Archive for October, 2007

Dir en Grey – Dozing Green (for Halloween)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Artist: Dir en Grey
Song: Dozing Green
From album: Dozing Green
[Buy CD][Website]

I saw this video recently and found it appropriate for the Halloween season as apparently did they, choosing late October for the single‘s release.

This is one of the bands one finds everywhere when one first starts investigating Japanese music, along with a host of other familiar names, most of which fall into the genre of Visual Kei (VK), and most of which you will probably never find on this site. Though on principle I hold nothing against VK, it is in general a genre more about fashion and presence and showmanship than creativity in music. In particular the singing style is very recognizable, and sometimes nearly identical between bands.

That said, I can still appreciate an occasional morsel of Dir en Grey on a couple of levels. They have a certain subset of songs that can stand on their own merits for me, with enjoyably intense building and breaking vocal melodies. Their music videos are almost always visually interesting, controversial, and bizarre. And though most of the disturbed shock aesthetic in the genre seems to be rather transparent, Dir en Grey’s widely revered frontman Kyo is indisputably a pioneer in that vein and is apparently far more serious about it than most. An observation that is supported by many accounts (like Ian’s) of their live shows.

Midori – Osaru

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

  ??? ????? japanese indie music, rock, underground, ?????????????????,

Artist: ??? (Midori)
Song: ?? (Osaru)
From album: ????? (First)
Genre: “Romantic Erotic Chaotic Sentimental Death”
[Buy CD][Website]

Midori is hard to write about. Their sound encompases jazz-noise chaos and sweet ballad. Frontwoman Mariko Gotou screams her guts out, and then squeaks cute little noises, sometimes while writhing on the ground, sometimes while standing on the drumset or the shoulders of the crowd, always with intense presence.

I’ll post some video later so you can see what I mean, but for now, here’s the second song from their album “First”. It’s another album from which choosing a representative track is impossible. If this music churns your butter in the least, so will every song on all their albums. No filler here, all songs are singularly crazy, interesting, and strangely addictive. If you “get it”, then by all means, Get it!

Mono – The Sky Remains The Same As Ever

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Clip: Lost Snow @ Brussels, Belgium.

Given their enthralling live shows, it wouldn’t take much to make a great tour DVD for Japanese post-rock band Mono. All that would be required is a camera, a tripod and the ability to press record. As anyone who’s seen one of their shows can attest, Mono is one of the most dynamic and expressive live acts in rock music today. The band could just compile a bunch of fan made Youtube clips for the DVD and it would still be worthwhile.

But Mono decided to give us something very special instead; a beautifully shot tour documentary called The Sky Remains The Same As Ever, put together by talented music photographer Teppei Kishida. Having followed the band for over two months and coming out with 100 tapes of footage to edit with, Kishida was able to capture the spirit of Mono in its entirety and give us a truly poetic film about the band.

The live performances on the DVD are incredible. The movement of the camera and the close-up framing perfectly mimics the emotional range and intimacy of a Mono show; it’s almost like the camera is engaged in a dance with the music; crashing when it’s loud, soaring and sweeping when it’s soft. Watching this on a large screen and a good sound system is as cathartic as standing 5 feet away from the band during their show.

Kishida has a great eye for detail. He frequently turns the camera to the crowd and observes their reactions. We often see individuals immersing themselves in the music by closing their eyes, couples embracing, intense gazes, tapping of the fingers, headbanging, screaming. These little moments tell you more about the band than any review or bio could possibly accomplish.

Interspersed between the live performances are montages of sightseeing, traveling across the world, interviews and recording. Part of what makes Mono the band that they are, is the underground culture that surrounds them, and these montages do great justice in portraying the spirit of that culture.

The DVD is already released in Japan on Mono’s own label, Human Highway Records, and will be released stateside in 2008 on Temporary Residence. Since the band is perpetually touring the world (currently in the US), you can also buy the DVD at their merchandise table during one of their shows and probably get Tamaki to sign it while she’s selling it to you. Check their myspace for touring dates and to view the trailer for the DVD.