Yearly Archives: 2004

Art-School searches for new bassist


Art-School has begun searching for a new bass player, the band’s official site reported. The site did not say whether the band will hold open auditions. Original bass player Hinata Hidekazu announced in December 2003 he was leaving the band to pursue other projects. Guitarist Ooyama Jun also said he was leaving but cited fatigue for his reason.

The site also reports Art-School will release a live album in March, as well as begin recording sessions with Number Girl and Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann.

More more more

When I listen to Garnet Crow, I’m always left with the sense of wanting more.

Not more because the band’s music leaves me hungry, but more because there’s seems to be something missing.

Certainly Nakamura Yuri’s resonant voice is pleasing to hear for 45 minutes straight. And certainly that voice is usually delivering something tuneful and subtly crafted.

But musically, Garnet Crow misses a lot of opportunities.

The band’s third album, Crystallize ~Kimi to Iu Hikari~, doesn’t feel as rushed as its previous release, even though both share the unfortunate habit of stashing all the singles at the beginning of the track listing.

Still, the remaining tracks stand on their own. “Crystal Goods” has a whimisical feel. The waltz meter of “Marionette Fantasia” evokes all the right poignant cues. Nothing really feels like filler.

And yet …

Garnet Crow doesn’t seem comfortable exaggerating. The band’s music tends to reach climaxes that aren’t terribly climactic, or follow contours that don’t have much shape.

And the band’s melodies all possess an inherent drama its arrangements don’t employ.

That beautiful high note Nakamura hits at the end of the opening track “Kyoo no Kimi to Ashita wo Matsu” could have benefited from a steeper curve.

The deep, chugging guitars on “Nogare no Machi” could afford to be much harder. The song’s dark nature would definitely accomodate it.

If “Spiral” were a Do As Infinity song, it would be a lot louder. And if “Only Stay” were an Utada Hikaru song, it would end up sounding a lot like “Uso no Mitai Naroo”.

Maybe Garnet Crow needs a different set of studio equipment. Maybe the band needs a producer other than itself.

Because left to its own devices, Garnet Crow don’t squeeze out nearly as much as it could out of its songs.

Which is something of pity because Garnet Crow’s pop writing isn’t all that bad. In fact, it isn’t all that pandering.

But there is an unshakeable homogeniety that indicates the band doesn’t want to paint outside the lines too much.

Creative growth is something not to be feared. Where have we heard that before?

Loop, repeat

I finally figured out how Do As Infinity pulled the wool over my eyes for all these years.

Just when I’m about to write the band off, they’ll record one song — just one song — to delude myself into thinking they’re just the greatest thing happening in pop music.

The last time out, it was “Koosooryodan”, a track so unabashedly hard, it was barely pop. Before that, it was “Fukai Mori”. And “Raven”? Still a great song.

But with the band’s fifth album, Gates of Heaven, the cover is blown. All the nagging suspicions that were quashed in previous reviews come front and center.

Do As Infinity hasn’t really done anything different since day one, has it?

A lot of the songs on Gates of Heaven can find direct descendents from previous Do As Infinity albums, most of them alot better than what’s offered now.

“Hiiragi”? Try “Desire”. “Honjitsu wa Saiten Nari”? Try “Summer Days”. “Blank”? Try “Shinjitsu no Shi” and “Painful”. “Mahoo no Kotoba”? We got your “Holiday” and “We are.” right here. “Weeds”? The only thing separating it from “Week!” is a “k” and an exclamation point.

The level to which Gates of Heaven offers no surprises is criminal, especially given the band’s penchant for juggling pop and rock. Offering songs as divergent as “Summer Days” and “Week!” is great. Writing more songs in the exact style of “Summer Days” and “Week!” is not.

About the most daring thing Do As Infinity does on Gates of Heaven is employ some reggae on “Azayaka na Hana”.

And to think Owatari Ryo and Van Tomiko have been getting away with this over the course of five albums now …

The lustre of Van’s voice is still very much in tact, and Owatari can solo like anybody’s business. It’s just tiring to hear it on the same set of songs over and over again.

Creative growth is something not to be feared. But if Album Number Five is any indication, Do As Infinity is pretty much stuck.


A content analysis of reviews written in U.S. publications regarding Puffy AmiYumi indicate the Japanese pop duo is just the right antidote needed to ail rock music cynicism.

What. Ever.

Truth is, Puffy aren’t so much anti-idols as much as they are idols for people who hate idols. The former term would indicate some degree of overt antagonism against the concept of idolism. The latter term suits a situation accomodating subversion of idol ideals.

In other words, Puffy ain’t no rock band — they’re a pair of idols.

The good news is Nice., the band’s third album in the US (its 10th in Japan), finally lives up to the press lavshed onto Ami and Yumi when they first splashed down stateside.

Producer Okuda Tamio may be reknowned for his work back home, but with Puffy, all he did was dress the pair in pastiche. On Nice., Puffy ropes Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer into the producer’s chair, and he delivers a genuine, harder sound.

The change is evident right from the start. “Planet Tokyo” unleashes a bank of guitars that would make Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo proud. It’s easy to imagine some post-teen male singer whining his way through “Invisible Tomorrow”, but it sounds far better fronted by Puffy.

“Your Love Is a Drug” dabbles a bit in the vintage influences of Puffy’s past but keeps its feet squarely in the now with that aforementioned big guitar sound.

When the band does indulge in evoking past decades, it doesn’t sound as thin or forced as on Spike or An Illustrated History.

“Sayonara” steals the best bits from the Byrds, not the whole damn thing. “Thank You” has a nice psychedelic feel but doesn’t lose its sense of wonder.

In fact, Puffy sounds best on such slower songs as the Beatles-like “Angel of Love”, or the country-influenced “Shiawase”.

There are some missteps — “Long Beach Nightmare” is a bit too perky, while “Tokyo Nights” is both insanely catchy and infinitely cheesy.

Still, it’s nice to see Puffy finally deserve the adore it initially generated. Nice. is a confident and appropriate title for this album.

Who knew they had it in them?

Pizzicato Five releases DVD box set in March


Pizzicato Five is set to release a limited edition six-DVD box set on March 31. Titled The Band of the 20th Century: Pizzicato Five The Six DVD Set, the set includes the DVDs BS Fuji ‘Music Index’ Studio Live (tenative title), Ugoku Josei Jooi Jidai, Miss Pizzicato Five Superstar, and three volumes of readymade TV. Pizzicato Five disbanded on March 31, 2001, and the DVD release marks the third anniversary of the duo’s dissolution.

Beauty has no end

At its safest, LOSALIOS sounds like a surf twang band. At its most extreme, it sounds like the roof is coming off the fucking walls.

On its third album the end of the beauty, LOSALIOS expands its combination of jazz improvisation and rock ‘n’ roll grit.

the end of the beauty is a somewhat apt title, if your concept of “beauty” isn’t far removed from “pretty”. At times, this album can get downright ugly, but ugly in a way that’s beautiful.

On its previous album Colorado Shit Dog, LOSALIOS keyed into the grunge-meets-jazz template forged by former downtown New York improviser Wayne Horvitz. (He’s a former New Yorker; not a former improviser.)

This time, it sounds like LOSALIOS have taken a few pages from the playbook of John Zorn’s Naked City.

Strip away Zorn’s musical attention deficit disorder, and you end up with some hard, fast but ultimately tuneful pieces.

That’s the end of the beauty to the letter.

“Three Dog Night” and “Snake Eyes” borrow liberally from ’60s twang. “Faster Talking Heads” starts off with a very distinctly southern U.S. guitar style but eventually dissolves into a messy skonky fit.

“Kaze no Namae” starts off with a “Sing! Sing! Sing!” beat, gives way to a dissonant rock beat, then features an acoustic guitar solo.

“Chaser” is a long, fiery violin solo on top of folk guitar, and a bizzare bassline.

“Aurora ga Mai Kuruu Toki” bears — in spirit — a close resemblance to Zorn’s epic cut-and-paste pieces Spillane and Two-Lane Highway. It starts off quietly, then builds up and breaks down over the course of seven minutes.

The album gets much more dissonant toward the end. Arrange “Madorumi” for string quartet, and the Kronos Quartet could pass it off as a new commission.

The concluding track “Areno e Kaeru Monotachi e” is perhaps the crux of LOSALIOS’ aesthetic. The band plays a basic rock riff, but as the chords get heavier and the momentum builds, it explodes in a blast of dissonance.

It’s a fitting close to a wild and fiery album.

Guitarist Tsuchiya Masami shines throughout the end of the beauty, navigating rhythmic and harmonic complexities with ease. Wonderous bass player TOKIE may not play on all the tracks, but guest musicians Mick Karn and Dudley Phillips certainly keep up.

And somehow, leader Nakamura Tatsuya keeps it all together with some solid timekeeping drumming.

the end of the beauty is a beauty itself.

Quruli, Kishidan aim for SXSW spots

Source: with additional reporting by

Quruli, Kishidan and Polysics are some of the Japanese bands applying for showcases at the annual SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The SXSW Asia site listed 19 bands all vying for spots at this year’s festival, to be held March 17-20.

Bands from around the world perform at SXSW, and for the past seven years, the festival has hosted Japan Nite. Past participants from Japan include Number Girl, Cocco, Love Psychedelico and Zoobombs. An early list of this year’s participants includes N.E.R.D, Ozomatli, the Hives and the Crystal Method.

A full list of participants will be published in mid-February. Bands from Japan tentatively appearing at the 2004 festival (subject to change) include:

  • Bleach
  • The Emeralds
  • Quruli
  • Zanzo
  • Noodles
  • Limited Express (has gone?)
  • Fuzzy Control
  • Electric Eel Shock
  • Polysics
  • W.A.R.P.
  • Fantasy’s Core
  • Kishidan
  • Romz Record Crew
  • Response
  • FC Five
  • Petty Booka
  • Gito Gito Husler
  • Tsushimamire
  • Kokeshi Doll

In the center

I’m still trying to figure out where in the spectrum of indie rock bands Remioromen falls, but singer Fujimaki Ryouta’s voice keeps distracting me.

It’s a damn fine voice.

It’s not as nostalgic as Spitz’s Kusano Masamune nor as heavy as WINO’s Yoshimura Atsushi. And it has none of the nasal power of soulsberry’s Ishizuka Tomohiko, Art-School’s Kinoshita Riki or Suneo Hair.

It’s just an appealing, clear, emotional voice. But it’s enough to lure a listener into Remioromen’s pop-ready indie songwriting.

About the only misstep on the band’s major label debut, Asagao, is the disco beat at the start of “Mame Denkyu”. (That’s so Glay.) The rest of the album is pretty damn catchy.

“Himekuri Calendar” and the title track bears the influence of Brian Wilson and the Beatles without actually having to evoke either one. If Fujimaki screamed and unleashed a larger guitar sound on “Shoowa”, it would sound a lot more like the Back Horn.

“Ameagari”, “Sukimakaze” and “Festa” show the band aren’t stuck in midtempo; in fact, they sound better doing the fast.

And the slow burning single, “Denwa”, has a chorus that flexes the full capacity of Fujimaki’s lungs.

Still, there something perplexing about Remioromen. On the one hand, it’s evident the band can play fast and loose as the aforementioned Back Horn or Art-School. And there’s a sense Remioromen can give labelmates Quruli a run for the money when it comes to songcraft.

But the fact Remioromen doesn’t sound closely related to any of those bands is an asset as well. It makes the comparrison game — which is handy for reviewers — all the more difficult.

Also, Asagao is one slick recording. It possesses a studio finesse that puts it closer to L’Arc~en~Ciel than to Number Girl.

In essence, Remioromen falls smack in the middle of the rock spectrum — tuneful enough not to be pandering, hard enough not to be overboard.

Something so balanced usually ends up being bland, but factor in the hook-writing skills, and Remioromen end up being a sure but safe bet.

There’s still a lot of room for this band to grow, but it sure is starting at a pretty good spot.

Supercar releases new album in February


Supercar has set Feb. 25 as the release date of its next album, titled Answer. Details of the album have not been determined, but the recording of the album has been documented on the band’s official web site by its bassist, Miki. Supercar releases a new single, “Last Scene”, on Jan. 28. Yoshinori Sunahara produced the band’s most recent single, “BGM”.

So easy

Man, is it easy to hate Quruli.

How can one band be blessed with so much good songwriting? How can one band make songwriting seem so effortless?

Even a project as incidental as the soundtrack to the film Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi has the band’s distinct stamp of quality.

The 26-minute album contains mostly short, instrumental music. In fact, it’s a pretty even distribution of material: two tracks with some simple background music, four variations on two main themes, one track with a good portion of film dialogue and two new songs.

And in those compact confines, Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi makes for one of the band’s tightest albums, despite its brisk length.

It’s a sign of a good soundtrack when even the throwaway material sounds pretty good. “Ubaguruma” and “Drive” both show the more Americana influences that unconsciously inform the Quruli’s indie rock sound.

The two new songs, “Ameiro no Heya” and “Highway”, are catchier than anything on the band’s last single, “Way to Go”. “Highway”, in particular, follows in the footsteps of “Bara no Hana”.

“Joze no Theme”, which appears in two forms, is perfectly memorable, and ex-Number Girl Ahito Inazawa’s dub drumming on the opening track demonstrates how subtle a player he can be.

The crowning achievement of this album, however, is the melody arranged in two different forms on “Wakare” and “Tetsu to Joze”. The wide, open theme sounds equally beautiful when rendered in drawn-out notes by a string quartet (“Wakare”) or in short, sustained chords by a piano (“Tetsu to Joze”).

It’s enough to make a person want to hear more.

Joze to Tora to Sakanatachi may not be a full-length follow-up to the band’s sonically daring The World Is Mine, but it extends the aural pallette Quruli is willing to explore. It also combines a lot of the hook-filled songcraft at time missing from its predecessor.

Still, Quruli manage to make a form as forgettable as film music incredibly memorable, if not tuneful.

Is there nothing this band can’t do?