The Never-Ending DOTS Evolution Prepares For Its Next Incarnation

Wow, it was a busy weekends for the dot-chans! First they had their (possibly) breakthrough moment performing at the Tokyo Idol Festival, basking in a quick brush with the mainstream at what’s the biggest idol event in Japan, but that wasn’t even all!

Not only did they perform at the big “corporate” idol event, they kept a foot firmly planted by their roots by showing up at the “Underground Idol Festival” (UTIF) and performed under that banner too! These girls and their management clearly understand where they come from and aren’t about to burn bridges with the chika circuit, and good for them.

And then, in addition to that, dot-chans then made another appearance, this time at Maker Faire Tokyo, where they rubbed elbows with another breed of artists: The technology-minded DIY creatives who enjoy tinkering with their own devices and inventions scratch built from one’s own hands. It was the perfect match for them, as the Dots utilized the fair to present their own forward-thinking efforts to develop new and innovative ways to connect idols with their fans. You may recall an article published here last here last year that showcased such new marvels as the “Five Senses Cheki” and the usage of heart monitors to enhance the bond between wota and their oshis.

The Dot-chans are still hard at work to raise the idol experience to the next level. Looking around Twitter, I found a few comments from attendees unfamiliar with the group expressing their newfound interest in the girl’s endeavors. Another success at bringing new faces into their fold!

Some photos from Maker Faire Tokyo…

And with all that flurry of activity, there was another equally important announcement that was revealed this week, perhaps one a bit more melancholy for some of their fans. Two of the chans are removing their visors and moving onto a new plane of existence, because Dot-chans do not graduate, but rather assume new forms in their own personal evolution. Continue reading

The APOKALIPPPS Will Be Not Be Televised. (But You Can Watch This MV.)

I have to be honest, it’s nearly been a full year since APOKALIPPPS made their debut and I’m still not really sure what to make of this group. When their promo photo was first posted with those cool-looking steampunkish outfits, I thought we were getting an idol supergroup with a bit of (small to medium) financial pull behind them. At the time I anticipated a high-concept media push to go with the group’s name and the costumes. Shoot, I’ll admit I even secretly worried a little bit about Chiffon and Beni leaving two of my personal favorite groups in the event this new group should take of. (Talk about an apocalypse!) But instead the group actually seems to be a pretty casual gathering of idols moon-lighting to have some fun when not at their main gigs.

(Twitter Flashback…..)

Adding to the confounding nature of the group, recordings and videos of the group are scant, and in the case of their live show, I myself have yet to see anything at all. (Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?) Their singles have little accessible distribution, so I don’t have those either, but I really do dig those Kiss solo-style album covers and covet eventually getting those for the artwork alone.

So as I mentioned, it’s been almost a year to the date of when the APOKALIPPPS was heralded, and lo and behold here’s a new MV for us to enjoy!

I love low-budget videos! They’re often way more interesting and fun than big-time over-done opuses. (You’ll Melt More! perfected this art.) It looks like they rented that room for most of the day, and had some time after practice to throw an MV together, and that’s totally okay! When you don’t have a pile of money, you rely on personality and creativity to sell your product, and there’s personality for miles in this thing. There’s Beni in all her royal twee-ness, Chiffon’s utterly spot-on wotagei impression, and one-half of the legendary (and greatly missed) Namahamu, Miss Nishi herself,  killing us with that wink at the end. Everybody is bursting with playful vibes here. It’s good wholesome, fun stuff that isn’t too heavy, but there’s never anything wrong with some delightfully earnest fluff.

A year ago, I greeted the coming of the APOKALIPPPS with a mix of curious enthusiasm and mild trepidation, but today this MV has sealed the deal for me. I’m going on record as now being fully on board for the APOKALIPPPS, and now is as good a time as any. 

PS: As I was writing this, I played the video multiple times, and I realized this song is totally Yurumerumo! material. I know nothing about the behind the scenes of this group, but I’m thinking that a YMM! producer/songwriter is helping out musically? (Which would make sense with Chiffon, plus the name and the costumes.) By all means, if you have further information, feel free to share in the comments. I’d appreciate it! 

Vanilla Beans, An Appreciation

After just over 10 years of delightful Shibuya-kei inspired pop mixed with electro excursions, Vanilla Beans officially announced that their disbandment will take place this October, ending with one final concert.

While I’d admit it’s not a terribly shocking turn of events, (They’ve mentioned the possibility previously.) it’s still a sad loss to those of us who always adored their harmonies and retro-cool aesthetic. They were, in a sea of idols, a very special group marching to their own drum.

I was first charmed by Vanibe way back in 2008, after seeing the MV for their second single “Nicola”. (Lisa was actually not part of the very early duo, but a girl named Rika.) I was instantly obsessed with the song, and it remains to this day among my very favorite pop tunes of all time. And MV was also sublime with it’s brilliant design and subtle humor. In short, it gently delivered what I consider to be a perfect capsule of pop. Vanilla Beans let me in on something exciting: “Idols” weren’t contained to the carefully constructed tropes I had pegged to the genre. 

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We Review Things: Melon Batake a go go Make Sick Music For Sick People

Psychobilly idols Melon Batake a go go don’t generally strike me as rule followers, but in the case of their new EP, they abide by an age-old rock n’ roll rule: Keep it short and sweet and make them beg for more. It’s a formula that’s brought us legends from Hasil Adkins to the Ramones to Guitar Wolf to a hundred other rock stars who put a pep in our step and tickled our hormones. You simply can’t beat a great garage stomper, and now, Melon Batake a go go have come to put the idol spin on the barn dance. Continue reading

Beni and Kai Party Down With Engawa!

Why yes, finally, we have an honest to goodness post about ENGAWA on this site! Engawa is, as you may know from reading this blog, what is often referred to as “That weird Beni-Kai thing with that old guy.” That guy by the way, is Koji Ishikawa, who was for many years the percussionist for a well-known and respected comedic folk group called Tama. (Who were really very good!)

Somewhere along the way, Koji formed this project with our beloved Beni and Kai, and together they play these high-spirited, light-hearted and lo-fi shows on occasion. Koji plays a minimalist home-made drum set while Beni and Kai sing and dance about in a silly, child-like way. You’ll either think it’s a swell time or a grating assault on your sanity, I’ll leave that up to you…


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It’s a SAKA-SAMA World

I was recently re-listening to Yume no Hate Made Mo, SAKA-SAMA‘s EP from February on TRASH-UP!! Records, (I still listen to it frequently actually) and as of this halfway point in the year, I’m still holding firm that it’s the very best release of 2018. I just don’t think anything as comes as close to accomplishing a feat of aesthetics mixed with music as this mini-album. The only question I have is, When do we get more?

The first indication of that is a newly unveiled live recording from the group entitled “LIVE from SAKA-SAMA WORLD”, an audio document of their very first and highly successful one-man show. SAKA-SAMA have quite a sizable catalog of songs now, despite their one EP, a compilation track and a 7″ single being the only tangible products of their work. I’ve been pining for more some time now, so here’s a chance to check of their material just beyond my grasp. The only issue now is that this live-release is only available at their shows, so woe to those currently unable to attend and get their hands on one.

In the interest of expanding awareness of the live recording and spreading the joy of their live shows, TRASH-UP!! uploaded the most professional footage of the group that’s ever been available, and these videos are terrific!

Now here’s a ton of live SAKA-SAMA video up on the YouTubes, but the editing and the pro sound-mix really makes these especially amazing to watch. You’ve always been able to tell with their other footage that these girls give 200 percent and have a lot a lot of fun when they preform, but these really capture a fire and spirit that hasn’t been seen so clearly before! They’re completely singing their hearts out, screaming, jumping, thanking the crowd for their support, and loving every moment of it.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so artfully full of DIY spirit and projecting it so intently in the crowd, who send the love right back at ’em. To me, this is a whole new fresh perspective on a group I was already fully on board supporting, so these videos have made my day.

Now hopefully they’ll take some of these unreleased songs and capture some of this fantastic energy into a studio, mix it up, add some of that trademark A-level TRASH-UP!! graphic design sense, and release another new audio gem fondly enjoy like a fine collected piece of art. It’s a SAKA-SAMA world, and thank goodness we live in it!

Melon Batake a Go Go Are SICKxIDOLSxSICK!

Obviously it’s a bit early, but I’m essentially ready to declare Melon Batake a Go Go my pick for Homicidols’ annual Best-Of in the “Breakthrough Artist” category. The group is on fire right now, with what finally appears to be a stable, solid line-up backed by great tunes, and an incrementally growing fan-following that really adore these “Idols From Outerspace”. Even from the short time ago this blog previously covered these girls, they’re swiftly taken on a new life and gained new fans. It’s fun and exciting to watch a group rise from obscurity and earn some well-deserved praise, and the time is definitely at hand for these young ladies.

With the iron hot, the sidekick idols are poised to strike with their upcoming EP “SICKxIDOLSxSICK” (It reminds me of the Cramps’ classic album “Stay Sick”!) which comes out in May. This will be the first release with the group’s current roster, because all the members are still too new to have recorded together before. (I think Soze is the only active member to have any recorded Melon music at all.)

The newly invigorated Melon Batake a Go Go has charged up their social media resources to spread the word of outer-space-psychobilly-infused-garage-rock-idol-music, including taking advantage of Soundcloud to share a brand-new song for the masses! It’s called “Horror Billy Nights”

It’s a solid rocker that’d make about any band proud! Nice meaty guitars, great vocals, and a spooky vibe that’ll fit into your Halloween party mixes this Fall. The only minor issue I take is that with a name like “Horror Billy Nights”, I kinda wish there was a little more “billy” in there. Just twang up those guitars a little bit! This is an idol group that I’m simply dying to see eventually perform with a live three-piece band featuring a devil-locked dude slapping a coffin-shaped stand-up bass with a couple of go-go dancers (Or a guy in a gorilla suit, that’s always cool too!) shaking it fast on pedestals along the edge of the stage.

Also up on the YouTubes is a short promo video that features another newly recorded song that Melon’s been performing live for some time, and moody piece of horror pop called “Change the Wolfman”

While things are certainly going fantastic for Melon Batake a Go Go, there’s been one unfortunate hitch in their giddy-up.  (Literally) Sadly, Soze Nakamura injured her ACL during a show last month, and she’s been out of the live-equation while awaiting surgery, followed by the eventual recovery process. The group’s been performing with occasional guest stars- as well as a framed photo of Nakamura in her honor. In the meantime, Soze has been revitalizing the group’s long-dormant Instagram accountwhich had been seemingly forgotten, with brand new, fresh photos. (On a related note, she now has a SOZELICA Instagram account as well!)

I haven’t seen any sort of pre-order information for purchasing “SICKxIDOLSxSICK” but I’m certainly keeping my eyes open. Also hopefully now that the Melon Girls have increased their stature considerably, perhaps the distribution for this EP will be improved. It’s been a bit of a task to get hold of their earlier stuff and it’d be great if a wider base could get their hands on this upcoming gem. They certainly deserve it, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re looking at future breakouts here. Keep your eyes on Melon Batake a Go Go!!!

Her Name is SOLEIL

I’d like to strongly urge you readers to do yourselves a favor, and open up Spotify or Apple music and look up the just recently released album “My Name is SOLEIL”

SOLEIL, you see, is a band, but it’s also the name of the band’s lead singer, and together they’ve released an uplifting and exciting album that recalls Shibuya-kei and the 60’s rock genre known in Asia as “Group Sounds”. And if you also love the classic girl-group era and the heyday of French ye-ye pop, well, herein awaits a tasty treat as well. To call this recording pure joy is a trifle bit of an understatement. This is a captivating concoction of nostalgic vibes bursting at the seams with fresh modern energy, it’s just really that good.  Continue reading

SAKA-SAMA Brings The House Down In Their Own Unique Way

It’s something of a watershed for every idol group when they finally achieve a following that allows them to achieve their first headlining one-man show, and the hard work of being an upstart underground unit finally came together for SAKA-SAMA this past March 17!

The venue was packed with assorted fans of all types, including Soze NakamuraAmamiya Miku (you may remember her as “Natsu” from Avandoned, and now she’s part of a quirky project called NaNoMoRaland Hiiro Moe of xoxo(Kiss&Hug) EXTREME in attendance, and of course the TRASH-UP!! Records staff lending their unique vibe to the event! If the gushing praise throughout the quirky corner of Twitter let us in on anything, it’s that the show completely charmed everyone in the venue. And to cap it off wonderfully, Machiko of Bon Voyaaz joined the group (in their new stage outfits!) for an in-the-round and non-amplified encore that really made the night special:

And if you’ve listened to SAKA-SAMA‘s debut EP, none of this is a terrible surprise because this release is simply fantastic. It’s been out for roughly a month now and remains in heavy rotation since the day I got it. Eclectic would be the first word to manifest in my mind, as it goes from electro-fuzz-garage-dance to twee-country-to spoken word to their signature wispy “lo-fi dreampop”.

I’m feeling quite comfortable that this delightful platter will indeed sit among my favorite releases when this year draws to a close. And they’re not done yet: A 45″ vinyl single will be among the hotly coveted items being unleashed for Japan’s Record Store Day. At this rate, we might be about to witness the summer of SAKA-SAMA!

And for further reading, (in Japanese) here’s an interview with TRASH-UP’s founders, taking about the magazine they created that eventually brought them into idol appreciation, and ultimately into creating their own group.

BONUS CLOSING VIDEO: Here’s Dr. Mahiru teaming up with Melon Batake A Go Go’s Soze (She’s EVERYWHERE!!) to enjoy some stage banter and sing a few songs, including covers of Dots and Bellheart. Enjoy!!

Somewhere Between Creation And Chaos, There Is SOZELICA

“I Feel Torn Between The Desire To Create And The Desire To Destroy.”

Lucy Van Pelt

Previously I covered the charming idol unit for the garage-rock set, Melon Batake A Go Go, and while I most certainly think they’re totally awesome, fun and terrific, there’s another facet connected to the group that I’m even more intrigued by. Melon-leader Nakamura Soze also has an up-and-coming solo career going on under the stage name SOZELICA.

How does one describe this project? I took my sweet time writing this piece because I wanted to try and figure that how to answer that. After watching a bunch of her videos several times, a few thoughts entered my mind: Experimental DJ? Oddball idol upstart? Performance artist? Chaotic destroyer of stuffed animals and train sets? The best answer I can offer is….yes.

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