Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PVLN [ピヴィレヌ] - One LP (1980)


Side A

Alfred ni Sagasu [アルフレッドに捧ぐ]
Computer Uranai [コンピューター占い]
Ayatsuri Ningyou [あやつり人形]
Mado da [窓妥]
Pop Music [ポップミュージック]
Garasu ni... [ガラスに···]
Obaasan no Oshiri [おばあさんのおしり]

Side B
Jidai no Chuusin [時代の中心]
Minna no Uta [みんなのうた]
Unyamunya [ウニャムニャ]
Nejireta Kankei [ねじれた関係]
Anataha Boku Janai [あなたは僕じゃない]
Mongolia [モンゴル]
Last Dance [ラストダンス]

Hiko (vocals, bass)
Makoto (vocals, guitar)
Kiyoto (vocals, keyboards, guitar)
Kasozu (vocals, drums)

Released: 1980
Record label: Electric Lady Land
Catalogue number: ELL-001
Format: LP

Lenght: 41:37
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Even though I dubbed the marvelous NAOKI ASAI LP posted below the most intriguing record found during 2011, the absolutely best score of the past year has to be the one and only release by PVLN. Actually, calling this the best score of the year is a bit misleading - the best acquisition is more correct seeing as I had to cough up more than a fair share of dough to get my grubby hands on it. Worth every penny though, and it would be even if it this record actually popped up for sale once in a while. Which it never does.

Hailing from Nagoya, PVLN consisted of four young dudes approximately in their late teens/early twenties who somehow belted out a LP which at least I'd consider to be the be-all, end-all of Japanese new wave. Or at very least really, really, really, REALLY good. The "One" LP also happened to be the first release on cult label Electric Lady Land/ELL. Starting out as a livehouse (still active to this day), ELL also released records for a couple of years during the early to mid-eighties - the most famous one probably being the "From Electric Lady Land '83" compilation. The label initially had a new wave-centric approach, but for some reason changed their focus around 1984 and from then on exclusively released metal records (a good few of them supposedly quite sought after, like the CROWLEY 8" for instance).

So, what do PVLN have in store for us then? Bubbling up at the beginning of the A side is the wobbly synthesizer ditty "Alfred ni Sagasu" (= "Tribute to Alfred" ...but which Alfred? Nobel? Hitchcock? Batman's butler?). After less than a minute we're mercilessly plunged into "Computer Uranai". Let me tell you; even if the rest of this records was total and utter dog shit, I might still be inclined to consider it one of the best new wave records based on the strenght of "Computer Uranai" alone. Even if the rest of this album isn't really comparable to this track, it still sets the tone somewhat for "One": clever composition, incredibly tight and passionate performance and, most importantly, a totally charming DIY touch. You get the feeling that just about anything could happen ...which is does just after the one minute mark. Even though I've listened to "Computer Uranai" AT LEAST a million gazillion times, the shit that goes down halfway trough still has me lost for words. Just ...wow! If you for some unfathomable reason would only to listen to one track from "One" - this is the one. Absolutely essential listening!

How about the rest of the album then? Well, fortunately this is definitely NOT a one-tracker. Perhaps their greatness may take a second to digest as it is of a more subtle kind (or, rather, because "Computer Uranai" is so astonishingly UN-subtle), but nevertheless - in my opinion each and every track FUCKING ROCKS! Even though the instrumentation for most of the following tracks is relatively subdued (keyboardist Kiyoto eschewing freak-out electronics for a more straightforward organ sound), all the songs have their own charm and peculiar personality, with plenty of quirks included. This is just excellent songwriting, pure and simple. Big thumbs up to PVLN for keeping their tracks at an almost Wire-like brevity (few venture much beyond three minutes) which means no frills or wankery - just a relentless focus on the songs themselves. Bravo!

Pointing out noteworthy tracks seems like a pointless exercise considering they are ALL noteworthy. So many fantastic, shiver-inducing moments - the overexcited refrain of "Minna no Uta", the lenghty atmospheric introduction to "Last Dance", the blissfully cheeky "Anataha Boku Janai", the all-out brilliance of aforementioned "Computer Uranai", and so on. The indirectly most amazing bit of the record is the last track on the A side. An amazingly heartfelt performance just dripping of bittersweet remembrance ...with the kicker being that it is named "Obaasan no Oshiri". Yes, that's right - the title of the song is "Grandma's Buttocks"! I've included scans of the lyric sheet in case anybody's feeling brave enough to attemt a translation. As for myself, I can only imagine this song to be about something akin to the epic tale told in a certain EFL rage comic...


To my knowledge, the "One" LP is the only documented work of PVLN, even though both the pictures in the accompanying booklet as well as the musical sophistication of the band suggest they played out on at least a pretty regular basis. After PVLN folded bassist Hiko started his solo project (HIKO'S) putting out an EP on ELL as well as appearing on the "From Electric Lady Land '83" compilation. I think he was also a member of GENBAKU ONANIES for a while. As far as the other members go - I have no idea if they ever went on to perform with other bands or not.

A final note about PVLN - the actual name of the band is ピヴィレヌ, but it seems like it's supposed to be romanized as just "PVLN" rather than the more literal transcription "Piviren" (which I initially though was what the band was called). This is all according to ELL founder Mohei Hirano (quoted in the book "PUNK/NEW WAVE JAPAN 77-86"), and I do get the impression that he knows what he's talking about. Also, if anybody has ANY additional information about PVLN at all, I would be very keen indeed to take part of it (not to mention grateful).

And lastly - HAPPY NEW YEAR! I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all my readers for visiting and wish you all the very best for 2012. More obscure Japanese stuff lined up, but for now please enjoy PVLN's "One" - it really is the best shit ever.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

NAOKI ASAI [浅井直樹] - Aba · Heidi [アバ · ハイジ ] LP (1988)


Side A
Aba · Heidi [アバ · ハイジ]
Otogi Hanashi Gamori Owarui [おとぎ話がもり終る]
Papillon [パピヨン]
Kugutsu-shi no Yume [くぐつ師の夢]
Yakan Hikou [夜間飛行]
Riroriro Ningyou [りろりろ人形]

Side B
Kiri wo Otsuete [霧を乙えて]
Sensha to Orgel [戦車とオルゴール]
Mahou no Shoujo [魔法の少女]
Candy [キャンディー]
Doro no Umi he [ 泥の海へ]
Marude Kajitsu Noyorini [まるで果実のよりに]

Naoki Asai (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, chorus)
Norio Haga (bass)
Takashi Matsuzawa (drums)

Label: Chesire Records
Catalogue number: CHESIRE-001
Format: LP

Lenght: 47:27
Bitrate: 320 kbps

A couple of months ago, this record caught my eye at an online auction. I'm not sure exactly what possessed me to enter a substantial (if not even comparatively ridiculous) snipe on it - was it due to the spartan sleeve design? The weird look of confusion on the young man's face adorning the cover? The fact that the label was Chesire Records? That it is called "Aba · Heidi"? Or maybe just because it was privately pressed (the fact that most privately released stuff is crap surely constitutes no deterrent to the serious collector). Were I to know then what I know now (that the matrix number i "ASAI-01") I would've surely bid even harder. Hey, it's called record nerd for a reason!

Luckily enough for me, none of my competitors seemed really up for the fight (their use of logic and caution when procuring records turned out to be their downfall) and I managed to grab it relatively cheap. Counting the days until it arrived, I could hardly wait to listen to this record. What kinds of untold marvels could possibly be contained therein? Would it be the Tomo Akikawabaya-ish discovery of 2011!? As it turns out - both yes and no. Yes in the sense that "Aba · Heidi" is certainly one of the most intriguing records to cross my path for this year - or even any year for that matter! No in the sense that there's a very real possibility that, unlike Tomo Akikawabayas output, the amount of people who'll actually enjoy this (excluding myself) could be pretty damn small.

Even though I'd already posted one track from it on the HoS tumblr, I was feeling hesitant to let loose the whole thing on the 'net, sensing that my unbridled (and maybe also incomprehensible) enthusiasm for this album perhaps differs a bit from other peoples reaction to it:

And frankly I wasn't very impressed myself when I finally got to give this a first spin. I remember trailing off to the kitchen to do the dishes about halfway through the first song - it just grabbed me THAT hard. Imagine my surprise when just moments after at last making my way through the whole damn thing, I found myself putting it on again. And again. And yet another time after that. What was going on? Had I finally become totally retarded; spinning the same bullshit LP over and over again?

The answer is of course that the subtle magic of Naoki Asai had at last begun to sink in.

I can't really pinpoint exactly what I find so appealing about "Aba · Heidi", but there's something intangibly dreamlike and surreal permeating the whole LP. There are several allusion made to Alice in Wonderland on the sleeve (just check out the record label) and this record does indeed have a fairytale aura to it. In particular "Yakan Hikou" evokes the mental image of an enchanted forest of some kind. This is the stuff you'd imagine finding filed in the Mad Hatters record library.

But for all the quaint stuff going on here, this ain't no Disney style fairytale - there are plenty of Grimm vibes to go around with some magnificently creepy shit lurking in the undergrowth. All of it probably unintentional, I should add. I get the feeling that our pal Naoki was aiming for softness but instead ended up with the disquieting and odd - his high pitched, wispy, lispy vocals slithering into your ear canal like a candy-colored snake crawling up your leg. Perhaps best exemplified by standout tracks "Papillon" (whose bizarre production is also worth mentioning) and "Candy". Especially "Candy". Jesus christ, talk about psychedelic gingerbread house moves. Lock up your infants!

"Kyandiiii... kyandiii..."

But the merit of this record doesn't all lie in it's accidental (?) strangeness. The songs are cleverly crafted and skillfully performed, and the production is both competent and charmingly off-kilter. Clearly a lot of work was spent on "Aba · Heidi" and the result is an aural journey through the wild flora and fauna of Naoki Asai's mind garden.

Too bad nobody ever seems to have ever given a shit about this record. I've yet to find any note of it of any kind (including records of previous sales) anywhere. And I don't think it's because all existant copies are filed away deep inside secretive Japanese über-collections, but rather because they are pining away in old and dusty Book Offs. Which is just too bad.

Maybe I'm overestimating it, but when push comes to shove, "Aba · Heidi" is probably the record I spent most time listening to during all of 2011 - and for reasons I can't fully grasp to boot, so maybe there's where the excitement lies for me? Unlikely to be everyone's (anyone's?) cup of tea, but even so - if even only one person out there can be converted into Asai fandom, I'd consider my work here done.

As for everybody else - I've said it before and I'll say it again:
next time I'll post something cool!


Embarrasing mistake update 23/01/2012:
As an astute reader pointed out, the proper title for this record is NOT "Eva · Heidi" as I first claimed, but rather "Aba · Heidi" as in "Abayo Heidi" = "Farewell Heidi". This fact makes parts of the review much weaker, but on the other hand lends yet another disquieting twist to the album. This record is certainly one that just keeps on giving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

V/A - Process of Evolution vol. 2 LP (198?)

Side A

ECCE HOMO - Bara no Kouzui [薔薇の洪水]
in dutch - (Untitled)
PHANTASMA - 7th Month
SCULLA - Librate
KAWAI, MAL DUO [KAWAI, MAL デュオ] - "Hanashi" ["話"]
THESE [テーゼ] - International Frustration [インターナショナル · フラストレーション]

Side B

THE LOCKS - Powerless Firmness
NACHI - (Untitled)
KORA! [コラ!] - "Nekame Sake" ["ねかめ酒"]
NOIZY-ONE - Love Call
HI, BRITS - Beat Panic
CHEROBEKKU WAIRUDO - Natsu no Mori [の森]

Released: 198?
Label: POE Record
Catalogue number: POE 28198802
Format: LP

Lenght: 45:25
Bitrate: 320 kbps

All right, here we have the elusive second volume of the "Process of Evolution" series.
Seldom heard or seen for sale, the mere existene of this LP caught at least me off guard since I always believed that the first "Process of Evolution" record belonged to the ambitious ranks of projects like "Hiromi's Party" and "Secret Chaos" whose sequels sadly failed to materialize.

Up to par with the rarity of the record is the obscurity of the bands contained within. Honestly - how many of these groups have you ever even heard of before? Yeah, me neither. I was kinda sorta vaguely familar with two of 'em before I got this record about a year ago. These days, after diligent (ha!) research, I'm kinda sorta vaguely familiar with two more. As far as I'm aware, most of these bands (the exceptions being ECCE HOMO, SCULLA, THESE, NACHI ...maybe THE LOCKS?) didn't have any releases of their own and weren't featured elsewhere than on this compilation. With most of them also being ungoogleable (that's about as diligent as I am in my research), information is even scarcer than usual for this post.

One outfit I'd particularly love to learn more (or anything!) about is PICTURES OF MIRROR. Not only due to their cool name, but also because the track they submitted to this release happens to be the best shit ever. "Lasting Brain" is to me Japanese goth perfection - evocative, borderline theatrical vocals, cold as ice guitar moves and more than a hint of DIY-ness. Wow! A word also has to said about the clever composition - PICTURES OF MIRROR shuns the usual riff-verse-refrain structure and instead goes ahead for a lenghty buildup leading to a magnificent crescendo. Dem doubled vocals!

CLUB VALENTINE's contribution is also in the darker vein, but with a more aggressive approach than PICTURE OF MIRROR's desolate doomsday vibes. Their untitled track presented here is nice enough with it's processed guitars and slightly distorted vocals, but frankly I find it a bit unremarkable compared to the songs it's sandwiched inbetween.

Slightly less mysterious than the above two is ECCE HOMO, whose main claim to fame is being featured not only on this omnibus but also on another one! The "Blue Turns to Grey" LP on Sakura Records to be more precise. Their tracks on that record are in a more brooding and sombre spirit, while they produce a more ethereal and serene effort for this album. Very nice stuff - the surprising compositional quirks coupled with operatic vocals, glistening guitars and an overall lofty atmosphere gives the song an almost dreamlike quality. I'd think this would certainly appeal to fans of groups like STILL or SPIN.

Following ECCE HOMO is in dutch - a noisy trio presenting us with a lumbering, instrument-bashing improvisation. Pretty nice, but I'd regard it as mostly a transitional track giving way to "7th Month" by PHANTASMA - a wonderfully buoyant whisk of airy powerpop. Absolutely fantastic stuff!

Now, as impressive as ECCE HOMO's feat of actually appearing elsewhere than on "Process of Evolution vol. 2" is ...believe it or not - the next group has them beat! Without a doubt the most prolific band of the bunch, SCULLA were driven enough to not only be featured on at least three other compilations, but they also released a record of their very own - a self-titled 7" on Conneca Records (the same label who put out the ANTENA flexi).

Next up is another more or less transitional track - a drum and sax improvisation by a probably equally improvised duo consisting of our pal MAL and a drummer called KAWAI. Kinda standard avant-garde stuff, but with some exciting parts for sure (mainly stemming from MAL's saxophone) ...the brunt of the tune is barely audible though. Arty-farty pretentiousness or a welcome breather? Still on the fence myself.

Breaking the almost-silence is "International Frustration" by THESE - a radical left-wing band who self-released a couple of flexis during the late 80:s/early 90:s and collaborated with none other than Keiji Haino on a quite sought-after cassette release. I bought their debut flexi a while ago and was let down by the flaccid post-Zuno Keisatsu moves contained therein. On this record, THESE absolutely shreds though. Punk-ish and catchy, with a certain new wave edge, the best thing about "International Frustration" may nevertheless be something that we're not exactly spoiled with here over at HABIT OF SEX - a killer organ solo!

Well then, after a perhaps somewhat uneven A-side we turn with trembling hands to the B-side to see what kinds of treasures may lie therein...

"MAL, I am dissappoint."

The two sides of "Process of Evolution vol. 2" are subdivided into an "In"-side and an "Out"-side. The former is referring to the material reviewed above, which I can only equate to catering to some sort of an "In"-crowd (i.e. retarded music nerd shut-ins, like you and me) while the latter is of a more outgoing character - music to possibly be enjoyed live in the squalor of a smoky, run down bar with a substantial amount of alcohol in ones system. That said, I've listened to "Process of Evolution vol. 2" several times both sober and runk and have had a real hard time extracting much enjoyment out of the B-side regardless.

Yes, unfortunately the flipside of this compilation is more or less a straightaway trip to assburn city, at least for this very humble reviewer. While some tracks may be deemed passable though some incidental effect (the nice delay on the guitars of THE LOCKS, the freaky saxophone solo of KORA!), most of the B-side is comprised on tear-inducing tepidness. I just cannot deal with stuff like the emotionless, formulaic hard rock of NOIZY-ONE or the embarassingly sentimental kiss-off track by CHEROBEKKU WAIRUDO. HI, BRITS neatly named "Beat Panic" is just ridiculous - is it just me or is dude actually singing "derp di derp" at ~00:40? As if that unintentional tribute to South Park isn't enough, the refrain is evocative enough of a certain performance by Krusty the Clown...

The one gem floating around in this languid slush of Rock 'n' Roll sludge is the untitled contribution by NACHI. Known (?) from her collaboration with BLACK TANZ on their debut EP, NACHI's take here is reminiscent of AMARYLLIS experimental classic "Oto-san" in it's fractured composition, with it's disembodied stabs of synthesized bass and generally unsettling splintered feel.

Frustratingly uneven compilation as it may be, with it's dizzying highs and terrifying lows, I'd say "Process of Evolution vol. 2" is nevertheless a worthwhile listen, if perhaps not utterly essential. Save for the cuts by PICTURES OF MIRROR, ECCE HOMO and PHANTASMA - those are fucking essential!

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy!

Re-uploaded 06/11/2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

V/A - Process of Evolution vol. 1 LP (1987)

Side A
GENKAKU MIME [幻覚マイム] - Mushoku no Program [無色のプログラム]
GEIL- Low Cake
CLOCK WORK - Can't But Go Away
L-TRANS - (Untitled)

Side B
RADIO INSANE - Nobody Listening
TAKEI - Yu Ma Ni Te!
BLACK TANZ - (Untitled)

Released: 1987
Label: -
Catalogue number: POE-281032
Format: LP

Lenght: 33:44
Bitrate: 320 kbps

This is the first volume in the "Process of Evolution" series of compilations showcasing underground Japanese post-punk and new wave bands. This was curated by a certain Mal (Maru Yukinori) - a seasoned veteran of the Japanese indies scene of the 80:s. Not only did he play with movers and shakers like LIBIDO, YBO² and AUTO-MOD, but he also led his own group (BLACK TANZ) and did stuff like draw all those neat pictures for the "Nevatsuku Mask" booklet.

In addition to all this, it turns out Mal was also pretty skilled at putting together compilations. While the second volume in the series is more obscure (both in regards to availiability and choice of bands), "Process of Evolution vol. 1" serves as an excellent primer to the Japanese indies scene at the time.

One gripe regarding this release is that several of the tracks featured here are more or less identical to versions found on the artists own releases. For instance, the GENKAKU MIME track is exactly the same as on their "Butterfly" 12" on Trans Records, with the exception that the vocals are for some reason mixed a bit lower.

GEIL's contribution, however, is unique to this release. Unfortunately, it's not one of their better efforts IMO (especially in comparison with their excellent "Velnadet" 12"). Vocalst Alice quirky and usually quite interesting way of singing just comes off as annoying here. But the Confuse style wall-of-FUZZZZZZ at the end is a nice touch though.

The next track I've already talked about elsewhere, so I won't go on about it here. Suffice to say that CLOCK WORK's "Can't But Go Away" is a brilliant, brilliant slice of throbbing, synth-fueled new wave. Be sure to also catch their track from the "All the Children are Insain" comp. if you haven't already.

Finishing off the A-side is some dystopic acid dementia courtesy of L-TRANS. Quite different from what we heard on "Tokyo Dead Line", the cut here is of a much harsher and claustrophobic character; sounding like SADIE SADS on quaaludes or a schizophrenic take on ZOA at their more out moments. This track is actually called "Failgestalt" (it also made an appearance on L-TRANS mini-album "Hard Rocks" on LLE), but since no title is listed anywhere on either the record, sleeve och insert I've decided to have it tagged as unnamed for this particular release.

MANNEQUIN NEUROSE is one of those bands I've been meaning to check out for ages but never really got around to doing. Basically, all I know about them is that they've got a killer track opening the flipside of this record. Again, no title is listed anywhere so I'm not sure if this track actually has a name or not. Anybody know if it turns up on any of their singles/EP:s? I'm really fond of this track and particularly enjoy the echoed guitar and distorted vocals meshing together to create a bleak and hazy, yet somehow strangely optimistic, mood.

Snapping you out of that cloudy atmosphere is "Nobody Listening" by RADIO INSANE - a total shredfest marrying the austereness of their second single with the frantic pace of their debut. Exact and ecstatic - this shit just kills! And the great thing is that it is followed by an even better track; namely SURREALISTIC MEN's phenomenally spastic "Modern Packs". They had a song with the same name on their self-released flexi, but I'm not sure if it's the same version or not.

The following act, TAKEI, not only settles for being the most the most obscure group featured here, but also contributes the weirdest song of the lot. "Yu Ma Ni Te!" is comprised of ridiculous synthesized instrumentation with even more ridiculous vocals on top (a.k.a. "sexy voice" according to the booklet). No other recording of this mystery duo was ever released as far as I know, and for some reason I get the feeling that they might've very well been a studio band put together especially for this compilation. But I'm only speculating - feel free to correct me on that point.

Saving the best for last, "Process of Evolution vol. 1" concludes with an untitled song by BLACK TANZ. And what a song! An absolutely insane mix of stuttering rhythms, enigmatic vocal samples, free-form piano plinkage and, of course, more than liberal doses of saxophone skronk makes for a totally singular listening experience. None of their other material sound anything like this. In fact, I can't really think of ANYTHING that sounds much like this. For all the great tracks featured on this record - this is without a doubt my favorite.

I regard "Process of Evolution vol. 1" as one of the premier compilations to come out of 80:s Japan - and fortunately, it's one that can still be found pretty easily and at a reasonable price to boot. As for the second volume, it's at least twice as rare and about half as good. Nevertheless, it has it's moments and will be forthcoming here on HoS. Some final trivia: even though no label is listed this was most probably put out by POE Records, which seems to have been a sort of vanity label for Maru Yukinori, subsidized by Explosion Records (who put out stuff like the GARA 8", the first ZOA record, as well as a lot of heavy metal stuff).

Divshare / Mediafire

Sunday, August 28, 2011

EXCENTRIQUE NOIZ - s/t 7" flexi (1982)


Side A

Side B
Devil Rain

Yoshiro Osone (vocals, guitar)
Takashi Sekine (keyboards)
Shigeo Kanamori (bass)
Mitsuhiro Matsuzaki (drums)

Released: 1982
Label: Noiz Record
Catalogue number: noiz 01
Format: 7" flexi

Lenght: 10:18
Bitrate: 320 kbps

I had originally been planning to post Excentrique Noiz' "Matt Crescent" album, but seeing that the fantastic Systems of Romance blog had already beaten me to the punch I'll treat you with this spectacular flexi instead.

Less synth-centric than their later output, most probably due to this being the only recording featuring vocalist & guitarist Yoshiro Osone fronting the band rather than keyboardist Takashi Sekine. I have to admit I wasn't too convinced by this upon initial hearing, but the damned thing turned out to be a monstrous grower and nowadays I'd claim it to be my absolute favorite Japanese new wave record.

Side A's "Monochrome" is a nice, keyboard-focused track with some pretty interesting drum patterns, but it's on the flipside that the real magic happens.

Appropriately starting off with some rain and thunder, "Devil Rain" launches into some hard driven new wave; it's verses propelled by clockwork-precise rhythm-section and chugging back-beat guitar and it's refrains somewhat surprisingly zooming out into blissful keyboard universes. An especially exquisite section is the breakdown with subsequent solo starting around the four minute mark - everything just jells beautifully here.

Perhaps not really what you'd expect after hearing "Matt Crescent" or "Dark Crystal Day" , and maybe not an instantaneous hit. Nevertheless, I cannot give this single anything but my highest recommendations.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

ANTENA - Deep Cut 7" flexi (1989)


Side A
Bad A Fright
In The Dark

Side B
Deep Cut
Drug Patient

Hisashi Saitoh (vocals)
Bibarie (guitar)
Kazz (bass)
Sham-Tear (beatbox)

Released: 1989
Label: Conneca
Catalogue number: CON-10001
Format: 7" flexi

Lenght: 11:48
Bitrate: 320 kbps

As it's been quite a while since we've had anything gothic featured here, I do think it's time to remedy that situation. And what better way to do so than with this facemelter - the elusive "Deep Cut" flexi by Antena. Apart from a track on the even more elusive "All The Children Are Insain" compilation, this lil' sonosheet was the sole release by Antena. But what a release! This should be right up the alley for fans of stuff like Sodom, Nubile and Sadie Sads.

The latter in particular seems to have been the main influence for this obscure outfit. In fact, Sadie Sads classic "Angora"-track is more or less the blueprint for this entire EP, though Antena at times somehow manages to crank up the weirdness factor a notch or two beyond with some heavy studio trickery.

Said studio manipulations are most evident on the absolutely brainscrambling opening track "Bad A Fright". Set to a harsh, rhythm-focused background seasoned with semi-atonal guitar melee, the vocals contort, pans and permutates in a twisted, somewhat psychedelic (or, rather, psychotic) way, evoking a truly demented and sick atmosphere.

The following track, "In The Dark" also conjures a disturbing ambience with it's opressive churn and multi-tracked voices - unfortunately not as successfully as it's predecessor. The tape-delay effect at the end is a nice touch though.

As if Antenas main inspiration isn't 100% evident by now, the flipside reveals even more Sadie Sads worship with the title track. After a total rip-off of the intro to "L.H.O.O.Q.", "Deep Cut" bursts into a very compelling and surprisingly crisp and straightforward slap 'n' screech-groove, with some vocal manipulations thrown in for good measure. Really neat stuff - probably the most accessible (relatively speaking) cut of the lot.

"Deep Cut" fades out with some looped bursts of white noise and we're again plunged into a more disquieting place with "Drug Patient". Aptly titled, the processed vocals coupled with unrelenting drum machine and and bass bring forth images of both strong psychoactive drugs and straightjackets. The guitar is mostly absent for the duration of this song, but whenever it rears it's head it's with quite some impact. Just check out the creepy-crawly fret noises at the bridge and the panicked scree during the "refrain".

Even though it would be interesting to hear some additional output from this band, I do fear that more material than this brief EP (and the omnibus track) would turn out to be an exhausting listen, seeing as how prominent (and, frankly, a bit unflexibly) Antena wore their influences on their sleeve.

Nevertheless, this flexi has been a top want for me for a long time and I'm really happy to finally be able to share this with you, dear readers. I hope you'll enjoy!

Update 30/07/2011: In case anybody's interested in the abovementioned "All the Children are Insain" compilation LP featuring Antena, a cache of deadstock copies have recently surfaced and are being sold over at the Inundow webshop at a pretty reasonable price. Not sure just how many copies were unearthed, but I do get the feeling that this is a grip now or cry later situation - I've only seen two copies ever for sale previously. I got mine, and to be frank it's a somewhat uneven compilation. But the tracks by Chu-Doku, Mother Goose and Clock Work (what a great band!) makes it all worth it. As for the Antena track ...well, I guess it's all right enough, but not at all up to par with "Deep Cut".

Saturday, June 25, 2011

VARIETE - Location at Hollywood 12" (1983)

Side A
These Melodramatic Things

Side B
Fairly Terry
Whatever The Last Man In The World You Are

Released: 1983
Label: Kitchen Records
Catalogue number: DANCE 2
Format: 12"

Lenght: 10:29
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Touko Andjou (lady)
Ryuichi Hikou (maestro)

Mitsuru Kotaki (MC-4 & march arrangements)
Rose Sélavy (accordion)
Hirono Mio (violin & viola)
Citizen Kane (mandolin)
Masayuki Suzuki (wood bass)
Genichi Tamura (ukulele)
Melancholy Kid (acoustic guitar)
Yumiko Kawai (nickel odeon [???])
Lora Lora (cembalo)
Madame Claude (french voice)
Sister Anne (chorus)
Sister Maria (chorus)

As requested ages ago, here we finally have Variété's second effort "Location at Hollywood". Following their debut, this 12" EP was their last recording featuring original members Ruichi Hiko and Tokyo Andjou, backed up by a ridiculously long list of guest performers (I wouldn't be too surprised if any of the members in the reformed Variété is featured under alias here). This record also marked the end of the bands generally synth-based sound.

Opening track "These Melodramatic Things" is almost identical composition-wise as on it's appearance on the previously posted "In Style" LP; though this arrangement is of a much more electronic vein. The drum machine is more prominently featured here, and the weird semi-synthetic choirs are a nice touch - nevertheless, I do think I prefer the slicker pop version a smidgeon over this.

The next track, "Fairly Terry", is unique to this release and has a sound that harkens back to the "Souvenir" 8" - although in a more energetic and (sadly) vocoder-less way. A nice enough pop song once again based mainly around the drum machine. Do watch out for the incredibly annoying hillbilly hoe-down section near the end though.

Lastly, we have the oddly titled "Whatever The Last Man In The World You Are". An instrumental track (save for some short snippets of french dialogue), this may very well be my favorite track of the bunch. Lush swathes of pads and strings coupled with bleeps, bloops and some faint wisps of percussion floating in and out through the hazy dazed atmosphere.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Help Japan!

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that recently struck Japan, I would like to urge all readers of this blog to please consider making a donation to help Japan out in their hour of need.

Check out this post over at Stalking Duppi for information on how to donate. With reports of thousands of dead, tens of thousands missing, hundreds of thousands homeless and the threat of nuclear havoc looming, the situation is - mildly put - very serious.

Donations can also be made via PayPal and Google.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

VARIETE - In Style LP (1985)


Side A
Misses no Fushigi
Sugar Yellow
Tarzan & Jane In Paris

Side B
These Melodramatic Things
I Could Have Dance All Night
Francis Grey
One Clear Day
Balconey Serenade

Released: 1985
Label: Edge Records
Catalogue number: ELR-28003
Format: LP

Lenght: 38:17
Bitrate: 320 kbps

"In Style" was Variete's third release, and their first LP. It was preceded by the doinky and vocoder-saturated "Souvenir" EP and its 12" sister release "Location at Hollywood". I procured this mainly on a completist impulse since I had their other two records, but as it turned out, "In Style" came to be the big pop epiphany for me in 2010.

I certainly had my doubts regarding the record - not only due to the incredibly fruity cover art - the fact that NONE (!) of the members from the original line-up remained also sent out a fair share of warning signals. Nevertheless, upon needledropping I couldn't help but to go from sceptical to happily surprised to absolutely blissed out. Totally charmed!

"In Style" is filled to the brim with unbridled euphoria, extasy and energy - skillfully executed and served up with a wondrous blue-eyedness. Even though both composition and performance are excellent through and through, the main focus of course winds up on the androgynous vocals of singer Masumi Arichika. High pitched and with a tendency to severe quaver, they seem to shudder with a sheer joy of performance. Kind of similar to UK group The Associates in a sense ...well, y'know, if The Associates had been high on life and vitamin C instead of copious amounts of cocaine whilst recording.

Back to "In Style". Opening track "Divine" is just what it claims to be. A glorious outburst of rapturous abandon, the song veritably explodes out of the speakers with a flurry of acoustic guitar and fluttering piano flourishes. Thick little bursts of semi-atonal guitar noise provide some necessary spice to the borderline overpowering sweetness of the concoction, and there's some pretty damn great bass playing going on to boot!

"Misses no Fushigi" is a more subdued and straightahead affair, especially considering what preceeded it. Definitely an album track; I tend to view it as a transitional tune - a chance to cool off between more potent stuff. I'd hesitate to call it filler though - the autumnal atmosphere it evokes is a pretty and dreaming one, in particular when the woodwind sets in during the refrain.

Those of you following the Habit of Sex tumblr may have already made the acquaintance with "Sugar Yellow" - without a doubt my favorite track on this whole LP. A perfectly realized pop song to myears, lovingly performed with a childlike sense of wonder. Gets me all fuzzy and warm inside (pretty damn mushy too). "Pure softness and fruity, overripe bliss" as I put it elsewhere.

"Hakucho" betrays the europhiliac roots of the band. All vocals, save for an accompanying piano and some violin, we find ourselves transported to a ball at the Versailles. Or possibly to a student reception in Germany. Weimar Republic era, of course. The A-side finishes off with the hilariously ludicrous romp that is "Tarzan and Jane in Paris". Mmm, Paris! (No Homer)

The B-side opens up with "These Melodramatic Things", which first appeared on the "Location at Hollywood" 12". Composition-wise, it's more or less identical to it's previous incarnation but I do think the mix and arrangement is superior on "In Style". Driven by drum machine, laden with french dialogue and glazed with violin, it's a pretty lighthearted tune ...with a sudden burst of the melodrama mentioned in the title a bit more than halfway through.

"I Could Have Dance [sic] All Night" follows and is, as you've probably guessed, a sort of adaption of the (almost) similarly titled (and somewhat more famous) tune from "My Fair Lady". I hesitated to call "Misses no Fushigi" a filler, but this one I'm not so sure about. Ah, I'll let it slide ...if so only because of the gloriously overblown performance. The slight slack is promtply picked up by "Francis Grey" - probably my second favorite track after "Sugar Yellow". Dramatic strings and subdued, almost wimpering vocals color "Francis Grey" a shade darker than it's fellow tracks. At least until reaching the bridge when it explodes into a by now well-known exuberance.

A breeze of nostalic-sounding melancholia comes next, in the form of "One Clear Day". Like on "Hakucho" (although quite different in execution) the arrangement is scaled down to vocals, piano and violin. Sentimental without getting cheesy, it paves the way for the grand finale - "Balconey Serenade". Originally appearing as the closing track on "Souvenir", the version present here is a hyper-charged one and proves to be a suitably rapturous ending of the album.

"In Style" was followed up by a single ("La Dolce Vita") and another LP ("Golden Life") before Variete called it quits. Although I feel that "In Style" is indeed the zenith of the bands output (with their debut coming in a close second), I can wholeheartedly recommend all of the bands output. Casual browsers beware though - the band entered a special kind of realm of cheesiness during the "Golden Life" period reserved for a certain kind of audience whose taste balances between transcendent and non-existing (see image below).

Divshare / Mediafire / 4shared

(from the cover art of "Golden Life")