Archives for posts with tag: Japan

I’m jumping around like fuck to this:


Boogie! Wiggle! Jive! Get on down!:

Aight, let’s tone it down a little – it’s midweek so it’s time to chill out and relax a little with something a little different:

Bring the breatbeats! It’s HIfana and the random cartoon patrol:



DAT DRUMMER. The more I listen to Toe the more they suck me in. Sublime japanese post-rock:

(First posted on on 07/03/2011)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

And now for a band I do know. I first heard about GY!BE just over 5 years ago and much to my chagrin they were on an indefinite hiatus at the time. I looked up old articles of their hey-day to find out more about them and only really found that they were a quiet, interview-shy collective of anarchists who made sweeping music that inspired a sense of dread, or on occasion, hope.

And so with little to discover except more of their music, I bought up their discography only to want more. Thankfully in my research, I heard that at live shows they often played one-off, rare or even unrecorded pieces – which you can find scattered around youtube – a favourite of mine being ‘Albanian’ found below.

Imagine then, my delight to find out that not only were GY!BE back, but they were coming to Japan and not only that, they were playing on a Sunday! I used to curse how I accepted a job with a Monday off at the expense of working a Saturday and to an extent I still do. There were advantages to this schedule but nothing compared to being able to see your friends regularly and enjoying time together. I like to think now that I have seen Godspeed that this little miracle was my reward for putting up with that kind of schedule for what feels like an age now.

They were amazing from the get-go. As they stealthily stalked onto the stage, a projector-esque movie cycled the word ‘Hope’ scrawled in white pencil writing, flickering on and off the screen in an erratic fashion played behind them. They quietly took their positions to this backdrop and a droning noise from a tape, which had been playing ever since Dirty Three before them, left the stage. I was sure I saw people in the crowd stumbling to stand straight as if they had almost fallen over, entranced before a single note was even played.

The atmosphere was so thick that not a word was spoken from anyone in the crowd until half way through one of the first climactic moment in their first song ‘Moya’, when people started to cheer in excitement and my co-conspirator whispered how flawless their playing was – “It sounds just like the record.”

Normally, I would have taken that as a complaint, after all I don’t go to see bands to hear the record rehashed on stage when I could be doing it in the comfort of my own home, but instead, I want my live experiences to thrash out raw, live excitement. However, GY!BE broke the mould for me as a new kind of concert experience, which is saying something considering the eclectic bands we saw earlier in the day, not to mention how many concerts I’ve been to over the years.

But enough gushing. There were some issues I had with the set. Firstly, they didn’t play ‘Dead Flag Blues’ or ‘East Hastings’ and picked some songs that I would have considered questionable like ‘Sleep Murray Ostril’ and ‘Antennas to Heaven’ but they did include the amazingly climactic ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’, which I have good memories of as I used to listen to it when on the bus through the Scottish countryside as well as the aforementioned ‘Albanian’. In fact, ignore that last part, the set list was perfect. Allow me to I gush some more…

In most lives performances, crowd interaction is a centre-piece and some acts have spread their fame (or notoriety) through how they interact with their fans. Not so with GY!BE. In fact, I got the distinct impression that they didn’t really want to interact with the crowd, as they pushed feedback out and droned over audience applause so that the flow of music remained uninterrupted. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing any microphone stands for any of the 8 members. This worked in part because of the nature of the orchestral music being played, but for me it showed that the music Godspeed were playing was a message, a sign, or some kind of portrayal of an omen.

This message was relayed through the other atmospheric videos in the background including the poignant image of some kind of industrial station oozing out gas into the atmosphere, replayed over and over, faster and faster at a climactic moment during one song. The most attention we received from the band was when one member gave a brief wave as he left the stage over the sound of feedback from three different guitars and the roaring applause of the I’ll Be Your Mirror crowd.

But GY!BE don’t really need our applause. I imagine that they want our attention to show what’s going on around us, the attention to “the dead flags at the top of their poles”, “the blood in our wallets”, and one ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan’s’ opinion that “the world is getting worsht until it keeps on getting worsht.”

Whatever the reality of the situation, it gives me hope that they’re back spreading their message.

And everything good begins with hope.

(First posted on on 05/03/2011)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

After shuffling out of the shed that was Stage 2, and the Melt-Banana experience I didn’t really care to rush to see Dirty Three on Stage 1, so I shambled to the bar for more liquids. As far as I was concerned at the time, they were just three guys playing random acoustic stuff and “grandpa’s guitars!” I couldn’t have misjudged them more.

After queuing for more fluids I promptly met up with the co-conspirator who was chilling at the back of the crowd. He had been at Stage 1 all the while and saw Autolux and Fuck Buttons while I was at Stage 2. Both of his bands both got the big thumbs up with the proviso that Fuck Buttons shouldn’t cause hearing damage when they play. As we caught up, the Dirty Three violinist ‘front man’ chatted to the crowd like they were old friends in the pub – no mean feat considering the language barrier through a translator, whom they dragged through the mud, much to his (her?) faux lament.

My co-conspirator told me that I had only missed one song by Dirty Three since they, like most of the bands all day, had started late. However, as I mentioned above, the Three were no ordinary accoustic set up. Missing one track meant skipping out on a full quarter of their 40 minute set. No one told me these guys are what some consider as the founders of post-rock, if not a massive influence upon it.

And they looked the part too. I hadn’t seen a three-man band hold a sizeable stage before so well. The violinist dived around kicking at climactic moments in the music as the drummer crashed to and fro, reminding me of a jazz drummer I used to see busking around Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The guitarist was the least animated but from the sweeping melodies and echoes coming out of his stacks, he didn’t really need to be.

As I listened to their music I immediately thought of the past and epic windy landscapes of the wild west and its bar-room brawls. Then I thought back again to Glasgow and how the music captured an element of what felt like my home when I went to bars there and local musicians would play. Perhaps it tapped into how eager I am to get home at the end of this month, but for me, this was real Folk music – not those dreary, country 4/4 rhythm sing-a-longs . Where had it been all my life?

I got home and devoured the Internet of Dirty Three. Here’s a taste of why:

(First posted on on 04/03/2013)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

After the set-long wait of Envy and relaxing to their melodies as the sun went down, I was pretty tired and a little irritable for Melt-Banana. The sound check was about thirty minutes in length and throughout the first ten of those the crowd around me seemed pretty buzzed with lots of banter in both English and Japanese floating amongst the tightly-packed crowdwhich I’d secured a place in about two rows from the front.

Then things took a turn for the worse as one of the security staff asked the crowd to move in so they could pack more folks into the aforementioned shed. The excitement soon turned into an atmosphere of worry about friends being together and concern for appropriateness of strangers being so close together. I gained an appreciation for slaughterhouse cows there as I closed my eyes and thought of Scotland and just let everything happen around me.

I had a good idea of what kind of show Melt-Banana were going to play without having heard them before since I had heard of them through their affiliates and influences including The Locust and Mike Patton and his myriad of side projects. Stuck in this packed shed, things were about to get crazy…

All the lights went out and two band members popped out of the stage end of the shed with mini-torches attached to their heads to see their instruments as they played, resembling DJs. The music they played did too with lots of beats, bass and no guitar or drums, all of which was played under the off-beat, jarring yells and screeches of the vocalist. I found out later that this is what the band themselves would refer to as ‘Melt-Banana Lite’.

And it sure set the crowd off. One person started jumping and then there was no holding back; we all did. Any movement started a chain reaction amongst the seething crowd, which in turn would create an opposite reaction, but Einstein it wasn’t. Like a sea, small Japanese ladies and tall Western men – all swayed to and fro.

It was kind of fun actually. It felt communal and the music was so random you couldn’t really take it too seriously. That and each song lasted anything from perhaps 30 seconds to 2 minutes in total. By the time the sea of people calmed down, the band had started back up again, which kept us all simmering along nicely.

Then the other 2 members came out, a drummer and I think a bassist, though I’d need to double-check that. It was then that we got a taste of some full flavour Banana.

The crowd started to properly pit as the seething mass of people was punctuated by rapid drumming. Fistpumping and headbanging ensued, meaning the crowd gave way to chaos as rapid movement from one end of the room echoed, pushing the other side to breaking point. The random “What the fuck am I dancing to?” element was still there though so you could see these big, clown-like smiles on the crowd when the minimalist light hit their faces. As they hit into others. As they hit into me.

“Over and over and over,

Should dodges shoulder dodges shoulder

Dodges fist.”

And that was the point me become big gaijin. Me gots angry and me throw people. Me use big weight. Me see small, puny lady. Me grin and shove. She run away. Me not stop pushing small man. Then he fall over. Me clears pit. Me strongest. Me dance and push, dance and push and dance.

Me gots pat on shoulder, that tell-tale post mosh-pit pat on the shoulder that says “Woah dude!” and I realised then that I was a little too big to party with the hipster and art crowd. I took my place at the side of the pit to try and haul people out and still be able to see pitters coming so they didn’t rile me up again with their constant banging into my back. That line I read from the event booklet I received at the start, “We mean it, don’t be an asshole,” came back to me as little startled faces viewed on from the pitside.

That was when I started to really enjoy the show and ended up using my size to help others out, like when I saw a guy getting crashed into for the millionth time and offered to take his place, so he in turn could enjoy the show. I also think that that was when people who had had enough of the tight confines had left, as the crowd seemed to open up after that and we could actually get our boogie on without accidentally molesting other people with stray hands.

In summary, and having now heard some of their records, Melt-Banana are definitely a live, party band – how could they not be? I don’t get nearly as much from them on tape as I did at the show but with that said, they can only ever be as good as your party. Some people might enjoy being tightly packed into a shed with strangers to see Melt Banana, but unless said people are willing to also feel the full brunt of a 250lb+ Scotsman headbanging and going nuts to an equally mental band, they too should show some restraint.

But whatever. For the most part, when I wasn’t feeling remorse about crushing an entire moshpit full of hipsters and little ladies, I enjoyed myself.

Organisers please take notes on the health and safety issues of putting Melt-Banana in a 300 capacity shed.

(First posted on on 03/03/2011)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

After dashing out of Boris, I nipped over to stage 2 where Keiji Haino was already making a helluva lot of noise.

Stage 2 was notable because it was essentially just a shed with a capacity of what looked like 300 maximum, maybe less. Security had set up a barrier in front of the shed so you couldn’t see in it but got the full din of whatever it was that was going on inside. The only way you could get a glimpse at the acts on stage was if you started queuing up to get in, which meant you had no chance of hearing anything from stage 1 if you made that choice – as I did.

I thought I had time to get a drink before Envy so went over and queued for a while. My need for liquids was flawed as it meant that I missed getting into the shed of exclusivity for Envy.

With two drinks in hand, I tried any way and while I was waiting I plugged in my earphones and set my MP3 player to “Further Ahead of the Warp” from Insomniac Doze, and the strangest thing happened. Bearing in mind that I couldn’t see what was going on, I heard no cheering from the sound outside my headphones, but what sounded like the band playing the very same track I had just started listening to. The queue outside piled up to see what was going on and I did too only for the music to suddenly stop. Perhaps it was the sound techs? Perhaps it was the band? I won’t know for sure.

About 5 or 10 minutes later the band really did start to play and the guitars sounded really crisp and beautiful as they echoed out of the shed and into the main food court and queuing area. The singer’s voice sounded much rawer than on the recording as I saw his head bobbing around from the back of the queue. As some people in the shed left, the queue inched forward and by the end of the set I was at the front. So near yet so far…

Disappointing really as they sounded really good. Alternatively, I could definitely have seen Autolux on Stage 1 but then I wouldn’t have got in to see Melt Banana who followed Envy on Stage 2.

When the last song ended the band jumped into the crowd clutching guitars and drum cymbals. I guess next time I’ll know to dehydrate if I want to see a good live gig. Let’s enjoying collapsing!

Le sigh…

(First posted on on 02/03/2011)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band in question.

If the Boredoms soundcheck was anything to go by then the Boris one wasn’t going to disappoint either. As they set up behind curtains, myself and the great co-conspirator played a game of “Name what that instrument sounds like.” Favourites included the drum-kit snare that sounded like a frying pan across the face and The Most Evil Bass In The World(tm), which we decided sounded like a slow motion punch to the gutleading us to conclude that Boris as a collective would be an aural form of domestic violence. In truth though, that bass sounded like rape in slow motion – yes, no joke, it was that nasty. I want one.

I had heard their album ‘Pink’ before and I was expecting good things on the basis of the sound check and the smoke-machine cloud billowing out from under the curtains. The first song wasn’t anything like the sound from the recorded CD. In fact, it made me want to delete the files from my computer and try to relive the experience of the live versions from memory. Here’s why:

When the curtains opened, the aforementioned smoke and an electric blue light oozed out into the room along with this sonic wave, which would’ve been a roar if the notes weren’t so melodic. At first I didn’t notice but when I think back on it, upon hearing the first few notes my head jerked back as if a truck or a train had passed by me just a little too closely. Soon my head was nodding on autopilot in time to every thundering note change. I can’t help but feel that even now my words can’t capture the sensation of that first song, which went on for what felt like 10 minutes. When it ended I felt like I’d lost something; I couldn’t even clap.

They followed this up with 70s-fuelled rock and roll, which although it got me into the more active crowd at the front, it didn’t really get us moving.

After two rockier songs they cranked up another side of their arsenal and shifted into a slower, groovier bass-driven song and switched vocalists to match this, only to change tone again as quickly as they had before, with the drummer – who could’ve easily been straight out of the 70s with hair, make-up and jowls and all –  putting a full stop on the groove by smashing a massive gong set up behind the drum kit.

For their final epic piece they powered out a long drone-metal piece a la the likes of Sunn O))), whom I found out later they worked together with on an album. I left before they finished in an attempt to catch the start-up of Stage 2 which was hosting Keiji Haino, Envy and Melt-Banana on it, and to find my co-conspirator who had beat me to the punch on that.

Clearly, Boris aren’t just defined by the one album I had heard prior to the gig but I couldn’t help but feel that given the short time they played, they tried to show off their musicianship across the spectrum that they are capable of rather than set a mood and stick with it so the crowd can get into the flow of things. Of course, at an experimental ATP event, you’re not going to please everyone in the crowd, but I felt they should have stuck to one aspect of their music and showcased that instead.

Having said that, and having heard their variety of music, I’ll be snatching up as many different Boris albums as possible to find out what I like most of theirs, which all goes to show; what the hell do I know about putting on an array of music?

Here’s the only video I could find of the first song and naturally the sound quality is pretty rough considering the sheer volume it was played at. Hopefully though, it can give you an idea of the feeling I described above: