Archive for December, 2005

UA – Niji (Japan)

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

ua, niji, breathe

Artist: UA
Song: Niji
From album: Breathe
Genre: Ethereal Daydreamcore.
[buy this album] [UA site (Japanese)]

UA is a Japanese girl with a Swahili name. If you look it up, (click “u” under Swahili->English) you’ll find that it means a LOT of things, but it’s most touted for its double meanings of “kill” and “flower”. She’s definitely not your typical Japanese female vocalist; and though I’m nearly loathe to do so, it’s very difficult not to draw comparisons to the eccentric Björk, who has become a referential catch-all in times of classificational crises. In this album, more so than in her others, she explores interminglings and frolics of sound, and from it, this song is probably my favorite.

I imagine this song in a of couple ways: One is a leisurely midnight ride through a newly-made city of modern-esque design. It’s all glass and chrome and amber light, high angles and sweeping curves; and there’s not a soul in sight. There’s just her voice gliding along on an expensive suspension, and the designs the light makes in reflections and refractions on everything. Sometimes they come across as little whimsical sounds flowing around and through the main melody of the light.

The other was the first and strongest that impressed itself on me. Imagine if you will, Christopher Doyle as cinematographer for this dreamy scene. The amber light is here too, and he makes it alive. It glows with its own power and feeling. It contrasts the dark room and enriches the heat of a sultry evening in this, some tropical corner of the world. It reflects from the dull corners and intricacies of the time-worn furniture and walls. The veranda doors are open over the city, and a breeze with the lingering smell of sunset enters like a peaceful sigh. With it, the sound of dusk and people living their lives wafts in to mix with the song being played somewhere on an antique phonograph. Wong Kar Wai directs as a lone girl dances dreamily around the room. She is basically just turning in circles, her hands up, and down; but he completely captures the liquescent feeling of her moment. Slow, luxurious motion and lush atmosphere has made for her a sensuous draught. She is completely detached from the world and yet so intensely connected to life. A high-angle shot and she is looking up, her eyes are closed. As she spins, she can feel life flowing and breathing; so dense, so good, and bad, and neither. So unbearably beautiful. In the embrace of all this miraculous life she almost seems to be floating. The sounds wrap around and about her, the instruments hovering above the floor or dancing around her ankles.

Translated Lyrics in comments.


Sunday, December 18th, 2005


This is a treat from Japan for anyone who enjoys secret spots, abandoned or lost bits of civilization, anthropology, or just an interesting piece of history. This is Hashima Island. It was nicknamed Gunkanjima ??? (battleship island) because of the impression its high walls and skyline gave from the water. It’s a comparatively tiny speck of land off the country’s westernmost coast, [Gmap] but it has a fascinating and unique history.

Forty-odd years ago, this little blip was the site of the most densely populated community on earth. It was a coal-mining community complete with apartment blocks, schools, temples, drinking establishments, movie theatre, hospital, a brothel, and plenty of shopping. A self-contained community which at one point contained the tallest building in the whole of Japan, all built around a profitable mine.

Then one January day it was all over. Coal was no longer profitable enough to justify continuing the mine (thanks to the magic of petroleum), and the operation was closed down. Within a few short months not a single person remained. They left their tools where they had last used them, and their houses and belongings intact. Only the residents became conspicuously absent.

For someone who enjoys exploring abandoned spaces this seems to be a pretty much unbeatable locale. A fully intact miniature city; a modern ghost-town; a perfectly-preserved snapshot of an autonomous culture at a moment in history. The fact that it is an island that most Japanese don’t even know about, and that it requires a boat-ride and special permission to get there means that it is virtually untouched since the day the last worker left. Only time and the elements have continued to alter it.


Tokyo Underground

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

  Giant Future-looking Storm Drains of Tokyo  

Great pictures of huge stormdrain networks beneath Tokyo. Apparently the vertical shafts are large enough to accomodate a space-shuttle. It seems they have been under construction for over a decade, and should provide protection in the case of a tsunami/etc. Very future-looking.

[Link][Sign up for the Tour!]

Paper Art

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005

  Paper Art  

Here is some very creative paper art from Peter Callesen.
It seems that most of them are done out of a single large piece of paper, and planned in advance in such a way that the final product is still all a single connected sheet.
Quite talented.


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downy – Itsu (Japan)

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Downy; ichi; aoki robin; mudai

Artist: downy
Song: Itsu (?)
From album: ?? (Mudai [Untitled])[2004]
Genre: Darkish Noisy Moodrock
[buy this album] [downy site]

In all my misadventures through the underground of Japanese music one particular find has remained dearest to my heart. I first stumbled upon this unexpected gem when perusing a cache of random promotional videos, and ever since then my appreciation has continually deepened.

This song is perhaps their most striking. It conjures at first glance an intense tumult of aural input. In the beginning it may be a nearly overwhelming flow, and could engender a desire to climb back to the safety of more peaceful terrain. However, I would take the liberty of recommending that you throw caution to the wind and let the stream take you to its ends. Because once you let go, the fury takes on a new clarity. If you can stop fighting it, it might reveal its story.

For me it’s a story of inevitability and a resignation tinged with sadness. The bass paints an image in blue and black of a world ripe for revolution. It’s an earthquake, an avalanche, an urgency in the air. The drums are the gears, hydraulic joints, and steam engines deep inside some colossal war machine just over the horizon. It’s heading for the glowing center of the world you know, and you can’t stop it so you had better just get used to the idea. The guitar clangs as gigantic stars begin to fill the sky. They are old but glowing, almost bursting now and then as they watch and wait. The vocal melodies tell us the sordid history of this song-world from beginning to now in tones both exalting and mournful. The saxophone toward the end seems to be the voice of the world itself. It struggles with its fate, panic and adrenaline as it sees finality fast approaching, and gives itself up willingly at the last critical moment. Or so it seems to me.

This song is so tangible I can almost hand it to you. If I could, it would be heavy and dark, and you probably wouldn’t know what to make of it right away. Trust me though, if you take it home, listen to it a few times and try to just feel it, in the dark, eyes closed, you may begin to discover a great worth.

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