Ready, Steady, GO! My picks for RECORD STORE DAY 2013!

Posted by Kells, April 17, 2013 06:16pm | Post a Comment
Hey kids! Do you know what this Saturday is?

Now, before you get all greenied on bleezing out in a cloud of puff-puff-pass for "Weed Day" or whatever the kids are calling their ritual observance of April 20th, you might just want to put a foot into your local Amoeba Music to participate in the sixth annual Record Store Day extravaganza! The limited and exclusive releases that drop especially for Record Store Day seem to increase with each passing year and the 2013 list is packed with tons of funky-fresh wax for all us vinyl nerds to gag and brag on.

When it comes to sifting my picks from the torrent I can't help but imagine how I would stack the offerings if I were HBIC of selecting RSD releases.Just off the top of my head, if I had my druthers, I'd demand a proper reissue of Don Cherry's Brown Rice LP for starters, but then I'd also have to have something berserk like a vinyl, possibly picture disc reissue of the rare Jimmy Webb written and America recorded soundtrack to the animated film The Last Unicorn, featuring vocals by the one and only Jeff Bridges. Maybe I could even convince Joanna Newsom to cover "Man's Road" for inclusion as a bonus track just to push the whole package over the top. Oh, if only I could have Record Store Day my way...but I can't complain, really. A girl can dream and there plenty to enjoy this year, here are some of the items I'm particularly excited about:

The Cal Tjader Trio - S/T (Fantasy 3-9)

DETAILS?: this ripe slice of jazz'oxtica on 10" orange wax was originally released in the 1950s but this coming Saturday it can be all yours, or rather, all mine! Of all the RSD 2013 releases I think my teenage self would be most surprised at my anticipation of this. I mean, sure I'm excited about the Built To Spill Live 2LP reissue as it is too amazing and has been too scarce for far too long to not have already been reissued already. And while I find those RSD Side By Side 7" singles on yummy colored vinyl titillating, especially the Deep Purple/Type O Negative double-take of "Highway Star" and The Misfits/The Lemonheads alike brandishing "Skulls," there is nothing in the "nice price" range that lights my fire quite like this right here.

Various Artists - Cotillion Records: Soul 45s (1968-1970)??

DETAILS: I'm not gonna lie, I can't afford this reissue set of ten, mostly scarce 7" vinyl singles (all from 1968-1970), but lawd do I ever wish I could! Includes 8-page booklet, a selection of stickers and a Cotillion 45 adapter housed in a cute-ass clamshell box, adding further stressing my willpower to not spend my "not a money" on this beast as it validates the argument that buying this box of minty repressings, remastered from the original vault tapes, will actually save you money were you to consider what it would cost to track down and acquire originals of these very rare, possibly very used, and definitely very expensive little platters. Cotillion was one of the most famous subsidiaries of Atlantic Records and spanned many genres with its catalogue in later years but is still chiefly remembered for the early Southern soul releases from the likes of Otis Clay, Moses Smith, and Darrell Banks. Also includes a coupon for mp3 downloads whatever that is.

Cheech & Chong featuring Alice Bowie - "Earache My Eye" b/w "Turn That Thing Down"

DETAILS: what more is there to say about this RSD Exclusive green vinyl 7" housing far-out deep grooves within a insanely hip (hep?) picture sleeve? The only thing I can think of that only furthers the appeal of this incredibly relevant, culturally important reissue are the timeless lyrical turns of phrase that flesh out the title track. You may not realize it at first listen but when you manage to work word combinations like "fanny perpandicular" into everyday conversation you'll know the triumph of that "Earache My Eye" moment you spanned not so long ago that it felt like only yesterday.

Music From The Television Series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

DETAILS: Ohhh baaaaaaby!
Format: 12" Vinyl
Label: Varese Sarabande
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info: Lonnnnng out of Print

Are you kidding me?! Even if this show was kinda crappy, there is no denying that look, those colors and this bossa jazz lounge joint is a choice soundtrack for all you cool cool cats looking to score sexy kitten-play what pairs well with meticulously crafted cocktails and a few tickets to the moon.

Golden Void - "Rise to the Out of Reach" b/w "Smiling Raven"

DETAILS?: I don't know why purveyors of rad, heavy psych "stoner" monoliths like Golden Void seem to be falling short of reaching their true audience like they should. I mean, these Thrill Jockey rockers should've been slaying the airwaves yesterday. This exclusive RSD 7" from said Bay Area quartet, led by Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell with Justin Pinkerton, Aaron Morgan, and Camilla Saufly-Mitchell (Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound) is, in my opinion, the most exciting "local" release in the cut in that it's guaranteed to fookin' rock! Limited to 700 copies, dood.


Testament - Dark Roots Covers

DETAILS: all the DIO-related releases are exciting and all but I'm feelin' the weight of this heavy platter -- a ?7" picture disc released exclusively for Record Store Day via Nuclear Blast? featuring Testament covering Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" and "Animal Magnetism" by the Scorpions. If you haven't heard Testament's take on "Powerslave" just imagine what the Maiden original would sound like if it was bludgeoned by Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss" and -- whoomp! there it is -- it's 1990 again. Bonus points for their horror epic "Animal Magnetism" heavy.


Adrian Lloyd - "Lorna" b/w "Got a Little Woman"

DETAILS: sleezy oldies for your dirty boudoir show
Format: 7" Vinyl RSD Exclusive Release
More Info: Rare 45 from Riot on Sunset Strip era Los Angeles. The first time I heard this I couldn't help but recall one of the most amazingly bad films ever to receive the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, Skydivers -- arguably the least unwatchable of the Coleman Francis ouevre, though that isn't saying much. But this little record, meeeow!

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At LAST: Kyle Field chats Little Wings' latest opus

Posted by Kells, April 7, 2013 03:20pm | Post a Comment

Photo by Adam Zeke             

Earlier this year worlds collided when Little Wings took the stage at Cafe du Nord, one of San Francisco's best preserved former mobster speak-easy joints that maintains decidedly authentic-feeling with shadowy vibes fully trimmed in dust-covered scarlet velvet. Looking like a costumed "tourist" complete with a plastic lei and something like a Greek fisherman's hat, Little Wings breezed through a delightfully unpredictable set of mostly new songs from his first ever double LP release, LAST, his borrowed backing band (The Range of Light Wilderness I believe, sharing the bill that evening) jamming over a few false starts before eventually leaning into the billowy groove of the nearly seven-minute "Neptune's Next" that opened the show. A hushed wave broke over the crowd, and it was then that I noticed, and I could be wrong, but  I think maybe I could see that Kyle's teeth were painted.

Accomplished visual artist, avid surfer, and "musician's musician" Kyle Field channels a great deal of his most personal energies and intuitive creative powers into recording and performing music as Little Wings, his ever-fluctuating entity that continues to inspire and challenge audience perceptions with multi-layered song cycles, subconscious-tapping lyrical head trips, and concurrent visual presentations that sometimes embrace an apparent love of adopting guises couched in a language of "the best costume for the day." Seemingly open to collaborations and improvisation, Field continues to garner praise from fans and contemporaries like Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince Billy and Feist who not only named her 2010 documentary Look at What the Light Did Now after a Little Wings tune but also covered and performed it as a duet with Field as well. Though admirers may tend to paint him as something of a folk hero from time to time (this bromantic GQ piece on Kyle being a prime example), Field seems to play it close to the vest when it comes to his self-expression despite having publicly sharing so many personal pieces. I recently corresponded with him and learned a lot about the new album (2LP! out on Field's own Rad imprint via Marriage Records), what he's listening to lately, and "free friction" in surfing. Read on for the interview!

 This album seems to spring from a similar genesis as your previous album -- skulls, apples and a certain reflective darkness in tow. However, this record is by far your longest -- what happened? Is this record a lens cast upon a bigger picture? Was it your intention to release a double LP?

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Watch the Throne, Charge it to the Game: Getting to Know Game of Thrones 3.0

Posted by Kells, March 30, 2013 04:10pm | Post a Comment

Whether you're a fan of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series or just a nighttime TV junkie jonesing for HBO's explicit tits, violence, and wine approach to adapting Martin's opus into their small screen "prestige" drama, you're likely as fired up as I am for the season three premier of Game of Thrones this Easter Sunday night. Having enjoyed reading the books immensely, I'm itching with anticipation for the faces, places, and expirations, however abrupt, yet to receive HBO's patent sexpository book-to-show treatment. For those interested in getting to know the new additions to the series this season, I've compiled my own top ten anticipated new faces set to appear in Game of Thrones 3.0 (expect mild spoilers at best), including a smattering of other related hopes and fears I have concerning the page-to-performance transition (e.g. I'm beginning to think that we're not gonna hear anyone say "R'hllor").

Also, NERD ALERT! if you're in San Francisco on Sunday and you're looking for some Throner-related nightlife I urge you to check out the Game of Thrones viewing party presented at Stage Werx beginning at 8pm with a screening of GoT season two, episode ten to get everyone up to speed. Episode one season three will screen at 9pm immediately followed by a live recording of Boars, Gore and Swords (the "third greatest," and my favorite, Game of Thrones podcast) by Red Scott and Ivan Hernandez so stick around, mingle with ye bannermen, and partake in some top-shelf insightful and opinionated infotainment.

And now, as if you won't be scrambling to figure out who's who on during the show anyway, here is my top ten fresh faces of GoTs3:

The Queen of Thorns
“That Varys creature seemed to think we should be grateful for the information. I’ve never been quite sure what the point of a eunuch is, if truth be told. It seems to me they’re only men with the useful bits cut off.”

— The Queen of Thorns, from A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book III) - George R. R. Martin

Game of Thrones gets its equivalent to Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) this season with the entrance of Lady Olenna Redwyne, grandmother of queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell, aka the Queen of Thorns (Diana Rigg, perhaps best known for her Avengers and James Bond years). Sure to be throwing shade and reading friend and foe alike to absolute filth like any queen mum worth her barbs, I have no doubt the Queen of Thorns will have just as many zingers to deliver as Violet Grantham, but be warned that this Game of Thrones' newbie is one scheming meemaw.

Mance Rayder
“Free folk don’t follow names, or little cloth animals sewn on a tunic. They won’t dance for coins, they don’t care how your style yourself or what that chain of office means or who your grandsire was. They follow strength. They follow the man.”

— Mance Rayder, from A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book III) - George R. R. Martin

Aside from having one of the most bas-ass monickers in the series, Mance Rayder, the "King-Beyond-the-Wall" (played by Irish actor Ciarán Hinds of Excalibur and Rome fame), seems to be already one of the most bitched about portrayals. Come on guys, I know there's no signature cape, but did anyone out there get there panties in a twist when Renley's "Rainbow cloaks" were nixed? Besdies, with a man like Mance it's not so much how he looks, but rather what he does. And who he rolls with.

For example:

Tormund Giantsbane

See, lad, that’s why he’s king and I’m not. I can outdrink, outfight, and outsing him, and my member’s thrice the size o’ his, but Mance has cunning.’

— Tormund Giantsbane, from A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book III) - George R. R. Martin

While we're on the topic of bold names and hard aliases, a bushy new face making the scene by means of Mance's entourage is Tormund, better known as Tormund Giantsbane or Tormund Thunderfist, the self-styled Tall-talker, Horn-blower and Breaker of Ice, Husband to Bears, the Mead-king of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods and Father of Hosts (played by Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju). I refuse to believe any casting quibbles exist concerning Mance's right hand man, especially given his rather stunning, ice-climbing introduction in the season three trailer. I look forward to lusty feats of violence punctuated with wild-eyed recollections copulating with bears from this braggart.

Blue grey feathers filled his eyes, as sharp talons buried themselves in his face… Can a bird hate?

—  from A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book III) - George R. R. Martin

I think I slapped myself with giddyness when I learned that Mackenzie Crook (of the original UK inception of The Office as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean boxoffice juggernauts) had been cast to play, well, anyone in Game of Thrones. I mean, look at this guy! He just needs to be a part of this. In the role of warg, or skinchanger or beastmaster Orell (think Bran and how he has the ability to inhabit the body of his direwolf except swap that spirit animal out for an eagle), Crook takes on on of the freakier roles among Rayder's wildling brigade. I'm excited to see him in the mix no matter how annoying his character promises to be.

Daario Naheris
That night Daario had her every way a man can have a woman, and she gave herself to him willingly.

—  from A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book V) - George R. R. Martin

Oh Daario, Daario Naheris (played by English rapper Ed Skrein). You know, I don't even care that your made-for-TV looks do not include a three prong forked blue beard or that your costume is suspiciously bereft of shiny things. You look just like a slightly sleazy, ready to teaze n' pleaze Miss Dany like late 80's Hollywood rocker on the prowl. Expect hot hot "swordsmanship" from this Tyroshi captain of the Stormcrows mercenary company.

Dany had grown very fond of Missandei. The little scribe with the big golden eyes was wise beyond her years. She is brave as well. She had to be, to survive the life she’s lived.

—  from A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book III) - George R. R. Martin

Now, Nathalie Emmanuel cast in the role of a ten-year-old Missandei isn't so startling when you consider that Daenerys Targaryen was supposed to be about fourteen when she married Khal Drogo in season one. I, for one, am thankful that many of Martin's children were aged-up for HBO. Anyway, former child slave Missandei is a welcome addition to Dany's crew in that her role as translator and go-bewteen with local honchos dealing in armies-for-hire in the slave-trade armpit called Astaphor is integral to Dany's prerogative (i.e. claim to total domination of the seven kingdoms by birthright). Do I smell come-uppance?

Beric Dondarrion
"He's here, he's there, he's everywhere, but when you send men after him, he melts away like dew. One day you hear the man is dead, the next they're saying how he can't be killed."

— Ser Daven Lannister,  from A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book IV) - George R. R. Martin

I don't know much about Australian actor David Michael Scott aside from the fact that I'm dead excited (pun intended) to see him light up the night as "Lightning Lord" Beric Dondarrion in Game of Thrones this season. You may remember him from season one, if you're a total geek like me, when Ned Stark ordered a knight to go capture Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, who had won a bit of infamy for raping and pillaging and things. Welp, Dondarrion (I just love that name, it sounds like he and Robin Hood could be total bros) is back and guess what kids?! He has found religion in the Red God (you know, R'hllor) and dispenses justice with none other than his very own, very special, flaming sword! Speaking of R'hllor, keep an eye out for another new face in Dondarrion's eclectic "Brotherhood Without Banners" entourage, the red priest Thoros of Myr played by Paul Kaye. There's an epic showdown brewing here that's gonna be as intense and raw as the Bear and the Maiden Fair, I'm talkin' popcorn missing-your-face-for-flying-over-your-head moments, people.

The Reeds
“You are the winged wolf, Bran. I wasn’t sure when we first came, but now I am. The crow sent us here to break your chains.”
— Jojen Reed,  from A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book II) - George R. R. Martin

For the record, the Reeds should have been introduced last season as they were integral to the Bran and co.'s  clandestine escape from Winterfell, but I'm not gonna nit-pick because frankly I'm a little surprised they're joining the show at all. The Reeds are the children of Ned Stark's best friend and they live way out in the sticks in what is essentially a swamp settlement. Derided as "frogeaters," the Reeds supposedly have green eyes and mysterious powers possibly related to their off the grid way of living. Meera (Ellie Kendrick, above right) is a skilled hunter, and Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) can see the future: handy!

Ser Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully

“You must be blind as well as maimed, ser. Lift your eyes, and you will see that the direwolf still flies above our walls.”
—  Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully, from A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book IV) - George R. R. Martin

First off, Game of Thrones costumers deserve an A++ for that fish scale inspired leather armor (Catelyn Stark's family, House Tully, has a leaping fish as its symbol). Catlyn's no-nonsense uncle Brynden, having had a falling out with her powerful father Hoster, declared himself the Tully family's black sheep by way of adopting the alias Blackfish. Self-imposed exile hasn't stopped this hard-as-nails warrior from becoming one of Westeros's deadliest, even if he is a sweetheart compared to his nephew Edmure. The Blackfish will, of course, be integral to his great-nephew Robb's King-in-the-North status.


“He smiles less often now, I may have broken some of his pretty white teeth.” 

—  Lord Ramsay Bolton, from A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice & Fire, Book V) - George R. R. Martin

Reek. Reek. Rhymes with... I'm not going to talk about Reek. Just like I'm not going to talk about Whitebeard or any other character joining the cast that deserves their own true and proper dramatic introduction. This show is one of the best shows currently airing due in part to it's acrobatic plot points and shocking revelations. So why the picture of Reek? Well, for one, he's one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-him characters from the GoTs3 trailers and, secondly, it'll do for the show's Easter premier, no?

Happy Game of Thrones Easter 2013 everybody!

Rock On Their Own Terms: Japanese Women Making Music Beyond J-Pop

Posted by Kells, March 25, 2013 06:06pm | Post a Comment

"Rock You in a Tatami Room" by artist Yumiko Kayukawa

It's Women's History Month and, as time would have it, I am missing the Underground Japanese Rock section that I used to upkeep at Amoeba Music's San Francisco location. Having dedicated not a small amount of my life to the study of Japanese language and culture over the last thirteen years, caring for and discovering Japanese music at Amoeba in tandem with my academic duties has been and continues to be a pleasure, though the enjoyment of filing them neatly into their own cozy little vicinity is, sadly, a notion of the past. We do keep a J-Pop section up and running, but I digress.
With this post I seek to celebrate Japanese women in music, specifically the musicians performing on the (alternative/avant-garde/experimental or whatever you want to call it) flip-side of the produced-for-mass-consumption J-Pop norm, and, even more specifically, my favorite artists in the cut. Whenever possible I have included live footage of these artists because, frankly, I find the fact that some of these performances are available at all is incredible. Case in point:



I first came to know multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, sound artist Haco (also known for her 1981-1991 ensemble After Dinner, featured in the above video, and Hoahio, among others) when a friend recommended her 1999 release Happiness Proof. That same year I picked up Ohayo! Hoahio! by Hoahio, not knowing it was a Haco thing, and became so entranced by her view master melding of acoustic with electronic compositions and her clarion clear vocals that I went whole hog into her back catalog and have been an avid follower ever since (an experience I reckon many fans of Björk's music can relate to). I fell in love with Haco, it was just that easy.

For those interested in checking into Haco's world I suggest you start near the beginning and pick up the 2001 reissue of After Dinner's 1987 masterpiece Paradise of the Replica (included with the reish is a bonus remix EP, Paradise of Remixes).  Her best song ever is probably "Less Than Lovers, More Than Friends" from the Ohayo! Hoahio! album released via John Zorn's New Japan imprint on his Tzadik recording label.

Hoahio - "Less Than Lovers, More Than Friends"

p.s. If you're already waaay into Haco, like me, I recommend keeping a vinyl digger's eye out for a record circa 1987 called La Debutante by Sonoko -- it's pretty much the equivalent of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette if David Lynch had made it in the late '80s.

?????  Nikaidoh Kazumi

I learned about singer/songwriter Nika, as she is often called, via my interest in K Records flag-bearer artists like Phil Elverum and Karl Blau, both of whom have not only toured and recorded with her but have also covered some of her work. She has an enchanting, often arresting vocal style that sometimes veers startlingly into lowslung growl-like warbles not dissimilar to those attributed to Louis Armstrong -- a power that embellishes her borderline experimental acoustic folk melodies, when it doesn't override it completely. Her work under the alias Nika Soup, with  Saya "Source" Ueno of Tenniscoats and Maher Shalal Hash Baz, is some of the most stunning improvisational avant garde music she has ever made (check out the trailer for the 2008 Nika Soup and Saya Source documentary Harmonies here).

For Nika's solo works I recommend beginning with her 2003 album Mata Otoshimashitayo. For her more esoteric jams look into Ipiya by Nika Soup and Saya Source, released in 2005.

Watch Miss Nika silence a rowdy crowd of SF hipsters with her power chords in the video below.


When Buffalo Daughter guitarist Sugar Yoshinaga got together with former OOIOO and DMBQ drummer Yuka Yoshimura in the mid-aughts to form supergroup duo Metalchicks it was like a dream I didn't even know I had coming true. Buffalo Daughter has long been a favorite of mine, especially their 2001 to 2003 releases I, the A Long Life Story of Miss Cro-Magnon EP (containing their best effort to date, the nearly ten minute electro space odyssey "Son of Altair"), and Pshychic. As for OOIOO -- see below. In any case, hearing Sugar's applied shred-ability and TB-303 skill set paired with percussive powerhouse "Yoshico" in a quasi-metal mash-up act is, in a word, tits. Their debut album rules.

There's not a lot of footage of Metalchicks out there, but this video here doesn't suck.

What can I say about this band that hasn't been already said? I mean, just the fact they allegedly started out in the mid-'90s as a hastily thrown together fake band for a magazine photo shoot so that Yoshimi P-We (Boredoms drummer and member of indie supergroup Free Kitten, among others) wouldn't have to brave the exposure alone is enough to kiiind of make me love them even if they couldn't really "play anything" at the time. Six albums later and their sound has come to be described as something that is both structured yet improvised, a cyclic and untethered polyrhythmic wizardry that evokes infinite primal wonders and a definite tribal urge. While Yoshimi herself claims that her compositions are inspired by "weather," an atmospheric state of complex simplicity. The group seems to garner a great deal of focus on their being an "all-girl" ensemble, but the recordings are anything but a prohibitive, "females only" space. Begin with Gold & Green.

Late last summer OOIOO played live with (are you kidding me?!) a gamelan orchestra, see below!

?????? / Afrirampo
Oh, Afrirampo -- I feel another case of "what more can be said" coming on. For starters, though only active for eight years, duo Oni (guitar, vocals) and Pikachu (drums, vocals) managed to produce eleven releases and rode their raw and raucous African-influenced call and response rock around the world, including a stay with pygmy tribes in Cameroon (as can be heard on their 2006 record Baka ga kita!!!). They've collaborated with Acid Mothers Temple and toured with Sonic Youth and Lightning Bolt and while they've cast their trademark Afrirampo-red raiments aside, both Oni and Pika continue to make music these days (thank heavens). Oni's more recent acoustic folk efforts, apparent on her solo release Sunwave Heart comes as a somewhat jarring 180 degree departure from her Afrirampo roots, but for all its hippy-dippy love vibes her sound is no less unchained. As for Pika, she 's maintained the A.M.T. connection, touring recently with Kawabata Makoto.

Still, there's nothing that can beat the frenzied, anything goes energy of an Afrirampo live show. Check out their 2CD/DVD final release Never Ending Afrirampo to reminisce or catch a glimpse at what you missed. Otherwise I suggest starting with Kore Ga Mayaku Da as it will probably be the easiest to find. Uchu no Ko is my personal favorite. And if you're jonesing for something similar I urge you to check out Kiiiiiii.
Watch Afrirampo perform "Akan Konomama Kaesanai" circa 2009 below:

???? Takako Minekawa
Because Takako Minekawa's music is associated with that of Cornelius and Kahimi Karie, not to mention the whole Shibuya Kei scene, this will be by far the most J-Pop inclusion in the cut. Though she is probably most quasi-famous for being the voice of "Playstation" commercials et al, Takako's child-like electropop compositions for and about cats, specific colors, and other cutesy bits seem to be the thing that draws admirers to her music. Judging by the broad scope of synthesized sounds steeped into all nine of her records I'd wager a guess that she's been a nerdy keyboard collector for as long as she can remember. For me, I discovered her music via her 2000 release Maxi On and moved back through her catalog, even scouring the dusty depths of Book Off to find her Christmas CD. Sadly, she hasn't put out any new recordings since then, a fact that I'm prone to bemoan at length at any given moment. Her website hasn't been updated since 2004 so I suggest that anyone interested in her music start at the end, work towards the beginning, just don't expect anything new. [*sniffle*]

Here is a video for "Fantastic Cat" from Roomic Cube (1996)

???? Tujiko Noriko

Around the same time I was getting into experimental folk singer/songwriter Aiko Shimada I picked up From Tokyo To Naiagara by Tujiko Noriko and fell hard for her at first listen. Already primed by Shimada's melancholic compositions that combined classical instruments and toy piano with dabbling electronic elements, Tujiko Noriko's layered vocals singing in both English and Japanese, drowned in heavy blankets of electronica, conjuring cinematic scenes of unrequited love, necessary separation, stylish trappings, and the romance of a repeatedly bruised ego continue to fascinate me. The perfect soundtrack for an haute couture fashion presentation.

It's difficult to choose just one starting point from her many offerings, but I recommend Make Me Hard, From Tokyo To Naiagara (the opening track, "Narita Made," being Ms. Tujiko operating at the top of her game check out the track below), and her collaboration with Aoki Takamasa, 28 -- a recording that is still, in my opinion, too beautiful for this world.

First things first: Syzygys actually have a new album currently in the works, coming out soon! This odd duo featuring violin paired with the discordant 43-tone organ of one Harry Partch and cute, if somewhat atonal, vocals and twisted lyrics that'd make Shonen Knife eat their bonnets for brunch possess a strange magic for making music that sounds so wrong yet so right. Listening to their mystic, Middle Eastern influenced microtonal meanderings makes me feel like a child following the pied piper, somehow I can't help but want more and more and more. Of all the artists I love that seem to have packed it in, Syzygys would be one of the very last I'd expect to still be active after all these years. You can find their complete studio recordings (spanning from mid-'80s to early '90s) on Zorn's New Japan imprint, but I suggest beginning with their live in '85 CD, Eyes On Green -- it's just so weird and so, so wonderful.
Here's a little bit if Syzygys live performing their instrumental "Fauna Grotesque" circa 1987:


Hailing from Okinawa, trio Kanna (guitar/vocals), Suke (bass/vocals) and Sayuri (drums) continue to challenge the way people perceive a band's image versus sound. The first time I saw Bleach03 (then known as just plain ol' Bleach) at a Japan Nite event in New York City in 2001 was also the first time I had ever seen anyone literally bloody themselves playing bass. Suke's berserker approach carries over into her mic-swallowing vocals as well, but it's just another detail in Bleach03's overall anything-but-cute powerful punch.

My favorite album of theirs, Kibaku-Zai ("Triggering Device"), features a rash of their patent incendiary shred-a-thons with such titles as "Santa Claus" and "Town of Good Children." Bleach03 even played live at Amoeba Music in San Francisco, they completely ruled! Check out the video below:

When a band's bio begins with what planet they hail from, in this case the planet Kero Kero, you know you're in for a ride. Making a live show of their homespun extraterrestrial fetish wear and affinity for frogs eX-Girl make music like an electropop, prog-punk trainwreck of three-part operatic acapella acrobatics, psychedelic space rock, jazz fusion, and heavily SciFi influenced lyrics, one song at a time. Having toured with the likes of Fantômas and Siouxsie and The Banshees, eX-Girl have secured many avid fans, including Jello Biafra and Mike Patton, and endured many line-up changes. The sole original member, Kirilola, has also stretched out her compositions in a number of side projects, her spiritual cleansing music under the name Asakau being a favorite. eX-Girl also starred in the film Legend of the Waterbreakers by Japanese comedienne and Ass Baboons of Venus member Naoko Nozawa. A good place to start with eX-Girl is their fourth album Back to the Mono Kero which features a fantastic cover of M's "Pop Muzik," otherwise I suggest checking out Endangered Species (2004) as it is eX-Girl at their furthest out and fully-realized.
See them perform "Hettakorii no Ottokotou" from Endangered Species in a sketchy video below:

Angel'in Heavy Syrup
In conclusion, I offer this bonus helpful hint for all you diggers out there: if you ever happen to come across any Angel'in Heavy Syrup CD while flipping through the rock bins just do yourself a favor and pick it up. Chances are it's overlooked and under-priced and way worth your time. Formed in 1990, these ladies were making far out krautrock-influenced progressive psychedelic rock during the height of the Japanese noise rock scene which kind of seems like a ballsy move, no? But it's this kind of puzzling trajectory that made for such satisfying take-a-chance-on-it discoveries through the Underground Japanese Rock section (R.I.P.)

Aside from the aforementioned "anything you can find" tip, I recommend Angel'in Heavy Syrup's III album and/or IV (you know, titles like Zeppelin). A very lovely, very underrated band.

Someone loved them enough to construct an appropriately trippy video for their song "First Love" --
check it out:

Fantasy Ireland: Where John Boorman's Cinematic Whimsies Come Alive

Posted by Kells, March 17, 2013 02:05pm | Post a Comment

"Your God gave you the gift of the Gun. The Gun is good. The Penis is Evil." - Zardoz

Sick of honoring Saint Patrick's Day by celebrating your Irishness or affinity for Irish culture by going out to drown your innards with copious amounts of Irish spirits? Stay indoors, save some green money, tuck into your own whiskey stash while marveling at the natural beauty of the Emerald isle as framed by British filmmaker John Boorman in such films as Excalibur (1981) and Zardoz (1974) -- could two films made in the same location, directed, produced and written by the same person be more different? I think not.
Gabriel Byrne and Nichol Williamson as Uther and Merlin in Excalibur 
And yet one gets the impression that even in within the context of Boorman's adaptation of Arthurian legends the sword Excalibur represents a goodness not unlike that of Zardoz's "God-given gun" while the "evil" penis serves naught but to wreak havoc upon Camelot's carefully constructed peace what with all that adultery and incest going 'round the round table. But Zardoz is one of those films that I find myself thinking about more than I probably should, perhaps that's because no matter how many times I've seen it it completely freaks me out. It is such a strange film that it's almost impossible to believe it actually exists.

Sean Connery in Zardoz
It does exist, of course, and looking past Sean Connery's adult diaper-looking red short-shorts, matching bandoliers and thigh-high leather boots costume -- not to mention the plenitude of naked women that flesh out the cast -- to digest the core of the penis vs. gun debate in this most extravagant of dystopian science fictions is only half the fun. But I digress, and I really shouldn't attempt to mold Excalibur to its freaky, art house contours. Though both of these films were made in Ireland, largely filmed on Boorman's own estate (must be nice!), Zardoz doesn't pack the same atmospheric punch that Excalibur does, but then Excalibur isn't trying to sell viewers on the concept of giant stone God heads that fly around distributing arsenals of firearms to the people down below by ejecting guns by the dozen from it's gaping mouth-hole. Excalibur's magic is a softer, more subtle stuff. Personally, I think it's the best movie of it's kind ever made.
Nicholas Clay and Cherie Lunghi as Lancelot and Guenevere in Excalibur 

There is a seemingly excessive use of green lighting used to fantastic effect throughout Excalibur, highlighting what I've always assumed to be the suggestion of magical elements at work within the story (see the green glint on the sword pictured above), and spotting the use of unnaturally green light throughout the film seems worthy of a drinking game. Unlike Zardoz, Excalibur's more unbelievable moments are enveloped within an oft-told mythological narrative so well known that when when the audience is presented with, say, an awkward, huffy-puffy sex scene between a nude actress (Boorman's own daughter, Katrine as Igrayne of Cornwall) and a fully-armored knight (Corin Redgrave as Cornwall, or is that Gabriel Byrne again?) it's not all that surprising. Shocking? Maybe a little, but plausible. Just about as plausible as the Lady of the Lake (featuring Boorman's other daughter, Telsche), whose scenes not only make an argument for her existence showcase some of the more beautiful of Excalibur's Irish locations.

Nigel Terry as King Arthur approaches the Lady of the Lake
All in all, there are plenty of other fantastic fantasy films made in Ireland (Princess Bride is a standout favorite) so if you're stuck inside the house this St. Paddy's Day, or are just plain loath to go out and mingle with the greenery, get a little Irish film fix with either of these Boorman classics. Also, be on the lookout for the Excalibur documentary, Behind the Sword in the Stone, currently in production and featuring interviews with Boorman himself and many cast, such as Nigel Terry, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Charley Boorman who played young Mordred in this so-called "Boorman family picture."

Check out the trailers for both Excalibur and Zardoz below:

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