Archive for January, 2006

Death-defying Dwellings

Monday, January 30th, 2006

japanese architecture; shusaku arakawa and madeline gins; death-defying dwellings

“…Arakawa, who now bases himself in New York, advocates ‘architecture that defies death.’ How? By incorporating inconveniences and obstacles in his designs in order to bring people’s sensory perception back to life..”

I found out about this design team of Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins from an article on The Japan Times Online, and I think they are brilliant. I love eccentric architecture, and as far as that goes, this team is a total winner: They make living spaces with hilly floors and obstacles, and put light switches near the floor and clothes storage on the ceiling. Their designs are colorful, thoughtful, innovative, and playful.

Another great example of their work is an “experience park” at the site of Reversible Destiny, in Yoro Park, Gifu Japan, which you really have to see to understand. Check out the great website and be sure to look at the “directions for use”, and the maps sections for explanations and quicktime vr panoramas from various vantage points. I definitely need to spend a day there.


Hulk – Elephant Memory

Monday, January 30th, 2006

hulk; ambient atmosphere; osaka records

Artist: Hulk
Song: Elephant Memory
From album: Silver Thread of Ghosts
Genre: Gentle Twilight Atmosphere
[Buy this album][Site]

I was made aware of this artist by Osaka Records and I find it quite enjoyable. Hulk disassembles natural ambient sound settings, and recombines them with his own quiet strains to create pieces that are soundtracks of his recollections.

To me, “Elephant Memory” sounds like lying on your back in warm grasslands with eyes closed as dusk turns to dark. If you listen closely you can feel the sounds of the nighttime waking up; and later, faint drums from some distant village or dream. It’s peaceful, and as you sink more and more into the atmosphere, you feel like maybe you are learning something from this feeling.

Natsumen – Atami Free Zone (Japan)

Friday, January 27th, 2006

japanese jazzrock; natsumen; atami free zone

Artist: Natsumen
Song: Atami Free Zone (Live)
From album: NEVER WEAR OUT yOUR SUMMER xxx !!!
Genre: Brassy (which can also mean adventurous!) Jazzrock
[buy this album][Website]

Recently I’ve been a real sucker for sax and violins; and what this album lacks in strings it makes up for in brass with some appreciable attitude. In some ways, “Atami Free Zone” is like watching these instruments in their natural environment: the golden savannah. (What am I saying!?) In any case, we watch them as they tumble and butt heads and frolic around an often simple melodic landscape. They can be rebellious and sometimes rude, but are full of youthful vigor. Sometimes they rest in the shadows of that famous “only tree in sight” while the guitary breeze stirs waves of long grass, and sometimes they jump up for no particular reason and run together towards that mother of all suns as hard as they can.

Anyway… here’s some trivia for those that might care: Natsumen’s 2 guitarists, “Aine” and “AxSxE”, are both previous members of the now defunct band Boat from a couple posts back; and in this excellent live record, their song: “Natsu no Mujina,” is a great cover of Boat’s instrumental song: “Akiramujina”. So there you have it. I also think their “sound introductions” in the biographies section of the website is a pretty neat idea.

My Little Airport – Victor, Fly Me to Stafford (China)

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

c-pop; chinese charm-pop; my little airport; victor, fly me to stafford

Artist: My Little Airport
Song: Victor, Fly Me to Stafford
From album: The Ok Thing to do on Sunday Afternoon is to Toddle in the Zoo
Genre: Fluffy Charm-pop
[buy this album] [Website]

I have never heard songs that sounded more like postcards. Here we have short short little stories written on charming, pretty little songs that are penned and sent out with obvious love. They sing in English, French, and Chinese; and they show us darling little views of darling little houses from the sky. I’m sure lots of people have heard of them, but I thought I would share anyway. There’s always that one…

Leping Zha – Landscape Photography

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

leping zha; great harmonious landscape photography

Via metafilter, here is some grand landscape photography indeed, from Leping Zha. I very much enjoy the sense of balance he employs in composing his shots. It’s like the different rocks and trees are really one big family, helping and supporting each other, and complementing each other’s differences.


BOaT: then and now (Japan)

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

japanese indie rock; boat kill kill; roots of summer

Artist: Boat
Genre: From smileyface-bulletpop to smooth summerock
[Label site (jp)]

BOaT then
Song: Kill Kill
From album: Soul, Thrash, Train [buy]

The cutesy vocals and catchy hook in the first part of this song make me think of a sitcom theme song. Pretty soon it turns into an outro for rolling credits; and then around 1:35 the actors and crew and the band doing the song finish their work for the day and break loose from the studio to run wild like gleeful gorillas all over the city. Then 25 seconds later, with all of that out of their systems, they meet at a quaint cafe on the edge of town and have a nice relaxing cup of tea.

BOaT now
Song: Roots of Summer
From album: Roro [buy]

This is from the band’s latest release and feels like a kind of a friendly compilation of warm red and orange summer feelings into a long reflective goodbye. If you listen to these songs in this order they actually seem to fit rather well. I guess I’m really tired, but I can’t seem to find a link to buy this cd… so if someone knows of a site that will ship overseas, please let me know. Thanks!

Macdonald Duck Eclair – The Eyes Just Like a Fawn’s

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

macdonald duck eclair; japanese electropop; the eyes just like a fawns

Artist: Macdonald Duck Eclair
Song: The Eyes Just Like a Fawn’s
From album: The Genesis Songbook
Genre: “Lolli,pico’tte,macin’rock” (In their own words!)
[Buy this album] [MDDE site]

This song is a soap-bubble machine gun; a sugarcube firing-squad. With hardcore electronica and French electropop among their influences, what they create is an interesting hybrid of airy vocals nestled in what are often “fierce” electronic elements. Though their components may seem to be rather at odds with each other, they somehow pull it off and come up with more than the sum of the ingredients.

World’s End Girlfriend (Japan)

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

worlds end girlfriend; japanese noiserock; postrock; scorpius circus; we are the massacre

Artist: World’s End Girlfriend
Song: We are the Massacre
From album: The Lie Lay Land
Genre: Surreal sound storyland
[Buy This Album][Label Site][Interview]

What a fabulous weekend media treat! World’s End Girlfriend is a musical portrayal of a place in its creator’s imagination. These songs are moments and locations that exist in it. Here thrive in sonic form: a gate made of moths, dark friendly forests, an endless midnight garden waltz, a lunatic celestial circus, moments of dissonance, serenity, and a perfect harmony. From beginning to end this 80 minute album is forceful, beautifully vivid, and wrought from pure inspiration. So without much further ado off we go:

VIDEO – Scorpius Circus (LIVE)
From gentle swell to ferocious tempest, this song ebbs and flows with emotional currents. In my opinion this song is much better live. And for a live version of a mostly electronic song to surpass the original without the use of any synthetic elements is, to me, both amazing and gratifying. This is definitely their jewel. (11:13 min 37 megs)

VIDEO – We are the Massacre
The video version reveals a vision simultaneously violent and tranquil; a gorgeously tragic and moving lamentation. WARNING: contains black and white clips of sometimes graphic movie violence. (5:46 min 31 megs)

Please be sure to check out the label site and download songs from their other artists, I find them to be uncommonly good as a whole. It’s also extremely rare for a Japanese label to give away so much for free! So if you like what you hear please support the artists and their forward-thinking label, and buy their excellent music. Have a great weekend!