Monthly Archives: August 2007

Big in Japan

Canadian musicians have some good incentives to target Japan as a growth market, indicates the Globe and Mail. But this paragraph in the article sounds like a real trainwreck (emphasis mine):

[Avril] Lavigne has made a big effort to reach her Japanese audience. In addition to several tours of Japan, she used a manga novel and several anime shorts to promote her latest album, primarily to appeal to Japanese fans. Japanese was among eight languages that she used to sing the chorus of alternative recordings of her Girlfriend hit single.

Oh, Tommy heavenly6, save us!

Hatakeyama Miyuki x ASA-CHANG + Blue Hearts Hats release album on Oct. 3

While I was wrapping up work on the first season of Podcast, Kevin e-mailed me about another new Hatakeyama Miyuki album in the works:

This new release from Hatakeyama may make up for what Summer Clouds, Summer Rain didn’t do. Because of their combined performance at the Fuji Rock Festival this year, Hatakeyama and ASA-CHANG will be collaborating on a new album, featuring members from Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. The big-band-styled album will include covers of Misora Hibari classics as well as jazz standards. If Hatakeyama’s the only featured vocalist, then the prospects of this album already sound fantastic.

Indeed. CD Japan announced the album has an Oct. 3 release date. The title has yet to be determined. Podcast season 1 premieres Sept. 3

Back in 2006, I experimented with a podcast for this site, but I didn’t have a convenient way to set up a microphone properly. I didn’t like anything I recorded, so I abandoned the idea. Now I’ve moved into a new apartment unit where I can set up my microphone properly, and with all the time I’ve been spending in the studio, I figure I’d give the podcast another shot.

What a difference a walk-in closet turned isolation booth can make.

I re-recorded the first few shows I did last year, and I have them at a point where I can finally announce the season premiere of the Podcast on Sept. 3. Season premiere? What? Is it a radio drama?

No, it’s not. It’s actually a set of NPR-style reviews focusing on albums which (IMnot-soHO) ought to be highlighted from time to time. Long-time readers will be familiar with some of the material featured, but I’m hoping newcomers will find something different. As usual, the content will reflect stuff I like.

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Kronos Quartet releases Sigur Rós cover on Sept. 4

Kronos Quartet’s arrangement of Sigur Rós’ "Flugufrelsarinn" will be digitally released by Nonesuch on Sept. 4, so says Billboard. Kronos has played "Flugufrelsarinn" as an encore at its concerts for a number of years, and it was available on the ensemble’s Myspace page for while.

The quartet is also releasing an arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner", also based on the Jimi Hendrix rendition. "Purple Haze" has been a long staple in Kronos’ repertoire.

I’m looking forward to these releases, despite the likelihood they’ll be crippled by DRM. Nonesuch is part of the Warner Music Group, which has been historically gung-ho about DRM.

I have a collection of 800+ backups!

With the compact disc turning 25 years old and all this talk about declining CD sales, why don’t we just rebrand CDs to the purpose they serve now — backups?

That’s the reason I still buy CDs. Reliable as my hard drive has been all these years, I’m still very wary of all the things that could wipe it clean, including human error. If I like an album I got from eMusic or from the Evil Sharing Networks, I’m going to get a CD to insure against hard drive failure. (The albums about which I’m lukewarm get the CD-R treatment.)

Premium backups — yeah, that has a nice ring to it.

toddle: Dawn Praise the World

I’d seen the comparisons between toddle and the Breeders, but when the Tabuchi Hisako-led project first debuted, I focused more on how it related to bloodthirsty butchers and Number Girl. Now that toddle has a second album under its belt, it’s easier to evaluate the group on its own terms. And toddle sounds like … the Breeders.

The butchers’ Yoshimura Hideki — who is also now married to Tabuchi — once again serves as producer, and toddle’s second album, Dawn Praise the World, has a beefier, cleaner sound. Studio technology is a wonderful thing, and the heavy processing on Tabuchi voice makes me question how much she’s improved as a singer.

At the same time, it’s difficult to find much fault with the sweetness of her overdubbed harmonies. They just sound so nice! They also figure very prominently on the butchers’ latest album, Guitarist wo Korosanaide, where they provide a sharp contrast to Yoshimura’s monotone wail.

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bloodthirsty butchers: Guitarist wo Korosanaide

There’s some interesting discussion happening over at the Keikaku message boards about bloodthirsty butchers. Some folks have observed the addition of Number Girl guitarist Tabuchi Hisako has coincided with a wane in the quality of the band’s albums.

It’s an observation I’ve been reluctant to acknowledge myself. Green on Red, the first butchers release to feature Tabuchi, didn’t seem to be the kind of live album I’d picture out of the group, while birdy, her first appearance on a studio album, tended to drag. But banging the drum found the band being adventurous, and the latest album, Guitarist wo Korosanaide, is confounding if not enjoyable.

At the same time, the post-Tabuchi work doesn’t grab the way yamane or Kouya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers do.

Guitarist wo Korosanaide has something of a strange identity crisis. There’s a brashness comparable to the band’s early work, but with Tabuchi contributing more backing vocals, it’s imbued with an unprecedented sunniness.

How can happiness sound so angry? Or angst sound so bright?

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Naked City guitarist + Soundgarden Pearl Jam drummer = Floratone

I haven’t visited Pause & Play in a while, mainly because it’s no substitute for ICE magazine. I did, however, find a particularly interesting entry. This past Tuesday (Aug. 14) marked the release of Floratone, a collaboration involving guitarist Bill Frisell, electronics whiz Tucker Martine, producer Lee Townsend and drummer Matt Chamberlain.

It’s useless playing six degrees of separation with 3/4 of this group, because they all work within one degree of each other. Townsend has produced many of Frisell’s solo albums. Martine has worked with keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, who has also produced Frisell. Oh, and both Horvitz and Frisell were in John Zorn’s Naked City. The only wild card is Chamberlain, the former drummer of Soundgarden Pearl Jam. How would a grunge rocker end up with these cats? Easy — Frisell and Chamberlain live in the same city, Seattle. (As noted in comments, the former drummer of Soundgarden is Matt Cameron. Matt Chamberlain worked with Pearl Jam and Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians. It would be interesting to see whether a drummer like Cameron could play with Frisell, et al.)

Visit the Floratone web site over at Blue Note Records, and an embedded audio selection of the title track starts up. I usually hate autoplaying Flash, but in this case, it’s very much welcome. Martine created some haunting textures in Horvitz’s 4+1 Ensemble, and it’s those flourishes which drive the track. Frisell’s own music isn’t usually anchored to a strict beat, and it sounds like Chamberlain is forcing him into a steady pace (at least on the 30-second iTunes clips.) I’m interested to see how this album turns out.

Bassist Viktor Krauss, cornetist Ron Miles and violinist Evynd Kang make guest appearances.

Faces to watch, so says Billboard

Billboard magazine usually includes some sort of coverage of Asian markets, but once a year, they devote a number of pages to spotlight Japan. In this week’s issue (Vol. 119, No. 33), there’s a sidebar titled "Faces to Watch", which includes bands the magazine deems buzzworthy.

Here’s who they feature:

  • Greeen A rap quartet who keeps their identity tightly under wraps. The band’s label site should have some audio clips. I went through my Dragon Ash phase a long time ago.
  • Midori Some audio can be found over at and perhaps on JPOPSUKI. Judging from the Bounce clips, they sound like perfect SXSW fodder.
  • Mitsuki She’s 15 years old, but she’s got a pretty mature voice. Two of the Windows Media clips on her official site don’t launch the player, so you’ll have to paste the URL.
  • Jyongri Billboard mentions she was inspired by the movie Sister Act at a very young age. O … K …
  • Angela Aki I checked out Angela Aki when she debuted in 2005, but I wasn’t very impressed.
  • Tamurapan Of the artists profiled, Tamurapan is the only one going around conventional channels to reach her fans directly through Myspace. Not bad.

These days, I don’t seek out new Japanese artists so much, aside from SXSW and perhaps something mentioned over at Bounce or Keikaku. But I thought I ought to pass along these names to folks who may still be interested in exploring something new. That, and Billboard is kind of expensive.