Just a quick note here that I need to slim down my collection a bit so I’m listing quite a lot of items (CD, cassette) on eBay for sale that may be of interest to readers here. Look for seller name ‘charnel’ to see what’s currently up there. Items include releases by Masonna, Aube, Otomo Yoshihide, Ground Zero, Keiji Haino, Null, Violent Onsen Geisha, and more. Thanks.
Just a quick note that the terrific Friendsound blog has posted the three 7-inch singles released by Public Bath back in the early 90s, Japan Bashing Volumes 1-3. These were the introduction, for many, to bands like UFO or Die, Omoide Hatoba, Hanadensha, Subvert Blaze, and so on. David Hopkins, who ran Public Bath with his then-wife Betsy, was instrumental in helping get some of the indie bands there recognized by U.S. listeners. Living in Osaka, David was particularly in touch with the Kansai underground and the Alchemy Records label in particular. He introduced me to Alchemy head honcho Jojo during a trip to San Francisco with Sekiri, around 1991 or so (when I interviewed Sekiri and Jojo for File 13 magazine). During my first trip to Japan the following year on tour with Torture Chorus, David was very helpful to us. He and Betsy really were key to the big groundwell in the 90s that brought over so many great bands to the U.S.
Check out the posting of these singles here. Volume 1 is sort of the Boredoms axis, with tracks from them, UFO or Die, Omoide Hatoba, and Hanadensha. It’s perhaps the chaotic-psych material. Volume 2 is the old-school stoner rock volume, with Subvert Blaze (“Butterfly” is a kickass song, no doubt about it) and Playmate. Neither of those bands made much of an impression here, but the drummer from Subvert Blaze went on to be a major player in the Osaka scene and drum teacher to many young players. Volume 3 is the noise single, with Hojokaidan, Solmania, Masonna, and Hanatarash (a bit of an oddity since Hanatarash were done by 1991 when this came out).
In my previous post about Shizuka’s passing, I mentioned that I have a number of pictures of her dolls, and I wanted to share them. I had the chance to take some decent photos of some of the framed pictures I have, so here they are. A couple of them were framed by Shizuka when she gave them to me, and you’ll see the special care she put into them. I scanned them fairly large, so if you click on the thumbnails below you can get the bigger, better pictures. Sorry my photography isn’t better, but nontheless, enjoy.
It took me a little while to get to this, after hearing the news, but it saddens me to write that Shizuka Miura passed away at the end of January. Her music will live on, of course, but it’s still such an unexpected shock… Especially because it was a suicide. Apparently it may have been due to medication, but at this point we’ll simply never know.
I first met Shizuka and her then-husband Maki Miura in the 90s, when their first Shizuka CD, Heavenly Persona, was released by PSF Records, followed shortly thereafter by the Live album from Persona Non Grata here in the U.S. I organized a couple of shows here in San Francisco for the band shortly after that, and quickly discovered how lovely both of them were. The other members of their band varied, but the two of them were the voice behind the band: Shizuka’s delicate, almost timorous vocals and softly-strummed guitar mixed perfectly with Maki’s intense playing, which would explode into some of the greatest psychedelic shredding this side of Fushitsusha, with whom he played in the past. I should also note that despite Shizuka’s somewhat timid stage presence, she was actually a very strong person: this wasn’t Maki’s band, it was truly hers, even though it wouldn’t have been what it was, of course, without his remarkable playing.
The band never became nearly as well-known as they deserved over here. Partly it was that they found touring to be very trying, and suffered health issues that kept them at home at a time when other bands were touring constantly. Partly it was also that they never had the money to go on tour extensively. For whatever reason, I’m always surprised when people who are now fans of Acid Mothers Temple, LSD-March, and Suishou no Fune have never even heard of Shizuka. Thankfully, you can still buy Heavenly Person from PSF: go here. And here’s my nudge-nudge that someone should really look at reissuing that album or another, with wider U.S. and European distribution.
Not too many people know that Shizuka was also recognized in Japan for her doll work. She studied under master dollmaker Katan Amano, and made some stunning, haunting dolls. Years ago when my wife was researching modern Japanese dolls (partially for an article I published in Ongaku Otaku magazine), Shizuka and Maki very kindly invited us to their apartment, where we visited them and got to see a number of Shizuka’s dolls, which were seated all around the small living room. They were beautiful creations. I have a number of photographs and cards of the dolls, including some small handmade framed pictures from Shizuka, which I’ll try to scan here shortly for another post.
Rather than just posting an mp3 here, I think it’s better to provide a link to one of the few videos I can find online of Shizuka live. Enjoy.
Last time I was over in Japan playing Numinous Eye shows, this crazy fun two-piece called Bobos opened for us in Kyoto, and I thought they were pretty cool: two women, both singing and playing bass, with a sampler behind them, and one also played accordion! And they did a cover of “Iron Man”! What’s not to like? They didn’t have any recordings with them, though I recorded their set.
Later on during the tour, we played an insane all-night show out in Tokyo’s Koiwa suburb, and there was a record store downstairs from the venue. So I spent some time looking through all of their CDRs, and what do you know, I stumbled on one from Bobos! 250 yen, had to have that of course. It’s an EP, 16 minutes long with seven tracks (though only 6 are listed on the tray card), released in 2006. As near as I can tell they haven’t released anything more recently, though who knows.
The first track, though it’s the title song, is just a short accordion intro that doesn’t prepare you for the fast drum-machine and bass of “Nana” — they switch between baby-like singing and grindcore growling, while the sampler throws down a breakneck toy-snare beat and they lay heavy bass over it all. Weird stuff, and very fun.
I was happy to find that their cover of “Iron Man” was on the CDR, with alternating little girl verses and growling choruses, accordion, and a blippy synth sequence playing out the oh-so-well-known riff. On “Gya!” they toss out a minute-long blast of hypercore, and “Hebi” (snake) takes thing slowly, with a skeletal beat and accordion drone.
Fun stuff, and I’d be interested to know whether the band are still playing or not — their web site as listed in the CDR is no longer active, unfortunately. I’ll have to ask some friends over there and see if there’s any news. For now, enjoy a couple of samples.
This is a strange one, an indie label sampler that I picked up at Koenji’s Emban store. The title, “害虫曼荼羅”, seems to translate to “Bad Insect Mandala”, I think… Anyway, it’s from a label called 害-TUNES Records, which from the contents of the CDR seems to specialize in a sort of low-fi electronic hip-hop thing — a bit like if Osaka’s scum-rock scene were more urban-influenced. The vocals all have a rapping sort of flow to them, even when they’re just talking or shouting over cheap beats and noise.
The songs are dominated by two artists primarily (I say artists because who knows if each is a band or just one guy), 土支田MELLTZ (Doshita MELLTZ) and hipnohopss. Both follow the same template, which is to construct some trashy rhythm out of a drum machine or a synth, and then layer noise, synth bloops, and/or vocal shouts over it. hipnohopss tends more to the noise side: “NERVOUS” is just sheets of static over a low-end rumble as voices moan and shout. 土支田MELLTZ gets more beat-centric, though sometimes the beat is just a chugging synth rhythm.
Other artists include 芯グループ (aka “core group” I guess), with a couple of long tracks of chanting/spoken vocals over electronic grinding or bleeping; and audio貞子, who tosses in two trashy collage pieces.
If you’re curious about low-fi noisy work with a definite hip-hop influence, this could be worth checking out. See the label’s MySpace page for more info.
Something a little different here… In going through lots of old tapes, I came across this cassette compilation from 1994 (or 1993, depending on where you look). It was released by the fairly obscure BLUE-ist label, associated with the band of the same name, and then reissued by Vanilla Records a couple of years later. The title, translated to “Step on a Land Mine and Say Goodbye”, is “Jirai o Fundara Sayonara”. It’s a very cool compilation, with some recognizable names in several genres, which is one of the interesting things about it. There’s abstract jazziness from Tairikuotoko vs Sanmyakuonna (featuring Tatsuya Yoshida from the Ruins and Katsui Yuji from Rovo, among others); noise from Diesel Guitars and Yellow Cab, and some pretty out-there weirdness from a number of others.
Because this is from 15 years again and is so obscure, I can’t imagine anyone minding it if I posting the full cassette here. I’ve included scans of the cover and the interior, since the liner notes include the names of the members of the various bands. Obviously, if anyone does for some reason object to it being here, let me know and I’ll take it down immediately of course. Otherwise, everyone enjoy, and consider it a holiday/new year’s present from the blog!
NOTE: WordPress won’t let me upload a zip file, so this file is called “blue-ist005.pdf” — after you download it, rename the file to “.zip” instead.