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Light In The Attic Releases first Anthology for their Japan Archival Series

Posted by Kells, October 27, 2017 11:56pm | Post a Comment

Record shopping in Japan is an incredible and humbling experience and, when in Tokyo, I enjoy exploring as many record stores as possible, regularly testing the limits of my willpower wallet while discovering one long-sought gem after another. What's more, records in Japan are more often than not found in great if not near mint condition and almost always come crisply wrapped in those snazzy resealable outer sleeves. Whether you're digging through one of Japan's many mega music emporiums, curated record boutiques, or any old hideaway/warehouse situation stuffed windows-to-the-walls with miscellaneous wax, the scope of excellently kept, hard-to-find vinyl stocked in record stores here never fails to amaze. That said, scoring coveted original releases by Japanese artists at a "nice price" can be surprisingly tough, which means acquiring the same prized/pricey titles stateside can be doubly difficult and hardly worth it (itinerant flippers be damned). Enter the warm glow of Light In The Attic Records...

Since announcing their Japan Archival Series last April, the Seattle-based label has finally brought their inaugural release for the project to US ears with Even A Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973, the "first-ever fully licensed compilation of this music to be released outside Japan". This collection of nineteen tracks spans an era when Japan's youth culture shifted from championing the Surf instrumental (think The Ventures) Eleki trend and the Beatles-inspired Group Sounds (G.S.) movement that dominated Japanese pop culture in the 1960s to more poignant, living room singer/songwriter sounds reminiscent of Bob Dylan, mellow Laurel Canyon boho vibes, soft psychedelia, and miscellaneous Americana (à la The Band and Neil Young). Fueled by mass student protest demonstrations and an underground ("angura") movement bent on subverting long-standing stuffy traditions, young musicians rejected Beatlemania replications in favor creative authenticity, giving birth to fresh genres like the aptly named New Music and Kissa Rock (literally "Café Rock, so-called due to the venues they frequently played). Some of Japan's most beloved and influential music-makers made a name for themselves during this crucial period, and many of those heavy-hitters whose early works are featured on this comp would go on to further enrich the fabric of music history in Japan and beyond long after the angura movement's hippie heyday. For example, Haruomi Hosono, who lends his distinct James Taylor-esque vocals to two tracks on this compilation (both as a member of influential Folk Rock band Happy End and with a track from his 1973 self-titled solo debut), would later form the innovative electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi (whose Sadistic Mika Band bandmate Kazuhiko Kato also has a solo track featured on this comp). This example is by no means representative of the extent of Hosono's legacy as one of the most important figures in Japanese music history and his career trajectory is but one slippery slope of many rabbit holes one can fall into exploring via this compilation. Plus, aside from being a lovely aesthetic object featuring original artwork by illustrator Heisuke Kitazawa, the total package includes extensive liner notes and bios (put together by compiler/producers Yosuke Kitazawa and Jake Orrall) that dig deeper into this music that has been, as Light in The Attic puts it, "tantalizingly out of reach for decades" while setting the stage for overlaps and other points of interest that'll surely connect this particular anthology to forthcoming releases and reissues for the Japan Archival Series.

Stay tuned for the next two announced anthologies Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1985 and Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 in addition to "dozens" of other as-yet-unspecified "special projects" and more exciting things to come from this LITA label series. No doubt this noble effort won't make shopping original Japanese pressings by artists featured on any of these anthologies and reissues any more affordable, but it will extend the reach of these works to a broader audience at a price point that definitely guarantees more bang for your buck. That is until you realize that each song in the sequence comes from records that are pretty much all killer/no filler and you find yourself in a catnip-like state of obsession hellbent on a quest to acquire them all at any cost because record collecting. But seriously, kudos to Light In The Attic for embarking on this journey to bring some wonderful fully-licensed music from Japan to the US. Keep on keepin' on, I can't wait to get more of it on my turntable!
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Shohei Imamura's "Vengeance is Mine"

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 13, 2016 01:22pm | Post a Comment

Vengeance Is MineBy Nazeeh Alghazawneh

At least once a month an elderly woman approaches me and tells me that I remind her of her son, either in the way that I look or because of my demeanor or simply because of my age. They’re very sweet and a little bit sad but most of all, full of nostalgia, which is always more sweet than sad until you think about it too much. They love to tell me about them. These mothers love to tell me about the love they have for their sons - an unconditional, boundless love that’s familiar and intimate at the same time but mostly uncomfortable. However, I nod my head and I listen because a heart is speaking to me and that’s the best thing about mothers: they always speak with their hearts.

It’s 1979 and Japanese New Wave director Shohei Imamura releases his first feature-length fiction film, Vengeance is Mine (available on DVD and Blu-ray), after a decade of making documentaries. For 140 minutes we’re introduced to Iwao Enokizu (played by Ken Ogata), a textbook sociopath with a penchant for murdering innocent people for reasons he couldn’t explain. Based on the real life serial killer Akira Nishiguchi, the film depicts the 78-day killing spree with faithful objectivity; Enokizu’s exploits aren’t glorified or celebrated, but they are fully realized. Imamura’s camera hangs low and aloof behind our protagonist, following him with that lecherous sense of dread and paranoia that a hunted murderer on the run probably feels. Ogata’s performance finesses a presence on the screen that is volatile, dripping with an anxiety that ultimately makes you feel uneasy, but dedicated to him nonetheless. The worst part is just how charming he is. It’s a concoction of Kit’s (Martin Sheen) aimless nonchalance from Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Bronson’s (Tom Hardy) gleeful desire for violence from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. Enokizu lacks any regard for anyone in his life, including himself, which appears to fuel his desire to kill; he seems to be angry that he’s even alive.

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Akumaizer 3: Tokusatsu Friends Forever

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, September 18, 2016 06:17pm | Post a Comment

Akumaizer 3

- By Kai Wada Roath
Ambassador of Confusion Hill and host of the Super Shangri-La Show

"The world is far, the world is wide, the man needs someone by his side..."
-- Eden Ahbez, "The Wanderer"

Akumaizer 3One must ponder if the nature boy Eden Ahbez wrote the lyrics to "The Wanderer" while sitting in lotus position in the famous cave at Leo Carrillo beach in Malibu back in 1960 and astral-projecting his spirit out into the pacific ocean, past the waves and into the future. Fifteen years into the future to be exact, to the floating kingdom of Japan, for it would be there in 1975 that Toei Studios would release the tokusatsu tv series Akumaizer 3, about a half human/half demon hero named Xavitan, who needed someone by his side...to defeat the evil Akuma "Devil" Clan that is!

Those two by his side would soon be none other that his super-demon goofy buddies turned good, Iburu, a yellow-dressed fancy-pants who like to blast bad guys with his famous Jo Gun, and Gabura, a blubbery water demon who seems to always spring leaks and can transform into a huge dorky ostrich-type monster. (Gabura also looks like a giant chocolate soft-serve from a Sizzler dessert station.) At the climax of every battle scene, the three heroes combine forces and use their fencing swords together (cue three musketeers theme) against the Akuma Clan.

New "What's in My Bag?" Episode with Gerd Janson

Posted by Amoebite, August 9, 2016 01:20pm | Post a Comment

Gerd Janson Amoeba Music What's In My Bag?

You can be sure that when German DJ, label founder, and record store owner Gerd Janson takes you record shopping he'll have some very informative bits of insight. "It's a promo," he says holding up a 12" single of The Quick's "One Night In A Blackout." "I think you can only find the long-mix on the promo release," Janson informs us before going on to state, "it says mid-tempo disco, but I would say it's a proper slow jam because it's even below 100 BPM." Janson had a lot to say about his record picks when he visited Amoeba Hollywood recently, and we were grateful to be able to listen.

Gerd Janson Fabric 89In 1998, after years spent in disco, house, and jungle clubs, Gerd Janson landed his first DJ residency at Cafe Kesselhaus in Darmstadt. These days he spins house and disco at Frankfurt club Robert Johnson's Liquid nights and travels the international DJ circuit. When he's not DJing, Janson can be found manning the record counter at his hometown store, Pentagon Recordstore, working at the Red Bull Music Academy or writing about music news for Spex or Groove magazine. He is co-owner of the Running Back record label.

This summer, Gerd Janson is DJing at parties from London to Ibiza before playing select dates in the U.S. He's a scheduled performer at this year's FYF Festival in Los Angeles. His latest release is a mix for the Fabric series, Fabric 89, due out August 19, 2016.

Janson holds up a 12" of "Visions Of China" by the UK band Japan. Were they prog rock, new wave or somewhere in between? Either way, he points out that at the time "they were kind of treated as wannabe intellectuals." Being a fan of "drums and sound effects," Janson grabbed Drums of the Caribbean: A Study in High Fidelity Sound, a collection of West Indies percussion. Also in his bag is Dept. of Sunshine's "Rude Boy/Space Tropics" single. "No one actually knows anything about them and this is the only record I've ever came across."

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Introduction to Subcultural Anthropology: Kogal

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 12, 2015 10:37am | Post a Comment
Even disregarding the sense having to do with bacteria, there are many definitions of "subculture." The longest that I've found is that of the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition:

A group within a society that has its own shared set of customs, attitudes, and values, often accompanied by jargon or slang. A subculture can be organized around a common activity, occupation, age, status, ethnic background, race, religion, or any other unifying social condition, but the term is often used to describe deviant groups, such as thieves and drug users. ( See counterculture.)

No one will ever be able to document every subculture, or even agree upon what they are. With this series I will examine subcultures primarily organized around two things, music and clothing. That way I can largely avoid the can of worms which are gangs. For gangs, both music and clothing are of considerable importance but the engagement in of criminal activity is assumed to be their raison d'être. Also, I don't want to provoke a bunch of angry, misspelled comments written in all caps. 

This week's subculture: Kogal

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The kogal (コギャル) subculture arose in Japan in the 1980s and became widely known in the Japanese mainstream after the airing of a 1993 television special, ザ・. コギャル NIGHT ("the Kogal night"). The subculture were further featured in the fictional 1997 film バウンス ko GALS ("bounce Kogal") (1997) depicted Kogals turning to prostitution to fund their insatiable materialism. In reality, many Kogals were apparently engaged in "paid dating" although for the vast majority that means involves little more than accompanying a man to karaoke in exchange for money and drinks. 


Kogals remained an exclusively Japanese phenomenon although they are apparently featured in Quentin Tarantino's film Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). By the time of its release the Kogal had largely been supplanted by two offshoot subcultures, ガングロ (Ganguro) and ヤマンバ (Yamaba or "mountain hag").
"Kogal" in English, is derived from an Anglicized spelling of a contraction of kōkōsei gyaru meaning "high school gal." Most Kogals simply referred to themselves as gyaru (ギャル), meaning "gal." The word entered Japanese in 1972, with the launch of a brand of women's flared jeans of that name. The basis of the kogal costume is not bellbottoms, however, but the Japanese school uniform.




The Kogal's skirt was generally pinned up to shorten its length and the socks were worn loosely, often with platform boots. The kogal's hair was artificially lightened and the skin artificially darkened. A common flourish was a
Burberry scarf -- then as now a popular emblem of conspicuous consumption. 

Kogals didn't just have a look but a unique slang, known as "kogyarugo" (コギャル語), a jargon peppered heavily with words borrowed from English and acronyms like "MM" and "MK5" (the latter meaning that the speaker is on the verge of losing it).  The poster girl of Kogal style was singer 安室奈美恵 (Namie Amuro). The Kogal's natural range was the Harajuku and Shibuya shopping wards of Tokyo, in particular, the latter district's fashionable department store, 109. Their motto, if they had one, was  biba jibun "ビバ自分" or, "Viva the self!" 






Kogal style was promoted by the magazines ポップティーン (Popteen, launched in 1980), Street JamHappieエッグ (Egg, launched in 1995), and ランズキ (Ranzuki, launched in 1998). From 1992-2002 the manga ギャルズ! (Gals!) chronicled the exploits of a character whose claim was to be, "the greatest gal in Shibuya." As late as 2006, the drama ギャルサー (Gal Circle) revolved around a cast of Kogal characters.


(Source: Tokyo Fashion)



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