First [EP] – 4.5/5
Second – 4/5
There is something deeply unsettling about this artist, and not just because of their appearance; on the surface an odd jazz quartet, the three suited men wielding their respective instruments ready to play, all staring at the cute Japanese school girl in front of them. You could even mistake her for the latest trend in paedo-pop trying to make it big but appearances are deceiving, and it doesn’t take long – somewhere between the chaotic backing instruments and the small smiling girl suddenly twisting into a psychotically snarling beast, screaming about how she loves to kill things – before you realise that you couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Their debut release ‘First’ is perhaps best suited to the term ‘Jazzcore,’ (with a dollop of ‘noise rock’) but it doesn’t entirely fit; normally images of unbridled technicality, noodling and meandering guitar lines over dissonant drums and sporadic keyboards come to mind but this feels altogether more simplistic, taking the term back to its respective roots and fusing the two genres before it became plagued with breakdowns and pointless guitar lines. It still holds its technicality, but it’s all done to further the track into new territory, retaining a remarkable boisterous punk energy amidst the jazz instrumentation which dominates much of the proceedings.
And the instrumentation has been worked together marvellously so as to not overshadow any single aspect, the double bass making its presence known amidst the chaos of the frantic piano lines and cacophonous drums; the guitars topping off the line up with simple punk chords played in a rough and ready manner that feels more ambitious in their attempt to create something loud and furious rather than produce a melody, and it oddly works, the periods of calm separating the madness into bitesize chunks.
Couple this with the vocals that remain a highlight, with a raw punk energy that defies the need for conventional ability, instantly transitioning between a hyper aggressive roar and gentle groove that never fails to draw attention, used sparingly enough to not overpower the many instrumental sections. The subsequent full-length follow up, aptly named ‘second’ sadly sees the start of this energy dissipating, and whilst not as strong remains a worthwhile listen. A Japanese Jazz band with the attitude of punk: what’s not to like?
“First” Highlights: お猿, ロマンティック夏モード
“Second” Highlights: Doping Noise Noise Kiss, Atashi no Outa, Ai no Uta
Shimizu [EP] – 3.5/5
Hello Everyone. Nice to Meet you. We are Midori. – 4.5/5
With only a single full-length and EP to their name, they quickly garnered a hefty following drawn in by their chaotic and unconventional ramblings, but then something unexpected happened; their unpalatable brand of insanity got them signed to Sony Japan; their DIY aesthetic from their days on a small label replaced with the glamour of a large corporation but perhaps most surprising is that whilst its certainly a different breed of animal to their earlier works, its not necessarily bad because of it. Their latest offering in ‘Hello Everyone’ has a certain degree of polish applied to their tone, detracting from their chaotic tone – in particular the guitars and rasped vocals have been cut back – and as a result the music feels less dissonant; there’s less contrast between the two styles.
This increase in fluidity may be to many peoples liking of course, it certainly makes it easier to follow and accentuates the jazzy grooves that emerge, but it trades that for some of the raw edge that made their first debut so powerful. The opening vocal line of ‘Destroy’ shows that they certainly haven’t lost their attitude but instead have polished and refined it to the point where it almost becomes all the more unsettling; the at times lounge-like melodies in the short piano ballad midway through only understood when the title becomes translated (“I have no guts, my family is scum”), or the guttural vocals over the seamless backing that despite having entirely different musical heritage never sound out of place.
But unlike their last, it feels as though the overall composition of the individual lines has had a greater degree of care taken over it, no longer all working to provide a single tone – that sudden transition from smooth groove to dissonant chaos – but a multi-layered piece that takes its time to grow on you; the hard hitting bass lines of ‘Chiharu no Koi’ or addictive piano riff in ‘Himitsu no 2ri,’ always creatively complemented by the insatiable drumming. Distinctly more ‘free jazz’ this time around, that initial lack of a raw punk edge turned me away after their frantic debut but it didn’t take long for me to forget it was ever there before. The melodies succeed in lulling you into a false sense of security, belying the original ironic intention behind their twisted view. They may have changed their style since their debut, but they aren’t any the worse for doing so.
“Shimizi” Highlights: Inu Hashiru.
“Hello Everyone” Highlights: Yukiko San, Osaru, Chiharu no Koi