New Music Video from Zekkei Kujira

I know I just wrote about them twice, but Zekkei Kujira put out a new music video from their new album that happens to be one of my “standout tracks” from the CD. The video itself is very interesting, as well, with some trippy camera pans with doubled images of the members. The director is named Kodaka Sari and perhaps a creative individual to keep an eye on.

Zekkei Kujira – Saigo ni ai wa katsu

Minami Wheel

Japan loves music festivals. Across the country, there are music festivals big and small happening every week. The most famous of these are the summer super festivals like Fuji Rock, Summer Sonic, and Rock in Japan. They features huge domestic names in musics—the kind of bands, singers, and idols that show up on TV, get radio playtime, do theme song and commercial tie-ins—as well as international heavy hitters like Radiohead, who headlined Summer Sonic 2016. They’re held outdoors in huge parks with outdoor stages and camping or semi-indoors in sprawling convention centers and arenas. Probably the largest number of the most famous festivals take place in summer, like all three I listed above, so they take place under the beating sun and oppressive humidity. But there are other events running yearlong, and many of these feature indie bands as well. Indie festivals usually take place in the heart of the city and are generally what are referred to as “circuit events,” where a number of indoor venues have bands playing throughout the day and you can move freely between them. One of the biggest of these, and my personal favorite, is Minami Wheel.

Minami Wheel is held in the Shinsaibashi area in Osaka every year over for three days over the three-day-weekend of Sports Day in October, just the weekend before last. It’s known as “Minaho” for short. This year featured 150 bands and 20 venues, mostly fitting a few hundred people and topping out at Big Cat which fits 800. The bands are mostly indie bands and new or less famous major label groups. Most of the venues are clustered in the middle area around Big Cat and Sankaku Koen (“Triangle Park,” a tiny, triangular concrete park), with additional spots spread out to the east and west. The selection of bands is great year to year and the event seems to run very smoothly. Even though tickets sell out every year, the organizers have refrained from overselling; each time slot may have several full venues, but you generally can get in as long as you get to the venue ~10 minutes before the band starts playing. This lets you see bands in all the time slots instead of wasting time queuing up beforehand.

Besides Minami Wheel being a great way to experience your favorite bands and try out some new acts, my favorite element is the sense of a thriving music community. The park is full of festival goers hanging out and taking breaks between sets. The sidewalk in front of the massive shopping complex that houses Big Cat is a like a gauntlet, lined on both sides by band members (some who may not even be playing at Minaho!) handing out flyers and demo CDs, each one clamoring for the attention of the festival attendees to convince them to come to their show, check out their music, or even just follow them on twitter. There’s also great creativity that goes into these efforts: the more you stand out, the better. You’ll find strange costumes, cut-outs for taking pictures, giant banners, and more.

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PANIC in the BOX hand out fliers while dressed as…boxes? Photo from PitB’s twitter.cut2rtgvuaamygl

Kaori, frontwoman of the band Milkyway, advertises her show taking place the third day of Minaho. She’s dressed as a miko here and was a nurse the first day. For no particular reason as far as I can tell. I remember she dressed as Alice from Alice in Wonderland in 2015. Photo from Kaori’s twitter.

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Band aomidoro shows off posters for their show to an official photographer.

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Festivals-goers as shot by a Minami Wheel official photographer.

 

Review: Zekkei Kujira – Jidori

Following their April release of the mini album Tadori (“picture taken by another”) comes today’s release of the sequel work, Jidori (“selfie”). Although today is the official release date, I picked this up yesterday in a practice called “flying get,” where CD stores put out new albums the day before release in the afternoon. It gives them an advantage over internet retailers like Amazon and fans who can make it to a Tower Records and sometimes HMV, Disc Union, and Village Vanguard can get a head start listening. And boy am I glad I got a running start.

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Track List

  1. #selfie
  2. Saigo ni Ai wa Katsu (最後に愛は勝つ)
  3. Season II (シーズンII)
  4. Saishin Heiki (最新兵器)
  5. Demakase (デマカセ)

This album is fabulous. It’s a contender for best album of the year, with no throwaway tracks. Emotion drips off every lyric that frontwoman Natsuko Polaris belts out over the indie pop tracks. You can hear the influence of city pop and its dance beats as it mixes with their psychedelic tone and heavy hitting rock ‘n roll guitar with the fuzz turned way up. The choruses and instrumental leads are insidiously catchy, but they also don’t stray away from weird, especially when it comes to the keyboards (see the breakdown on Saishin Bukki with the reverse string setting or the intro to Season II with the synth voices).

Jidori is head and shoulders above their last mini. Although I enjoyed Tadori, the two strongest tracks, My Little Parallel Dreamers and papapa, were re-recordings from their demos, and two more of the five songs were relatively forgettable. Their newest effort is a lovingly crafted album of five single-worthy songs.

Standout Tracks

  • Saigo ni Ai wa Katsu – the frenetic spoken lyrics in the prechorus are only topped by the killer hook
  • Season II – addictive prechorus guitar riff

Zekkei Kujira signs to tricot’s Bakuretsu label

In a bit of serendipity, I talked about Zekkei Kujira and tricot in the same post earlier this year, and it turns out they are now labelmates, with Zekkei recently announced to become the first band signed to tricot’s independent label Bakuretsu. That is of course excluding tricot’s joke band “Disappointing Girl.”

In a follow up to Tadori (“picture taken by someone else”), released earlier this year on Jackman Records after being one of the 2015 winners of the RO69 JACK 2015 amateur band contest, in just four days they will release Jidori (“selfie”) on Bakuretsu. “Saishin heiki” (“newest weapon”) is the single track from this upcoming mini album.

Polkadot Stingray: Taking the Indie Scene by Storm

Lately the scene has been abuzz about Polkadot Stingray, a four-piece indie rock band from Fukuoka. Although they only formed their band about a year and a half ago, they are already starting to hit the bigger indie music festivals (like Mihoudai in Osaka this summer) and charting on the indie iTunes Japan (this also means international fans can actually buy their music, although a bit of a runaround to set up a Japanese iTunes account, as opposed to many bands with venue-only CDs). On their first visit to Tokyo only a few months prior, they played four nights back-to-back and all four shows sold out. Their wide-reaching popularity is probably driven by this extremely well-done, self-made music video for their song Telecaster Stripe. The director is none other than frontwoman Shizuku. With over a million views, it is a huge accomplishment for a band that hasn’t yet signed to a label.

More recently, they put out a video for the single Ningyo (“Mermaid”) off of their upcoming EP being released at CD shops Japan-wide in November.