日本

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Archive for Music

日本のために ・ FOR NIHON: COMPILATION OF AMBIENT/ELECTRONICA

For Nihon is a compilation of electronic/ambient artists put together by Keith and Hollie Kenniff. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund set up by New York’s Japan Society.

The compilation is available to download now and to pre-order as a double CD.

This is a beautiful collection of music and a wonderful way to contribute to the massive rebuilding efforts ongoing in Japan. Also be sure to check out the other albums on unseen for some beautiful shoegazey electronica.

恋文, 友川かずき (a love letter)

My personal history of male infatuations is largely comprised of the angry and middle-aged types. Men who have reached their prime through the “thistles of ignorance, thorns of genius and blossoms of love”.* They wear their souls on their skin, and never lose the urgency to fight and to know. These men reject the poison-sucking of ‘friend zones’ and cutesy, nice-guy infantilization. They belong solely and unapologetically to themselves. They most certainly will rage against the dying of the light.

‘Screaming Philosopher’ Kazuki Tomokawa (aka Tenji Nozoki) is a prime specimen among these types. While he is in fact very attractive (those heavy-lidded eyes, romantic lips), no one could accuse his music of pretty affectations or self-consciousness. Even as a young man, he sang with the experience and depths of a much older, more ragged human being. A pretty person would simply be incapable of growling and spitting at the abyss, or whispering against the ear with such angelic tenderness…especially at 60 years old.

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‘Blood of Rebirth’ w/Toshiaki Toyoda @Japan Society

For those in New York of the 日本 persuasion, the 4 July holiday has been a mere sidenote. The main events have been courtesy of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and Japan Cuts. These sacred days of summer have offered long-awaited premiers of films still fresh off the reels in Japan, as well as rare opportunities to see The Best of Unreleased Naughties on the big screen. Spring may have had it’s cherry blossoms, but NYCJapan is in full bloom.

click to see my Flickr shots

A prize moment for devotees of cult films Aoi Haru and 9 Souls was the guest appearance of director Toshiaki Toyoda, who attended both screenings of his comeback film Blood of Rebirth 「蘇りの血」 for the film’s introduction and Q&A session afterward.

Saturday’s New York premier was akin to greeting a lost hero’s return for the packed audience, who applauded and cheered as he entered the stage doors. While almost all would have been acquainted with his very public arrest in 2005 – and the tarnishing of Hanging Garden‘s release – Toyoda’s life after prison until the announcement of Rebirth had remained a mystery. The movie itself only proved to deepen the mystery even more.

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J-Cation/Asobi Seksu/Me&Mars

It seems to be my trend to do my writeups about events well after the fact, but surely that just means they are enjoyed longer!

April 10th was the highly anticipated J-Cation hosted by the Japan Society here in NYC. I’ve noticed that Little Japan comes out in full force for the spring here, and a Japanophile like myself can fancy themselves transported overseas where the people, food, and culture are uniquely 日本.

The Japan Society had packed its beautiful space with delights. I went with my sister and while we could only make it there for the evening, we walked into a warm welcome and groovy atmosphere. Maybe no one says ‘groovy’ anymore, but I do.

Meg and I deposited our donation, rang the bell, and clapped our hands. As we walked in, the music immediately surrounded us in the beautifully lantern-lit rooms, but perfectly levelled for conversation. In one look we saw steaming food carts, cute girls in maid outfits, and…bar tokens!

I let my city girl sister (Meg) lead the way as I am a bit over my head in cool situations, and she suggested we pick up a drink and survey before deciding our next move. I ordered a Sapporo beer (I’ve seen the adverts all over the place) and Meg ordered sake. We turned around to see the DJ area with giant screen pumping out a mixture of J-Rock, Pop, and covers while the younger generations were talking and laughing. There was also a Japanese sweets stall for the even younger, who were demanding imported delicacies faster than the vendor could sell them.

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Silent Auction: Music and Art at NYCoo gallery

Nobuko Miyazaki played softly during bidding and conversation

NYCoo gallery held an evening of music and fine art to accompany their silent auction on 19 March. There was a bustling mixture of artists and aficionados and I met/hassled a lot of interesting people. Again, I deplored my 日本語 deficiency and there were so many questions I wish I could have asked. じゃおない, as I believe they say in Osaka.

All forms were available for bidding, from large oil paintings to tiny sculptures. Among the teapots, lanterns, and ceramics, exquisite antiques mingled seamlessly with modern Japanese craftsmanship. My sister and I went on an imaginary shopping spree where we could casually outbid anyone for one-of-a-kind ceramic dishes or paintings of cigar-smoking rabbits (more on that in a moment).

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My Song for this Christmas & New Year

One might assume that this would be Fairytale in New York (sans the very un-PC term) as it’s my first Christmas in the city, and I am indeed a massive Pogues fan. But none of this quite fits into my parallel life – the one happily enslaved to everything Japanese. [Though it should be mentioned that The Pogues have always enjoyed success in Japan, and one of my favorite Japanese groups, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, cited them as an influence. Read the rest of this entry »

Photographs of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Euro tour

Apropos of my last post, the man himself has tweeted a series of atmospheric photos taken by Aoki Takamasa. These were shot at the Berlin concert, and show the level of precision taken in organising a performance that is disarmingly and beautifully minimal when performed.

And thanks to the interconnectedness of the internet, fans of electronic chillout tracks should check out Takamasa’s music (though such fans will probably already know him).