We’re bringing back our monthly music roundups showcasing the best new songs and albums from Japan. We listened to many, selecting a range of styles from techno through to psychedelic rock.
As the world (and even Japan) starts to open, this may be one of the last times to hear a new ‘lockdown track,’ one of the rare occasions that the artists are in almost exactly the same boat as the listeners. We’ve enjoyed the synchronicity and finding out what other people are doing during their respective lockdowns.
Kikagaku Moyo – “Gomugomu”
Taken from their fifth and final studio album, since the five-piece band announced their indefinite hiatus earlier this year, “Gomugomu” is a slice of psychedelic deliciousness, soundtracked by squelchy melodies and playful folk sitar.
It’s something Don Cherry would have been proud of, with a bassline that is so addictive it requires repeated playing. The song draws melodies with playful abandon yet the arrangement is tight, bringing the calamity to a clean conclusion.
We have to draw attention to the fantastic video directed by Japanese artists Oya Yoshitsugu and Date Yuichi. As the description states: “The theme of the album is rebirth, from death to life.” Featuring dying flowers, dancing llamas and even the Buddha’s face, it goes to show that everything goes through this process. Next moment, in come the sumo wrestlers, followed by cutouts of the band members playing around a wiggling strawberry and then up pops a cardboard mikoshi (portable shrine).
Pee.J Anderson – “Activoid and Propamin”
Electronic outfit, Pee.J Anderson released their latest EP featuring two original songs and subsequent remixes on Kyoto-based label, PAL.Sounds. “Activoid” is a muted, percussion-heavy, down-tempo house affair reminiscent of producer Jack J and even DJ Sotofett. It sees ample change throughout the song – equally suited for the club as it is for a sunshine picnic.
The other original track, “Propamin,” starts heavier with allusion to bongos, readying the bass for a club-ready bassline and a tantalizing breakdown. Each song sees two remixes from pals and collaborators of the duo. Stones Taro remixes “Activoid” into echoey spacious breakbeat heads down skanker whilst Little Dead Girl, an active member of the Tokyo DJ scene, ups the jack of “Propamin,” adding a Ron Trent style synthline. Other remixes come from Slumberjunkie and Kross Section.
Yama Warashi – “Saku Saku”
From London via Japan comes Yoshino Shigihara, better known as Yama Warashi (mountain child), with this joyful ode to a crispy moon. It’s a precursor to her upcoming sophomore album on PRAH Recordings.
With elements of free jazz, the song builds and swells with wild abandon before reaching a free-wheeling crescendo which one can already imagine being a crowd-pleaser during live shows.
Dengaryu ft. Ringo – “Easy, You Busy”
This is an unexpected summer anthem from pioneering Japanese rapper Dengaryu, featuring lyrics from Ringo (Dunns River).
With a dubby guitar by Gorilla Head, reggae drums and artwork featuring the Jamaican flag and the artists on a beach complete with a barbecue, it seems that they set out to make a feel-good summer track. And they succeeded.
Shun – The Door (Techno)
Shun’s first single on his upcoming album CPU is the culmination of a relationship that began in Tokyo back in 2018, when the legendary Sheffield-based label Central Processing Unit visited Japan’s capital. The local DJ impressed with his floor-destroying set and the label heard his own productions, leading to The Door, a four-track EP released in April of this year.
Shun sets the scene from the offset, with delicious 303 acid licks and echoey bass akin to the likes of DMX Krew on the opener, “Digital Slave.” “Kibishi” sees an arpeggio synth with sonic pads. Fast forward to the closer, “Rohan” which is the punchiest of the set, with a jaggy bassline.
Luby Sparks – “Honey”
This is the third single from Tokyo-based shoegaze band, Luby Sparks, taken from their forthcoming album Search + Destroy. With hints from UK indie pop bands in the early 2000s, it features guitars that sound like they come from an old Alex Turner record and vocals like The Subways.
It is produced by Andy Savours, who has worked with the likes of Sigur Ros and Rina Sawayama. “Honey” is one for people going through breakups.