the brilliant green – BLACKOUT (Review)

the brilliant green
BLACKOUT

Review by David Cirone

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If you’re looking for a jumping-off place to bridge the 8-year gap between the brilliant green’s new album BLACKOUT and their previous full-length release The Winter Album (2002), you’re better off skipping ahead to the group’s final singles for former label Sony. The aggressive style of “Ash Like Snow” and “Enemy” weren’t just a temporary departure from The Winter Album’s somber, relaxed compositions — it turns out the brilliant green were getting ready to pick a fight with their past.

BLACKOUT’s opening title track delivers a clear warning: “I’m in a bad mood… don’t talk to me.” Immediately followed by “Black Dark Knight” and “I’m Sick of this Place,” there’s little room to doubt TBG is taking us into vocalist/lyricist Tomoko Kawase’s dangerous side. After years of dual-personality double-duty as Tommy February6 / Tommy Heavenly6, the punk side has emerged victorious and more than a little pissed-off.

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detroit7 – NUDE (Review)

detroit7
NUDE

Review by David Cirone

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Long-time detroit7 fans will recognize NUDE’s cover image right away. Vocalist / guitarist Tomomi Nabana’s bare feet are a staple of detroit7’s live shows, and it’s a fitting image for the band’s rawest album since 2003’s Vertigo.

Straight out of the gate, the album’s “JOY” commands “GO GENKAI! BUKKOWASE WARE!” — a challenge to destroy everything in their path. This is an album that wants to beat you senseless, and if Tomomi’s full-force scream doesn’t convince you within seconds of hitting the “play” button,” she delivers some scorching guitar work in the follow-up track “Furueru Sora” (Shaking Sky).

In “Nounai POP,” Tomomi name-drops her hero Iggy Pop, and it’s a noisy jumble of sound that leads directly into the Amazon warrior screams of “BREAK.”

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RAMPANT – GREEDY MONSTER WANTS ALL (Review)

RAMPANT
GREEDY MONSTER WANTS ALL

Review by David Cirone

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Opening track “Quattro” starts with a deceptively simple drum intro that blends into RAMPANT’s trademark layered guitar sound. The Osaka-based quintet knows how to get the most out of their double-guitar lineup, and the 2-minute instrumental feels like a warm-up for the hard-rock throwdown to come.

“NEED YOU” brings in Hiroko’s vocals with a tongue-in-cheek welcome, “Good morning, my baby.” The song has a familiar structure that could have easily folded into last year’s album BLOSSOM. “LOVE SPELL” is where RAMPANT starts to break new ground. The slick bass intro and heavy guitar riff get you ready for Hiroko’s sex appeal kicking into high gear. Playfulness and danger rolled into one.

Longtime live-show favorite (and guaranteed mosh-pit-maker) “NEW BORN” finally makes its way to recorded form. Band members have stated in interviews that they were worried about capturing the power of the live performance in the studio, and they were right to be concerned — it’s a signature song that just can’t be beat once you see it live. The album version does it justice, and new fans can use it as a primer for what to expect at their next concert.

In “GREEDY MONSTER WANTS ALL,” Hiroko’s reached her breaking point, and counts down before letting loose her deep-throated scream. “I’m not greedy like you” she tells her partner/monster in this final goodbye. Compared to the middle songs of the album, “GREEDY MONSTER WANTS ALL” shows a more precise and subtle instrumentation from the band, and Atsushi’s guitar sets just the right dreamy feeling to indicate something once good is being left behind as the vocalist starts a new chapter.

The surprise inclusion of Choice of Life’s SILENCE as a piano version is a really lovely send-off, and it’s a testament to the band’s versatility that it doesn’t feel like a second-thought cover, but a strong partner to the original.

Recommended tracks: LOVE SPELL, NEW BORN, SILENCE (Piano ver.)

TAIA – Interview (2011) Pt. 1

TAIA
Interview by David Cirone
March 15, 2011

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TAIA’s logo says quite clearly that you’re from Okinawa, so obviously you’re proud of that association. How does Okinawa affect your music?

YASHA (bass): Since we’re comfortable in this place, it’s a great environment for us. We can be our natural selves while we work on our music.

SEIKA (vocals): TAKA and I weren’t born in Okinawa, but we’re strongly influenced by Okinawa’s rich nature and calm climate.

FUGA (keyboard): Our music, even down to the instruments and editing we use, are mainly based on Western music. But I think Okinawa influences us unconsciously during the creative stage, like composing or imagining the lyrics. I can’t say whether it’s the local folks or the history or customs, but I’m happy if you feel something from Okinawa in our music.

TAIA’s music contains some very precise composition. Who is the main composer for the group? How much of the final song is written before rehearsals, and what usually changes when the whole band gets involved?

FUGA: The main composer is the guitarist, TAKA. There are times when the guitarist (URA) and I will compose, too. It depends on the composer how much of the final song is written before rehearsals.

TAKA (left-side guitar): Right. When I’m composing, I just have the guitar riffs and I make a report like “I made a song like this,” at the first rehearsal. Then each member adds things they want. I bring the idea, and the band completes the song.

FUGA: If TAKA is composing, almost all of guitar riffs are complete, but for other parts, we each add arrangements in the studio as we listen to TAKA’s directions. Sometimes, the early structure of a song can change a lot if we feel it going in a different direction. For me, when I’m composing, it’s a bit different. I add all the arrangements and complete most of the song before we go into a rehearsal. We’ll work on the details for all the members in the studio, but the main structure of the song doesn’t change that often.

What about URA? Is his style more like TAKA or FUGA?

TAKA: In-between?

URA (right-side guitar): Yeah, that’s about right.

FUGA: If URA is composing, right in-between TAKA and me. He creates the guitar parts, main phrases, and general rhythm before the rehearsal, and we add more in the studio. The general structure is already made, but it can be changed if a better idea comes up.

TAKA: The unique thing is that we don’t decide on a certain image or style. Each player adds their own feeling to each song.

FUGA: Sometimes, even if the structure isn’t changed, a song can develop a different mood or personality just based on each member’s performance. I enjoy those changes when I’m working as a composer.

TAKA: You might think this sounds disorganized, but it comes out nicely for some reason. What happens when the whole band participates? It becomes like TAIA.

URA: I like the sense that things are changing. New sounds are born and the song becomes more magnificent during the process where all of us play together. That’s what’s interesting.

Many of TAIA’s songs change tempo at almost exactly the halfway point. Why is this type of change so consistent?

TAKA: The phrases that come into my mind just naturally change tempo, I guess.

FUGA: It’s not like we absolutely try to change tempo when we compose. We want to include many scenes and emotions within one song, and we try to keep it all connected so it’s not unpleasant for the listeners. What do you all think?

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LAZYgunsBRISKY – 26 times (Review)

LAZYgunsBRISKY
26 times

Review by David Cirone

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LAZYgunsBRISKY’s 26 times is a focused and lean album that shows the up-and-coming punk rock band in solid fighting shape. Working with producer Kenichi Asai (ex. BLANKEY JET CITY), there’s a confident and mature female energy in their latest release (released in America from Good Charamel Records) that makes you hungry to see this band live.

26 times opens strong with a full-force trio of “Liar,” “Navy Star,” and “Bitter Day.” The past few years of live-house performances (since 2008’s “Catching” and “Quixotic”) have taught LAZYgunsBRISKY how to grab and audience and keep them, starting with spit-in-your-eye vocals on “Liar”:

People are talkin’ about the fuckin’ yesterday but
My reality is not on the TV show

Lucy and izumi’s vocal-and-guitar combination assault seem to dominate “Navy Star” upon first listen, but it’s the bass line you’ll be humming when you play this song back in your head (no small feat considering Lucy’s soaring-megaton-missle work throughout).

Pockets of solid back-line grooves are spread throughout the album, with “Now!” and “Sneaky” giving a well-earned spotlight to bassist azu and drummer Moe. In contrast to the scores of Japanese girl-punk bands that just add “crazy” to compensate for musicianship, LAZYgunsBRISKY isn’t afraid to let the music do the talking for them, with extended instrumentals on “Now!” “Sneaky” and the fun and unpredictable “Ring, ring, ring,” in which Lucy gives a farewell MC from the stage, thanking us for coming to “the show.”

If you treat the first 7 tracks of 26 times like a live show set, the album’s final track “Abbey Road” comes in like a lullaby encore, softly assuring you the last 40 minutes were for keeps. It’s a perfect kiss goodnight from a band that’s promising to rock your world even more next time.

Recommended tracks: Liar, Navy Star, Ring, ring, ring




Buy LAZYgunsBRISKY – 26 times at CDJapan

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Download LAZYgunsBRISKY – 26 times on iTunes

TAIA – Interview (2011) Pt. 2

TAIA
Interview by David Cirone
April 19, 2011

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Seika, what stories inspire your imagination?

SEIKA: Since my childhood, I’ve always loved novels, movies, and manga. They’ve had a big influenced on the ways I think and feel. I don’t think I could write lyrics if I didn’t have the emotions and images I’ve experienced from those creations. But it’s not like “I got ideas for this song from that movie,” or “This is from that novel.” For any set of lyrics, there’s a mixture of those influences and my own imagination.

Is there a particular genre that you’re drawn to more than others?

SEIKA: Science fiction works like “Hi no Tori” by Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Black Jack). I love novels by Heinlein, Niven, and Card. I’m also influenced by classic Japanese literature, and I think “Kazamai” shows that a lot. Natural scenery and historical heritage are absolutely necessary for my inspiration. To travel and visit new places is really a great stimulation. The inspiration for lyrics might come from the scenery of a mountain I climbed when I was small, fire-like color of autumn leaves, sight of snow that spreads as far as I could see, etc.

If words are so important to your expression, how do you stay connected with a live audience during the long instrumental sections?

SEIKA: I usually move my body to the music, and I do my best to energize the audience. I don’t take my eyes off them. But during the instrumental parts, the audience is watching the other members perform instead of me, so it’s really a challenge for me to stay connected. (*laughs)

Two songs from ASYMMETRY (2005) have been re-recorded for FUUENYASOU -TAIA WORKS- (2010). Why did you choose those two songs? What was your goal for the new versions?

YASHA: Because these songs are still popular in live shows. For the new recordings, we tried to show the power these songs have gained from the live shows.

FUGA: The members had changed since we recorded ASYMMETRY, so we decided to record a current-member version of “Sakura” and “Akatsuki” that we perform often at live shows. We also thought that aggressive songs were better to show the styles of the current members (especially the drummer KEN). We expect our fans to feel something different from these new versions, especially from KEN’s style.

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RAMPANT Interview (2010)

RAMPANT
Interview by David Cirone
October 18, 2010

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Osaka-based hard-rock band RAMPANT has become a Japanese-indies favorite with their recent releases CHAIN and CHOICE OF LIFE. Performing regularly with female-fronted bands like Guardian Hacker, Dazzle Vision, and exist†trace, the 5-member group is preparing to launch a 19-show tour to support their new mini-album BLOSSOM.

For fans already familiar with your music, “RAMPANT” seems to be a fitting choice for a name. How did you come up with it?

Hiroko (vocals): A long time ago, when I was thinking about the band name, I was reading a book about Ryouma Sakamoto. There was a difficult word — “shouketsu” — in the book, and when I looked it up, I found a lot of English synonyms about “momentum,” for example, and the word “rampant” really stood out, so I liked it. I decided RAMPANT should be the band name.

KA+U (drums): And we’ve been building that momentum ever since! (laughs)

Your new album BLOSSOM releases on October 27, and then you jump right into a 19-show tour that same week. Have you performed the new songs live yet? How do you feel about performing the new songs for your fans?

KA+U: We’ve performed some of the songs already, but it’s different after they’re released. We get excited, and I think the fans will be happy too.

TOMOYA (guitar): We’ve been doing “My winding road to unknown” for a while. We just performed “NAKED” at a live the other day, and the fans liked it. I’m really eager to perform all the new songs.

Kei (bass): Really? I get nervous. Just a little.

In your live show videos, it’s easy to see your fans jumping around and getting pumped up. Which of the new songs from BLOSSOM will makes the fans go crazy?

Hiroko: #1 and #5! (laughs)

KA+U: Definitely! Yeah, #1 “NAKED” and #5 “IF I AIN’T GOT YOU.” Or, personally, I think the 2nd song “STILL GROWING FLOWER” has a strong metal-core feel, so I think that’s the one that will make them go wild.

Atsushi (guitar): Same for me.

Kei: The second chorus of “IF I AIN’T GOT YOU” — that’s the one I’m waiting for.

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the brilliant green – Like Yesterday (PV)

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exist†trace at Daikanyama Unit

exist†trace
LIVE at Daikanyama Unit!

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exist†trace
Special one man show
-THE FIRST DAYBREAK-
2011.11.09 Daikanyama Unit

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Morning Glory – Remember (MV)

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