomo Rengou, which was released in February 2018. I was relatively new to today’s Japanese rock music ‘cuz I was crazy in dance music since the late ’00s. However, one of my friends strongly recommended the album, saying that it would be the album of the year. Then I tried listening and soon fell in love with it. I’ve listened to it over and over, even ignoring other new releases.

The album reminded me of some math-rock acts but it had a more physical and active groove. Rather than indulging in sweet and violent tones from the amplifiers, just as some bands do (oops, I don’t blame on them. just for comparison), they play riffs and rhythm patterns with strong clarity. From a note to note, I can hear their intention–how they want them to sound, how they want them to be. The interplay between melodies is dizzying yet compelling me to dance to it. I dare say that it’s like something fusing prog-rock, chamber music and afrobeat.

Their lyrics are also important. With quite simple vocabulary, they often depict the ordinary life around us, especially in Japan’s suburbs. Let me take “町A (Town A)” as an example. In its chorus, Hirofumi Hatano (Vo. & Guitar, who also writes all of their lyrics) sings like this: “huge mall, restaurant, public library, udon noodle stand, book store, bakery, housing, flower shop, ramen stand, shrine, temple, secondhand car shop, room with sunlight.” Most Japanese people may easily imagine such a tasteless landscape. It belongs nowhere, as the title suggests. It has no name. If anything, it can be everywhere. It might be my hometown, or else, someone’s hometown instead.

“This is not heaven, let alone a paradise. / However, this is not hell even. / One night after another / Say, a buffer zone or resting place between nights / This is not heaven; just my hometown” Hatano sings. Ok, this is certainly the mise-en-scene of our everyday life. But how strange, weird, and uncanny is this? It’s like the Brechtian theatre’s distancing effect. It’s pretty ambivalent that the album closes with a song named “僕は正気 (I AM sane)”. Are we still sober or losing our minds in this world?

Hatano deliberately manipulates words and depicts people’s inherent anxiety without any sentimental rhetorics. But it moves my mind so hard that I almost cry when I listen to “かみさま (God)” and “僕は正気”.

The tight groove of the ensemble, the complicated texture of the sound, and the lyrics’ peculiar poesy. This is obviously the best Japanese rock album of 2018.

Leave a Comment

ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ (Bokunoririkkunobouyomi), 没落 (Botsuraku) (2018)

I couldn’t post last Wednesday because I was too busy and tired. One of my distraction then was preparing my dj set at Gampeki Music Festival which would be held at the weekend. I’ve almost quit djing years ago and my skill is not great at all tho, I enjoyed playing. You can hear it on mixcloud.

Today I’d like to write about ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ (boku no ririkku no bo’yomi, ぼくりり in short)’s 没落 (botsuraku). The title means “fall” or “decay” literally. It was his last album under the name ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ. He was a young and talented singer and songwriter with a unique voice and thoughtful lyrics, whose music attracted the wide audience. His dance-oriented beat and eloquent vocalization were mellow and youthful at the same time, no other singers had a charismatic atmosphere as his one.

However, suddenly he announced that he would quit ぼくりり, saying that he was exhausted with being a genius. He was also known for somewhat challenging or controversial remarks about Japan’s music industry, media coverage, and music critics. He was like a trickster. So I was suspicious about the statement. It seemed like a staged performance rather than an honest feeling, just aiming a social buzz to promote his new album. Moreover, his tweets following the statement contained some misogynistic phrases like calling some of his fans ババア (“old bitches” or something like that), which was offensive against women. I was disappointed, although his true intention remained unclear.

没落 was released in somewhat uncomfortable buzz. Against my expectations, it was an instant masterpiece which obviously deserved to be his accomplishment as an artist. While his signature style which had jazz-influenced chord progressions and vibrant melodies wasn’t changed, the variety of beats were more diverse than before, from UK Garage/Speed Garage to NY House to Future Soul.

The most surprising thing was like, some songs were like suites telling us dramatic stories, reminiscing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The good example of these was “輪廻転生 (Rin’ne Tensho, Metempsychosis in English)”. Beginning with a simple electro hip-hop beat, the song underwent from Minimalistic chamber ensemble to gospel-like choir with the Prismizer effect which reminded me of Bon Iver or Francis and the Lights. I was very surprised because very few J-POP acts have made a good use of such vocal processing technology (Yasutaka Nakata’s use of Auto-tune is a rare example).

The album was great, but this fact made me wonder why he had to quit the activity like that. It should have been the beginning of the next phase rather than an ending of the career. After his final show, he changed the stage name from ぼくりり to たなか which was one of the most typical family names in Japan. As he appeared some artist’s releases under aliases, it seems that it’s not retirement per se. So I hope someday たなか (or ぼくりり again) would release some materials.

Leave a Comment

江沼郁弥 (ENUMA Fumiya), #1 (2018)

Enuma Fumiya’s #1 is his first full-length as a solo singer-songwriter. After the break-up of plenty in 2017, the introspective frontman of the band took some synths and a daw into his hands instead of the guitar. While plenty’s music was characterized by the shoegaze-like guitar noise with catchy melodies–say, very “indie” in a sense–the album was completely rid of such catharsis. It was like something between psychedelic folk and alternative r&b which could be compared to James Blake’s or Frank Ocean’s seminal works. I would say that he was finding another way to express his thought with a great delicacy. And he actually did it.

In the endless reverberation and infinite echoes, his voice tells us how he’s sad and desperate. This sadness once used to be quite dramatic and ecstatic especially when he was with his band, but now it’s more nuanced as he elaborates the sound design. Every sound of the album is deliberately modulated to express feelings that couldn’t be said with words. M9 “take my hands” is the best example I think. The guitar loop is granulated and pitch-shifted voices are haunting the entire song. The song sounds like memories suspended in the air, slowly falling into oblivion.

From this March, Enuma has released three singles which would be featured in the new album. These three songs, “うるせえんだよ”, “偽善からはじめよう”, and “積み木くずし” are more friendly in sound but much more pessimistic in words. FYI “うるせえんだよ” and “偽善からはじめよう” can be respectively translated like “Shut the fuck up” and “Let’s begin with hypocrisy”, both are very shocking as song’s name. However, while he sings about his distrust of the people and the impossibility of mutual understanding, he is also breaking the walls of creativity.

Enuma recently plays his show with a young and mysterious band 木 (ki), one of the most anticipated new comer in Japan. Among music lovers, they’re known for an eccentric and minimalistic approach with a definite pop sense. Their avant-garde pop rendered in a smooth R&B flavor, which is 木’s signature style, certainly resonates with Enuma’s solo works (check out the band’s debut EP Vi below). This collaboration is pretty fascinating to me. I’d like to watch their show someday this year.

Leave a Comment

Tempalay, なんて素晴らしき世界 (Nante Subarashiki Sekai), 2018

When I found that RM (from BTS) was listening to Tempalay’s “どうしよう (dooshiyou)” I was very excited since it was one of my most favorite songs then. The song starts with slightly out-of-scale riffs which have a dislocating feeling. After a sudden glitchy edit, the band’s vocalist Ryoto Obara begins to sing with the mesmerizing guitar and the bold beat, embraced by their multi-instrumentalist AAAMYYY’s backing chorus. I was not satisfied with the cheesy vid but I couldn’t help watching it over and over and over. I thought RM might feel the same way as me.

Tempalay is a Japanese psychedelic rock band, whose music apparently resonates with the Aussie star band Tame Impala (oh, their names resembles each other btw). Raw, lo-fi, and strangely chill. Listening to them is like a lucid dream or a psychedelic trip without losing minds. The band was formed in 2014 and officially debuted in 2015 by the EP Instant Hawaii. It took only two years to take ‘em Austin, Texas to play at SXSW 2016. They’ve been so prolific that they’ve released three EPs and two full-length from 2015 to 2018, even they’re gonna release their third full-length 21世紀より愛をこめて (can be translated like From 21st century with love) this June.

なんて素晴らしき世界 (Nante Subarashiki Sekai, which means What a wonderful world) is their third EP which includes “どうしよう” the single mentioned above. As the original bass player Yuya Takeuchi left the band in 2018, the former support player AAAMYYY, who’s also known for her solo career as a beatmaker officially joined in. Since she was not a proper bass player (she mostly play samplers and synths) welcoming her in the band led them a more eclectic sound, featuring a variety of instruments and electronics. For example, “テレパシー (Telepathy)” has 808 in its verse, popping electronic sound effects in the chorus, and AAAMYYY’s rap is also featured in the bridge.

Moreover, you may hear more elaborate and tricky songwriting in songs like “SONIC WAVE”, which has a lot of sudden scene changes, or “Last Dance”, which heavily features metric modulations. Yes. The ensemble is pretty tight. The songs are well-written and playful. I bet their upcoming 21世紀より愛をこめて is gonna be their true breakthrough. Fortunately, they just released a single called “のめりこめ、震えろ。(Nomerikome, furuero.)”, roughly translated like “Lose yourself and shiver”. I’ll listen to it and lose myself as they ask me to do.

Leave a Comment

Shohei Amimori and the Bacteria Collective’s show was pretty awesome. why don’t you invite them to play?

Last week I was at Shibuya WWWX to see Shohei Amimori’s show called “パタミュージッキング (patamusicking)” which was the release party for his 2018 album パタミュージック. The support acts, Kasanegi Wrist-band and Takuro Okada were both pretty awesome though, the most impressive act was, of course, the main one–Shohei Amimori and the Bacteria Collective.

They were gathered by Amimori to play the songs from the album which has very DAW-oriented post-production and sound processing. So I couldn’t imagine how it would be, even a little bit suspicious about that. Deliberately composed and edited, they have quite complex structures and it seemed to be almost impossible to play them live.

Despite its complexity, パタミュージック itself is quite playful and pop (sometimes terribly uncanny especially regarding their lyrics). Entirely, their melodies often remind me of background music for JRPG (e.g. M5 “ajabollamente” as well as the other songs) which now has lots of enthusiasts of the genre all over the world, including Thundercat, FlyLo, and Kode9. Or some songs have a certain kind of feeling that resembles Ambient / New Age music from the 80s (you can hear it in M7 “Biennale”), which is now also undergoing re-evaluation, as the massive compilation Kankyo Ongaku and its buzz shows us.

Amimori mixes up those musical heritages with his profound knowledge of musical history and peculiar aesthetic. While he has a very academic basis–he studied composition at Tokyo University of the Arts which is one of the most prestigious institutions in Japan–he can render it in the strangely pop atmosphere. It was already obvious in his first full-length SONASILE, which was rather experimental than pop while some songs featured friendly melodies in them. Two years later, in パタミュージック, he seemed that he was trying to criticize what the word “pop” meant to everyone in much more “pop” disguise. It was not to make “experimental” into “pop” (and vice versa). Rather, what this album tellin’ me is that being “pop” is the most sophisticated form of critique.

I had been fascinated during the entire show and almost losing my mind. Against my expectation, it was very physical and danceable. Since then I’ve been wondering why the audience was forced to sit down instead of dancing around the floor! The best moment was “Climb Downhill 1” performed in live. That was a stunning experience. As you can hear in it, the tempo is continually sped up throughout the song like a Shepard tone, which is continually ascending in pitch. Recently I learned that this kind of rhythm structure is called Risset rhythm.

The concept is very simple. For example, 160 bpm (beats per minute) can be interpreted as 80 bpm which is meant to be half-time, many trap things make use of this. Given that, just speeding up the tempo and when the bpm reaches a specific number slow it down to exact half bpm.

But, hey, this is easy to say, quite hard to do. When it comes to playing in live with numerous players this sounds almost crazy. However, the Bacteria Collective did make it thanks to their virtuosity and the modern technology (apparently they played along with the click via monitoring headphones). Moreover, it was pretty musical, joyful, and danceable. With the light effects it was spectacular that was worth to come to Tokyo from Yamagata (It took one night to go to Tokyo in the bus. If you use Shinkansen express, you can go there in three hours tho…).

I strongly recommend Shohei Amimori’s works and his performance. For foreign audience it would be the next Cornelius or something like that. Listen to his work from above Spotify link and embedded vids.

Leave a Comment

Perfume, Future Pop (2018)

Since their breakthrough “ポリリズム (polyrhythm)” in 2007, Perfume has grown up from a “kawaii” futuristic electro-pop idol to one of Japan’s most popular and fascinating pop act. They just made their first major appearance at Coachella last weekend and highly appreciated (even Rolling Stone named them as one of the best acts at Coachella). It seems that their performance in the second weekend will be streamed via YouTube. It’ll be worth watching for their performance will show you the sophisticated side of J-POP: the ensemble of their spontaneous charm, skillful choreography by MIKIKO, and cutting-edge tech effects by Rhizomatics.

Let me introduce them a bit more. With Nakata Yasutaka, who’s the most prolific Japanese producer in this decade, Perfume played an essential role in the recent J-POP scene. From electro-influenced dance pop (oh, I miss that blog-house era…) to EDM-like banger, they introduced the ethos of dance music to J-POP in a very challenging way.

For example, their hit “ポリリズム” which I mentioned above has an eccentric twist in the bridge where top notes progress in 5/4 time (it is repetition of the word “polyrhythm” for in Japanese the word “polyrhythm” has five syllables like “po-lee-lee-zoo-moo”) on the four-on-the-floor beat. Literally, it’s a kind of polyrhythm. It is said that their record company rejected this idea for it’s too much for the listeners but Nakata insisted that this is essential to the song since it’s calling itself “polyrhythm”. It was not just a funny idea. Rather it’s a challenge to the norm.

Future Pop, their latest album released in the summer of 2018, was also challenging when it came to song structure. It featured “drop”-type hook, which was not so popular in Japan. Around 2016 the Chainsmokers and other EDM-oriented producers began to use “drop” as a new way to make a hook in a song. Usually, hooks (or chorus in the more traditional way) feature an earworm melody and impressive lyrics. In contrast, “drop”-type hooks prefer bright synth-leads or heavy bass lines to vocals. You can hear it in the Chainsmokers’ “Closer feat. Halsey”, their biggest hit.

Hooks without singing. Since Japanese people really like to sing and listen to singing, this seemed not to be favored. However, they actually made it. It’s because they are not only singers but distinguished dancers. As I mentioned above they are known for their very sophisticated stage performance. So their fans soon understood what these “drop”-type hooks meant to them. Also, in these two or three years EDM has become much popular in Japan thanks to the growing festival culture and the rise of young producers (in addition, EDM-oriented songwriting in K-POP is of course one of main influence).

Curiously, although Perfume was often described as “EDM” for their song featured supersaw leads, plucky synths, and heavy kick drums, in terms of song structure they were quite J-POP. In this sense, Future Pop is their first proper “EDM” album. But this doesn’t mean they will be an EDM band forever. Soon they will find the next challenge and surprise us.

Well, before it, I’d better watch them performing at Coachella this weekend on the couch with some snack.

Leave a Comment

Kid Fresino, ài qing (2018)

While Asian-American hip-hop collective 88rising’s making a viral sensation around the world and K-POP acts like BTS or BLACKPINK are going into the U.S. market with hip-hop oriented imagery, the underground hip-hop scenes around Eastern Asia has been quite interesting for years. Throughout several cities in Japan, maybe especially Tokyo, the new generation of hip-hop acts is emerging and changing the game.

Kid Fresino began his career as a producer and DJ for hip-hop group Fla$hBacks in 2013. Soon he also started to rap and released his own solo works in parallel with the group. Switching Japanese and English alternately, he spits verses in a sticky, slightly off-the-pocket but groovy manner. He’s been known for being prolific as both producer and rapper (lots of guest appearances and collaboration such as Somewhere, a double name album with the Nagoya-based rapper C.O.S.A.) but since returning to Japan from a few years stay in NY he turned his direction a bit.

In 2017, as he moved back to Tokyo he formed a band with talented instrumental players. With the band, he’s been exploring a more genre-bending approach since then, which was first accomplished in the EP Salve (2017) and this first step led him to the singular sound of ài qing. The band’s members are now Jungo Miura (Ba., from PETROLZ), Yusaku Sato (Key. etc.), Shun Ishiwaka (Dr.) and Utena Kobayashi (Perc.). As they are all highly regarded players in their own field, this band certainly deserves to be called a “super band”.

In contrast to Salve which was full of pretty smooth, neo-soul like tracks, ài qing opens with the very complex polyrhythmic tune “Coincidence”. Although the members of the band are heavily influenced by and trained in contemporary Jazz, it sounds much more solid like prog- or post-rock things. Here, Kid Fresino takes a unique approach that is a bit different from the sort of post-Soulquarians style ensemble. You can hear it in five out of thirteen tracks in this album, “Coincidence”, M5 “Winston”, M6 “CNW”, M9 “not nightmare”, M11 “Nothing is still”.

On the other hand, this album features beats from cutting-edge electronic music producers in Japan including Seiho and Kenmochi Hidefumi (Wednesday Campanella) along with the hip-hop artisan BACHLOGIC, the bright new comer VaVa, and Kid Fresino himself. Futuristic bangers by Seiho are indeed my favorites, particularly M7 “Fool me twice” featuring 5lack has a tense atmosphere in its minimalistic sound design. Kid Fresino and Seiho keep on working together and recently, they released “720” which is a rather short but def banger with acid synths and breakbeats.

Of course, the other featured rappers, NENE and Ryugo Ishida from Yurufuwa Gang, Chinza Dopeness, Campanella, ISSUGI, C.O.S.A., JJJ shows how unique talents are now in Japan’s hip-hop scene. If you’re interested in Japanese hip-hop, you can dig into it through this album and featured rappers.

Leave a Comment