Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Where To Start: Japanese Screamo

     I've had several people mention that they don't really know where to start when getting into Japanese music. I can definitely see how, when faced with hundreds of awesome bands that are equally obscure, it can be a daunting task to get your feet wet. Hopefully I can help out with that, and I'm going to try to do a series of posts that basically aim to gracefully get you, the reader, into some of the best music you'll ever here. The first subject will be my favorite, Japanese Screamo.

     To check out more Screamo, you can browse using the screamo tag.

Please leave feedback on what you want to see with these. I'm sort of shooting in the dark as to what is the best way to help newcomers dive in.


     Screamo (or Emotional Hardcore) came to Japan in the early 90's. There are early traces of Japanese people contributing and sending in stuff to Heart Attack magazine, and appearances by Sawpit on the label, Ebullition, and Bonescratch doing splits with foreign bands. The late 90's saw the Tokyo and Sapporo scenes both getting pretty busy. Tokyo had bands like Swipe, Envy, and Kulara; Sapporo had bands like Next Style, The Carnival of Dark-Split, and Black Film Dance. From there, screamo blossomed, spawning small scenes in nearly every large city in Japan. There have been countless bands over the past 20 or so years to play this awesome style, so let's dig in! These four groups represent the four pillars of Japanese screamo to me. Yes there are more! And I'm already sorry that I may or may not have included your favorite band. This is all just my opinion.

Starting Point - Envy:

     Envy is basically the glass through which the rest of the Japanese screamo scene should be view through. They began in 1992 and have had the same members for nearly their entire existence. Their style has been copied and modified countless times and nearly every Japanese screamo band has traces of envy in their sound.

What to listen to:

     Envy dropped their first proper album, From Here to Eternity, in 1998, and the Japanese scene has still not recovered. In my travels, it has consistently been the favorite envy album for most of the Japanese musicians I talk to. It's a very raw album, with gorgeous melodies and tons of passion.
     My favorite album and envy's masterpiece is All The Footprints... released in 2001. This was 11 of the most daring tracks to have ever played. Marvelous compositions, soaring melodies, crushing heaviness. It was everything envy hinted at, fully realized. THIS is what the scene really took from and built on. To me, this is the epitome of Japanese screamo.

Where to get it:

     Envy's catalogue is fairly easy to get. Temporary Residence Limited is there US label, and has re-released most of their back catalogue. MP3 versions are available through Spotify, Amazon, ITunes, and more. TRL just released a jaw-droppingly amazing boxed set of envy's entire recorded output, 14-LP's. It's a bit of an investment, but it will give you everything you need to understand and appreciate this important band.

What to watch:

     Envy @ Sendai Birdland (1998)
     Envy @ Shinjuku Anti-Knock (2002)
     Envy Transfovista DVD (2007)
     Envy @ Kaikoo Popwave Festival, Osaka (2013)

Next - Gauge Means Nothing:

     Gauge Means Nothing started playing in the late 90's. Their first EP came out in 2003, from their label and mine. They are the band that got me into releasing things and energized me to preach the Japanese music gospel. They broke up in 2005, and left behind an EP, split with My Precious, and a last song. They aren't for everyone, and you'll probably either love them or hate them. They take the Japanese screamo sound of envy, and add emo, metal, hardcore, and J-Pop. Their music is always emotional and passionate, and you can tell they are having a blast playing it.

What to listen to:

     Their first EP, The Absent Trail of an Echo..., (which this blog is named after), is the best place to start. There's five songs on there, totaling around 30 minutes of music. Their later stuff gets even more interesting, but there were some changes in songwriters and the personality is different. Check out this EP first.

Where to get it:

     So glad you asked! You can buy copies of The Absent Trail of an Echo... on CD at the MeatCube store.   You can listen to it on MeatCube's bandcamp page. And when you're ready to move on, you can also listen to their split with My Precious, although the CD is out of print.

What to watch:

     Gauge Means Nothing @ Tokyo (2003)
     Gauge Means Nothing - Right Hand PV
     Gauge Means Nothing @ Nishiogikubo Watts (2004)

Next - Killie:

     Killie started playing in the mid-2000's. They pretty much formed as a super group with members from 3cmtour, Cleaner, Anthropic DiseaseSora, and The Black Line Fever. Their image and brutal sound has made them gain popularity fairly quickly. They've released several splits, singles, and EPs to this point, and are working on their first album now. Their sound is based on envy's sound, but add lots of time changes, depressing melodies, and intensity ala Louise Cyphre or Orchid.

What to listen to:

     Killie's first EP, Want to Escape From the Underground..., is my favorite. It mixes their raw intensity with some amazing melodies. They've moved on to a more broad sound since then, but the brilliance of that EP overshadows their other stuff, for me. The next step is to check out their EP, After all, the opinion.... Two long songs on one side of an LP.

Where to get it:

     Unfortunately, nearly everything Killie has ever released is sold out. You can keep an eye on their Discogs page to see when people sell things second hand. Their 2xCD split with Off Minor is usually the first thing to show up. Otherwise, you can download almost their entire discography from this post here. Hopefully their upcoming album will have more copies produced and be distributed out a bit better.

What to watch:

     Killie @ Arayakushimae Studio LIFE (2005)
     Killie @ Tokyo (2007)
     Killie - Resurrection DVD (2008)
     Killie - Taipei, Taiwan (2013)

Next - Dip Leg:

     Dip Leg started playing in the early 2000's in Okayama, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere. They developed their own offshoot of screamo which built from envy's sound, and added angular guitars and deep, soulful grooves. Their album was the second thing I released, and they released another EP before splitting up. Their sound is very approachable, with warm melodies and perfect instrumentation. Their vocals are high-pitched and may take some getting used to, but meld well with the rest of the music.

What to listen to:

     Their debut album is classic Dip Leg, The Sympathy Without Love. It has 8 songs, and every one is a winner. The album is pretty much another Japanese screamo masterpiece, perfectly conceived and executed.

Where to get it:

     Their album is still available on CD at the MeatCube store. You can also listen to it here. Once you've consumed that, I also posted their followup EP here.

What to watch:

     Dip Leg Live (?)
     Dip Leg - Videos from EP (2006?)

No comments:

Post a Comment