Interviewed The Idol formerly Known as LADYBABY for NEO Magazine

I’m really excited to share this news with you: my inteview with Rei and Rie from The Idol Formerly Known as LADYBABY has been published on NEO Magazine!

This is my very first interview with a Japanese artist, and also the first time my writing appears on a magazine; I’m really happy and satisfied with it, and I hope you get the chance to read it! Seeing my real name on paper for the first time feels… incredible. It gives me lots of motivation and energy to keep doing what I’m doing, and to improve my writing every day.

In case you’re interested in buying a copy of this UK magazine focused on Japanese culture, you can get it on NEO Magazine’s website (digital version is also available).

I feel like this is my first concrete step in achieving the goal I set to reach a few years ago, when I opened Land of the Rising Sound. I appreciate your support and the motivation you give me every day. I will see you soon!

– Alex

Curumi Chronicle’s “Kimi ga kure ta sutōrī” is a beautiful track that reopens an old wound

Curumi Chronicle was an indie Techno-pop singer produced by Usagi Disco. She was active for only two years, from 2013 to 2015, in which she released one studio record, an EP, and two singles. All of them were outstanding releases.

To me, she was also the savior of Techno-pop, the only heiress of that Perfume-inspired futuristic yet somehow soothing sound. Usagi Disco, a young promising producer from Osaka (that, in all honesty, wouldn’t have no problem in producing Perfume today) was the man behind these compositions, and still to this day, he’s one of the most talented producers in the indie scene.

Despite her short career, Curumi Chronicle and Usagi constantly adopted several sounds from the Electronic sphere while exploring different vibes, and every experimentation was a success that exposed both artists’ talent in adapting to different soundscapes and get the best out of them. It hardly ever happens that an artist successfully embraces so many different vibes in its sound, yet Curumi’s music and performance always shown a great cure for details and, most of all, lots of emotions.

Almost an year ago, for the anniversary of her first solo live and last performance held in 2015, she released her last track “Kimi ga kure ta sutōrī” exclusively on her Soundcloud page. No one talked about it, and since I don’t really follow this platform, I’ve discovered it only now (yes, I feel ashamed).

But here it is, her last track, produced by both Curumi and Usagi (she also took care of the lyrics). And it’s good, as everything she has ever done. Her cold yet pleasant “Techno” timbre, her gentle interpretation, the dreamy melodies, the focus on instrumental sections after the chorus and the bridge… it’s a lovely showcase of Curumi’s classic formula, and why it was and will always be so good. 



At the same time, looking back at everything she has done, this track is only the tip of the iceberg. And despite being some sort of goodbye song, it prompts to go back to everything she has done in her career with great passion. There are so many different sounds and approaches she adopted in her music, so in case you’re interested, you should totally listen to her complete discography here.

Curumi decided to end her career after only two years, and I can’t help but think what she could have become. Allow me to say: I sincerely miss this girl. I really miss her. At the same time, I can’t help but completely understand her decision: the music industry is not a world for everyone. But I’m grateful she put all her talent and effort in music until she felt like doing it. I’ll keep looping her now unfindable records in my player, and remember all the good times her music gave me.

– Alex

TOP 5 | My favorite Japanese records of 2016

Yes, I know this should have been a Top 10 list. But in the end, I just wanted to make a list of the albums that I personally enjoyed A LOT, the ones I still listen to this day on a regular basis. And while there are several records that I enjoyed in this rich year for Japanese music, here are the ones that I feel like you shouldn’t absolutely miss.

Let’s get started!


Soutaiseiriron – Tensei Jingle

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One of the most enjoyable J-pop records of the year, Soutaiseriron‘s Tensei Jingle is a pleasant experience that’s deep yet incredibly catchy. The band sounds fresher than ever, with dreamy guitar melodies floating on top of strong rhythmic patterns and electronic bits adding all the necessary atmosphere to make this record incredibly charismatic. This formula mutates throughout the entire tracklist, granting variousness and exposing the myriad of details composing this record, that just gets better listen after listen. Truly a rewarding experience, and a record not to miss.

[READ MY REVIEW]


Seiko Oomori – TOKYO BLACK HOLE

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If 2015 was mostly a transition period for Seiko Oomori in the mainstream scene, 2016 is the year she conquered it. TOKYO BLACK HOLE is a collection of solid J-pop numbers, contaminated by different influences at the service of Seiko’s relentless will of expressing herself in so many different ways. This grants a various array of vibes and sounds, spacing from Electronic and Rock to Idol pop and Symphonic elements, who enrich her trademark sound without overshadowing it. And in its complex, sometimes intrigued textures, TOKYO BLACK HOLE manages to be incredibly catchy and enjoyable, forming a collection of masterful J-pop numbers, where you never know what’s gonna happen next. Seiko Oomori always puts her heart and soul in music, and this time she overdid herself, and this is why this album is so good and enjoyable. Definitely one of the highlights of this year.

[READ MY REVIEW]


Mono – Requiem For Hell

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Post-rock masters MONO come back in the scene with one of the most heartfelt records of the year, conveying strong emotions through their unique sound developed in almost two decades of honorable career.

Requiem for Hell is a journey through powerful vibes and vivid emotions, that leak from each of the five tracks composing this dark and beautiful piece of work. Looking back at the group’s catalogue, this record definitely stands out for its darker personality, occasionally flirting with Post-metal influences, yet it manages to be somehow calm and soothing in a unique way. And that’s really what this album is all about: the balance of emotions, the portrait of life and death, of pain and relief, of happiness and sadness. A beautiful and haunting experience not to miss.

[READ MY REVIEW]


Sora Tob Sakana – Sora Tob Sakana

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2016 was a strong year for the Alterative Idol niche, with groups of the likes of BiSH rising in the mainstream scene, and others surfacing with convincing concepts and strong personality. In the midst of a niche that gets more and more crowded, though, sora tob sakana shine the most for their unique approach to Idol music, showcasing a fresh and bright concept (contrary to most groups) made of extremely technical Math Rock numbers. Their self-titled debut record made this year’s spring even brighter, featuring a collection of numbers where melodic Math Rock gets permeated by masterfully placed Electronic moments and great vocal lines, showcasing a solid personality. This is a great record not only for the Idol aficionados, but for anyone who’s looking for accessible yet deeply technical music that’s easy to enjoy in any context. Definitely one of the greatest surprises of 2016.

[READ MY REVIEW, coming soon, listen in the meantime]


Zombie-chang – Zombie-change

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One of the uprising acts in the Indie scene, Meirin Yung (aka Zombie Chang) is surely an artist that grabbed the attention for her charismatic, self-produced music. Started off as a rapper, the young artist took an Electronic turn this year with her record Zombie-Change… and boy was it surprising. Meirin’s take on Electronic music has kind of a retro taste to it, but it manages to sound fresh at the same time, with redundant melodies and beats filled with unexpected twists and turns that create a various and enjoyable experience. Hands-down my favorite Electronic album of the year, that I feel like suggesting to anyone looking for a raw and very spontaneous record.

[LISTEN]


Honorable Mentions:

Shiggy JR. – All About Pop (J-pop)
Bokutachi no iru tokoru. – Gomi (J-rock)
Oyasumi Hologram – 2 (Alternative Idol) [REVIEW]
Necronomidol – from chaos born (Alternative Idol) [REVIEW] 
Jun Togawa w/ Vampillia – Watashi ga Nakou Hototogisu

Best MV | lyrical school, run and run
Greatest surprise | FAMM’IN – circle [REVIEW AND ARTICLE]
Personal favorite song | Sakanaction – Tabun, kaze [IMPRESSIONS]


Hope you will enjoy these records! Be sure to leave your impressions in the comments!

Happy Holidays and… I’ll see you guys in 2017 😉

– Alex

Hands on Necronomidol’s “NEMESIS” Vinyl (And a few considerations on the state of Alternative Idol)

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It’s no secret that the Alternative Idol scene, started in 2010 by BiS and BABYMETAL, brought a fresh breeze of air to a genre that was unavoidably getting old. This rebellious concept had such a huge impact in the Idol world, that the overly cheesy up-beat pop that contaminated the entire 2000s became outdated: Throwing a few formulaic melodies here and there, and setting the DAW to 120bpm, just isn’t enough anymore. But most importantly, it doesn’t sell as it used to, which is why groups refusing to adapt to the times (like AKB48) are seeing a huge decrease in popularity.

But as all trends and currents in music, after six years, we came to a point where there are so many “Alternative” Idol groups, that in a few years we won’t probably call them like this anymore: They will just be recognized as regular Idols. And when a niche gets so crowded, it also gets a little bit… same-y. Meaning that groups with plastic Metal riffs, high-pitched synths played at the speed of light, and teenager girls screaming even when they shouldn’t, are slowly becoming a shallow standard lacking personality. It happens all the time in music, and it’s just part of the process.

Luckily, though, this niche can claim an impressive number of talented artists and units, who shine not only for their quality compositions, but also for their strong personality: NECRONOMIDOL is one of them.

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Formed in 2014, the “Ultradark Idol Unit” merges both extreme and classic Metal influences with Idol vocals, in a successful combination with a great balance of sounds as highlight. The unit’s first album, NEMESIS, brings both a collection of previously released songs and new tunes, spacing from classic Heavy Metal all the way to the cruelest 90’s Black Metal. Showcasing all the process that formed the sound of the unit (that later brought them to release the amazing from chaos born EP), NEMESIS is a valid introduction to the sound of NECRONOMIDOL.

I recently got the chance to get my hands on the vinyl version of NEMESIS, thanks to the guys at Specific Recordings: Not only it looks stunning, but listening to LAMINA MALEDICTUM on vinyl made me feel so trve kvlt, that I had to cut off Bibi’s head off and put it on my bed like every good Italian would do.

Just kidding of course. Bibi was my first teddy bear when I was a child. I’d never destroy my childhood like that.

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Jokes aside, if you’re a Necroma fan living outside Japan, then this is the right chance to get a physical copy of their debut album on vinyl without the painfully expensive shipping from Japan (and consequent custom taxes). You can get it on the Specific recordings shop here.

That’s it folks. As you know, I’m always up to support overseas labels trying to spread Japanese Music in the world, and I think it’s important to help them for their great work. So if you love Japanese music… support the artists and the labels bringing these records to us!

– Alex

Mid-year Review: 2016 in Japanese Music

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We’re in the middle of June (actually heading towards the end of the month), and so I decided to make a recap of the most noticeable music the Japanese Music Industry offered to us in this first half of 2016.

I can’t deny it: these six months were pretty good in terms of new music. For several reasons, including being introduced to certain niches of the Japanese industry, there have been quite a few records that I enjoyed a lot, only framed by a few disappointments here and there. Let’s start with the good side.


The Good

There have been some very interesting surprises in the last six months, and some (predictably) great albums as well. First off, Seiko Oomori‘s relentless, and sometimes genial TOKYO BLACK HOLE, is a great collection of heartfelt and well crafted tracks, who gather an impressive number of influences and puts them under Seiko’s magnifying glass, with an enjoyable and various output as result. With this great piece of work, Seiko ultimately elevated herself as relevant and influential figure of today’s J-pop scene, a status that will become even clearer in the coming months. J-rock outfit Soutaiseiriron brought an equally brilliant record with Tensei Jingle, by far the album I enjoyed the most this year, thanks to a perfect flow and light-hearted vibe that make me come back on these colorful tracks on a daily basis; Definitely one of the most enjoyable and rewarding records of this year and, on a personal level, one of the best ones since I discovered the Japanese scene six years ago.

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Fully deserving a place in my personal ranking, Bokutachi no Iru Tokoro.‘s Gomi is yet another great piece of J-rock that’s worth all your time, with great accessibility and masterfully crafted compositions. Shifting to a completely different genre, Hiromi Uehara’s record SPARK, enriched by the contribute of bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips, is another gem not to miss, where the piano singer graces us with Jazz-y and pleasantly melodic tunes that could brighten the darkest of days.

From the Japanese Indie sphere, a niche I’m still very new to, the acts that surprised me the most are Indie-pop/Rock outfits Acidclank and CRUNCH: the first recently released an EP composed by two wonderful tracks that made my mind fly all the way to Tokyo (this is how you conquer me), while the latter released an interesting collaboration with American track-maker Alex Ruby, that led me to the group’s remarkable Blue Blue Blue EP (this one released in 2015).

Deserving a paragraph on its own, the biggest surprise of 2016 so far definitely came from FAMM’IN, a unit composed by Avex artists FEMM, Faky and Yup’in, three acts that I consider mediocre at the best. Still, the newly born unit released what is without a doubt one my most looped tracks right now: circle is a deep, fresh and unpredictable trip through electronic elements, traditional Japanese instruments, enigmatic build-ups, unexpected trap beats, and distant atmospheric vocals. Describing this track with words could never give a proper idea of its nature, so the best way is just to enjoy it on your own.

On the Alternative Idol side of things, there have been quite a few interesting releases as well. Probably the hottest unit of the niche at the moment, BiSH continues to walk the road opened by their predecessors and pioneers BiS, with relentless and pop-ish influences merged with Punk rock/Metal, all packed in Fake Metal Jacket, a solid record filled with enjoyable tracks and live anthems that are making the group more and more popular by the day. In the meantime, Maison Book Girl proved once again their value with summer continue, a festival of acoustic layers and electronic bits that, despite not really bringing anything new to the table, it still manages to stand out as a very enjoyable record. Ultradark Idol Unit Necronomidol didn’t miss the opportunity to shine either, as the EP from chaos born brings back the group on track with well crafted tracks and masterful application of several influences, a needed (and much appreciated) effort following a record that split the fandom into two at the beginning of the year.

The not-that-good

Sadly enough, the two records that partly disappointed me belong to two of my favorite mainstream acts. First off, Perfume, that with COSMIC EXPLORER delivered a wave of mixed feelings to their fandom: It’s a nice record, but at the same time not consistent enough, especially considering the standards they always managed to keep up with in the last ten years: this album features some very good tracks, but suffers from a bad tracklist and rushed (and unnecessary) album mixes, that split the album between new convincing tracks and old singles treated in a not-so-convincing way.

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Of course, BABYMETAL’s METAL RESISTANCE is the second album that didn’t meet my expectations. I gave this record a 6.5, and after almost three months, I hardly see how I could have given this record a higher rating. As a BABYMETAL fan since 2011, I am indeed convinced this album is extremely overrated: Is it bad? No. Is it great? Neither. It’s overall quite nice, very good in a few occasions, and bad in others. The real problem though, lies in the exaggerated will of making this project sound as aggressive as possible, killing part of its nature and desperately pressing the accelerator, until the whole thing unavoidably crashed (Tales of the Destinies). No, this is not evolution: this is losing sight of things and blindly head towards a single direction. I admit it makes me sad to say this, especially because I’d still see them live everyday, and because From Dusk Till Dawn is one of my favorite tracks this year, but seriously, this whole album is not what the world claims. And to those saying I am a “first album elitist” (still laughing), I just can say that I can hear the difference between a masterful record and a mediocre one.

The Bad

Ayami Muto, the best solo Idol in recent years, has retired. Kyary didn’t.

Also, stupid scandals getting in the way.


– Alex

Scandals in Japanese music are nothing but pathetic marketing moves

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Since I started writing about Japanese music, I always avoided to talk about the scandals that pop up from time to time in the world’s second biggest music industry. The reason is simple: I don’t care about celebrities’ personal matters, nor it’s any of my business.

I could start covering news, scandals, gossips, and act like a lonely housewife in her mid 30’s, trying to get more views as possible with a clickbait website. And in all honesty, it would probably bring me farther than what I’m achieving now by exclusively writing about music. Most importantly, though, I’d totally benefit from the comfortable purpose these news are created for: popularity. To me, scandals are indeed nothing but planned and organized news, created by labels and management agencies to increase the popularity (and, potentially, sales) of artists going through particular stages of their careers.

The most infamous example right now is obviously the “scandal” between Enon Kawatani, the mastermind behind J-rock outfits indigo le End and Gesu no Kiwami Otome. , and Becky, “tarento” and now part-time lonely girl tasting food on TV. You all know the story, so I’ll just briefly recap it as: Dude was secretly married and used to flirt with Becky, shit hit the fan, she made one of those pathetic public flagellations, dude’s album Ryouseibai peaked the Oricon chart, she disappeared, and people started to worry about her health, with a few “you sexist assholes!” outbursts in the middle. Now, a few days ago, these two announced that Enon divorced and that Becky’s public flagellation was totally fake: Kindergarten level of behavior. Not even Haruki Murakami would care about such a weak cheating story.

Now, if you’ve noticed, in all the maze of this pathetic “scandal”, Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s album Ryouseibai peaked the Oricon Chart, despite all the fuss for the love affair involving the band’s frontman.

I swear, I don’t wanna sound like those stupid conspiracy theorists polluting social networks, but I really see all of this just as a pathetic promotional move. Think about it: what’s the thing that, no matter what, causes more stir and makes everyone talk? Scandals. People will always point the finger and talk about someone else’s shameful actions, just for the sake of chatting about something and to feel better with themselves. It’s just natural, it happens everywhere: More talk means more popularity, leading to people getting to know about who’s involved, and, consequentially, to discover the group(s) the “culprits” are part of, that ultimately translates into more sales.

Don’t get me wrong: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. is actually one of the most valid J-rock bands out there, and Kawatani is undoubtedly a talented songwriter. Maybe the album would have topped the Oricon chart anyway. But at the same time, we’re not talking about a group you can find promoted on billboards in Shinjuku, in trains, or in any other crowded place: Gesu is in that transition phase between well known niche act and mainstream celebrity, where a trending topic (a scandal, in this case) right before the release of a record can do nothing but boost popularity. And who better than a celebrity like Becky to trigger all the mess? The ridiculous behavior of these two (apparently) adult people is just hard to take seriously, especially after the recent unveiling of Becky’s fake behavior in public. And there’s no doubt that, at the end of the story, there’s a heavy sense of falsity in the air, and that all of this was just used (or planned) to boost the sales of Kawatani’s band new record, and to make Becky relevant again in the business, after her fake retirement.

Enon and Becky’s “scandal” is not the only one to take in consideration, obviously. Another clear example is the infamous case of AKB48’s Minami Minegishi, who shaved her hair right after she was apparently caught sleeping at a guy’s apartment. Oh Lord… a twenty years old girl spending the night with a man! What has this world come to! And don’t get me started on the famous “no dating” rule, cause that’s pure falseness and an excuse for hardcore fans to keep supporting the girls.

Anyway, the terrible video of Minami apologizing in tears with her head shaved grabbed the attention of the world, and it’s honestly sad considering its visual brutality: It was beyond atrocious, and had a disturbing psychological violence behind it that made me sick. Right after the case, her fellow group members and supposedly friends, said that “they tried to stop her, but with no success”. Give me a break. Anyone could stop a girl from grabbing a hair clipper and shave her head bald. The thing was another excuse to make marketing by taking advantage of something the girl did in total innocence, and to “fix” the sales drop AKB48 had at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, later followed by an impressive boost in copies sold for the singles following the incident.

Differently from the Enon and Becky “scandal”, though, that was nothing to laugh at: that girl was visibly traumatized, and that for me is enough to call it the cruelest and most inhuman commercial move ever. Cause no matter what, I will never be able to picture a young Japanese girl voluntarily shaving her head, no matter what she did or what her culture is. And even if she truly did it intentionally, there was no need to make a video and upload it on the web. That’s just plain senseless and cruel.

That said, I could go on and make several other examples, like the “scandal” that involved Techno-pop trio Perfume, where members Nocchi and Kashiyuka were spotted dating and spending the night with what probably were their boyfriends… right before the release of their successful Triangle album. But that’s enough.

The perfect timing these scandals always pop up, and the doubtful way they are exposed to the public, makes me think that this is nothing but a childish and honestly annoying way of gaining more popularity and increase sales. It’s a behavior based on the total disrespect for the artist’s private life, when the artist itself isn’t consciously involved in the move. Either way, the best thing I can do as a fan, is to judge these people for their artistic value, and not for their personal matters.

– Alex

Are Major Labels pushing the new wave of J-pop?

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Last week, I stumbled open something that turned out to be unexpectedly good: a collaboration between FEMM, FAKY and Yup’in, a temporary unit occasionally called FAMM’IN. A team of artists that could easily trigger one of the biggest mediocrity fest ever, basically.

As you can guess, I’m not a huge fan of the three acts from Avex, one of the biggest Major Label companies of the Japanese music industry. These groups never found a way to stand out in the market, bathing instead in the limb of mediocrity: FEMM had some catchy EDM tunes in the past – but shown a clear inconsistence at the same time – while the other two hardly ever came up with something that I could find interesting. Last years’ terrible collaboration between FEMM and FAKY was the icing on the cake, and convinced me to stay away from these girls and their music.

This time around though, I’ve been proved wrong. Well, at least for seven minutes.

FAMM’IN indeed released the Music Video for circle, an electronic-oriented number mixing vocals auto-tuned into oblivion and traditional Japanese instruments, watered down in an unpredictable but functional structure. The track showcases an interesting contrast between different elements, and it does a good job at that, maintaining a soothing and almost mysterious vibe throughout its duration. Simply put, it’s a track that works greatly. Pretty much all the opposite you would expect from three acts that usually bring mediocre upbeat pop tunes on the shelves of Tower Records.

What’s even more interesting, though, is that the rest of the EP the track is featured in is exactly what these acts have been doing so far, which is mostly mediocre music. Only circle makes the difference, and not coincidentally, it’s the the track chosen to promote the release. Curious, isn’t it? This fact, and the thoughts of Tokyo-based journalist Patrick St. Michel brought me to think: Why is Avex doing this? Then I realized, that this is actually what one of the biggest Major labels in Japan has been doing for a while: promoting music that brings a breeze of fresh air to the J-pop scene.

Over the last five years, the japanese colossus indeed kept a vigilant eye on artists that, in a way or another, brought fresh sonorities to the J-pop market and its several ramifications.

One of the first acts taken in consideration by Avex has been TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE, an Idol unit featuring Funk and Jazz influences greatly merged over a classic Idol pattern, reaching its momentum with the highly acclaimed record Limited Addiction. It’s no understatement that they have been one of the first groups of the 2010’s to make Idol pop relevant from the mere musical standpoint. Oddly enough, the major label tried to change the identity of the group by announcing the abandonment of the Idol scene to undertake an “artistic” path. The result? Nothing has truly changed, the unit lost one of its former members, and their music hasn’t been as interesting as before. Leaving aside this doubtful choice and its poor results, it is the mindset behind it that’s to notice: The will of making a standardized reality artistically more relevant. The same thing that happened in the seven minutes of circle.

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Seeing the matter from a broader point of view, the label had no problem in taking under its wings relevant acts that are changing the tides of today’s J-pop, with Oomori Seiko as prime example of the colossus’ lineup: The singer/songwriter, after gaining relevant and well deserved attention in the independent scene, made the big step by shifting to Avex, delivering two albums (including the excellent TOKYO BLACK HOLE) and evolving her style while delivering unique charisma through her music, becoming one of the most influential J-pop artists of our days. Taking another look at the past, the enrollment of the controversial Idol unit BiS, that shook the Idol scene with aggressive and provocative concepts, shown a clear interest in artists that can potentially play a game-changing role in certain niches. The same thing happened to the group’s spiritual successor BiSH, that’s gaining more and more popularity by the day with their punk rock influences and rebellious charisma.

Seeing a gigantic major label like Avex trying to push the artists that are bringing a breathe of fresh air in the J-pop scene, is a sign that times are changing: People is getting tired of the classic Diva concept (ironically represented by Avex artists like Ayumi Hamasaki and Namie Amuro) and of the usual Idol projects made of plastic smiles and uninspired songs. And as the generation of artists that created these now aged patterns is slowly becoming less and less relevant, a new wave of young and innovative artists is gaining ground. Avex clearly knows this, and other labels such as Warner Music Japan are slowly recognizing the rise of this new reality, with the recent signing of electronic outfit Charisma.com and the upcoming deal with rising artist Suiyoubi no Campanella as proof of this.

With this in mind, the hope is that major labels will play a relevant role in this generational change, giving exposure and artistic freedom to the countless valid artists of the independent scene, willing to take their spot in the japanese scene with originality and talent. And from the looks of it, that’s exactly what’s gonna happen.

– Alex

BABYMETAL’s METAL RESISTANCE | Alex Shenmue VS. Homicidols

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Most of you who follow my blog already probably read my review of BABYMETAL’s METAL RESISTANCE, a record that kinda divided the fandom for its approach. It is not a perfect album, but it is a nice one, and in the end I gave it a positive score, despite not being an high one.

I was reading some hater’s comment about my review on Reddit when Maniac, the mind behind the Homicidol blog, contacted me, interested on my take on METAL RESISTANCE, offering an exchange of opinions that I gladly accepted. Don’t take me wrong: I didn’t like this dude. How could you trust someone called “Maniac” after all. Then I realized I’m not that better since I watch Ladybaby’s videos only to stare at Rie Kaneko, so I was like, yeah let’s go.

As owner of a blog that analyzes the Alternative Idol scene (and does a great job at that) Maniac obviously reviewed BABYMETAL’s latest studio effort, giving it a positive score, and leaving a generally positive opinion to his readers. And despite being a fool, he gave good reasons and analyzed the album with interesting point of views, so I was glad I wasn’t talking to a  “AAAAH, THIS ALBUM IS PERFECT, PERIOD” kind of person, and I was glad he contacted me for this article.

We had some fun assaulting one another’s opinions. Check it out!


Let’s begin!

Maniac: Alex, thank you so much. Your grace and charm are well-known. Please know that everything I say from here on out is with the utmost respect.

Alex: I appreciate that, Maniac, and thanks for having me.

Maniac: Great. I’ll get this started.


Maniac Point: You have a not good, but bad, opinion of “Tales of the Destinies.”

You wrote, “The biggest problem with METAL RESISTANCE is its attempt at pleasing a way too broad audience, and in adopting the influences to second this illogical purpose, it creates inconsistency” and then you peed all over “Tales” for sounding too much like Dream Theater but not pulling it off.

But please allow me to retort. As you may guess from my hyperbolic reactions to various idols, ridiculous, nightmarish sounds are basically gold to me, and “Tales” sounds like a bad dream Su-metal had while recording in Australia. It’s disjointed and thematically bizarre and has too much happening sometimes and it’s absolutely beautiful when it finally comes together.

Alex: It sounds like a nightmare and that’s it to me. As a long-time Dream Theater fan, the similarities are honestly exaggerated and almost embarrassing. I’m not kidding, and I’m really sorry for that. I’ll give you my address, send me bullets in a white envelope.

Maniac: Well aren’t we a salty one? You may think that Babymetal should never change or adapt, but I personally hope they keep trying to push genre boundaries with the same neophyte’s vigor that birthed them.

Alex: That’s what I hope too. But again, a lot of METAL RESISTANCE sounds much more standard to me when compared with their older material.

Maniac: /pretends to give Alex the stink-eye

Alex: My turn.


Alex Point: Nothing in this album is better than the previous one

Alex: You wrote:This isn’t a perfect album, but it is a very good one, one the entire Babymetal team should be proud of, often better than the debut but also missing in a few spots.” I honestly think none of these tracks are better than anything that was in BABYMETAL.

Maniac: Bite your tongue.

Alex: First off: I never pretended this album to be like their debut. It’s obviously different, but I couldn’t hear anything that was better. There’s more technique, and the Kami Band truly went into Berserk mode more than once, but again, skills and speed aren’t necessarily synonyms of quality. What’s better here when compared to the first album in your opinion?

Maniac: In almost every sense, the first album is like a time capsule for an idol/band as it grew up, so I feel like I have to strip away the purely fun (“Onedari Daisakusen”) and the Classic Babymetal (“Doki Doki Morning”) from everything “good” to ID what’s more objectively great, and I come away with the no-brainers “Megitsune” (arguably still their best), “IDZ” and “Headbangya!!” I’ll also throw in both Sulos, “Akumu no Rondo” and “Akatsuki,” as personal favorites.

Alex: I can see that. Go on…

Maniac: For this album, the more I listen to it, the more impressed I am with similarly three songs: “Amore,” “Sis.Anger” and “Tales of the Destinies.” I realize that I’m in the vocal minority on “Tales” and I don’t care because its’ better to be right than be popular. But others get it, too – “Amore” is so gorgeous that it might be the literal apotheosis of idol-meets-metal, and “Sis.Anger” is not only peak BLACK BABYMETAL (seriously, read the lyrics), it’s dangerously close to going down as their single most brutal song ever.

Alex: Sis. Anger is undoubtedly their most brutal song to date, it was instant love when I first heard it. Moa and Yui pulled it off greatly. I think it can be at the same level of their previous BLACK BABYMETAL songs. Not better, I still think the old tracks are still more charismatic, but they definitely nailed it here. But again, even “Amore”, one of the most beautiful tracks in METAL RESISTANCE, pales when compared with “Akatsuki”. “Tales of the Destinies”… c’mon bro…

Maniac: You crazy? Those three songs alone beat about half of Babymetal and could be put into any stack-ranking engine with the original Big Three, but then toss in other highlights. “Road of Resistance” has no peer. “The One” might as well become their theme song. “Syncopation” alone trumps almost everything from the original.

Alex: “Syncopation” is life, so I’ll give you that.

Maniac: I’m actually convincing myself more and more: Metal Resistance is a good head taller than Babymetal. Maybe you feel differently because you don’t feel the totality of BLACK BABYMETAL’s presence on the album. So:


Maniac Point: This album is like a coming-out party for BLACK BABYMETAL.

They’re way more involved than they seem. I covered that, anyway, but look: Between the first genuine trio parts since Legend D and big contributions on several other songs, and the fact that they got “Sis.Anger,” easily one of the best songs on the album, I don’t know how BLACK BABYMETAL could have been more included.

Alex: I agree, they rocked the shit out of GJ! and Sis Anger. But otherwise, yes and no. Their vocal contribution was much more relevant before. You know, the “Dame! Dame! Dame!” of Ijime, Dame, Zettai, the “Atatatata zukkyun” of Gimme Choco!!, the genial “Hedoban-ban-ban-ban” of Headbanger: That stuff made those tracks unforgettable and super charismatic, and still fire up the crowd at live shows. It’s the missing ingredient of METAL RESISTANCE. The most relevant thing in here are their chants in KARATE, which work great. They get a lot of space in META TARO, but geez, that track is friggin horrible to me.

Maniac: I agreed with you on META TARO when I reviewed it, and I did until like yesterday. It’s too infectious. It should be inserted into children’s toys and used to indoctrinate the world.

But back to the matter at hand. With what I see as an expanded role and with the really heavy stuff falling to BLACK BABYMETAL, I think this could be heralding a change in the whole idea of what Babymetal’s about.

Alex: Have you been drinking? I can’t imagine what they’re gonna do with their vocals to be honest. I’d just love to hear them more, in a way or another. Some tracks in here barely feature them. Do you mind if I go again?

Maniac: A little bit, you person with weird opinions, but go ahead.


Alex Point: KARATE does the job right, and it’s better than many other tracks in here.

Alex: When KARATE first came out, it was immediately clear that it was a friendly, catchy track to promote the album, and it did the job right. I like Yui and Moa’s chants here, they are relevant and give a proper contribute to the track (same for YAVA!, one of my favorites), something that misses 80% of the times in this record excluding the BLACK BABYMETAL tracks. It’s less technical, less complicated, definitely more “simple”, but it does the job very well and it’s the best track in here when it comes to balance of their voices. It’s nothing outstanding, but clearly one of the few tracks here that screams “BABYMETAL”

Maniac: Is it too late to find another debate partner? I’ll give you that “KARATE” is better than … “Awadama Fever” and “Dusk.” The song honestly bores me. I didn’t care for it when the first fancams popped up after Yokohama, I didn’t like hearing it as the lead single, and while I can concede that the video is boss and the total package in that regard is okay, it’s just so—you say “simple”—I say “safe.” “What’s the most rock radio-friendly song we can get away with?” is basically the formula.

Also, now I know why you have such a bad read on BLACK BABYMETAL; insofar as those two devil children can ever be less than great, “KARATE” is by far my least favorite contribution of theirs pretty much ever. #hottake!

Now I have a good one for you.


Maniac Point: What you dislike about “From Dusk Till Dawn” is one of its few selling points.

I know that I promised in multiple places to treat Metal Resistance as anything other than a Babymetal album, with all of what that entails, but it’s perfectly natural to expect a metal band to have metal in their songs. That being said, if not for those little proto-breakdowns, those little flashes of sonic heaviness, the song wouldn’t have any kind of place on the album. It’s already more at home on a Massive Attack record and—

Alex: I’m not familiar with Massive Attack.

Maniac: How are we talking again? Damn, son. Go look up “Teardrop” and get back to me.

Alex: Maybe later. No, I love this track so much. It seriously gave me the chills when I first heard it. The break could have been fine if it wasn’t for the friggin dubstep. It was so out of place and forced. It was fine in Uki Uki Midnight, but not here. They think it’s trending stuff, but even Skrillex barely makes that stuff anymore.

Maniac: Then we actually have something in common here, I think. Because while, yeah, things are going to happen in the booth, but to digitally alter Su-metal’s voice just for the sake of doing so is a crime against humanity.

Alex: I kinda agree, but it works great with this track. It’s not “that” altered, it’s just adapted to the vibe of the track. Live is gonna be crazy. [Ed. Note: They didn’t play it at Wembley! Probably because it is butt.] [Alex Note: They didn’t play “Tales of the Destinies” either, trollolol]

I think we’re getting to a key point here, and it’s this:


Alex Point: This album really changes according to your perspective

Alex: Despite my review having analyzed several negative aspects, I had no problem in highlighting the good ones, and after all I ended up giving it a positive score, despite not being a high one. Do I think it’s a bad record? Nope. It’s actually a nice one. But I’ve also noticed many different takes on it, with fans loving the fact “they don’t care about genres and try many different things at once” when I just see it as “Ok, there’s a Dragonforce track, a semi-Dream Theater track, a shallow power ballad, and a parody of a Viking march” and so on. From my point of view, it’s sometimes annoyingly sycophantic, like how they are always walking around taking pictures with famous metal people.

Maniac: Wait. You dislike that?

Alex: Not at all, It’s cool until a certain point, but their management brought it too far in my opinion. It’s less “meet your heroes” and more “see, haters, Slayer likes us!” Stop playing to the masses and just play. Of course I’m referring to their management, not the girls.

By the way. BABYMETAL has changed during the last few years, and it’s a natural consequence of the huge global exposure they got and are still getting, which is great. But with the group, the perspective and expectations changed as well, and everyone’s got their own. I personally was expecting an evolution of their sound and identity, something that I found only in “Syncopation” and other two or three tracks. The rest was just standard metal I could hear anywhere else.

Maniac: You know that old saying about giving someone enough rope to hang themselves?

Alex: That’s terrible. So agree to disagree, then?

Maniac: Only if we can agree that “Awadama Fever” is butt.

Alex: I have mixed feelings about it. Everyone keeps telling me it’s way better live. A lot of fans seem to dislike it. It has issues, I think it could have been much better to be honest, but it’s a catchy track overall.

Maniac: Somebody get this man medication.

Alex: If you really feel that strongly, why not say what you did like? What’s your top five?

Maniac: In no particular order, “Amore,” “Syncopation,” “Sis.Anger,” “Tales of the Destinies” and “The One.”

Alex: Not bad. You know I’ll take “From Dusk Till Dawn” all day, and I agree on “Syncopation” and “Amore.” But my BLACK BABYMETAL song is actually “GJ!”, and I’ll take “YAVA!” too, great example of the BABYMETAL sound.

Maniac: Well, at least your opinion there isn’t completely bad.

Alex: If I’ll ever get to write for Metal Hammer, I swear my opinions will be much more positive.

bm


In conclusion…

Maniac: So what did you think? Yes, Alex is very wrong in his view of Metal Resistance, but that’s okay! We played this little game together specifically because one of us (Maniac) had one set of (good) ideas and one of us (Alex) had (bad) ideas that conflicted with them. Yeah, it’s always me!

Alex: Jokes aside, what are your ideas? Did we give you something to think about? Comment below here, or head on over to Homicidol Maniac’s site and leave your comment there.

Maniac: But the best thing will be how we’ll all get a sense for how a collection of really unique music can be viewed, and we’ll probably all be able to appreciate it more.

Well, except for Alex.

Alex: STAHP IT!

The Audiovisual Art of Elevenplay and Rhizomatiks

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In the live context, on-stage performers are naturally the ones who always get the most credit from fans and followers. But in certain areas of the industry, these artists, while undoubtedly showing a certain talent in front of the audience, most of the times showcase a concept that couldn’t possibly be brought to life without the work of all the creators working behind the scenes, that while are surely recognized, sometimes are not able to show their pure and genuine artistic vision. And so, sometimes (alas, rarely) these creators gather together to create a more direct and completely uninfluenced experience entirely powered by their talent, taking the role of stars of the show and exposing a genuine artistic output of their creative talent.

One of these is Elevenplay, a project created by well-known choreographer/stage director MIKIKO, the mastermind behind the dances of groups of the likes of Perfume, BABYMETAL, Sakura Gakuin, Ayami Muto, and many other relevant acts of the Japanese Music Industry. Displayed by a unit of professional dancers performing on stage, Elevenplay’s main purpose is to show top notch technology applied to music and dance, where visual art team Rhizomatiks gives a constant and outstanding contribute to make these performances absolutely stunning, with globally acclaimed artist/programmer Daito Manabe supervising the project together with MIKIKO.

What makes Elevenplay special is the genuine artistic nature of it, and the innovation it brings in the audiovisual field with genial concepts and stunning performances. Basically, it’s the reason why Japan stands out in the world for technology and innovation in live shows: In front of jaw-dropping numbers featuring girls performing and communicating with iPads, dancing in perfect synchronization with programmed drones, and many other technologic wonders fusing with dance and music, Elevenplay is one of those projects that delivers a stunning showcase of these artists’ talent and something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s one of the best artistic outputs from this country, and it’s simply the best Japan has to offer in terms of Audiovisual art.

You can enjoy some performances from Elevenplay down here, and also on the two YouTube channels managed by the group and by Daito Manabe (I highly suggest to watch all of them). This is the real potential and reason why I love the Japanese scene so much, and I’m sure you will love it as much as I do. After watching these jaw-dropping performances, be sure to leave your impressions down here in the comments!


Elevenplay (Audiovisual artistic project from MIKIKO, Daito Manabe and Rhizomatiks)

– Alex

JAPANESE CHRONICLES | How music connects people in Japan

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It was December 25th 2013 in Shinjuku. After the final epic date of Perfume’s LEVEL3 Dome Tour, I decided to go alone for dinner and then chill at the hotel for a while, to relax a moment and decide what to do later. But time passed, and right before I was going to sleep, I received a message from a friend of mine that asked to join him in a Perfume party in Shinjuku, just near my hotel. Of course I accepted immediately, and in a minute I was out in the cold of the wonderful Tokyo night. Once I met with him, we reached the place where the party already started: It was an underground place in one of the main streets near Studio Alta, and after we entered and walked down the stairs, we reached a room with a bar, a small dance floor, and about fifteen people: There was a DJ playing Perfume’s songs and also videos on all the walls, for a pretty calm but cool atmosphere. In just half an hour, though, the situation got way hotter as more DJs joined the party and the volume started to rise, and so I ended up half drunk dancing with people I had never met before, laughing and singing like there was no tomorrow, and as grand finale, everyone took positions and started dancing to Akihabalove all together in perfect synchronization; It was an incredible sight, and seeing them having so much fun and sharing the same passion and love for this group has been exciting and wonderful. It was pure and genuine fun, and yes, everything was full of love.

Another funny episode happened with some friends in a rock bar in Shibuya called Rockaholic, where you can sit down, have a drink, and request songs to the DJ while rock and metal music blasts your ears. It was a Saturday night, so around 11pm all the people inside the bar was so drunk that madness took over the place and everyone started to jump, scream and hug (?) each other to tracks of groups like Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit. It was kinda sudden, really, but so beautiful that I didn’t even wondered why: I just enjoyed it. I went back there alone once and still had a blast, chatted with a girl for a while and failed in getting her contact, literally drank and screamed like a mad man with the guys at the bar (that broke three bottles in ten minutes) and met an US army dude outside the bar, where we talked about life and our futures.

I’ll never see all those people again, but instead of being sad about it, I believe that’s what makes these experiences so special. Because while I’m here miles away from them writing alone in this room and aware they all probably forgot about me, they’re still part of the reason why I travel to Japan and love its music and people so much. Little experiences make great memories, and music is the bond that creates and keeps them together, and music is everywhere in Japan: Like a world inside a world, a secret place where to share our passion and have fun, while the entire city outside keeps its eyes on everyone and takes care of us at the same time.

You don’t only listen to music in Japan. You live it.

– Alex