Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tomo Akikawabaya - The Castle 2x12" (1984)

Side A

Side B

Side C
The Invitation of the Dead

Side D
Sleeping Sickness

Released: 1984
Label: Castle Records
Catalogue number: Eros-2
Format: 2x12"

Length: 48.8 minutes
Bitrate: 320kbps

All right - here it is. The holy grail of Japanese minimal-synth. Forget your Portray Heads and Popsong's Factory or what have you (actually, don't do that; those are great too!) - this is the real deal.

This 2x12" set was released a year after Tomo Akikawabaya debuted with the "Mars" 12". He went on to release two more 12" singles and a 7" before disappearing into thin air. All of the 12" releases were later collected and released as a VERY limited box set (30 copies!). Any collectors reading this that happens to own that box set you really need it? Of course not! Send me a mail and I'll gladly take that bulky ol' thing off your hands. Your shelves will thank me!

Anyway, back to Akikawabaya. There's not much I can tell you; the man himself is a total mystery. No pictures of him or interviews with him seem to publicly exist; no record of any live performance is to be found. All information available has been gleaned from the sleeves of his records. All of them are self-released, all of them recorded at the same studio (Bea Pot Studio) using the same engineer ...and almost all (save for one) feature the same pretty model on the cover. Rena Anju is her name and she seems to be the key to the Akikawabaya universe. Either as a muse and/or love interest - anyhow, Akikawabaya seems utterly obsessed with this woman (he even sewed the dress that she's wearing on the cover of "The Castle"!), and considering her prominence in the visual presentation of his work it's not too hard to imagine much of the music is about her or dedicated to her.

I and C. Patera from Stalking Duppi decided to do a collaborative review on this record; mainly since we both love it to death and want to babble on and on about it. I'm sure most of you will want to too.

So without further ado, here's our thoughts about this marvelous record. I'd be very keen to know what you readers think about "The Castle", so feel free to drop off a comment or two!


N: Kinda ballsy to start off a double album with an introduction covering most
of side one! Still, it's a beautiful introduction - lulling one into the
mysterious world of Akikawabaya.

C: Yeah, it definitely sets the stage. It's almost 'Berlin School' considering the length and overall pathos. This may not make sense to anyone else, but I mentally file Rebirth under "songs that make me think of magic castles falling apart at the end of fantasy movies".


N: What is there to say? If music were drugs, "Mars" would be heroin.
In my book one of the best synth ever put to wax - absolutely
essential listening! You bet I sing this in the shower.

C: Totally sublime. That 'ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch' rhythm is one of my favorites, and coupled with a great chord progression, a ridiculously simple instrumental break, and a terrifically lurid guitar solo, it's simply unbeatable. Let's not forget Tomo's voice either; the guy sounds like he's mustering up as much soul as he can. I can't imagine how you sing it in the shower - these lyrics are impenetrable! The only thing I can kinda make out is I am lost in your memories, never to wake to daylight. Cheer up, Tomo!


C: Hey, here's a song about coming home from work.... ok, now we're talking about Infinity and the Universe... You've never seen such a blue really gets me in this song, though I have no real clear idea of what he's referring to. I thought for a while that this song is about coming home from a long day and making love to your lady, but that super creepy chorus that shows up really doesn't set that mood, does it?


C: You had mentioned to be before that you really enjoyed the key change between Fire and Dark. When I first heard it, I didn't realize I was listening to a new song, it's so seamless. I wonder if the lyrics are as much of a continuation. What I can catch: Somehow you tried to run through [...] Just continue never minding. You can not find your way out anymore. And before you know, time has gone. And now even the world is lost. The darkness covers all your view. The wind blows like a [...]
Major lyrical themes on this album seem to be loss, being lost, memory... and possibly a sort of unrequitedness that only feeds my Rena Anju theories, haha!

N: I more or less regard "Fire" and "Dark" as two movements of the same piece. And yeah, that key change really slays me - at the risk of sounding totally pretentious I'd say that the little pause between these tracks is as integral to the listening experience as the songs themselves. On a less anal note, the bubbly bassline is really mesmerizing.


C: The same beat continues through this side (with some minor changes). A good track, but not one of my favorites, and the lyrics here are even more impenetrable to me.

N: I'd have to agree - despite having a great refrain, "Dizziness" is the only time I feel "The Castle" losing momentum. It originally appeared on the flip-side of the Mars 12", and I must say that it works much better as a B-side than as an album track - here it just resides as (dare I say it?) filler. It's not a bad track, though - not by a long shot! Perhaps I'm just getting picky with all these other wonderful tunes?


C: Kinda spooky, eh? Thunderstorms, a wobbly, theremin-esque lead. And hand-claps! Made by real hands, I think. Someone is thanked for their hand-claps in the liner notes. Why couldn't Tomo clap himself? I mean, he's listed as playing all sorts of other things (including "Heart" and "Clayey Guitar", whatever that means).

N: Let's not forget he plays the "Gizmo" too! The thing that really makes this track for me is the free-form violin that sometimes bubble forth. Unsettling to the max! The dude doing the hand-clapping is engineer Takaaki Hanya (even more unsettling is that fact that I've somehow memorized this) - seemingly the only other person to ever contribute to Tomo's music.


N: A few shades more joyful than the previous track, "Chair" formly oozes
bittersweet romance. Though I can't make out all of the lyrics - "I live alone" is quite enough to send plenty of shivers up my spine. Keep your ears peeled for the subtle but GREAT basswork here.

C: "I live alone" indeed. Tomo's entire oeuvre oozes loneliness, not too mention 'loner'-ness in record collecting terms. Which is part of why I'm so fascinated. Sure, minimal synth in general was made in the bedrooms and basements of alienated loners, but it's the infusion of New Romantic elements that make even more bittersweet. I typically think of the New Romantic genre as being suited to and made for a large audience (and later actually associated with wealth and success, i.e. Heaven 17, etc), but there's something a bit sad, even deluded, about completely obscure romanticists like Tomo Akikawabaya, Shinobu, etc.


N: As it turns out - the journey through the Castle ends in the dungeon - or rather the void. The hopeful slimmer of light peeking through during "Chair" has now been fully engulfed in darkness. Who knew that a falling sinus tone could sound so very unsettling! Nevertheless, a beautifully composed and executed track - although perhaps not single material such as "Mars" or "Diamond", "Sleeping Sickness" is most definitely one of Tomo's most brilliant efforts.

C: Definitely my favorite song after Mars. Very cold and ponderous atmosphere. Each element is working perfectly - love the tone of the synthesizer here, and of course that delicate guitar bit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Habit of Tumblr/Tumblr of Sex

Taking a cue (i.e. swiping an idea) off of the great KURUTTA blog - here is the Habit of Sex Tumblr! Kind of a light version of this blog; my intent is to provide some tasty tidbits of Japanese underground to tide you over while waiting for the ever so irregular posts at this blog to appear. I hope you'll enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Momoyo - 百夜独演音曲集 3 EPs (1985-1986)


聖家族 [Hijiri Kazoku]

Side A
聖家族一 [Hijiri Kazoku Ichi]
逆髪 [Gyaku Kami]
聖家族二 [Hijiri Kazoku Ni]

Side B
リサ [Risa]
事件 [Jiken]

虚空遍歴 [Kyokuu Henreki]

Side A
虚空遍歴 [Kyokuu Henreki]
マモノマチ I [Mamonomachi Ichi]
マモノマチ II [Mamonomachi Ni]

Side B
マモノマチ III [Mamonomachi San]
キ・カ・イ・マ・チ [Ki・Ka・I・Ma・Chi]

空花 [Sora Hana]

Side A
メフィスト俳優ノ孤独 [Mefisuto Haiyuu No Kodoku]

Side B
空花 [Sora Hana]

Momoyo a.k.a. Yosuke Sugawara (vocals, synthesizer, programming)
Kazuhiko Wakabayashi (bass)

Released: 1985, 1985, 1986
Label: Tea Ceremony Records (Telegraph Records)
Catalogue number: TEA-01, TEA-02, TEA-03
Format: 7" EP

Total Length: 38.6 Minutes
Bitrate: 320 kbps

By request, here are the 3 EPs released by Momoyo after dissolving Lizard, the leading group of the "City Rocker" punk movement.

I'll let the music mostly speak for itself, but you can probably glean from the covers that this is leagues away from Lizard, stylistically speaking. In fact, Momoyo here seems to be sipping from the same stream as Yoran during his "Love Bitterness" days, as this features a similarly gaudy, over-produced brand of electro-pop. Immaculate and highly recommended!

Monday, September 13, 2010

D-Day - Vale of Promises EP (1984)


Side A
So That Night
Vale of Promises

Side B
Hill's Dream

Float A Boat

Yoshiko Kawakita (vocals)
Kyoko Hideshima (guitar)
Mario Sakurai (bass)
Shuichi Ohmomo (keyboards)
Yoichiro Yoshikawa (keyboards [guest])
Kuniko "Maru" Nozawa (drums)

Released: 1984
Label: Aspirin Records
Catalogue number: JCA-210, JCA-211
Format: 7" picture disc + 7" flexi

Lenght: 17:23
Bitrate: 320 kbps

This is the second release from D-Day, put out in 1984 on Aspirin Records - yet another one of those labels so coveted by obsessive record collectors (and I should know!). As opposed from the groups first record ("Ki·Ra·I" flexi, also on Aspirin) which, judging by the small snippets I've heard from it, seems to be of a rawer and more post-punkish character; what we're presented with here are some totally sweet and dreamy new wave cuts.

With a flair for design and presentation rather than fidelity, this EP was released as a 7" picture disc coupled with a 7" flexi disc. Although it makes for a nice package, there is unfortunately quite a bit of background noise to be heard (most prominent during "Hill's Dream").

Commencing the record is the saccharine yet irresistable "So That Night". Punkishly simple in composition, I'd say this charming ditty is without a doubt capable of enticing even the most hardened stonefaces to crack a smile. In particular the two short guitar "solos" (instrumental parts, rather) are cause for pure, unsullied bliss. The title track that follows is equally enchanting, if a bit more mellow and refined, with it's gushing keyboards contrasted against sober, metronomical drums evoking a mesmerizing atmosphere.

We are taken even further into dreamland territory with the spellbinding swirl of "Hill's Dream". Cold understreams of flanged synthesizer lends a psychedelic aura to the already hypnagogic state induced by the monotonous bass and delay-drenched guitar. This dizzying air now and again constricts into the sweetest of pop refrains before dissolving back into a hallucinatory groove yet again. "Dream a dream" indeed.

Saving the best for last, D-Day concludes the EP with the aptly titled "Float A Boat". A crystalline synth-sequence accentuated by the ticking of a drum machine forms the base of the song, all enshrouded by Kawakitas frail and wispy vocals. Occationally the odd guitar melody gently bubbles up from beneath the surface - all in all it makes for a serene and hypnotising listening experience. Unharshable mellow!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yoran - Love Bitterness / Tagalong 7" (1986)


Side A
Love Bitterness

Side B

Released: 1986
Label: Night Gallery
Catalogue number: Night-003
Format: 7" single

Length: 12:06

Before I start talking about this 7", I'd like to extend thanks to nattliga_toner for allowing me to share some music here at Habit Of Sex. If you haven't yet, please check out his posting of Yoran's first single over at my blog Stalking Duppi. This is only the first of a few records I plan to guest-post here, and up next are a few items that were requested in the comments section... so stay tuned!

If you're familiar with Yoran's "Montparnasse" single, get ready for a very dramatic change of sound! Gone are the wispy, foggy meanderings of his days on Unbalance Records, as Yoran (here in collaboration with Nagi Ganmo) plants his feet firmly in the dynamically-produced, post-Art Of Noise world of the mid-to-late 80s!

"Love Bitterness", opening with one of those "reverse-echo" effects that brings to mind some New Order material from the same time period, is a fun, catchy number sung in English (though I'm still trying to catch all the lyrics). There are a number of sonic elements at play here -a nice twinkling guitar line, machine-gun drum patterns, synth-stabs of varied textures- that are all thrown in the spin-cycle during a particularly ludicrous instrumental break, which follows a rather nice vocal turn from Yoran - my favorite moment of the song. Great hook too, so don't be surprised if it gets stuck in your head.

Following up on the B-Side is "Tagalong" (called "Tag Along" on the label). The beginning of this song is quite nice: a big, synthy melody that quickly turns groovy. While it is slightly more mellow than the A-Side, "Tagalong" is no slacker. The chorus out-hooks "Love Bitterness", and the instrumental break is slightly creepy, even.

All-in-all, this is some top-quality 80s cheese!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sodom - Breaking Glass 7" (1985)

Breaking Glass 7"(1985)


Side A
Breaking Glass

Side B
Test Pattern

Zazie (vocals, piano)
Elle (guitar)
Bara (bass)
Hayato (drums)

Released: 1985
Label: Wechselbalg
Catalogue number: WT-705
Format: 7" single

Lenght: 09:05
Bitrate: 320 kbps

For those of you who enjoyed the singles by Sadie Sads and Nubile previously posted; here's yet another excursion into freakdom courtesy of the Wechselbalg Label.

Led by vocalist Zazie (here appearing as Zajie), Sodom had a long and prolific career during the eighties and early nineties; releasing a slew of records on heavy independent imprints such as Trans, Wechselbalg and Captain. Ever so chameleon-like, the bands output spanned the musical range from hardcore punk (their "S:t Requiem" cassette being one of Japanese hardcores holy grails) all the way through to electronica and house.

"Breaking Glass" was Sodoms second release and first single (I think the single-sided promotional flexi on Trans Records came out slightly later than this 7", but feel free to correct me on that) and saw the band moving away from their hardcore past into post-punk territory; like their labelmates (Auto-Mod and G-Schmitt excluded) seemingly quite smitten by The Birthday Party.

Indeed, the sluggish title track sounds like an institutionalized Birthday Party pumped full of sedatives (all with plenty of side effects). The main body of the song consists of a lumbering, borderline retarded "groove" cut up with harsh shards of guitar screech; at times erupting into blasts of concentrated anguish or shriveling down to whisks of ice-cold guitar vapors and barely audible drums. Zazies incredibly strange grunts and bellows plunges this track firmly into a black hole of gothic dementia.

I'd say the flipside "Test Pattern" is the one to include on your DJ setlist at your local sanatoriums annual ball though. Reminiscent of Nubiles "Tranceyse Diskow Veryall"; this is also a total post-punk freakout. You've got pummeling tom-toms, formless guitar melee, distorted dirging bass, sudden starts and stops and at times some coherent riffage. Don't miss out on the "cha-cha" sequence! Of course Zazies vocal performance (read: totally bizarre grunts and groans) is inevitably in the spotlight, being even more way out here than on "Breaking Glass".

By the way; where did all these Japanese goth bands get their inspiration from when it comes to the freaked out vocals? Virgin Prunes? The Pop Group? As for Sodom, considering their background, I guess it could be explained by a transmutation of the gruff vocals of various hardcore bands but who knows?

But I digress (and pretty boringly so) - suffice to say that this is another strange but great single from the Wechselbalg freak factory that I hope you'll enjoy. Rest assured more are on the way from this weird and wonderful imprint.

PS. As a sidenote, it seems that Sodom has been resurrected and are once again active on the Japanese indies scene. You can check out their website here:
I, for one, am really looking forward to any new material that (hopefully) will be forthcoming!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stalking Duppi

I would like to take this opportunity to turn your attention to this totally fantastic blog called Stalking Duppi. Concerned with the Japanese underground scene of the 80:s, I think you'll find what's been posted there to be most interesting. We're talking AMAZING stuff like The Gurdjieff, Voice and Tolerance (a flexi until now unpublished on the internet to boot) - so head on over there and get your mind thoroughly blown!

In addition, I've been granted the honour of doing some guest posts for Stalking Duppi now and then; and the SD staff has very kindly promised to do a few at this blog too so keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Radio Insane - Rain / Salt 7" (1985)

Rain/Salt 7" (1985)


Side A

Side B

Koji Nakayama (vocals)
Naoaki Nakayama (guitar)
Atsushi Usuda (bass)
Mai Kazuki (drums)

Released: 1985
Label: Uplink Records
Catalogue number: UPS-01
Format: 7" single

Lenght: 08:38
Bitrate: 320 kbps

This is the second single by fairly obscure and sadly unsung band Radio Insane. They also released a 7" flexi (the bewildering but disappointing "Complete" flexi) and appeared on a couple of compilations during their existence; their killer cut on "Process of Evolution vol. 1" being particulary noteworthy. That being all I know about the band, let's skip right ahead to the music. Any additional information would of course be very welcome.

Not sure if there's too much to say about the music either - two solid tracks that speak for themselves just fine. Although dark and brooding in nature; a certain hard-to-put-your-finger-on kind of ambiguity permeats the proceedings, particulary on the almost bouyant B-side.

But first up is the pummeling steamroller of a track that is "Rain". Consisting more or less by an austere riff repeated again and again (minimal goth?); the grim grind churned out by the band provides a ten foot concrete foundation for vocalist Koji Nakayama to lay out his lamentations. Otherwise, drummer Mai Kazukis steady yet slightly off-kilter performance stands out. Watch out for the little bass-breaks that shatters the compact dusk for just a moment. Heavy stuff.

As spartan as "Rain" is, as dionysian is the flipside "Salt". Whereas the previous track stood rooted firmly in position, "Salt" is all over the place - the giddying bass and drums providing a dizzying momentum while the guitar scratches along post-punk style. That sense of ambiguity mentioned earlier is perhaps most prominent here - a creeping sense of dread undermines the otherwise relatively up-beat and whimsical nature of the song; in no small part due to the vocals being delivered with excellent ambivalence of emotion.

My copy of this record is a bit beat up so there's some annoying crackling to be heard despite my attempt to clean it. I hope you'll enjoy anyway!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nubile - Spyral Totem Toler Than East Poll 7" (1984)

Spyral Totem Toler Than East Poll 7" (1984)


Side A
Spyral Totem Toler Than East Poll

Side B
Tranceyse Diskow Veryall

Yoshihide Igarashi (guitar, vocals, percussion, piano)
Ken Tanami (vocals, bass, percussion)
Chihiro (drums, percussion, vocals)

Released: 1984
Label: Wechselbalg
Catalogue number: WT-704
Format: 7" single

Lenght: 09:24
Bitrate: 320 kbps

A while ago, in the wake of the Sadie Sads post, someone requested more weird Wechselbalg-records. Well, I'm certainly not one to deny such a request ...and what record to fit to the bill than Nubile's outstandlingly outlandish second single. Just look at those song titles - you know this is going to be good!

The band was formed by bassist/singer Ken Tanami - famous (relatively speaking) for playing in legendary punk band Typhus together with the equally legendary Tam (founder of ADK Records and, for a while, member of The Stalin) and for designing the bisarre and grotesque cover art to Kikeijis first release.

The rest of the bands setting was mostly in constant flux; the only other permanent member being guitarist Yoshihide Igarashi who, as you might recall, also played with Sadie Sads. Other members included keyboardist Takashi Sekine, known from Excentrique Noiz who shared a place together with L'arc~en~Ciel and Rosen Kreuz (among others) on the famous "Gimmick" compilation.

What was also in continous mutation, most likely due to the shifting membership, was the kind of music that Nubile created. Their first release (a self-titled flexi on ADK) was eastern-tinged sludge-y punk while most of their later output were a decidedly idiosyncratic take on mutant disco (also mutant funk, for that matter). I personally am quite fond of just about everything put out by the band; but I'd say that the most fascinating stop on their bumpy and winding career nevertheless is the gothic abnormality that is "Spyral Totem Toler Than East Poll".

Although echoing slight influence from The Birthday Party at their more outre, the pure weirdness of the title track is hard to match. Some of you've might have encountered it on the "Revenge of Wechselbalg" compilation (actual copies are scarce, but a glitchy rip has been floating around on the net for a while) alongside the other "Wechselbalg weird three"-cuts (the previously posted "Angora" and "Breaking Glass" by Sodom being the other two).

Staring out almost free-form, Tanami's bass holding proceedings together somewhat, the track eventually strings itself together to form a brooding gothic dirge - Tanami's bass and Chihiros spartan drumming providing the nucleus while Mr. Igarashi provides mostly atonal embellishments on guitar and piano.

Further adding to the unnerving ambience of the song is the bizarre vocal stylings of Tanami and Igarashi. Never have the lyrics "honey, honey precious" sounded more sinister. What really gets me, though, is that off-tempo percussive bashing that appears for a short while during the intro. A confusing, if not downright demented, musical move to begin with; the fact that it sounds overdubbed makes it all the more perverse.

The B-side "Tranceyse Diskow Veryall" betrays more of an influence to The Birthday Party and cuts down a bit (but only the slightest bit) on the derangement of its flipside twin in favor of rocking out ...mental illness-style! Although still firmly with the rhythm section in focus; the guitar moves a little more to the forefront, even providing the song with a main riff in the form of a stunted arpeggio. The ominous feel of "Spyral Totem..." is also quite present here, with several abrupt starts and stops making for a suitably uneasy development of the song. Now this is my kind of disko(w)!

Believe it or not, this single was actually reviewed in the classic American punk-zine "Maximum Rock 'n Roll" back in the day. Here's what reviewer Tim Yohannan had to say:

"Don't ask me what language the titles are supposed to be in, but
this band mails from Japan. The A-side is a quirky, slightly
ambient number that sounds like Jello somehow got his
ass down
to Asia. The B-side sounds like BIRTHDAY PARTY got their butts there."

Although more condensed than my own review (I'm a longwinded fucker); some sentiments are indeed shared. Can't say I'm really getting much "Japa Biafra"-vibes though.

In short; a greatly disturbing and disturbingly great single. Do enjoy!

PS. As a final fanboy-ish hail of praise: isn't Nubile just about the coolest thing you could ever come up with calling a band? Just consider the juxtaposition of the music produced and the actual meaning of the word. Hell yeah! More gothic stuff coming up to darken your summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Roses Of Dead Essences - 97.8.2 On Air West - Tour Neo Crisis '97 Final 3" CD (1997)

97.8.2 On Air West - Tour Neo Crisis '97 Final

01. LOVE <razor blade mix>
03. Emergence

Released: 1997
Label: Capricieuse Zibakllarge
Catalogue number: ZWX-02
Format: 3" CD

Lenght: 9:43
Bitrate: 320 kbps

Continuing in the same vein as the previous post; here's some more promo-only visual kei rarities.

As some of you might remember, I posted ROSES OF DEAD ESSENCES album "FALL" way, way back ago in the previous incarnation of this blog. Being a thoroughly enjoyable (if perhaps not very groundbreaking) electronic take on mid-90:s visual kei; this little obscure freebie serves as a great compliment to the aforementioned album.

This was given away during the end of a 1997 tour held at Shibuya venue "On Air West". By this time the band had extended into a four-piece with the addition of a bass-player; unfortunately one whose name I've yet to see mentioned at all anywhere. Released on the unpronouncable imprint "capriceuse zibakllarge" - one of those labels (along with Syndicate Records [DIE-ZW3E], Randis Records [SAKRUN] and others) dealing mainly with one band ...or perhaps even run by the band itself. Information is as usual scarce. Further supporting this theory is the packaging of this giveaway single; the 3" and its casing rests sandwiched between two brittle sheets of photocopied paper. Total DIY vibes dudes!

I'm guessing this is a somewhat rare artefact, taking into consideration that ROSES OF DEAD ESSENCES seemed to be a bit of a marginal presence on the livehouse scene. I, at least, have yet to see another copy floating around apart from the one I'm sharing with you now. Were I to estimate, I'd wager this release was of an edition of perhaps 200-500 copies or so.

By the way, for those curious in hearing ROSES OF DEAD ESSENCES debut "FALL" - and I do recommend that you give it a listen or two - you can now find my original rips over at Evil-en-Lucifer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Zi÷Kill - Last This Time 7" flexi (1989)

Last This Time (1989)


Side A
Last This Time

TUSK (vocals)
KEN (guitar)
SEIICHI (bass)
YUKIHIRO (drums)

Released: 1989
Label: Extasy Records/Ghost Disk
Catalogue number: E-8456
Format: Single-sided 7" flexi

Lenght: 4:52
Bitrate: 320 kbps

What? Just a fucking single-sided flexi? After two (!!) months wait? Well's a start at least. Let's see if we can't get this blog somewhat back on the road again.

Being not only one of the greatest of the early visual kei-bands, but also one of the more influential, Zi:Kill shouldn't need much in the way of an introduction here since I assume most of my dear readers already are aquainted with this phenomenal band.

What might be a bit more obscure, however, is this release - an alternative version of the classic track "Last This Time" which later appeared on the equally classic "Close Dance"-album. This, and three other flexis, were given away for free on a 1989 gig during the iterrim between Zi:Kills debut and second album. The other three discs were "Karei" (the same version as on the reissue och "Shinsekai ~Real of the World~"), "TERO" and "Real of the World".

Now, regarding"Last This Time" - most of you have probably heard it and I'd venture to claim that most of you agree with me that it is a stone cold classic of early visual kei. Compositionally, the take featured here is more or less identical to the album version. The execution is however of a much rawer and more intense nature - in particular the guitar stands out with it's harsher texture. Compared to the gentle drizzle of delay-processed guitar found on the album version, KEN produces some heavy acid rain on this take - harsh shards of sound bursting forth like boiling mercury with each stroke of the plectrum.

Unfortunately, my copy of this flexi isn't in the greatest of conditions. Although most of it plays through fine, a couple of dents do produce some nasty clicks and pops. I've tried to edit them out manually at the best of my abilities, but some noises were just impossible to remove without it affecting the music. I hope you'll enjoy anyway!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

ZOA - ZOA 12" (1986)

ZOA (1986)


ZOA Side
Shout To Shout

AOZ Side
99 (Dead Body)
Das Grab

森川誠一郎 [Seiichiro Morikawa] (vocals)
河津雄彦 [Osahiko Kawatsu] (guitar)
安藤恵一 [Keiichi Ando] (bass)
星野昌巳 [Masami Hoshino] (drums)

Released: 1986
Label: Vital Plant Ltd.
Catalogue number: EXP-VPL181019
Format: 12"

Lenght: 23:30
Bitrate: 320 kbps

ZOA was one of the more prolific bands of the Japanese underground, releasing a slew of records and still being active well into the noughties. Fronted by singer and only permanent member Seiichiro Morikawa, the band at times counted (relative) celebrities such as Ruins-drummer Yoshida Tatsuya and rital ambient unit Vasilisk in their ranks.

This is their self-titled debut, released on the Vital Plant Ltd. imprint - a subdivision of metal label Explosion Records, meant to put out records of a more gothic type (other bands on the rooster included Gara and Surrealistic Men). ZOA:s later efforts are leaning more towards the progressive and hard sides of rock. In comparison, this 12" is of a much more dark and experimental nature which could be accounted for by being the only one employing this particular setting - by the next release (1987:s "Off Black" on Trans Records) all members save Seiichiro Morikawa were replaced.

Kicking off the record is the mesmerizing "Out". Revolving around a repetitive, semi-oriental guitar-figure backed by the rumbling rhythm-secion, ZOA effectively utilizes the guitar as a snake charmers pipe. This minor-key dirge evokes an almost psychedelic (off-psychedelic?) state of simultaneous bliss and unrest. The processed vocals hovers above, spreading wobbly despair over the entire proceedings.

Following "Out" is "Shout To Shout", a.k.a. "Cry The War". A virtual stampede of tom-tom heavy drumming, super-heavy slap-bass and guitar slashing wildly slashing about - this is certainly one of ZOA:s most memorable moments, not at least due to the bizarrely evocative refrain of "CRYYYYYYYYYYY THE WAR!" smashing through the aural space as a brick to the face. This was later re-recorded for the first "NG" compilation on Trans Records, although I'd say that the version present here is the better one.

Another hard and fast tracks awaits us on the backside of the platter in the form of "99 (Dead Body)". The rhythm-section here is truly phenomenal. In particular the drums with their almost abstract smatters of leaden tom-toms impress - hats off indeed to drummer Masami Hoshino. Otherwise, most of what I said about "Shout To Shout" applies here - "99" is as fierce a ripper as they come; truly a great cut. Watch out for the weird up-beat passage that suddenly comes and goes somewhere past the middle of the song.

Possibly saving the best for last, ZOA rounds off the record on a note of total despair with the super-downer "Das Grab" - the definitive soundtrack to your nightmare of choice. Sounding as if expelling demons en masse, the absurdly processed vocals of Seiichiro Morikawa span the range of negative human emotions (rage/fear/depression/apathy) whilst engulfed in the toxic vapors emitted by the acid rain poured from the guitar. Ever wondered what human limbs encased in cement might sound like when hitting the ocean floor? The bass and drums provide an ample answer. Somewhere in the background a drum-machine brittly ticks away. For all your cathartic needs, "Das Grab" delivers in spades.

I've yet to hear all of ZOA:s output, but I'm inclined to consider this their crowning achievement. Not to say that their later works are bad in any way - far from it! - but they are also quite different animals compared to this ominous slice of vinyl. Very recommended!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Word verification

Unfortunately, I've had to implement word verification for comments in an attempt to decrease the ever increasing amount of spam we've been getting lately (as have most other blogs). My sincere apologies for this inconvenience - all comments are read and appreciated, so I hope I'll keep on hearing from you all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chinatsu Kuzuu - St. Agnes' Eve (1986)


St. Agnes' Eve (1986)


Side A

The Eve Of St. Agnes
Elaine The Fair

Side B

Annabel Lee
Crossing The Bar

Released: 1986
Label: Sarusuberi
Catalogue number: SAR103
Format: 7" EP

Lenght: 09:26
Bitrate: 320 kbps

As a diversion from all the dark, twisted stuff recently (ha!) posted, I'd like to offer you, my dear readers, something a bit more serene this time around. Also, I would like to try and atone for the lack of female-fronted acts posted here on Habit Of Sex thusfar. So I give you Chinatsu Kuzuu's magnificent EP "St. Agne's Eve"!

As with the Shinobu 8" flexi posted earlier, this is also something that I've only just recently managed to lay my grubby little hands on and which I cannot resist an uncontrollabel urge to share with all of you. Unlike the case of the Shinobu flexi, my first hearing of "St. Agnes' Eve" turned out to be dissapointing - not really due to the music, but rather since it turned out to be something quite different from what I'd imagined it to be.

A little bit more than a year ago I saw this floating around eBay under the guise of being a rare minimal synth record. Just the thought of what kinds of obscure, analogue bleeps and bloops that could be contained within such a package as "St. Agnes' Eve" (I mean, just look at the cover!) really got my salivary glands going. But the gods could naturally not let this kind of silly coveting go unpunished, so the auction was lost to a collector with a larger wallet than me. So imagine my delight when I managed to score a copy of my very own the other week for a measly 300 yen. And imagine my surprise when I put this record on and what my ears were greeted by. Although minimal in execution and employing synthesizers; the music on "St. Agnes' Eve" is far removed from what one thinks of when hearing the term minimal synth.

Well then, just what is on this disc exactly? All right, get ready for this - musical adaptions of poems by 19th century luminaries Keats, Tennyson and Poe. Whats that? Sounds dull? Well yeah, it should ...but it doesn't! Aside from Chinatsu Kuzuus most impressive, Nico-esque vocal performance (with an almost flawless English accent!) the tunes are steeped in a deeply evocative, ethereal atmosphere.

Reviewing individual tracks is a bit pointless since they are more or less identical in structure, feel and quality - this is a record that should be taken in as a whole. Nevertheless, were I to choose a stand-out track I'd go with opening track "The Eve Of St. Agnes" - a momentous organ-led adaptation of the first stanza from John Keats famous poem; loaded with mysticism and blissful melancholy. Elsewhere, we are treated to the hypnotic raindrop-soundscapes of "Elaine The Fair" and the strangely upbeat gothic love song "Annabel Lee". Good stuff!

Apart from this record, Chinatsu Kuzuu previously release another 7" on the Sarusuberi label ("The Lady of Shallot") in 1985. She later went on to a long and varied career as a composer and singer. Strangely enough, she seems to have been involved in Chu Ishikawas soundtrack to Tetsuo in one way or another.

Until next time; here's hoping you'll all find this disc as enjoyable as I do. For those who don't - rest assured that we'll soon be right back on track with some choice demented, acid post-punk insanity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Funeral Party - Dream Of Embryo 7" (1986)



Side A
Double Platonic Suicide

Side B
Dream Of Embryo

Released: 1986
Label: Pafe Record
Catalogue number: Pafe 0006
Format: 7"

Lenght: 12:54
Bitrate: 320 kbps

In this season of snow, sub-zero temperatures and what feels like round-the-clock darkness - what could be better than putting on some up-beat, poppy summertime music and chase that winter blues away? I'll tell you what - by indulging oneself in the audio-cryogenics of Funeral Party and their darkwave masterpiece "Dream Of Embryo".

Released on cult label Pafe Record in 1986, Funeral Party was a one-man or possibly a two-man band (information is as usual very scarce) who had a short but very intriguing career. Apart from this single they also put out two tracks on the great "Vision Of The Emotion" compilation, also on Pafe.

Since that is all I know about the bands, let's turn our focus to the music. After a barely audible introduction, "Double Platonic Suicide" erupts with a blizzard of chilly synthesizers whilst ominous melodies slither around the rigid drum-and-bell beat and creaky, creepy vocals slowly sips forth from the icy sound-tapestry. Befitted with an impossibly dark ambience, this is surely the thing Hans Beckert would walk around humming were he a minimal synth-buff rather than a Peer Gynt-freak.

The B-side, "Dream of Embryo", manages to be an even more disquieting cut, if perhaps in a more subtle way. Backed up by a drum beat so spaceous and sparse that it barely holds together, wobbly and melancholic synthesizers produce a profoundly claustrophobic mood and the vocals seep through like vapors coming off of something buried beneath the floorboards. Watch out for the looped, distorted scream that suddenly rips apart the somber atmosphere - truly a spine-chilling moment that always makes little hairs on my neck stand on end.

And then of course we have the amazing cover art. Drawn by none other than the (in)famous Suehiro Maruo, the cover perfectly illustrates the feeling of this record - grotesque, weird and angst-filled yet so very beautiful. By the way, if you haven't checked out the utterly awesome gallery of Suehiro Maruo record-covers over at Kurutta make sure to do it now!

Unfortunately, the are some crackles and pops present on my copy of "Dream of Embryo" - possibly because of the pressing since my copy looks perfectly clean. I've tried to manually edit out some of the more annoying pops, but beware that there will be some slight noises present. I hope you'll enjoy anyway - this is one of my absolute favorite Japanese singles!


Update: After taking a look at the insert that came with the "Vision of the Emotion" LP, I see that Funeral Party are listed with complete credits. Duh! Anyway, they were a two-man band consisting of T. Kusano on vocals, drums, synthesizer, guitar and bass and M. Morita on synthesizer, vocals and electronics.