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.