Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jesse Dangerously - Righteous Bad Ass

I finally managed to back up my old iPod so I felt safe to reinstall iTunes on my computer. A couple of years back one of my friends bought an iPod Mini (remember those?) and didn't know to turn the syncing "feature" off. When she deleted mp3 files from her hard drive to conserve space on her antiquated computer iTunes quickly decided she didn't need those songs on her iPod anymore either. I told my teary-eyed friend (she was teary-eyed quite often) that she would need to turn syncing off to avoid this from happening in the future. Ever since that event I have a very limited trust in Apple's software. While it was a good time to back up the my old 3rd generation iPod, it was basically full and I went to our local Apple retailer to look at the latest and greatest. I came home with a shitty haircut (not from the Apple shop) and an awesome 160 GB iPod Classic. It is not without it's shortcomings, it's a bit slower and has slightly choppy video occasionally but the additional capacity more than makes up for it.

It was also time to use my first iTunes card and see what was available in the store. I was very disappointed with their selection of foreign music while not completely absent it is safe to say it would not pass "The GOOD Music" test. The Canadian version of the iTunes store is so saturated with Canadian content that I gotta assume the CRTC (Canada's FCC) has something to do with it. Canada has some of the most draconian legislation when it comes to minimum Canadian content. In fact, you may not know that Bob and Doug Mackenzie were a sarcastic jab at the CRTC's content rules. It's much easier to complain about these rules when it means you must choose between Nickelback, The Hip and Rush but at least the iTunes store has a very very thorough selection to choose from. While on the iTunes site I picked up a Hifana single, a Four Tet EP and a new album by Halifax-born, Alberta resident, Jesse Dangerously.

I first came across Dangerously while reading an article from an excellent site called Hipster, Please! The article did little more than mention him alongside a number of other Nerdcore rappers but it did say he was from Canada and so I figured I would give him a try. It's too smooth to be Nerdcore and too nerdy to be mainstream. Indie hip hop at its finest with a strong nineties influence. Undeniably Canadian in prose, Dangerously is really darn tight with good production and high replay value. So much so, that I decided to make him the first artist I have ever paid for a bunch of ones and zeros coming through my tubes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Ten Places for the GOOD Music

“Closed from today.” That’s what the sign said at the music store in our mall. I never bought anything there so I guess I’m part of the problem but it’s still sad to see our little shitty music store go. I even recently thought about how I had been picking up the latest issues of Exclaim! Magazine for free and reading them in our local library, a nice escape that made our little town feel more like a big city. The year end seems a fitting time to write a top ten list unless your cracked in which case it’s always time to write top ten lists. Here are my top ten sources for new music. They are written in a rough chronology from oldest to newest. While keeping in mind that older sources are not always given up for the new, I can’t help noticing how the sources become digital over time. My initial sources depend on close relationships while the later rely on the faceless collective, I suppose resistance was futile.

1. Friends – High school friends did a lot to turn me on to different kinds of music. Grasshopper, the early Chris Sheppard mixes, Skinny Puppy, and the Digital Underground were always personal faves.

Chimo Bayo

2. Used Music Stores, Pawn Shops, and one Yakuza-Run Adult Movie Store – Into the Music was my personal Mecca for new music. A time just before file sharing became the norm I remember sitting along side punks and hippies at the listening stations. Every disc in the store could be listened to for as long as you wanted. People always respected the line ups and would usually make sure everyone had a decent chance to have some time with their music. I learned all about break beats at that place.

Fast forward several years to beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in Japan. I was going for a walk in an unexplored part of my neighborhood. My favorite thing about living in Japan is that you can explore an area for months even years and think you have seen it all only to find a road you’ve never traversed and make the discovery of a lifetime. That Sunday was one of those times. I stumbled upon a small video store (which I later found out was run by Yakuza) and went in. There was a small front area which rented the standard blockbuster movies and a massive back area that rented out porno. They also sold used music CDs. Thing is they were tired of selling CDs in the store and decided to clear out their inventory as quickly as possible by slashing their prices to virtually free. This is the sort of stuff I dream about (literally). I walked out with armloads of discs, about fifty. And I didn’t spent more than a dollar a piece.

3. Radio – I’ve talked about my favorite radio stations before so I won’t go into too much detail but sufficed to say I wouldn’t know about Aiden Baker, The Books or Broken Teeth without them.

Broken Teeth

4. Trading Tapes Online – It was the dawn of the World Wide Web and I was a big fan of Skinny Puppy thanks to some high school friends. I craved all things industrial at the time and joined the “Smothered Hope” Skinny Puppy newsgroup. I asked some people on the news group if they would be willing to send me some mix tapes of their favorite music and to my surprise I got no fewer than ten tapes in the mail. Thanks to these mix tapes I learned about John Oswald and Negativland.

John Oswald

5. Art school – In art school I met a number of like-minded individuals who craved music above all else. None of us were exactly sure what it was that we wanted to hear so we all did a lot of personal research and shared out findings amongst ourselves. University taught me the fine art of Pan Sonic, Tom Waits, Tortoise and Godspeed, You Brave Emperor, saying nothing of the countless local bands that I love to this day.

Pan Sonic

6. Music Magazines – Uptown, Exclaim! and the Manitoban were a few of the free rags I could pick up at school or downtown. Between the three publications I had about all the music news I could digest between classes. While well known to me at the time I still clearly remember Kevin Matthews defending Beck’s fine Mutations album.

7. Peer to Peer – Napster got me interested, Audiogalaxy had me hooked. In my opinion Audiogalaxy had the best single song downloading system ever created. Look for a song, almost ANY song not matter how obscure and just download it. It worked flawlessly 99.99% of the time. Audiogalaxy’s song recommendation system is still the best I’ve ever seen. It introduced me to loads of cool music like BT, Röyksopp and Japan’s Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. After much legal pressure Soulseek was forced to go legit and is now known as the all but forgotten Rhapsody. A few months later, enter SoulSeek currently the best option for finding new music especially if you have a few friends on the network. And of course we cannot forget about the all mighty torrents.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

8. Night Clubs – I did a LOT of clubbing during my first stint in Japan and found out a lot about cool local DJs. I went with a crew of two other people and no doubt we were known for a long time as those three mushroom weirdos that never talked to anyone. People’s curiosity was piqued and after about a year became quite famous with the expat regulars. Thanks to my time a club regular I was introduced to the likes of DJ Shinkawa, Energy Dai, and Yoji Biomehanika. My second go at Japan was much more subdued due to my age and new found fear of mushrooms and a general disinterest in hard house. I spent a lot of time at more chilled out affairs like Ska clubs and turntablist events.

DJ Kentaro

8. You Tube & MySpace – You Tube is the reason this site exists. It’s no fun to write about a band without giving you a sample of how they sound. One day, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of all the cool Japanese bands on my iPod and send it to all my friends complete with a list of links to videos found on You Tube. Problem was that the list became so huge that I knew there was no way anyone was going to go through all of it. The solution became The GOOD Music.

Lately, I have been looking at MySpace as a source of finding new bands. Simply pick a band you like, find them on MySpace and look at their friends list. Many of the people on the list will likely be other bands that have similar styles. How else would I know about Water Water Camel, Lullatone and the Cuntfaces?


9. Podcasts – When I am really hard up for new stuff I can always count on music podcasts for inspiration. I really enjoy Live365, imagine radio for ever possible niche you can imagine. It’s helped me connect with lots of unknown indie bands from all over the world. Podcast are to blame many of my recent favorites like Tomato Star, My Little Airport, and my recent love affair with Nerdcore hip hop.

MC Frontalot

10. All other websites – Like a brave explorer, I am never scared to dig through the dark recesses of the web to come up with bold new content. Some of it is obvious like this great new juke box site called Songza. It has an easy to use interface that scours the web for any manner of streaming audio and plays it like magic. Certainly, the weirdest place I’ve gone for music recently is the adult web cam site, Live Jasmine. Bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain myself. Live Jasmine is a site that streams live video of half naked chicks from all over the world to you computer in hopes that someone will pay to see one of the chicks stick things in their butts and things of that nature. A typical web cam will have some poor Filipina lying on a bed listening to music while trying to lure some lonely, rich American into paying for a private “chat”. I would go into these rooms and if I heard a song that I was interested in I would simply ask the girl what the name of the band was. Every now and then someone would bite and I would have a gem like “Ordertaker” by Parokya Ni Edgar to share with you all. System, anyone?

Parokya Ni Edgar

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reuben - Christmas Is Awesome

Merry Christmas everyone!

Adolph Hitler - Born to Be Alive

I own a pair of kick ass Hugo Boss shades that I'm very proud to say George Clooney wore in the Coen Brothers movie, Intolerable Cruelty. I have no way of being certain that George Clooney actually wore Hugo Boss shades in that movie but that's the story I tell because who's ever going to dispute it. The other day one of my co-workers took a look at my shades and said, "You know Hugo Boss designed the military uniforms for the Nazis." A simple search on the internet proves legitimacy to this claim. From now on whenever I show off my George Clooney shades I'll be sure to let everyone know that my fashion statement would have been shared with the Schutzstaffel had they been made during Hitler's reign. While I was doing research (ie: Google search) I stumbled upon a video that was so great that it had to be shown on this fine Christmas Eve.

Now the title of today's post is slightly misleading as the song does not come from Hitler's own vocal chords, but the juxtaposition of the images and music does owe a certain credit to the Fuhrer. At first, what you are about to see will probably seem cheap and childish and to a point I will agree but beneath it I can see much more. This video exists in many variations on the web. The original is credited to Johan Söderberg of Sweden. The video below is seen as a reprise by DJ Farouk, who claims the original is much better. I disagree and even tho the video does seem to fall a little out of sync I believe the pacing and energy in this reprise is more suited to the music, which happens to be a little disco number by the Disco Kings.

Johan Söderberg has lip-synced some of the most hated and loved people in history to some of the most hated and loved songs. So, while you will probably find this video cheap and childish you will also find it catchy and that is the source of it's power. I have been to many an art gallery in my time and have yet to see a video that is a poignant as Hitler singing Born to Be Alive. Sure, war is bad, I get it, so showing me a bunch of depressing images of war victims is nothing more than predictable pablum. Show me a video of a war that makes me want to dance and now I have something to think about. The real interesting video art can't be found in galleries anymore, it is on You Tube, Newgrounds and You're the Man Now, Dog. Good luck finding it, though.

My little article is finished now, but I can't sign off without at least mentioning another Hitler video that has spawned a number of video responses and IS pretty childish (and really funny). If you have heard about Microsoft banning users from X-Box Live for having modded systems than you got to watch this.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Midori - Doping Noise Kiss/Anta wa Dare Yo

My first exposure to a big punk rock festival was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I was with a couple of good friends and we were all pretty into it. One moment really stood out and I still remember it quite clearly, the singer of one of the bands put a condom on his head and managed to get it pulled down under his nose but still above his mouth. In between screaming, "I'm a lousy lover, I'm a lousy lay" he managed to inflate the dube (haven't used that word since grade six) little by little until it exploded. I was pretty young at the time so while slightly traumatized by the whole affair, I was old enough to know how awesome this shit really was. This display of self-deprecation was my first experience of watching Much Music. A little research has taught me that the song was "Lousy Lover" originally by the "Minimalist Jug Band" as covered by "Look People". But as Q and others no doubt have said, "All good things must come to an end". These days, watching Much or MTV are little more than watching late night infomercials - carefully marketed, being ubercertain not to take any risks and making certainly that everyone is equally entertained. The problem with everyone being equally entertained however is that no one is really that entertained at all. People with condoms on their heads is a guarantee that someone is going to change the channel. Of course, that person is clearly stupid. That is why I am so happy to know that there is still one channel out there that is going to take risks and play some cool stuff, and that channel is Japan's Space Shower TV. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that every Japanese video I have reviewed on this blog, no matter how weird, has at one time been brought to the masses via Space Shower. Today's band is no exception.

Midori is a screamo-punk-pop-noh-jazz fusion band. All that might seem impossible for one band to do, but Midori manages to consistently fit all those genres into each of their songs. Mariko Goto is the bands vocalist and often plays guitar. At times her voices can be sweet and other times it sound like Meowth from Pokemon. Not enough vocalists sound like Pokemon characters. Yoshitaka Kozeni's drumming posture at times nods to traditional taiko drumming. Finally Hajime's piano playing provides a dramatic backdrop to all the songs. It's unpredictable, it's annoying and stupid, and most importantly it's amazing fun. How many other bands can claim to be screamo-punk-pop-noh-jazz fusion? I dare say none.

What I find particularly interesting about these guys is how popular they have actually become. Largely due to their fair shake on Space Shower. Last year Space Shower even gave them a live special. My friend Moorieman summed it up best when he said "Noise is beautiful again". The lyrics and music are so desperate, honest, strange and exciting that in the end it really is truly beautiful. Midori's second album entitled, well, "Second" is without a doubt my favorite album of 2007. Today's videos are from that album.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TEZ - Sexyback

I like Justin Timberlake. I always have and probably always will. When I first heard Sexyback I knew I had to do an entry about the song on this blog. I have on two occasions started writing a Sexyback post only to give up because despite how much I may like him, I know blogging about Timberlake is fucking lame. However, the gods smiled upon me today when I came across this video. A slightly sarcastic beatboxed reinterpretation of that fine, but quickly annoying song by TEZ of France's CocoRosie. Say what you will but Bambury would have played it.

That's my post, there's nothing more to say. I just had to get this out of my system (and off my chest) and I can get back to business.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Manu Chao - Clandestino/Mr. Bobby/Rainin' in Paradize

People on a few occasions now have asked me where I find my music. Today's artist I found on the famous YTMND site about a year ago. YTMND, for the uninitiated, is a site that juxtaposes an image (either still or a looped animation) with a looped sound sample. I forget the specifics of the particular YTMND I was "watching" that day but it had a clip from the song "Mr. Bobby" looped in the background. I thought it was pretty chilled much like a lot of the Japanese dub I was listening to at the time. A little research revealed it was by a French artist named Manu Chao. Chao is a world famous musician but you probably have never heard of him unless you listen to the French 91.1 FM CKXL in Winnipeg. It's another one of those stations I painfully sit through in order to find something new and interesting. I know there is a split infinitive in the last sentence but that's the way I roll.

Posers drink Perrier instead of San Pellegrino; posers listen to Bob Marley instead of Manu Chao. Ok, that may be taking things too far but trust me if you've ever drank Perrier and thought it tasted like fermented horse urine, seriously give the San P a try, I can't stress this enough. Consider uncapping a big bottle of the stuff late one Sunday morning and put some Manu Chao on in the background and you can't have a bad day, it's impossible.

If you've heard Mr. Bobby than to a large extent you've heard Bongo Bong, Je ne t'aime plus, and Homens. They all use the same essential musical backdrop and two of the aforementioned songs became singles. Chao does this a LOT in his music and lyrics throughout many albums. It's funny that a guy can get famous for regularly lifting the same samples of himself and use them over and over again in new songs.

While spending most of his years in France, Chao is originally from Spain. His musical style includes dub, reggae, and many French and Latin sub genres. He also sings in a number of different languages including Spanish, French, English and Arabic. Chao's inclusive nature speaks to his overall Punk attitude. Listen to even his sweetest of songs and it's still not hard to imagine him pulling out a gun and shooting you in the face. No wonder the Zapatistas love this guy so much. Today is a rare triple shot of Manu Chao tunes. I know that's more than I usually include but even getting it down to three was pretty hard. The clips range from oldest to newest, the last being the new single from the 2007 album, La Radiolina.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Zazen Boys - I Don't Wanna Be With You

I bought a $20 iTunes card for the first time last night. I announced to the clerks at the 7-Eleven, "This is going to be the first time I am going to purchase some MP3s legitimately, I must be getting old". This was welcomed by some laughter by a guy who must have been around 19. I'm sure he's never bothered to pay either. Truth is, there is a lot of music I can't even find by illegitimate means and I am curious if spending the cash will yield any better results. I uninstalled iTunes a year ago because as much as I like my iPod, I sure don't like Apple's software very much. After I back my iPod's data up on my external hard drive (presumably later tonight if I don't get too lazy) I'll reinstall that cumbersome beast back onto my computer and try it out. The problem is, while iTunes is billed as the world's largest music store, I don't have access to music outside of North America. The record companies keep iTunes separated by countries and so if I want music from Japan (surprise surprise) I need a Japanese iTunes card. I don't think I have to explain why this is stupid from a consumer's perspective. Record companies want me to buy music as opposed to steal it, but offer me no legitimate means by which to acquire the stuff I want. I know my musical tastes are a little fringe but I don't see why making music they already have available to everyone could really hurt their bottom line. I will certainly try this whole buying music online thing out before I rush to judgment and will give you my perspective in my next entry.

When David Byrne is cruising down the streets of LA in his all-too-sensible sports car while sipping on some Gin and San P, what is he blasting on his stereo? Probably today's entry. "I Don't Wanna Be with You" by the Zazen Boys continues where the relatively unpopular third album, "III" leaves off. This song is the first single for the upcoming album so while it does set the tone for the new album, previous efforts would show it doesn't necessarily mean the band hasn't got any more surprises up their collective sleeves. Audience reactions range from "It's all down hill from here on out. :(" and "Fuck you, Mukai." to "Zazen Boys has only ever taken steps in the right direction. This song is hilariously awesome." I, for one lean towards the latter sentiment.

I was never a fan of Mukai Shutoku's first and extremely popular band, Number Girl. It always played off as pretentious and a bit too academic for my liking. Honestly, I would likely have a different opinion if I had been in Japan when they were still together. Mukai must also feel a little like I do and the best way he can deal with it is by putting together a band that (recently) is so over the top pretentious that it's become kinda cool. This is by no means a silly band, they are as earnest as ever but seem aware of how it may be perceived by a younger, more cynical audience. The video is so over the top with it's seriousness that it becomes critical of itself and the result is pretty funny and pretty awesome too. I am looking forward to seeing what else Zazen will come up with on their upcoming album release, a release that I likely will never find on the North American iTunes site.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Los Mono - Promesas / Ahli Fiqir - 2x5

I'm a sucker for music I can't understand. I attribute this to my youth listening to Brave New Waves, a program the played on CBC from midnight till 4 am. CBC in their infinite wisdom decided a program that had been playing for over twenty years was no longer worth keeping on the air and axed the show in March. That's one less reason to want to be Canadian I have to admit. I'm going to have to buy an Olde English 800 (in a brown bag natually) and pour it on the steps of the rotting corpse that is CBC. Nightstream, BNWs replacement seldom really pushes the boundaries to the same extremes and so I have turned to Power 97 for my midnight trek home from work. Monday is The Ongoing History of New Music with Allen Cross, Tuesday is Punkorama with Kristan (a little disconcerting in a blizzard, but worth it to say I heard The Locust on P97), Wednesday is The Magical World Of Rock with Danko Jones, and Thursday I'm fucked. As much as I appreciate 97s late night lineup, none of this still holds a candle to what I once knew.

So yeah, I'm a sucker for music I can't understand and after a multi-month long hiatus I present two decent efforts from two countries whose languages I do not understand. One has monkeys, the other quacking ducks. I have taken this whole hipster attitude to it's inevitable conclusion, I only listen to music that no one else wants to hear. Sorry.

The first one is Promesas by the Chilean supergroup Los Mono. I call them a supergroup because that's what it says next to the video on the You Tube site. However I think it's kinda super if not only cute. It's b-boy, that's for sure and it's got a guy dancing in a hall with a morphing robo-monkey head and I'll be damned if that's not a little super. If you hurry you can still make your own version of the video and win a prize (not sure what that prize is) but hurry because the drawing is January 1st.

The next video is 2x5 by Ahli Fiqir (which means "Thinking Men"), I am so impressed that I didn't even have to double check the spelling on that one. One of my goals in life is to find a group from every country (in particular Asia, where everyone is accused of being tone deaf) that I think is pretty cool. Ahli Fiqir is from Singapore and it fits the bill quite well. Hell, the chorus is "quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack" and I think that is a duck call and not something that Singaporean ganstas say.

Friday, March 02, 2007

YMCK - Magical 8-bit Tour, Go YMCK, Go!

Today was a snow day, which meant the highways were simply too crappy to drive on and I could play hooky from work. This suited me just fine because it gave me a chance to play with my brand new toy, the R4 Revolution for DS Supercard! To those of you new to the wonderful world of grey market products from China, the R4 allows me to download any game or homebrew software I want onto a Micro SD card and play them on my Nintendo DS. I have always been fascinated by these almost but not quite illegal ways to exploit gaming hardware.

When I was just a young lad of say, 22 or so I remember getting my first modchip for the original Playstation. It was a snowy winters day not unlike today. On campus I had seen advertisements for a company called Modchip Canada and I decided to give them a call. The man on the phone told me to bring my system and gave me the route to his shop. His shop turned out to be a big, brand new house on the outskirts of the city. He told me that kids everywhere were buying these things hand over fist and that this was the house that modchips built. He soldiered a chip onto my motherboard in a few seconds and my days of booking computer labs with the sole purpose of pirating games had begun. I'm not really a gamer per say; my game was in the act of piracy. I enjoyed the challenge of getting what I wasn't supposed to have and unlike my shady run-ins with the music industry, it basically ended in huge spindles of unplayed games. I wasn't eating the meat - this was strictly trophy hunting.

The thing that makes the DS exploit more interesting to me is the sheer power stuffed into my little DS. The wi-fi, the touch screen, the microphone and the all around portability of the device. There are a whole slieu of possibilities built into this thing that are being developed by homebrew designers that can only be made available by having such a supercard as I now own. Whether I will use this card to any real end remains to be seen, but at the $45 Canadian I got it for, it's a chance I'm willing to take. Not to mention the undeniable novelty of playing a round or two of the C-64's Gianna Sisters on my DS.

Seeing that my head is in the game universe today, let me introduce you all to the 8-bit Bossanova kings of Japan, YMCK. Yellow, magenta, cyan and black. YMCK is the 8-bit pop unit formed by Midori, Yokemura and Nakamura. The most prominent feature of the band is the 8-bit sound that reminds people old game consoles, which attracts the enthusiastic support from wide range of generations. The 1st album "Family Music" released in 2004 made a big hit and made their popularity unassailable. The groups follow-up album, "Family Racing" is slightly less inspired yet bravely continues in the nostalgic path established by the first. YMCK also does a wide range of activities, such as remix works, video game sound tracks, DJ performances and development of 8-bit sound plug-in software. Today's video come from their first and second albums, repectively.

Enjoy the lo-fidelity.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

LFO - Freak

I am happy to see my site is getting some exposure out here in the wide world of web. Recently, I googled the name Rockasoo and found a couple of exotic links to this site. This Russian website linked to my review of Yamayo which made me pretty happy although I have no idea what he or she said about it, my knowledge of Cyrillic is shaky at best. Better yet, Ito-key from Tomato Star attempted to translate my review of his music into Japanese. While my Japanese isn't too good, my good friend Kagari was kind enough to tell me a bit about it, here is what she said,

"He said a GAIJIN wrote about Tomato Star in his Blog. I used the yahoo translation website to translate his review and it turned out really funny...."
I read the Japane
se translation and some part made no sense. Actually it was hilarious!!!! He probably copied and pasted your whole review and translated it. Like the phrase "has his shit together" was literally translated into "when he has his shit with him." The Japanese was sooooooooo unnatural! But I think that was the point. Maybe he was trying to translate it seriously for himself at first, but while he was at it, the word-by-word yahoo translation came out so funny, he just pasted on his blog. He's definitely doing it on purpose.

So I'm sorry to say, but the translation was not even close to what you said in your blog. BUT, I think everyone who read it (and who understands Japanese) laughed their heads off. I know I did!"

Thanks for the insight Kagari, and I'm glad that Ito-key could have a laugh with my less than glowing review. I have really come to enjoy a lot of his tunes and listen to him all the time.

Today's video is Freak by LFO. I saw them at the 2003 Electraglide in Osaka a few days after I got out to Japan (the second time), Mark Bell can be pretty cool when he wants to be. The song made me want to freak much like the school girls in this video. Kinda scary if you know what I look like. I'm gonna keep things short today as I am gonna look for some DS ROMS for my new toy, the SuperCard Lite (MicroSD). Sorry for the shitty review, Mark.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

ZOOBOMBS - Funky Movin', LIMITED EXPRESS (has gone?) - Tiger Rock

I have seen dozens of concerts while in Japan and none could rock out harder than the Don Matsuo. I first got interested in Matsuo when I was at my favorite hangout, that being Tower Records. I was at one of the hundreds of listening stations when I came across the new Limited Express (has gone?) disc. I had listened to these guys before but didn't buy the CD, they were pretty strange. But I had never completely forgotten about them and actually wanted another listen. I listened and grabbed their "limited" edition of Sacrificial Jesus Child. Is it good? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of the word but it is notably strange. The Tower Records listening stations usually feature three different artists along roughly the same vein, so if you like one disc, there are two more that may also be to your liking. This is why I loved the Tower so much, even at the end of my three years of solid research I didn't know nearly all there was to know and Tower was good at filling in the gaps. The second disc below Limited Express was by a guy named "Don Matsuo". At the time I didn't realize this was the frontman for the Zubons/Zoobombs (Zubons means pants in Japanese) but wow that shit ever rock.

I listened to the whole album, "O-re-ha-si-na-i-yo?" once, strolled around the store and listened to it again. I saw Matsuo solo during his "I'm No. 1" tour in Osaka's Fandango (good luck finding the entrance) and it was a some crazy fun. What's more his solo album featured the lyricist and the guitarist from Limited. At a time when Japanese music is known more for it's watered down pop than straight up no nonsense rock n' roll Matsuo really is a breath of fresh air. I e-mailed Don (who speaks a fair bit of English, yay!) the next morning at work to tell him how much I enjoyed the concert and he replied that same day. Please remember that this is in the middle of his tour and he found time and energy to think in English just for me. He'll always be number one, innovation, professionalism and love of his fans! Where Limited Express is a sort of post-modern stream of consciousness accident waiting to happen, the Don's effort proved that Express can play straight(ish) Rock and Roll. Zoobombs have toured all over North America and Australia with Flaming Lips and Jon Spencer and it's really a marriage made in heaven. They have a pretty big cult following all over the world. The Zoobombs will be touring in Canada later this month and all of March so if you are in Toronto or Quebec please check their MySpace page and try to get to their show. No chance to see them in Manitoba, the country's armpit as it were. So while I can't find a video from that album I picked up that day at Tower Records, I thought it would be fun to show you samples from both Limited Express (Has Gone) and the Zoobombs. Divide each by two and add them together and you're pretty close. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

JASON FORREST - War Photographer/Steppin' Out

I am starting to think the one-two video combos that have been showing up in more and more posts is going to become a regular feature in my blog. As this thing continues to grow and evolve it's becoming more apparent that one video does a pretty poor job of highlighting talented artists. To get a feel for the range of these musicians one really needs a minimum two examples of their work. Of course I doubt this is going to happen 100% of the time but when I feel one isn't enough, two will do nicely.

On my way home from a late after work drink, I was listening to the radio when I heard "Donna Summer" as I've never heard her, erm him before. I don't much go for the disco on the whole but some of the elements can go a long way when mixed sparatically with hardcore, acid and a wide assortment of non-over-the-counter hooks and jabs. That's something I learned after the bar from a visionary going by the name Jason Forrest. Stealing generously from the fountain of disco (amongst a vast number of other genres), Germany's Forrest is a master at disturbing and contorting it into his own brand of cock rock disco. Funny then that happens to be the name of the label he created, Cock Rock Disco. Like the label implies, Forrest may be slightly irreverent at times in his homage to the gods of disco but that doesn't make him insincere. This is the brand of breakcore noise terrorism that tastes more like fun than a reich-inspired experiment in cold sample crunching.

Up until 2004, Forrest recorded under the name 'Donna Summer' which is someone he's not, though an apparent fan. Other bands on his label following his vision go by cheeky names like 'Duran Duran Duran' and 'Dev/nul'.

Enjoy the sample chasing that is the magic of Jason Forrest in the two groovalicious tracks that rock straight from the crotch.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

HALCALI - Girigiri Surfrider / Strawberry Chips (Tanaka Chigai Mix)

Last night I had a dream I was back in Japan teaching English in some massive school. This isn't the first time I've had a version of this dream. Part teacher, part student and usually a bit disoriented I generally wander from class to class pretending like I know what I am doing. I guess that's not too far from the truth in my past experiences. Over four years of this, you get pretty good at faking it. In one of my past dreams I found myself trying to walk up a flight of stairs. These stairs seem typical at first but as I begin to ascend everything becomes wrong. This feeling of vertigo takes over and they begin to feel too steep and suddenly too shallow and back again. They seem narrow and unwielding going on forever almost disappearing from underneath my feet. I struggle as the fabric of reality seems to be closing in on me and almost crawling, with my last breath make to the top... or the bottom. Too much has been lost in time to figure where I am but at least I'm there. Last night, in my school I knew once again, for me to make it to the class I'm supposed to be at, I'd have to traverse those steps again. This time, however I have a plan. The school is so unimaginably huge that I can use my powers as a stupid gaijin to avoid them altogether. I stumble into what turned out to be another English class filled with senior students. I take a seat at one of the desks and find out that the students are starting a project in which they are to write a short story. My mind wanders only to realize that the bell has already rung and I woke up.

On some innocent level, I suppose that influenced my decision to highlight one of Japan's more interesting teen duos, Halcali. Halcali arrived on the scene as the winners of a competition put on by the members of Rip Slyme, a well known Japanese Hip Hop group. When the tweens first entered the contest, they claimed they didn't even know what Hip Hop was. The name Halcali comes from the combination of the names of the two members. The stage names of HARUKA (はるか) and YUKARI (ゆかり) are combined to form the collective name. Rip Slyme, picked them from talent competitions held around Meguro (the girls' hometown) area in search of creating a new manufactured group. A trend I have noticed in the naming of many Japanese bands is the choice to use a name that cannot be said correctly in Japanese. Halcali is usually pronounced as "Haru-kari" by the masses.

The resulting 2003 album BACON was certainly a step above your typical manufactured fare. The production of that first album is full of a mixture of cute, catchy, eccentric and the downright weird - all while never straying to far from the rap stylings of these two young girls, one still in Junior High and the other just beginning High School. Their rhymes are pretty fresh referencing everyone from Al Pacino (multiple times) to Dragon Ball to Slick Rick. Unfortunately, future releases have failed to recapture the sounds of youth that made the first album such a joy to listen to. The second release suffered as each track was produced by a different artist and the resulting lack of cohesivenesses becomes kind of grating after a while. All the singles released since also suffer from a lack of the signature Halcal sound. I was hoping for something of a Cibo Matto part II by now but am beginning to think I'll have to settle for a watered down version of Yuki. While that's not entirely a bad thing, it's not nearly as interesting as the path I would have chosen. For literal day by day updates on the group in English check the amazing HALCALI day by day blog.

The time I heard about this group was when I went to The Kirin Plaza Art Gallery and saw an exhibit on "Important Japanese Pop Music". I forget the real name of the exhibit or if it even really had one but that was the gist. The first two floors were composed entirely of the history of YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra). It was very cool and I like that band well enough but walking into the third floor gallery was like a wet dream for me (I went three times). It was full of DVD stations where one could sit down and listen to the music as chosen by the curators. Yes, in a country like Japan, a manufactured tween hip hop group is art. Fuck, I miss it. Please enjoy the first (and best) Halcali video I ever saw.

Below that is something I just saw a couple of days ago for the first time. It's a Mash up of the groups song "Strawberry Chips" from their second album along with elements of the first album by Tanaka Chigai. It's weird weird weird. Weirder still, I think it might be an official remix. Google doesn't seem to recognize the existence of Chigai outside this remix, so I guess he's relatively new, if he even exists at all. One commenter on YouTube simply used the word "orgasmic" to describe this video. I hip hope you agree.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Ahh, to guilty pleasures. Some times I have my head way far up the ass of obscurity, other times I find myself on the pulse of the next big thing. I'm guessing this is one of those other times. Today's artist hails from Denmark selling her Danish brand of big beat club tracks. Camille Jones is kickin' it up in the US of A via Tommy Boy and the DJ's are having a field day with her latest single The Creeps. I'd say I beat Much Music and MTV to the punch if either of them even bothered to play videos anymore. Oh, well, maybe I beat Space Shower TV... (best music TV out there).

Sporting as many as 10 remixes, The Creeps most certainly will be one of those essential club anthems on every dj's playlist. It's cool, it's simple and it comes in a whole range of flavors to suit your particular tastes. I am partial to the paired down sensibilities of the Gauzz mix but the one that seems to generating a lot of buzz is the full on Fedde Le Grand version. I hate to condemn something that I'm really enjoying right now but this will probably stand in history as one of those tracks that feels like Sexyback in a few weeks, another track I will admit to liking a fair amount. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure you could mix Justin's once was hit right into today's offering.

This entry will be quick and dirty like the song. Below please find the original along with the Fedde Le Grand mix too! Enjoy.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

GRASSHOPPER - Make Some Noise (remix...)

Already an audiophile in high school, my best friend, Aaron and I were just embarking on our lives mission of hunting down strange and exciting music. It was a lot harder back then, being from a small town with no good record shops and mp3s being five years away, we were limited to what we could get off the radio and from other music seekers. We were pretty much addicted to the once popular Canadian Chris Sheppard's Techno compilations (Techno Trip foreva!), but we knew there was more. And Aaron struck bizarre surrealist gold when his friend from Hong Kong, Willy Wong lent him one of his HK faves. Willy Wong was in a strange situation, his mother was a broadcaster at a major Hong Kong network who decided Willy wasn't cut out for HK's cut-throat education system and sent him to Morden, Manitoba with truck-loads of cash to go it alone. He had it all, fast cars, cool clothes, the ability to break pencils with his mind and a CD that would go down in personal history as the most illusive bit of foil and plastic I could never get my hands on; that is until now.

I guess I was well into grade 10 when I first held Grasshopper's 'Make Some Noise (remix...)' album in my hands. I was immediately intrigued by the Asian design sensibility, which was one of the major reasons I went to Japan in the first place. Unfortunately, I can't show you more of the pretty boy trio featured on the inside cover but it all has to be viewed within the context of the CD it held. Grasshopper is a top-performing pop/dance trio loved by fans in Hong Kong and all over the world. Their music consist of mainly Cantonese and Mandarin pop and dance songs, performed by the group’s three male artists, Calvin Choy, Remus Choy and Edmond So.

I have from time to time tried to listen to some of their other music and to be completetly honest I don't dig it at all. What little I've heard is typical syrupy Canto-pop that conforms to formulas used by all the big HK pop names. What sets Philips Records, 'Make Some Noise' apart from their other efforts is the producer's bizarrely innovative juxtapositions of Americana infused into the crooning Chinese trio. This is 'Too Many DJs' in 1992 but with even less regard for copyright infringement. The idea of respecting intellectual property has alway been sketchy one in Hong Kong and never was it more apparent than in the making of these remix tracks. I have sent people on missions to Hong Kong three times with instructions to find this disc and they always turned up empty. I visited a huge Chinese department store in Osaka and asked a guy at a CD shop what the deal was. As far as I could tell the Chinese government has a lot of control over which CDs are to pressed and which are to disappear into the great unknown forever. Seems this disc didn't make the cut. I can say with 100% certainty that not a single sample used on this disc was cleared with anyone and this shit only gets better with age.

Here are just a few of the offending samples I recognize, and believe me it's not nearly half of them. This reads like a time capsule of the early 90's.

Street Fighter II Turbo - every sample on the game, it might seems a bit tired now, but it was the first time.
Chimo Bayo - Asi Me a Gusto Mi, "Chiki Dang Chiki Di Dang Dang"
Funky Drummer - I know, I think it's public domain now.
KLF - some track I don't know by name but it's essential Acid
Bart Simpson - "Yo, what's happ'nin dude?"
C & C Music Factory - "Everybody dance now!"
Gregorian Chant - A bit popularized by Enigma
Miss Piggy or Grover (Not Sure) - "Oh yeah?", definitely Frank Oz
Roy Orbison - Pretty Woman, famous riff that should have stopped this project dead in it's tracks, remember 2 Live Crew?
Flavor Flav - "Yeah, boyee"
Erasure - "I love to hate you!"
Chuck-D - "C'mon y'all!"
Slick Rick(?) - "Ladda dee Laddoo dah"
Nazareth - Opening drum from Hair of the Dog.
Manfred Man - Do wah diddy riff
Public Enemy - "Yo Dre! Wha? Gimme a funky ass bassline" hysterically followed by,
Vanilla Ice/Queen - Ice Ice Baby/Under Pressure sample
Brian Hyland - Yellow Polka-dot Bikini "One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore"
Homer Simpson - "ehh"
James Brown - "Clap your hands, stomp your feet!"

Not only is this usually funny as fuck, it amazingly really works super-well! People tend to overuse the term so bad it's good but when it's not genuinely good, it falls into so bad it's good. So, like the kids say these days, it's all good!

Nowadays, it's hard to know what Grasshopper are up to. Despite their massive world wide fan base, there's very little English info on them. If pictures are worth all those words than their live show must be the kind of incredible that would make Prince blush. Dressed in the most flamboyant outfits you can imagine (think Village People meets Roman soldiers), the singers dance around and grab at the naughty bits of hot animal-headed Chinese chicks on stage. It's almost as strange as the album I'm reviewing today. Part concert, part fashion show, all pagan ritual, I'd stay till the end just to see if anyone would get sacrificed at this no holds barred orgy.

Reinvigorated by finding this great album, I plan to follow Grasshopper more closely from now on. If that producer ever got out of jail, I'd be curious to know if he has done a follow-up remix album. I know there was another Grasshopper remix album that came out in 1995 called 'Cocktail' but I'm setting myself up for disappointment.

Did Willy get sick of being asked if he was "Weally weally Wong?". Not sure. I lost track of him after high school but he will always be remembered fondly as the guy who brought that fucked up Grasshopper shit into my life. This should be in your collection if you are at all into electronic music, it's a definitive early example of uninhibited, and uncensored stream-of-consciousness mixing from the far east. Will you be playing this at any parties, I doubt it. But if you're at all like me, you'll sleep better at night just knowing it's there.

Click here to listen to a low-quality RealMedia version of the album or better yet e-mail me and see what I can do for you. Seriously, gimme a shout.

Friday, February 02, 2007

JUANA MOLINA - No Es Tan Cierto

Switching tracks from a predominantly Japanese month, I have decided to look at one of the most haunting voices I have ever heard. A voice I heard for the first time today courtesy of CBC 2's best radio program, by which I mean Brave New Waves. This program which runs every weekday from midnight until 3 am features the most interesting, engaging and potentially life-changing music you ever liable to hear off our waves of air. Luckily, when on evening shift, I finish work just in time to enjoy our country's finest program. I only hope I don't crash my car trying to write down all the musical leads I get as I listen.

Today's entry is Argentina's Juana Molina. Once a well established sketch comedian Molina decided to change career paths after the birth of her first child. At concerts after the release of her first album people were more interested in seeing her do characters from her television programs than hear her sing. By the end of a concert only a handful of people were left. Fortunetly, she didn't five up her dream and ten years later people who come to her shows will often tell her that their parents were fans of her comedic work. It just goes to show that is really is possible to switch gears in the middle of a successful career. She credits Uruguay as a major influence in her music and is even tauted as modern voice for their music. She has toured with the likes of David Byrne all over the world.

I hate to use the lame cliches like tapestry of sound but that most appropriately describes her approach to the musical riddle. It's not so much about a guitar or a drum but the way the instruments are woven together in such a way that it's all one grand measure of sound. Reviews tell me that the lyrics are deeply personal and add another layer of depth to the mix, so it's a shame I can't understand them. Today's track is from her latest album released in 2004 entitled 'Tres Cosas'. The whole album is light and breezy, often embellished with ambient electronic sounds that make this a truly acoustic electronic album. What's more, she does all this herself. You can get the mp3 here or visit her website for this and many other songs.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIOW89 - No Truth but Batman & Robin

I am so happy! After my last entry, I actually got an e-mail from KDS6700 thanking me for my feature on his video. I know I shouldn't be bragging but it's just so nice to get a little back every once in a while. I have decided to expand my personal links section to include my Flickr, Hi-5, and Mixi (Japanese blogging/social networking site) pages. Please feel free to drop me a line at any of the above - not that I really update them much. Today's video will continue last entries successful theme: a Mash-Up video and an artist with a name containing cryptic letters and numbers.

The term music video has never been more appropriate to describe the work of Riow89, aka Ryohei. Please bare in mind that this guy is only 17 years old and is already doing things that many VJ veterans aspire to do. Between his YouTube page and his diary on Hatena, Riow89 has personally become an indispensable resource on all things Mash-Up. His interests in Mash-Up goes beyond that of the audio sample, judging from the entries in his diary, the end game is to sample audio directly from bits of corresponding video. Much like the work Coldcut has been actively trying to perfect in his live shows for the last 10 years or so.

Often, the sources Riow89 samples come in the form of odd juxtapositions of two (or more) popular music tracks ala Too Many DJ's. Take his mix of No Scrubs by TLC backed by a latin-inspired Basement Jaxx track as an example. I too, have dabbled in this, mixing Christina Agulera with a Beck track - a worthwhile afternoon project but nothing I'd consider particularly ground-breaking. The results of this brand of mashing can often lead to interesting results but what really makes Riow89 blog-worthy is the work he does with less obvious sources. Today's track is from that campy 60's Batman television series we all remember growing up. For Riow89, being a 17 year-old from Yamagata, Japan, to be sampling 40-year-old program really shows he is willing to look past the American top 40 shlock and try something a little more "classy".

And I like Batman, this is a fun little track. If Ryohei keeps pushing his boundaries, come graduation, he will already have his foot in the door as a big-time VJ.