Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Karuizawa - 軽井沢

I took a day trip to Karuizawa in Nagano today. The snow was pretty dull, but the convenience was hard to beat. The morning Shinkansen whisks you right to the mountain in less than an hour and a half. The view of Asama Mountain and the surrounding Northern Japanese Alps veiling the horizon was also quite beautiful.

Looking down the slop with Asama Mountain in the background:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Vinyl From the Vault: DJing THIS FRIDAY

I'm back up on the wheels of steel this Friday at the Ruby Room.

SUGAR WALLS (DJ's & Beer Pong)
FRI, FEB 18th - 8pm~late
¥1500 (1drink + game)

Yes, you guessed it, Apollonia Kotero (circa 1984), is our spokeswoman. My set will be at 8PM, so come by after work if you have time!

And adding to the tension, yesterday at Disk Union in Kichijoji, I stumbled across hidden treasure.
Prince by Prince, easily my all-time favorite record. I first found this album at a record shop in Harvard Square when I was 19. I vividly remember holding it in my hand in wondering if I wanted to shell out the $7 or not. I bought the album, took it home, set it on my turntable, and my life has never been the same.

This is Your Bloody Valentine, the first album released by My Bloody Valentine. It's nothing compared to the group's followup releases Isn't Anything (my person favorite) and their masterpiece Loveless, but nevertheless this album is an important part of rock history. The singles compilation in the purple jacket is much better musically speaking. Some of the songs have a touch of the washy shoegaze guitars that characterize the group's signature sound that they had yet to develop.

And finally, the self-titled album Skull Snaps, a legendary rare funk record whose drum breaks have been sampled by every rapper since the dawn of Hip-hop.

I'm looking forward to spinning a few of these babies in a couple of days. See you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - チリヌルヲワカ - Round II

I said in my last post that I would go see Wowaka again next week. Well I kept my word and went to see them rock Shibuya's O-West this evening. My only complaint is that they didn't play my favorite song, Kasugai. Here's the video if you are curious. I think this song totally rocks.

I didn't bring my camera this time, so here is another photo that I snapped last week.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - チリヌルヲワカ

While Akko from GO!GO!7188 is on maternity leave, guitarist Yuu Nakashima has taken the opportunity to focus on her other band, Chirinuru Wowka (known as Wowaka to English speaking audiences). Recently, they've been touring extensively in support of an upcoming mini-album release scheduled for April. Last Friday night, Wowaka played at Koenji High with Kinoco Hotel, the retro rock group that I first saw with GO!GO! last May.

While GO!GO!'s sound is ska-influenced and playful, Wowaka takes on a more straight ahead rock-oriented approach. Simply put, the band's songs have an anthemic quality, supported heavily by second guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto. To non-Japanese speakers and first-time listeners, Yuu's high pitched vocals and use of falsetto can be a bit off-putting, something definitely apparent in GO!GO!'s quirkier songs. But in Wowaka's music, I think Yuu has found a fitting match for her characteristic vocal style. The band's newest single, White Hall, definitely illustrates this synthesis.

As a musician and artist, Yuu is mysterious and fascinating. In person, she is painfully shy and unassuming. It's almost hard to imagine that she fronts two well-known rock bands. Her posture is slightly awkward and her bangs often hide half her face. I've had countless opportunities to talk with her, yet somehow our conversations never go beyond everyday greetings. She is no different on stage, where she only lets out a few sentences during her set, all with an overly reserved tone that suggests a shy girl more than a grown woman.

But all of this changes when she plugs in her signature Telecaster guitar. As I've written time and time again, she can totally wail; she is a brilliant guitarist admired far and wide in Japan. Her fretwork is complex and busy, yet oddly tasteful. During her solos, Yuu often steps up onto a small podium placed center-stage and showcases her energetic playing for a wild-stricken audience. At the end, she always leans deeply into her last slide down the fretboard.

Akko's ability to fire up a hungry crowd is hard to replace, but Wowaka certainly had their fans jumping off their feet. I'm going to have to go see them again next week.

Chirinuru Wowaka

Yuu Nakashima, brilliant and mysterious

Guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto was the bubbliest in the group. After the show, he let me strum is 1969 Les Paul which he claimed cost him 15 grand.

Kitsch-rock outfit Kinoco Hotel took the final slot of the night. They deserve a post in their own right.

One of the most exciting moments of the night was when their lead singer jumped up on her keyboard to do a risque dance.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Please don't touch me there...

I saw this sign on the wall of Katase-Enoshima Station:
The translation is something like, "With all our devotion, we give you our heart." It looks like the guy is getting a little bit more than that...