Amoeblog

Acid Mothers Temple: What You Got in That Bag?

Posted by Kells, February 23, 2012 12:12pm | Post a Comment

Japanese psychedelic ensemble Acid Mothers Temple (and their countless subsequent appendages) are the stuff of legend. If one was to assemble a who's who of the SF underground (or otherwise) music scene of the last fifteen years for an A.M.T. campfire story tell-a-thon there would be so much surreal-deep dish served you'd think you'd have invented a freaky new kind of supper club. But whatever their exploits, be it the creation of long-distance, guru-level tripper jams or the pursuit of perfection via stones, women and long-player records the guys (& dolls) of Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. always seem to me to be the closest I'll ever get to meeting, and I mean this in the most literal tense, a real life star trekker. They stop by Amoeba Music's galactic sector just about every time they play San Francisco (at least once a year it seems) and I cannot reiterate the fact that though they may share some resemblance to the usual off-brand Haight Street flotsam placed beyond the pale one cannot help but recognize the particular presence of Kawabata et al as a refreshing whiff of wizardry in the real. Check out what A.M.T. master shamans Makoto Kawabata and Atsushi Tsuyama picked up on their most recent trip below in this recent addition to Amoeba Music "What's In My Bag?" discovery video series, now with more Acid Mothers Temple!


Don't Dream It, Be It: Jero's Enchanting Enka Legacy

Posted by Kells, February 1, 2012 11:33pm | Post a Comment
In Japan, you'd have to living under a rock to not know Jero (or ジェロ) and prior to 2003 an event listing like the concert poster pictured below might have drawn attention for all the wrong reasons (see: Other).


There is certainly nothing inherently other about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Jero, Jerome Charles White, Jr., but he stands apart from the pack in that he has, before the age of thirty, achieved living his dream of becoming the first successful African-American Enka singer in Japanese music history.


Jero grew up among a str
ong influence of Japanese culture and began singing Enka at an early age due to his Japanese grandmother Takiko's enthusiasm for the genre. She had met Jero's grandfather, an African-American serviceman, at a dance in Yokohama during World War II. They married, had a daughter - Jero's mother Harumi - and eventually moved to Pittsburgh, his grandfather's hometown. Though his parents divorced when he was still very young Jero was reared under the cultural influence and familial guidance of his Japanese grandmother and his Japan-born mother in a mixed-heritage household.


Jero attended the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in information technology, and later moved to Japan to further his lifelong Japanese language studies and work as a computer engineer. He hadn't initially imagined making a career for himself as an Enka singer, but nevertheless he worked towards his goal of fulfilling a promise that he had made to his grandmother of one day performing in the annual
Kōhaku Uta Gassen song show broadcast every New Year's Eve in Japan. Amazingly, he achieved real success as a result of appearing on the show and subsequently competing in other singing contests. Unfortunately, in 2005 Jero's grandmother passed away before she could see her little protogé achieve fame as an international Enka superstar in 2008, reinvigorating the genre by melding it with modern hip-hop and R&B.

Enka, for those who have never heard of the vibrato-framed strains of Japan's most beloved (and somewhat unfashionable) sentimental ballad stylings, think of some modern, er, post Pacific war pop vocalists singing tearful songs of unrequited love and missed connections. Now imagine that these songs somehow speak to you about your life, moving your spirit into a slow emotional tailspin that is somehow also characterized by a deep sense of nationalistic pride way down in the darkest depths of your heart (I fully realize that this exercise will seem a wee bit of a stretch for some of the Americans reading this). Now, an Enka song is not gonna be about a truck or ni**as in Paris, but if it makes you feel proud to to be an American and deathly depressed that you never gambled with a kiss on the one that (in theory, because if you're exercising your imaginary Enka vibe correctly you've been pondering heartache waay too much) got away then you've nailed the sentiment. If you've seen Kill Bill then you've pretty much heard Enka, or at least something like it.

As to the Enka singing style, well, perhaps Jero could fill in the rest. Here he is singing an old standard「宗右衛門町ブルース」("Soemonchou Blues") on a televised, all-star by request Enka revue:



What's Got Into That Cat!? Japanese Cult Classic Hausu Out Today on Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray!!!

Posted by Kells, October 26, 2010 02:00am | Post a Comment
Everybody knows that old cats can open doors, but did you know that only ghost cats can close them?
Well, to quote the great Levar Burton, don't take my word for it, find out for yourself! Here's to the joy of lessons learned from Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 cinematic freak-out Hausu (or House if you speak American), a film that'll give you a trick-or-treating of horror-infused psychedelia like you've never ever experienced, not even in your wildest, most delightfully random-ass frightmares. While it's difficult to know where to begin in reviewing this amazing monkeyshine, it should not go without saying that supposedly the story was dictated to the director by his 11-year-old daughter, which pretty much makes the movie itself just as crazy as, well, a story told by a demented little girl with cat fancy, Auntie issues, and campy ideas about "indecent" piano behavior. Add to that the fact that Hausu seems to be a visual exercise in testing the limits on how many times a movie can one-up itself, utilizing a lightning round of every stylistic technique known to film-making all the way, as if daring viewers to exclaim "this shit is bananas!" to which the movie quite literally delivers a shit-ton of bananas, no kidding.

Until today this flick had yet to see a home video release in the US and the prospect of all the goodies that Criterion has surely to heaped into their special edition of Hausu is enough to make one's eyes fiendishly hungry. Here are the specs on the features: 

• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Constructing a House, a new video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi, story scenarist and daughter of the director Chigumi Obayashi, and screenwriter Chiho Katsura
Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
• New video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
• Theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitle translation (which may or may not be such a good thing)

For those who haven't seen it, all I can say is: get ready to have your senses and any sense-making ability you possess rocked beyond recognition. To quote a reviewer I admire, Hausu is "filmmaking by any means possible. This movie is a marvel. If you're inclined to skip it, your life's lack of fulfillment is your problem." Amen, brother! Check out the trailer below:

Made in Taiwan - Taiwanese Cinema and Television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 7, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment


Taiwan’s official status is complicated. Some view it as a region of China, others as the sole legitimate government of the mainland. Still others believe it to be an island with a unique history stretching back thousands of years and with a distinct culture made up of Austronesian, Han, Japanese and other influences ...and then there are those that think it's the same thing as Thailand, or as the mysterious origin of all our stuff. 

Taiwanese Film Under the Japanese

The first films shown in Taiwan were brought by the Japanese, as early as 1901. As with Japanese films, they relied on a narrator (rather than intertitles) by figures known in Taiwan as benzi. The first Taiwanese benzi was also a musician and composer, Wang Yung-feng.

In 1903, Japanese director 高松豐次郎 (Takamatsu Toyojiro) began exhibiting films from Europe and Japan and built eight theaters. In February 1907, he filmed 台灣實況の紹介 (Introducing Taiwan today), a documentary shot in over a hundred villages and meant to showcase Japan’s civilizing influence on Taiwan. The first Taiwanese feature film was Tanaka King's Da fo de tong kong (The eyes of Buddha), a 1922 film that starred Liu Xiyang, the country's first film actor.

Continue reading...

Novmichi Tosa of Maywa Denki pays a visit to GR2 - めいわでんき

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 23, 2010 05:01pm | Post a Comment

Novmichi Tosa, the Willy Wonka-like figure like genius behind Maywa Denki made a rare US appearance at GR2 in Little Osaka. They were selling the Otamatone, a new instrument/toy that's sort of like a cross between a đàn bầu and a theremin.

 

Maywa Denki's so-called Nonsense Objects are kind of like a mix of Harry Partch's instruments, Rube Goldberg's overly elaborate machines, a bit of Kenji Kawakami's absurdist Chindōgu filtered through the utilitarian, mid-century futurist spirit (if not the aesthetic) of prop designer Wah Ming Chang.



After the soft-spoken Toshi san signed autographs and demonstrated the pachi-moku and otamatone with stirring renditions of "Greensleeves" and "Amazing Grace," it was all over and I went outside, where a beaming stranger said to me, "Now my life is complete!" as she proudly clutched her new toy.

***

What follows is my really... avant-garde version of "아리랑" ("Arirang"). Very dissonant and occasionally atonal. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "I don't play accurately -- anyone can play accurately -- but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the otamatone is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."


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