Saturday, December 26, 2009

MARDIGRAS - Gaia CD (199?)


Gaia CD (199?)


03. EURO
04. GAIA

Hiroki Okano (vocals, computer programming, manipulator)
Masaaki Tano (drums)
Tatsuhiro (voice, guitar, metal percussion)
mu-U (keyboards, wind instruments)
Kyuma (guitar)

Released: 199?
Label: Night Gallery
Catalogue number: UKCR-1005
Format: CD

Lenght: 18:32
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Probably released around the same time as the "Changes" flexi, this minialbum turned out to be the last recorded output from MARDIGRAS. This was put out by the famous Night Gallery label (who also released DEAD END's debut LP) and distributed by UK Project (whose subsidary Zazzle Records was the home of some of the most intriguing new wave/VK-yet-not-quite bands of the day).

Starting off the album is "UNBALANCED WORLD", a surprisingly rockist tune considering it's mainly synthesized orchestration. The out of character rock-a-rolla verses do have a slightly off-putting effect, at least to these ears, but I'll let it slide, taking the utterly charming sturm und drang of the bridge and refrain into consideration.

Next up is "TRANSMISSION", and yes indeed - it IS a cover of the Joy Division classic. Hiroki Okano does quite a good job at channeling the spirit of Ian Curtis (although filtered through the bombastic delivery of David Sylvian), although in the hands and arrangement of MARDIGRAS the tune is transformed from its death-dirge roots into something infinitely more danceable. Indeed, the line "Dance, dance, dance!/Dance to the radio" comes through as positively dionysian when compared to the bleak delivery of the original. At the risk at being though of as completely tasteless, I have to confess that I actually do prefer this slicker, more driven version of the song to the original ...the latter always struck me as somewhat limp and hamfisted (although I can't deny that the main riff in its simplicity is a great work of songwriting).

Breaking off from the fist-pumping forward momentum of the previous two songs (and subsequent one) is the formless experimentalism of "EURO" - a strange melange of operatic vocals, synth-blurts, pseudo-musique concrete, church choirs and such. A pretentious affair for sure, but it does do the trick of adding some variety to the record and thus tying it together.

Closing of the album in a most grandiose manner is the larger-than-life "GAIA". Barring the first few seconds of cheesy doodles (thankfully ripped apart by a blood-curling shriek of harmonics), the monumental track we're presented with here reaches dizzying heights of epicness with its marriage of guitar-pyrotechnics to a chugging metronomic beat. For all it's arena-synth aspirations and life-and-death vocal stylings, "GAIA" somehow manages to avoid falling into the abyss of embarrasing portentousness. Rather, the colossal emotions it strives to express feel genuinely heartfelt. Definitely the zenith of MARDIGRAS' production.

Finally, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to inxxane for originally hipping me up to this incredible band. Huge thanks, man!

MARDIGRAS - Changes 7" flexi (1991)


Changes 7" flexi


Side A

Hiroki Okano (vocals, manipulate)
Tatsuhiro (vocals, bass)
Kyuma (guitar)
MU-U (keyboards, manipulate)
TANO (drums)

Released: 1991
Label: Rockin'F
Catalogue number: E-8625(S)
Format: 7" flexi-disc

Lenght: 03:48
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Now that the hectic hysteria of christmas is finally behind us, it's time for posts here on HABIT OF SEX to become a bit more regular. I'd like to continue on the electronic path we set upon with the previous post and post the entire (to my knowledge) discography of early 90s band MARDIGRAS. First up is this single-sided flexi-disc that came as a freebie to a 1991 issue of music magazine Rockin'F.

Under the guise of "Cyber Gothic Punk" (I can definitely hear the cyber and the gothic - the punk part is to me more obscured) MARDIGRAS produced a very compelling brand of electronic-based visual (kei/new) wave during their short existance. Drummer Maasaki Tano came from DEAD END (he played on their debut album, "DEAD LINE") and guitarist/bassist Tatsuhiro previously played in a band called Halem Deads.
The sole song featured here is quite the catchy number. At the core of the tune is a metallic bass-pulse (which I sincerely doubt is being played by a real bass, which the sleeves credits implies) around which swashbuckling guitars swerve and blasts of synthesized choirs erupt. Taken together with the delightfully mannered vocals and the semi-motorik beat provided by the drums we're left with an irresistable slice of wave-y ear candy.

Apart from this flexi, MARDIGRAS also released a mini-album called "Gaia" - an awesome little injection of aural adrenaline that will follow very, very shortly. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SHINOBU - Ceramic Love 8" flexi (198?)


Ceramic Love 8" flexi (198?)


Side A
Ceramic Love

Side B

Shinobu Narita (vocals, guitar, keyboards, tape)
Ken Asama (synthe-bass, noises, tapes)

Released: 198?
Label: Kang-Gung Records
Catalogue number: SHY-2002
Format: 8" flexi-disc

Lenght: 06:33
Bitrate: 320 kbps

As I know first impressions can be deceiving, the stuff I've been posting thus far is records that I've had in my possesion for a while, listened to quite a bit and formed some kind of an opinion of. However, I will be making an exception for this charming piece of flimsy plastic that just recently popped through my mailbox.

A truly delicious piece of synth-pop goodness; the "Ceramic Love" 8" flexi was most probably the only ever release by SHINOBU, a duo consisting of Shinobu Narita and Ken Asama. The former went on to form techno-pop unit Urban Dance and was also a member of 4-D (which also consisted of members from Dada - the legendary ambient band whose debut LP on Vanity Records is one of the most sought-after Japanese records) whereas the later faded into obscurity.

This was put out sometime during the 80s (no information regarding a more precise release date is to be found either on the flexi or on the internet) on Kang-Gung Records - a somewhat obscure synth-label that also put out records with Glass Tube and P-Model related band Shun.

Casting a glance at the music, the title track is an utterly charming piece of minimal techno-pop. The labyrinthine construction of "Ceramic Love" with it's many different and differing sections may appear perplexing at first, but let me assure you - once you get it under your skin it stays firmly in there!

Despite the track being quite polished (all aflutter with glistering synthesizer pulsations and melodies), the quirky and minimalistic songstructure gives off an irresistibly endearing atmosphere of DIY - one can just imagine messrs Narita and Asama twiddling away on their knobs (of their synthesizers, you dirty freaks!) for hours on end in a small basement studio.

Some highlights include the sublimely spartan verses (consisting of naught but drums, vocals and occasional twinkles of crystalline synth - less is so much more) and the fabulous bridge/refrain part - the sudden introduction of the impossibly fat and warm "synthe-bass" and backward bloops are to these ears pure, orgasmic aural bliss. The futu-surrealistic lyrics about fumbling around with red switches and unexpectedly finding love in laboratory environments seals the deal. A scan of the lyric sheet is of course included here for your sing-along pleasure.

The B-side, "Earth", is a mainly instrumental solo-track by Ken Asama. Of a definitely more acrid character than "Ceramic Love" , the track is centered around a distorted beat with various synthesizers pulsating and fluttering in and out, around and abound the track like mercury butterflies. A heavily processed voice intones "Earth", "Earth", "Earth"...

Some interesting parts all-right (although some are of a more questionable character; ie. the fake DJ-scratching) but ultimately "Earth" comes across as more of a filler track, existing in the shadow of it's flipside brother, rather than anything thats capable of standing on it's own two (metaphorical) legs.

Ceramic Love was later re-recorded by Urban Dance for their self-titled album released in 1985. Personally I think SHINOBU's version is far superior to the Urban Dance version, but feel free to judge for yourselves.

On an unrelated note I would like to warn you, dear readers, that posts during December will be a bit sporadic. In addition to being swamped with work (I'm currently on a seven day workweek with generous and plentiful helpings of overtime), all the social activities that the season demands makes it hard to find the (surprisingly large) amount of time posting on HABIT OF SEX takes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Various Artists


Side A
VISION 99 - Henley Broken
ROSEN KREUZ - Undead Dance
L-TRANS - Run³

Side B
WALT FALL - 銀河 [Ginga]
THE NIRVANA - The Sence Of Sight
SCARLET BLISS - Holding Howling

Released: 1989
Label: Kadash Records
Catalogue number: KD-001
Format: LP

Lenght: 40:38
Bitrate: 320 kbps

An excellent compilation from the late eighties courtesy of Kadash Records, yet another one of those labels that only ever released one record (as far as I know) before fading into obscurity.

The schizophrenic "Henley Broken" by VISION 99 kicks off the omnibus - this weirdo-masterpiece of a rocker elicits all kinds of impressions; spanning from "what the fuck?" to "fuck yeah" and most anything inbetween. Utterly confusing upon the first listen or two but given time and a couple of listens, I think you'll find this thing growing on you like some weird and wonderful fungal infection of the pleasure centre of the brain. In particular take note of the wonderfully melancholic section that unexpectedly bursts forth at around 4:12. Sadly, this tune is one of only two tracks (the other one being the even more freaked out "Crescendo" off of the "Operation Z"-compilation) ever put out by this severely under-recorded band.

MOTHER GOOSE's "Visitor", is a more straightahead affair ...although the androgynous vocals of lead singer EIICHIRO may take some getting used to. This track was later re-recorded as "Xeno" for the bands full-lenght LP, but the version present here is much better - harder, harsher and faster! Great stuff!

Next up "Undead Dance" - the first recorded instance of none others than the mighty ROSEN KREUZ. A monumentally odd track, this jagged and twisted tune is filled to the brim with tribal drum-pounding, shrieking guitars, blurts of synthesizer and blood-curling screams. Also present is original singer YUDA and original drummer SHIRAKI. As you might recall, J.P. Hal of THE OTHERSIDE and SPEED-iD-fame drummed on ROSEN KREUZ' debut album "C.O.L.D 91001".

More of a mood piece than something you'd hum along to, "Undead Dance" nevertheless serves as a blue-print of that peculiar kind of electronic kind-of-goth that ROSEN KREUZ were to develop for their first album (and discard for their subsequent ...but that's another story).

Likewise, L-TRANS darkened new wave track "Run³" is also different from the rest of their output, which is of a much more perversely twisted and dark sort (case in point: "Hard Rocks" - an acid, acrid nightmare of a mini-album!). Clocking in at an impressive 7:20, this churning semi-psychedelic downer is comparable to a bad trip of LSD on the heights of the Himalayas - all is cold, vast and freaked out.

The mood shifts abruptly on the flipside of this record with WALT FALL's jazzy "Ginga". After a LENGHTY pots-and-pans, clank-a-thon introduction, we're in for a swinging trip through the milky way with this mystery group (featuring members from DIP THE FLAG, among others). Quite addictive, although these groovy equilibrists are perchance a little out of place with the rest of the gloomy freaks of this platter.

Continuing the hitherto more mellow manner of the B-side is THE NIRVANA (not to be confused with a certain Seattle band) with their "The Sence of Sight" - an alternative rock tune centered around some simple but very nice guitarwork. At times almost too easily digested and borderline cringeworthy, getting to this point of the record has nevertheless always been a pleasure for me (although a bit of a guilty one). Apart from being featured here, the only other appearance of THE NIRVANA that I know of is on the very rare "Tokyo Acid Punks" VHS alongside EX-ANS among others.

Another one of those bands that seems to have recorded only one single track is SCARLET BLISS' , whose super-agressive "Holding Howling" effectively rips apart the nice and comfy atmosphere built up by WALT FALL and THE NIRVANA. Drenched in ultra-flangered guitars, this short explosion of a tune mainly comes and goes as a punch to the ears; unfortunately being a little bit too indistinct to leave much of a lasting impression.

Concluding the album is the mighties of conclusions - the majestic "Grolia" by the much talked about but seldom heard NEUROTIC DOLL (whose sole LP "Reveal" has proven to be surprisingly elusive). Gloriously overblown in lenght, atmosphere and complexity; no amount of my typing-diarrhea can come close to describe the wuthering heights of this mighty goth opus. Just listen to it yourselves and prepare to get charmed. As a sidenote, I do think that the song is actually meant to be called "Gloria" rather than "Grolia" (although the title of "Grolia" provides a hilarious contrast to the super-romantic mood of the tune; evoking images of cavewomen rather than victorian maidens pining away in dark castle towers) - however, seeing as both sleeve and label (and Discogs) lists the song as "Grolia" I saw it best fit to keep it that way for these rips.

What else to say? Enjoy!