101A – flood floor -Lost Way- (Review)

101A
flood floor -Lost Way- (DVD)

Review by David Cirone

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One of the best Japanese indie-band live DVDs in recent memory, 101A’s flood floor -Lost Way- was mixed and edited in-house by the band members Sally (video editing) and the k (sound mix). The DVD packs 24 songs into the 1-hour 45 minute show, and if you check the liner notes there’s even a few left out, like their cool cover of “Heart-Shaped Box.”

flood floor -Lost Way- has a calculated, tidal ebb-and-flow. It gets hard and heavy when noah’s ripping guitar lets loose in “Migration,” and the k taunts the crowd before launching into the dragon-crawl bass of “Serpent.”

Some of the quieter moments stand out, too. noah’s seated performance of “ghost” brings a warmth to the song significantly different than the recorded version on their latest release 4, and drummer Sally gets some nice (and rare) spotlight time on “Aerial.”

Noah’s delicate voice and small frame don’t hold her back from roughing up “moon” and “Miranda Lethal Weapon” a little bit near the end of the set, and the near-chaotic, fan-favorite “sex slave” gets two versions to finish it out.

Compilation video of tracks from flood floor -Lost Way-:

101A – 4 (Review)

101A
4

Review by David Cirone

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101A’s coiled-snake style is an acquired taste, but their new release 4 shows off the Japanese alternative noise-rock band’s ability to hold you locked in their stare until the inevitable lethal strike.

As with 2008’s lethe, this isn’t a single-driven album with choruses to belt out at karaoke — it’s a solitary, atmospheric experience designed to slither into your mind when the lights go out.

With opening track “Luminous,” noah’s will-o’-the-wisp vocals lure you in with the repeated (and suspiciously innocent) chant of “goodbye” layered on top of 101A’s signature deep-chord guitar work. While “Luminous” displays 101A’s polished and familiar climactic structure, things get a bit rougher and less predictable in “Otogi” with some terrific fuzz-filter guitar and bass at the song’s mid-point.

“ghost” benefits from the longer track length (7 minutes+) and creates an eerie world with an exceptional amount of variety in its dark tones. “iron” has a similar length, but its steady drone and methodical progression will prove to be the endurance test for new listeners.

“moon” is where the album finally gets loud (courtesy of the k’s three-string bass guitar groove), and he takes over the album for a solid 8 minutes in “5334” with his hypnotic, spoken-word lyrics.

4 isn’t a starter album for new fans (go back to lethe‘s “Miranda Lethal Weapon” and “migration” for that), but it’s the best album to put in your head if you prefer your dreams a little darker.

Recommended tracks: ghost, moon, Luminous

TAIA – Magnolia (PV)

UPLIFT SPICE – Minority Parade (PV)

UPLIFT SPICE – Minority Parade
from PARADIGM SHIFT

Amped. Juiced. Ferocious.

マイノリティパレード / パラダイムシフト

RAMPANT – Interview (2011)

RAMPANT
Interview by David Cirone
April 12, 2011

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Osaka-based hard-rock band RAMPANT made their American debut at Tekkoshocon IX in Pittsburgh, PA. Playing for an audience of over 900 (the highest in the event’s history), the band delivered a 11-song set from their two latest releases, Choice of Life and BLOSSOM.

A regular performance partner of exist†trace and Dazzle Vision in Japan, RAMPANT’s vocalist Hiroko uses her equally-effective scream in just a handful of tracks, holding it back for just the right moment like a knock-out punch. Hiroko is both feminine and tough, a necessary combination to fit in with a band of male musicians who, though outwardly playful, are very serious about kicking everyone’s ass and making their own sound.

During performance, it’s Atsushi (lead guitar) and Tomoya (rhythm guitar) who make a point of regularly stepping over the stage monitors to connect with the audience. Kei (bass) is the most relaxed presence on stage, sticking close to drummer KA+U (a stylized version of “Katsu”), whose regular hobby of weight-training helps him punish the drum kit mercilessly during the hour-long show.

For this interview, we gathered in the Wyndham Grand Hotel early in the following morning. Though physically tired from the show and the solid hour of autograph signings, there’s still a glow on each member’s face. It’s a mixture of relief and amazement, and everyone’s ready to talk about music.

Looking at the titles of your three CD releases — Chain, Choice of Life, and BLOSSOM — it seems that the English words form a theme of forward progression: captivity transitioning into freedom. Is that correct?

Atsushi: (immediately) No connection.

Hiroko: (laughs) That was so fast!

KA+U: There’s a specific meaning for each title, a specific way it connects to the songs on the album. But we didn’t try to link them.

Tomoya: The first mini-album Chain — “chain” means like a bond, not like a prisoner.

So I got that totally wrong.

Atsushi: You could see it that way… it’s sort of creative, that viewpoint, but that’s not what we meant. Initially, we didn’t think these were going to be the final members of the band, We had planned to do auditions, but things just came together naturally without all that. So before we realized it, we had the mini-album.

Tomoya: “Chain” means all of us, together.

Atsushi: I came up with the Choice of Life title. I really believe life is choice. We decided to be here. At any moment, at any place, wherever we are is connected to our decisions.

Hiroko: But I like your interpretation. It’s fun. You can see it different that we intended and it’s still cool.

What’s your favorite track on your latest album BLOSSOM?

Hiroko: Each song has its own personality. I really like all of the songs.

KA+U: Right now it’s “Naked,” but when we were still working on the album, “Still Growing Flower” was the song I liked best. It really became a part of me during performance.

Kei: “My Winding Road to Unknown” — we didn’t play it this time at Tekkoshocon, but the audience reaction in Japan has made it one of my favorites. I like the rhythm changes, and the chorus has a Japanese style. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that.

Atsushi: I agree with Kei… we both like to find sounds that are specific to Japanese rock. “If I Ain’t Got You” is heavy, like American rock, but we tried to mix in some sounds that you wouldn’t normally find in an American rock song. And Choice of Life was so heavy, we wanted find some lighter elements this time.

Tomoya: My favorite from the beginning was “Naked.” I’m different from them, I don’t have the specific idea that I want to do something Japanese. When we were in the studio, the members were pushing toward Japanese sound, but I was rebelling — I didn’t want to throw away the work we did before. That’s how we came up with “Naked.” That’s the song that shows what RAMPANT is — that mix of styles.

continued…

LAZYgunsBRISKY – Navy Star (PV)

HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR – Interview (2010)

HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR
Interview by David Cirone
April 19, 2010

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HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR’s April 3rd concert shook the walls, pounded the floor, and hammered nearby freight elevators at the Washington State Convention Center. Having performed twice before for American fans in 2006 and 2007, their appearance at Sakura-Con 2010 was the band’s first opportunity to show their re-awakened metal side with vocalist HALCA taking over for graduated original member Mākii.

Supported by opening band Dazzle Vision, HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR’s one-hour set contained a mix of the heaviest songs from their latest album, swamp man, amid anime theme songs (from Bleach, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny) that have made the 6-member rock group famous worldwide.

Previously straddling the fence between their Metallica cover-band roots and a sometimes pop style supervised by major label Sony, HandMC has surmounted the task of replacing an adored original member and launched a new identity with swamp man. With support from their Okinawa-based label Spice Records, songs like “XYZ,” “good bye,” “hate,” and “living” give evidence of a refined hard-rock sound that invites fans to move forward with them into a new chapter that all 6 members are genuinely excited about.

Mostly due to their anime pedigree, but partially due to curiosity about HALCA’s readiness to step into the spotlight, the Sakura-Con audience filled the hall to capacity (4000+) and kept in stride with the amped 12-song set — then demanded an encore.

Returning to the stage, vocalist YUUSUKE admitted to the crowd that they weren’t prepared for another song, but they were going to play anyway. HALCA, who had lost any bit of timidity after months of touring with HandMC in Japan, asked the crowd “How’re you fucking feeling?”

I sat down with the band the next day to return the question.

This is your third performance at an American anime convention. Why do you keep coming back?

MEG: We really like this kind of audience. They’re very high-energy.

mACKAz: There are things happening all around, like non-stop. It’s fun to see all that.

YUUSUKE: It’s different than a normal live show because of all the cosplay. They have an attitude of “let’s have fun!”

MEG: And because of the location, we can pass them in the hallway of the hotel or the convention center. It’s a kind of “at home” feeling.

Many well-known Japanese music artists say “No” to performing at anime events because they don’t want to be perceived as an otaku band. Do you think you’re an otaku band?

MEG: I think we’re exactly as you see us. I think we probably are, but I’m not sure what level.

mACKAz: We all like anime, and we like a lot of the things that are part of this event, like the cosplay, for example. We get excited when we see someone wearing a costume of an anime we like.

MEG: We all love Bleach.

HALCA, did you know they were an otaku band when you joined?

HALCA: I had no clue. They tricked me.

MEG: I told you at the auditions we were an otaku band!

HALCA: Mmm… well, okay, that’s right, you did.

How did you choose the set list for Sakura-Con?

MEG: We knew there would be a lot of anime fans, so we included anime songs like “Pride” and “Ichirin no Hana.”

YUUSUKE: We added new songs to mix the old and new sides of us. We’re proud of the old music, and we’re proud of the fans who love that music the same as we do. So now we want to show them what we’re cooking next.

continued…

KiLLKiLLS – Interview (2010)

KiLLKiLLS
Interview by David Cirone
March 8th, 2010
(originally published on purpleSKY.com)

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L-to-R: ERY (bass), DAI (guitar/vocals), WANI (drums), KAMA (guitar)

As the former leader and guitarist of Japanese band ketchup mania, unapologetic punk-rocker DAI is no stranger to USA fans. In 2008-2009, DAI toured America with ketchup mania to perform at Sakura-Con, A-KON, SXSW, and the nationwide Japan Nite tour.

After the sudden breakup of ketchup mania in 2009, DAI formed his own label in Tokyo, SPLATTER RECORDS, and began the process of forming his first new band under the label — KiLLKiLLS, which features DAI on guitar and vocals and reunites him with ex-ketchup mania drummer WANI. He gave his first English-language interview to purple SKY about the release of their first album Allium.

What’s the meaning of the band name KiLLKiLLS?

DAI: It doesn’t mean anything, but it sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? Plus, I liked the sound of KiLLKiLLS. I’ve never heard such a band name, and I think a guy who names his band like that is probably crazy.

Is there a reason for the lowercase “i” in KiLLKiLLS?

DAI: I like the band The WiLDHEARTS from the UK. If you look closely, only the “i” is lowercase in their name. I respect them highly.

The English letter “K” connects to your music history. KOGA Records was your first label, and ketchup mania was the name of your former band. Is there anything special about the letter K?

DAI: It’s totally a coincidence, this “K” thing, now that I think about it. KiLLKiLLS usually comes up next to ketchup mania in music lists, so it’s easy to find when I listen to my own music, right?

How is KiLLKiLLS different from the hundreds of other Tokyo punk bands?

DAI: Compared to other bands, I think we’re playing punk music that’s a little old-school from the ’90s-2000. Also, I think we save some good melodies just for the good parts.

How is the KiLLKiLLS style different from ketchup mania’s style?

DAI: The same basically. It has a heavy sound with lots of guitar riffs and it’s very catchy. The biggest difference is the vocals — in the past it was a cute girl’s voice, but now it’s a guy like me whose brain is blown out by too much alcohol.

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Dazzle Vision – METSU (Live)

Dazzle Vision – METSU (Live)

This is the video that made me LOVE Dazzle Vision.

Seriously INTENSE. This band takes no prisoners.

CANTOY – Super Drive (Live) / LOUD UP!! (PV)

CANTOY – Super Drive (Live) / LOUD UP!! (PV)

Double-dose of up-and-coming Tokyo punk band CANTOY.

Produced by ex-ketchup mania guitarist & leader Dai’s new label Splatter Records, they’re the heir apprent for Tokyo’s indie punk scene, taking over for legends like ketchup mania, Skull Candy, Uplift Spice, and Berry Roll.

You’ll catch a few glimpses of Dai in the live video below, most fittingly at @1:40 next to the Jack Daniels.

The Asahi beer-chugging isn’t an act for the camera. CANTOY knows how to throw down with the best of them.