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I lived in Japan and I listened to music

For a little over two years, I spent my time living in a rural area of Japan. I was fortunate enough to be schooled in the noise, punk, psych and weirdo underbelly of the Japanese music scene by some trustworthy heads. I played some shows, but more importantly, I saw some shows. And I listened.


Let’s start from the “beginning” and get this out of the way so all music nerds don’t jump on me for bringing it up later. If you haven’t heard Flower Travelin’ Band… first of all, who are you? Second of all, here:

Flower Travelin Band – Satori II
Les Rallizes Denudes – Romance of the Black Grief
Les Rallizes Denudes – But I Was Different

I added two songs by Les Rallizes Denudes because shut up and listen. They were years ahead of their time… and were involved in an incredibly tragic story. I wouldn’t dig into their history too much if you aren’t ready to feel bad for a whole lot of people.


Jailbird Y – X cell

Jailbird Y has two drummers and makes what they consider “shit funk hardcore.” They are, in my humble opinion, the best live band in Hiroshima. Each member has various noisy side endeavors and even a “toilet core” side project. Jailbird Y frontman, Anndoe, also books and promotes shows as PEXPOX. So on top of being a most radical band, they do a lot for the local scene.


The Locust/Melt Banana split 7”

Even as the current two-piece setup, Melt Banana still brings a ridiculous amount of noise and destruction. I saw them in Nagoya and broke my nose during the first song of their set without realizing until the next day. They have that kind of power. Melt Banana has a lot of cool tunes but my personal favorites reside on the 7 song in 7 minute 7” split with the Locust, which my ex-radio co-host introduced me to. Just listen to the whole thing, it’s only 7 minutes forchrissakes!


SS – Mr. Twist

SS might be the world’s first hardcore band. They might have a terrible name but man can they shred.


Nisennenmondai – A

Nisennenmondai is the best live band I’ve seen, period. I would recommend everything in their catalogue but just start from the most recent and begin your slow descent backwards into an industrial-noise madhouse.


Takako Minekawa / Dustin Wong – Party on a Floating Cake

I’ve been following Dustin Wong (of Ponytail fame) for quite sometime and he never disappoints. The dude can do insane things with just a guitar and a few pedals. These days, he and Shibuya-kei singer Takako Minekawa are making loads of noise-pop gems. This one’s a little old, but a personal favorite:


Faron Square – In Memory of Sally

Faron Square was (is?) part of the whole chill-wave CUZ ME PAIN crew alongside acts like Jesse Ruins and Hotel Mexico. Years ago, back in Tokyo, I saw them open for Jesse Ruins and Pictureplane. I haven’t been able to get “In Memory of Sally” out of my head since.


Hotel Mexico – Its Twinkle

A Tokyo music journalist friend of mine once told me Hotel Mexico was one of Japan’s best bands. I listened to them a few times and just wasn’t feeling it. THEN—I saw them live. Sucks for you they’re broken up and you’ll never get that chance.


Moan – Banded Agates (Edit)

Moan is Shinji Masuko (Boredoms, DMBQ) and one of my musical heroes. Seeing Moan play with Jailbird Y and Nagoya homies Velvet Ants is up their with my top 5 concerts in Japan. Enjoy an excerpt from Moan’s spacey goodness:


Extruders – I Wonder

During my time, I lived in a small mountain town along the coast. Everything was gravy excluding the fact that we had two barely listenable radio stations. For far too long, Extruders’ “colors” was the only CD (leave me alone, I’m old) I owned.  That was until my good friend and collaborator gave me a copy of “8 Queens.” This band was a slow-grower for me, but do yourself a favor and listen to these guys:


Mogura ka Maigo – Puppy Seat

For both aesthetic and nostalgic reasons, Mogura ka Maigo is my personal favorite on this list. He invited me to play a few shows with him on my first “tour” of Japan. I love how he always tricks you into thinking you’re listening to an indie pop jam and, then, slowly starts incorporating waves of distorted noise. Kou (mastermind behind Mogura ka Maigo, among many other bands, too many of which to mention) welds together beauty and ugliness in a way most musicians dream they could. Not to mention he wears a Mole onesie when he plays live.

I miss living in the mountains and rifling through the various liner notes I couldn’t understand of CDs, cassettes, and 7 inches I had picked up in whatever city I had found myself in the weekend before. But hey, maybe I can show all those Japanese buds some Chicago drone and party punk next time they’re in town.

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