東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen)


Ex-Tokyo Jihen guitarist releases solo album


Guitarist Hirama Mikio, a former member of Tokyo Jihen, will release a solo album on Oct. 19. Details of the album, titled Bunmei Kookyoo Virus, have yet to be determined, but the music has been described as solid, simple rock music, with a “slight hint of decadance”. Hirama went by the name Hiruumi Mikine during his tenure with Tokyo Jihen.

Tokyo Jihen releases live DVD in July


Tokyo Jihen releases a live DVD, tenatively titled Dynamite In!, on July 13. The DVD documents the band’s tour from January to February of 2005. Two new songs are featured — “Toomei Ningen” and an oldies cover, “Koi no Urikomi”. The band has also scheduled Aug. 17 for a second DVD covering its Feb. 9 concert in Nagoya.

PE’Z releases new album in March


Jazz group PE’Z will release a new album, Tsukushinbo, on March 9. The band signed a new label deal with Roadrunner Japan, and plans are under way to release PE’Z’s music overseas. The ensemble’s albums have already been released in Taiwan and South Korea, where PE’Z has embarked on recent tours. In April, PE’Z hits the road again on a nationwide tour.

Mixed signals

When Shiina Ringo released 2003’s Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana, she said she wanted to make an album reflective more on Shiina Yumiko (her real name) than her persona, Shiina Ringo.

Since her debut in 1999, Shiina has done nothing but top herself, which is a pretty mean feat given the quality of her writing.

New listeners may think her singing sounds like a squirrel in heat, but albums as complex and rich as Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana and Shooso Strip could teach the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne a thing or two about eclecticism.

All that to say Shiina Ringo deserves a break.

And she gives herself one with Tokyo Jihen. Although she writes all the band’s songs and is the band’s voice, Shiina insists Tokyo Jihen is a real band.

That said, Kyooiku, Tokyo Jihen’s debut album, pales by comparrison to Shiina’s solo albums.

Not since her solo debut Muzai Moratorium has Shiina thrown a bunch of individual songs together to make an album. Everything else, including her cover album Utaite Myoori, was threaded by concept.

With Kyooiku, Shiina writes to the talents of her players, which results in some incredibly dynamic performances.

Pe’z keyboardist Hiizami Masayuki — billed as H-Zeto-M — is perhaps the most distinctive voice in the band. His organ work on “Crawl” and “Gunjyoo Biyoori” can chartibly be described as manic, while his piano on “Ekimae” grounds the song.

Of course producer Kameda Seiji, now bassist for the group, gives Kyooiku the cluttered, ordered chaos trademark of Shiina’s recordings. It’s no surprise to find guitarist Hirama Mikio dominating the songs.

Kyooiku puts Tokyo Jihen’s dynamism on full display. When they get noisy — as they do on “Crawl”, “Service” and “Soonan” — it’s impressive.

And yet there’s a sense Tokyo Jihen may not have been the best vessel for this particular set of songs.

Closer inspection of Shiina’s songs reveals she’s an incredible jazz writer. Her sense of harmony and melody is closer to the standards sung by Frank Sinatra than to the screaming guitars her recordings otherwise indicate.

How would “Ekimae” have sounded, for instance, done with a chamber orchestra? What if a wind band accompanied Shiina on the carnival-like “Bokoku Jyoshoo”? What if the Latin rhythms of “Gomatsuri Sawagi” were more pronounced?

What if she unplugged and totally went acoustic with this album?

It would not have showcased the chemistry of Tokyo Jihen, but it would have probably made for a very interesting listening experience.

Shiina Ringo sounds terrific when she rocks out, of course, and while Kyooiku doesn’t have songs as memorable as “Gips” or “Koofukuron”, it’s still a dazzling performance.

But it’s an interesting conundrum Shiina creates for herself on this album — it doesn’t seem intended to be ambitious as her solo work, and yet it still is.

And it creates some mixed signals.

Tokyo Jihen releases DVD in December


Tokyo Jihen will release a video clip DVD, titled tokyo incidents, vol. 1, on Dec. 8. The video clip collection includes “Gunjoo Biyori”, “Soonan”, “Sono Onna Fushidara ni Tsuki”, “Dynamite”, “Service”, and an unreleased cover song, “Kurumaya-san”. The DVD follows a quick succession of monthly releases, starting with “Gunjoo Biyori” in September, “Soonan” in October and the band’s debut album Kyooiku in November. Starting January 2005, Tokyo Jihen embarks on a nationwide tour. Record stores in Japan have started offering the complete “Soonan” single for trial listening, with a preview track from the album included.

Tokyo Jihen releases debut album in November


Tokyo Jihen releases its first album, titled Kyooiku, on Nov. 25, the band’s official site announced. In addition to pre-release singles “Gunjoo Biyori” and “Soonan”, the album also includes “Ringo no Uta”, which band leader Shiina Ringo recorded under her own name in 2003. The first pressing features a 3-part index of the album’s 12 songs.

The band also releases a limited-edition 12-inch vinyl single on the same day. The vinyl single, which contains a total of six songs, includes the singles “Gunjoo Biyori” and “Soonan”.

Tokyo Jihen releases second single in October


Tokyo Jihen releases a second single on Oct. 14, following its debut single in September. The new single, titled “Soonan”, was written by Shiina and includes a cover of the Brenda Lee jazz standard “Dynamite”. Tokyo Jihen made its live debut at the Fuji Rock and Meet the World Beat festivals this summer.

Tokyo Jihen releases debut single in September


Shiina Ringo’s new band, Tokyo Jihen, releases its debut single titled “Kunjoo Hiyori” on Sept. 8. The coupling tracks on the three-track release include “Sono Shukujo Fushidara ni Tsuki” and “Kao”. “Sono Shukujo Fushidara ni Tsuki” is a cover of the jazz standard “The Lady Is a Tramp”.

Tokyo Jihen consists of Shiina Ringo (vocals), Hata Toshiki (drums), Hiizami Masayuki (keyboards), Mikki (guitar) and Kameda Seiji (bass). The band will perform at the Fuji Rock Festival in August. Shiina introduced Tokyo Jihen as her backing band during 2003’s Suguroku Ecstacy tour.