Friday night: Shugo Tokumaru with full band. Just by himself, he’s able to make an entertaining amount of extremely-precise, endlessly-overdubbed guitar loop noise with his Telecaster and somehow use the ensuing feedback work as an seamless introduction to his otherwise plain, folky songs. But with the band, he was able to effortless recreate the album tracks in amazing detail. “Mizu Kagami” went off especially well — even with all the sudden structural changes.
The four-piece Nhhmbase (pronounced: “nehanbase”) opened up for Shugo. I generally hate 90% of the opening bands I see, but I had been looking forward to these guys after hearing their very lo-fi demo. Like almost every other single indie band in Japan (and perhaps, the world), Nhhmbase play only in strange time signatures. Sometimes they’d hit 6/8 and you could actually follow along with the rhythm, but the drummer tended to do weird off-kilter patterns on top of the song already being in 9/8 or whatever. So you’re spending the whole gig counting, not listening. I tend to like the math assignment though, and I also like the singer’s voice, which glides up into perfectly-pitched falsetto for crucial punch. If the band would just shut up between songs, they’d be gold.
(For the record: bands will find it in their favor to not spend any stage time announcing their next gig, because 1. it’s obnoxious and repetitive and boring 2. no one cares about future gigs 2. and if they did care, they’d just look it up themselves. There should be a point system for stage banter: play 10 shows and receive 1 minute of “MC” time. We can work together to eliminate Commercial Stage Banter by 2006!)
Low Life! I mean — Raw Life (ローライフ？）. On Saturday, I went all the way out to Kimitsu, Chiba, which is a lifetime removed from Tokyo to start with, only to have to walk another 30 minutes by foot to the venue, an abandoned concrete hospital. (I’ll exclude the story of getting lost and having to bushwhack through an overgrown highway median.) First floor: doner kebab, dance music! Second floor: curry, T-shirts on sale (stereotypically crowded with customers the first 25 minutes of the venue opening), two techno DJs!, trance-y VJing! Third floor: the muffled bass thump of the second floor, loud bands. This venue Aqua Marine Studio was all concrete, no lights, no ventilation, no nothing. Maybe ghosts.
Higurashi Aiha (ex-Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her) showed up at the end of DJ Kodomo and DJ Otona (Moog from Buffalo Daughter)’s set and played two songs solo, which was a pleasant, although baffling surprise. On the last song, her guitar string popped and she ended up singing the rest a capella — from a lyric sheet. Then the three preppie girls from Nisennen Mondai (にせんねんもんだい — the Japanese equivalent of “Y2K,” only acceptable as a band name because it’s post 2000 and they write it in hiragana) came on stage B and made long rounds of shapeless, colorless impenetrable, techno-rhythmic noise with just drums, guitar, and bass. I went with earplugs for the day, which tend to cut out all the midrange and therefore strip all meaning from this kind of noise rock. Can someone fill me on the frequencies I missed?