Zazen Boys


Zazen Boys posts video clip of new single


A complete video clip of Zazen Boys’ new single, “Himitsu Girl’s Top Secret”, is available for streaming on the band’s official web site. The single marks the first appearance of new drummer Matsushita Atsushi. Commentary about the song by Mukai Shuutoku is also available as an MP3 download. “Himitsu Girl’s Top Secret” has been described by Mukai as “new dance music” and features an odd set of rhythmic meters. The single goes on sale on July 13.

Former Zazen Boys/Number Girl drummer Ahito Inazawa takes his own band, Vola and the Oriental Machine, on a tour with syrup 16g. The two bands play four shows, starting on Aug. 25. On July 13, the band teams up with Mo’some Tonebender for a special event, Oriental Concour, vol. 01. Tickets for these events go on sale July 2.

Zazen Boys releases new single in July


Zazen Boys will release a new single titled “Himitsu Girl’s Top Secret” on July 16. The release marks the debut of the band’s new drummer Matsushita Atsushi. Zazen Boys will also embark on a tour which includes stops at Shibuya Ax and Hibiya Noon. Zazen Boys has also made available its May 10 show at Osaka’s Club Quattro as a free download on its official site.

Mukai Shuutoku contributes music to film soundtrack


Mukai Shuutoku will write music for a new movie by Kudou Kankurou, titled Mayonaka no Yajisan Kitasan. The film is expected to be premiered next spring and stars Nagase Tomoya (TOKIO) and Nakamura Shinnosuke. The soundtrack album to be released on April 13 includes the tracks “Tankui”, “Yaji x Kita” and “Yaji x Kitabeat”, “Yaji x Kita Psychedelic”, “Yaji x Kitakabuki” and other songs performed by Zazen Boys. In addition, Nagase and Nakamura perform “Tokaido de Ikou” and “Mayonaka no Yajisan Kitasan” in the movie.

Zazen Boys announce new drummer


Zazen Boys announced Matsushita Atsushi is the band’s new drummer, following the departure of original member Ahito Inazawa. Matsushita has previously performed with Zoobombs and Buffalo Daughter, and he makes his first appearance with the band on April 28 at Shijuku Loft. Inazawa’s last performance with Zazen Boys was Countdown Japan 04/05 on Dec. 30.

Zazen Boys drummer leaves band


Drummer Ahito Inazawa is leaving Zazen Boys, the band’s official web site announced. Tension between Inazawa and the band led to his departure, according to a statement by band leader Mukai Shuutoku. Inazawa will still perform with Zazen Boys in Kyoto Park on Dec. 4 and at Countdown Japan 04/05 on Dec. 31.

Footing found

Holy shit.

If “what the fuck” was my reaction to Zazen Boys’ first album, this was my reaction to its follow-up.

Holy shit.

The last time out, I wrote Mukai Shuutoku had a way to go before Zazen Boys possesed a sense of identity. I didn’t think he’d managed to find it in nine months.

With Zazen Boys II, Mukai reclaims the songcraft he eschewed on the band’s self-titled debut. He’s also managed to expand the band’s sound while retaining its distinctiveness, especially compared to his previous work.

Mukai continues to explore the spoken word realm, opting to recite his lengthy verses in his own rhythmic delivery. (He’s smart enough to know he’s not a hip-hop MC.)

The first half of the album is driven by his recitations — “Crazy Days Crazy Feelings”, “No Time”, “Cold Beat”.

He sings a lot more on this album, too, and that’s wonderful — Mukai’s blood-curdling scream and his off-kilter melodies were missed on the last album.

At the same time, he’s incorporated more varied instruments into Zazen Boys’ sound. The “Zazen Bo” interludes are driven not by guitars but by drum machines and synthesizers.

Shiina Ringo’s backing vocals on “Crazy Days Crazy Feelings” and “Amin Bou” offer a welcome contrast to Mukai’s ravings. And the organ on “Amin Bou” is some of the wildest playing on anywhere.

He’s gotten much more sophisticated in his production as well. Drummer Ahito Inazawa towers over “Crazy Days Crazy Feelings” and “Saizensen”, and he positively explodes on “Kuroi Shitagi”, the band’s most frenzied song.

Inazawa’s drumming has become so intrinsic to Mukai’s music, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else powering it. Let’s hope these two stay collaborators for a long time.

Sonic considerations aside, the real selling point for Zazen Boys II is the writing — it’s some of Mukai’s most complex and diverse yet. And amazingly enough, some of his most coherent.

“Cold Beat” is a busy song with a difficult rhythm and a brilliant percussion solo, and it doesn’t sound out of place next to “You Make Me Feel So Bad”, a melodic song on which Mukai brings back his soul man falsetto.

Guitarist Yoshikane Sou goes haywire on “Daigakusei”, and it fits in well with the “delayed brain”-style effects of “Chie Chan’s Landscape”.

“Roppon no Kurutta Hagane no Shindoo” is driven by both a disco beat and some eccentric guitar work, while “My Crazy Feeling” demonstrates Georgia blues can get punk as all get out.

The first Zazen Boys album was a dress rehearsal, a trial run to see how well the band can navigate through Mukai’s evolving songwriting.

Zazen Boys II, though, is the real deal. Mukai has found his footing with this album, staying true to the foundation of his muse while also pushing its limits. Incredible, indeed.

Panic Smile releases latest album in two years


Fukuoka-based Panic Smile will release a new album, titled Miniature, on Dec. 17. The album is a follow-up to Grasshopper Sun, which was released two years ago. Members of Panic Smile include Kikuchi Seikou and Jason from Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden. Panic Smile also performed with Number Girl, and Mukai Shuutoku collaborated with the band before forming Zazen Boys.

Zazen Boys broadcasts new album on official site


Zazen Boys will stream its latest album on its official site from Aug. 13-15. Titled “Zazen Bo Hoosookyoku”, the Netradio program includes the entire album, plus commentary by band members. The broadcast begins Friday, 8 p.m. (6 a.m. CT) and ends on Sunday, 11 p.m. (9 a.m. CT). According to band leader Mukai Shuutoku’s online journal, the broadcast will feature entire songs and not 30-second trial listening clips.


What the fuck?

That was my first reaction when I first played Zazen Boys’ self-titled debut. It’s the reaction I get everytime I play it.

What the fuck?

In the latter days of Number Girl, band leader Mukai Shuutoku started getting more eccentric with his songwriting. Hints of other influences cropped up in unlikely places.

“Tokyo Freeze” featured Mukai in full rap mode. “Num-Ami-Dabutz” was little more than a spoken word piece with a screaming chorus.

After the dissolution of Number Girl, Mukai spent a year experimenting. Performances with hardcore band Panic Smile and a solo acoustic tour influenced him to commandeer a previous alias, Zazen Boys, and to from a new band.

And it’s pretty much a fresh start, as evidenced on Zazen Boys’ self-titled debut album.

The album starts with Mukai doing his creepiest impression of Marvin Gaye on “Fender Telecaster”. From there, he launches into a mostly-spoken word repertoire.

“Usodarake”, “The Days of Nekomachi”, “Yureta Yureta Yureta” — all follow the basic “Num-Ami-Dabutz” template of spoken verses with sung choruses.

“Yureta Yureta Yureta” gets to so frenzied, the only way Mukai grounds it is by giving the song a straight-forward chorus.

The album crashes on the 8-minute, mid-tempo “Kaisenzenya”. The wandering song breaks down, picks up and never really finds a sense of direction.

After that, Zazen Boys ventures into Mukai’s more familiar songwriting — dischordant riffs, screaming vocals, obtuse melodies.

The conclusion of “Kimochi” layers a chaotic guitar solo over a slow beat. “Ikasama Love” chops up a compound meter beyond recognition, while “Whiskey & Unubore” is grounded on some really dissonant melodies.

Zazen Boys finds Mukai Shuutoku at his most creatively daring. He’s thrown out the book about tonality and seeks a tortured mode of expression a few steps shy of avant-garde.

It’s a challenging work. Is it likeable? Not really.

Part of Number Girl’s appeal was a tension between melody and dissonance. You could sing along with Mukai, even though he and guitarist Tabuchi Hisako cared not one whit about staying within a scale.

With Zazen Boys, that tension has dissolved into barely-controlled anarchy. While interesting, it isn’t exactly compelling.

And while Tabuchi’s axework is missing, more so is producer Dave Fridmann’s strong touch. Fridmann captured the full ferocity of Number Girl’s live show in the studio.

Zazen Boys seems to be even more powerful, but that doesn’t come across in the album’s production.

With Zazen Boys, Mukai shakes off a very successful legacy, but there’s a sense he still has a way to go before this new project possesses a clearer sense of identity.