TRASH-UP!! Records Presents “Idol & Art 3”!!

One of my personally most-anticipated idol events of the year isn’t TIF, or Jam Expo. It doesn’t even even feature performances for that matter. For me, it’s the annual collaboration between TRASH-UP!! Records and Tokyo’s Mograg Gallery, “Art and Idol”, now in it’s third incarnation! It’s a simple and irresistible premise, an art show where all the art is created by idols. Now it’s it’s third edition, it’s fantastic to see this event be so successful and well-regarded.

When you think about it, it’s a perfect idea because the idol world is packed with wonderfully artistic talent who are always pursuing multiple ways to express themselves. As it’s been covered before in this blog, idols, especially within the chika circles, are multi-layered creatives who consistently deliver an entire package of intriguing work beyond singing and dancing.

With previous showings, it’s been the practice to keep the artwork under wraps until the opening, and then after a few days, images of the participant’s artwork pops up online via social media. I find it fascinating to see what the idols came up with, and in some cases, it’s illuminating to see their creative output because it offers a new peek into their personalities. Other times, it’s just cheeky fun. (Like the time the Dot-chans presented miniature terrariums with chirping crickets inside!)  But regardless of what they do, it’s never boring. Continue reading

Kai’s New MV Makes The World A Better Place…

So hot on the heels of the release of Moonlight Tokyo, (Which is excellent and brilliant and probably one of the best releases that will come out this year.) Kai and TRASH-UP!! Records have followed up with an MV for the song “Himitsu No Tobira”.

As I mentioned in the review, this is one of my personal favorite tunes on the EP, with it’s uplifting organ groove and cool little xylophone vibes. I loved this song, and now here comes an MV that takes something already great and elevates to an even higher plane!

Continue reading

We Review Things: Kai’s “Moonlight Tokyo”

Ever since it was announced that Aqbi superstar Kai was joining the TRASH-UP!! roster, I’ve been looking forward to hearing what she’d be doing as a solo artist. Kai of course, is no stranger to TRASH-UP!!, having been part of the oddball folk song trio Engawa, (Most often referred to in these parts as “The weird Beni/Kai thing”) and considering the close ties between my favorite idol label and Aqbi, (Including Yoneko and Mizuho connections!) it made perfect sense as career transition…

Anyway, there’s been a bit of an anxious delay on my part because I tried to order “Moonlight Tokyo” from Amazon Japan and it was momentarily listed with a possibly two month shipping delay. (!) I don’t know if I’m correct in my theory, but I’d like to believe that’s because it was a surprisingly bigger seller than anticipated, so that’s what I’m running with. It pleases me to share that the digital version is finally online!! streaming with Spotify and Apple Music, and the latter platform is selling it via iTunes as well. For lossless purists, I keep checking on OTOTOY but no luck just yet, but don’t assume it won’t happen eventually.

So anyway, how is Kai’s solo debut? Continue reading

I Don’t Know Who This “Margaret” Is, But The All-New avandoned Is Terrific!

The avandoned fans among us have certainly known about the new six-member incarnation of the group for a few months now, enjoying their activity on social media along with bits of live footage, but also eager to get an official release, so now at last we  have an honest-to-goodness MV of the unit together to promote their new (and yet also first) single, “Margaret”! The song is written by singer/songwriter Hana Tsuruuchi , who also wrote “Hello” and “Vadittsu!!” for avandoned previously. ..

I think that Tsuruuchi is a perfect contributor to this group. Her songs have that uplifting positive-vibe feeling that blends nicely with the group’s can-do spirit, and yet and are unique and quirky* enough that they never feel like sentimental cliches. This song is rich and wonderful, and no, I don’t really know who “Margaret” is, but I’m sure she’s a fine young lady who makes cool arts and crafts, owns a lot of hip records, plays a nice piano, and besides, if avandoned like her, that’s all I need to know anyway…

Classic idol group MV trope unlocked: The “Girls running through the streets” shot!

I think this new passage for the group sparks some interesting thoughts as well. It’s a fascinating thing about idol groups, the way they can be a seemingly inseperable unit only day, and then in a very short course of time, can reboot into something new and fresh. When I think about it, making a major departure from the established image of a group is probably the best move in a business that demands keeping the fans on board and constantly working to bring new ones into the fold.

Beni Usakura, who is the leader, producer and primary creative force of avandoned, commented about the challenges of expanding into a larger group, such as finding songs that work for a six-person group as opposed to a duo, the changes in vocal distribution in previous songs, and the new choreography requirements that come with more people on stage. It’s really not much different than launching an entirely new group, even if the name on the marquee is the same.

Margaret” will be released this month on the 26th, and in true idol form, will have two versions available. Also included is a coupling song that translates to “Prescription Warfare” and the two versions will include new line-up recordings of “After School” and “Exploding Romance”, each pressed to one of the variants.

Extra bonus video: Here’s the avandoned girls performing “Hello” with with Hana Tsuruuchi! 

*I’m pretty sure every single article I’ve written about avandoned utilized the word “quirky”. I see no reason to stop that! 

 

 

Cinema & Boy CQ Elevates Idol Beyond Our Preconceptions…

Sokichi Osada had a plan for his own idol group that would be a unique and daring take on the genre and he created, produced, and managed a group with that mission in mind. That group, Shoujo Kakka no International, was probably born too soon to really enjoy the fruits of the underground boom of nontraditional, experimental idols, but they were certainly legendary among those in the know. As many great and daring projects go, the financial stress of running an idol group proved to be unprofitable and difficult, and so it came to an end. Sokichi took time to write a series of essays titled “The Idol Suicides” about his experience for a web-magazine that’s no longer around, but thanks to some reaching out from our very own Papermaiden, we were given the privliedge of republishing the essays on this very blog.

But despite Girls Excellency International’s collapse, Sokichi’s creative idol bug wasn’t out of his system yet. Almost immediately, he began work on forming a new idol group that was even more experimental and unique than his first brainchild. A group with an intriguing vision, or has he put it into his own words…

Cinema and Boy CQ make some of the most consistently interesting art  in the entire idol genre, and on multiple levels, they challenge and shatter nearly every pre-conceived idea of what idol music is. Continue reading

SOLEIL Unveils “This Year’s Model”!

SOLEIL continues working in the classic yé-yé tradition of prolifically releasing fresh material at a near non-stop pace. Over the course of last year, she recorded two albums along with a series of singles, and now in 2019, she’s got a new single just out that will be followed by her third album in July!

The new single is “Mellotron Girl”, released as a 7″ record on the Vivid Sound label, in association with Victor Records. Before it was even released, there was a bit of a mad rush to secure a copy, with unscrupulous resellers already trying to finagle outrageous prices for a record that didn’t even exist yet, but thankfully it looks like the label and distributors stepped up to the demand and it became realistic to still pre-order one without breaking the bank. 

SOLEIL’s label uploaded a “short version MV” of the new song, and it fulfills what must be a requirement in the idol business, that all artists must eventually film an undead-themed music video! (Those poor “mummies” look kinda worn-out in the running shots!)

It’s a terrific tune rooted in that timeless French 60’s pop sound! The b-side is also another cool retro throwback, but for this song we get a cover: “High School Lullaby”, an 80’s synth-pop hit originally recorded by Imo-Kin Trio, and written by the legendary Haruomi Hosono! This version exchanges the city-pop vibes with some groovy surf-guitar set to a ska beat and totally pulls it off…

And as the for the upcoming album, “Lollipop Sixteen” will be out of July 17th, so be sure to look out for that! (I really love the reference to Elvis Costello’s “This Year’s Model” in the design theme.)  It’s already listed for pre-order in a few places, and it stands to reason that streaming options will be available as well.

If you’ve listened to SOLEIL’s previous albums, (Which I’ve discussed here..) you’ll probably have a pretty strong notion of what to expect. And while I don’t think it’ll be much of departure sound-wise, I have no doubt the new album will be packed with short and sweet sugary goodness that’ll make for perfect summer listening!

Melon Batake a go go Go Rogue With “Runaway Girl”!

What? Melon slow down? No way, they’ve got two speeds: “Go” and “Go-Go”!

So fresh outta the gate from their recent incursion into the west (Of which Chris shared his harrowing experience here.) and following up their so-recent-the-paint’s-still-wet MV for “Nightmare Before Vampire” (Of which Maniac discussed here.) we’ve already been smacked across the melon with a new video for their to be congruously released single “Runaway Girl” and owe it to ourselves to go-go check it out…

I’ll tell ya, I do like this one more than the “Vampire” tune, with certainly wasn’t bad by any means, but just more “Hey that’s pretty good!” good than “Holy-Crap-That’s-Sick-Outta-My-Head-Awesome-Good!” good. I don’t have any scientific analysis to explain why that is and really it’s subjective anyway, but this song sticks the moon-landing a little harder and nails the delivery. What’s interesting as well here is that the song is essentially another Rukatama solo showcase, and it’s also a cover of a song by 80’s rockabilly revival band ROGUE, which gives the tune a bit of familiarity among a segment of their older-school Japanese following.

As for the video itself, there’s an enigmatic story unfolding here that I hope never gets explained because it’s more fun to interpret it yourself anyway. Is Rukatama being confronted by her darker-half persona? Is she trying to run away from her inner self? Are the other Melon girls here to help her, or are they forcing Rukatama to come to terms with her darker destiny? And at the end of the MV, when she sits on the couch next to them (and herself), has she accepted her fate or has she mastered it? And what’s the significance of the subtitling beyond the fact that Thai script has beautiful aesthetics that look organically mysterious?

And also: Idols and guns… idols sure do love to pack heat! Somebody oughta write a dissertation over-analyzing “Post-war Japan Popular Culture and it’s Fascination for Young Women with Firearms”. Not me, that is, but somebody.

On July 26th, Melon Batake a go go, through their new major label, will release “Nightmare Before Vampire” and “Runaway Girl concurrently as separate singles. (“Hey, why not just release one EP? Because IDOL That’s Why!”) If you love the Melon, maybe get a copy of the goods yourself, or at least keep an ear out for legit streaming avenues, and absolutely definitely tell your friends about these psychobilly idols from outer space. They’re on a mission to spread their fanbase (Go Go’s) worldwide, and that means good things may very well come our way if we prove worthy!

Oh hey, while we’re at it, here’s a video of ROGUE performing “Runaway Girl” for a little comparison and context. Enjoy!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okinawa Electric Girl Saya Has Projects You Can (And Should) Support!

It’s been far too long since we’ve talked about Okinawa Electric Girl Saya, but within the space of when we last discussed her idol/experimental art fusions and now, she’s truly been tireless in her pursuit of her craft. I’d say Saya is among the most relentlessly active people on the scene, with consistent live performances, new collaborations, (Hey Soze!) and recordings practically weekly if not daily. What may have begun as a casual dipping into the well of avant-garde audio has become a full-time embrace of the bolder and more outré edges of the musical spectrum…

For some time now, Saya’s been releasing monthly CDRs of her noise experiments that she sells at shows, but these releases are a bit hard to get hold of outside of Japan. If you recall in the previous article, I mentioned that Saya has a unique aura that would do quite well with the Bandcamp business model, and I’m pleased to tell you that currently there are indeed some selections available at last.

Aside from her own self-released works, Saya’s been offering a few of her collaborations via Terminal Explosion, a label based around noise, industrial, hip-hop, and underground electronica run by a mysterious beat-maker known only as Ax. Currently, there are two available CDR (or digital) releases and a collaboration album that you can pre-order, along with some nice little merch items!

The first is “Dischord”, an EP that features a beautifully unique take on a Okinawan folk song..

 

The second is “Mayhem” , a series of chaotic but compelling noise-blasts that go hard…

 

And soon-to-come is a full-length album titled “Chastity”, which you can pre-order now

 

The digital downloads for “Dischord” and “Mayhem” are “name your price”, or you can buy them as CDRs for ¥1,000 each with (very reasonable) international shipping available. The album “Chastity” has a pre-determined price digitally, but also has a few tangible package options that include a t-shirt, a badge, or even all three recordings as a bundle, so check out the options and see what looks good to you!

In addition to these cool releases, the ever-prolific noise maker is also currently about 80% done crowdfunding another entirely new album called “Black Angel” that as of this writing, only has about two days left! The funding site, Campfire, is intended to be used only in Japan, but it is possible to lend your support by using a service like Tenso to serve as your “Japanese address”, so there is a window to help if you wish…

And you know what the other cool thing is? We’re not even half-way through the year yet, so it’s realistic to expect that this flurry of output for 2019 isn’t even close to being finished yet! What else will Saya do, and who else will she collaborate with? I don’t think she’s conceding any limitations on what she’ll accomplish. That’s what keeps an artist artist fresh and exciting, so let’s all enjoy where the trip takes us, and support her wherever we can. 

All Kai All The Time!

I was just like everybody else when There There There’s announced their disbandament.  A little disappointed, a little confused, and a little worried about where all our favorite ravenesque girls were all going to go. Thankfully, most of it worked out well, with some former members like Rere and Mei staying with AQBI, and in a completely appropriate and perfect twist of serendipity, Mizuho and Kai seamlessly joining the roster of TRASH-UP!! Records, which is also a home for another former AQBI mainstay, Yoneko, who’s working harder than ever as a self-produced idol.

But this post is all about Kai, (!) the delightfully deadpan idol who, despite her detached demeanor, somehow easily connects with her fans in her very own way. I’ve always really liked Kai and her rather non-idolish approach to being an idol, and I’ve been looking forward to see she how adapts to the stage as a soloist, so let’s check out her first MV, a number called “Moonlight Tokyo”

How about this song? It’s no secret that it’s an easy sell on me when you go 80’s retro, so that’s certainly no complaint! It’s a terrific tune that I’ve listened to on repeat several times already since it debuted. I have no idea if this synth-dance-groove thing is an indicator of her future work or just a one-off tune, we’ll just need to see, but I’d be totally cool with Kai becoming a neo-city-pop queen and making a regular gig out of this sound. All the same, I have an equally positive feeling that with TRASH-UP!! at the helm, she’ll be trying out other genres as well and testing some unexpected waters for the benefit of all of us.

And what about this MV?  I enjoy it’s quirky VHS (or is it Betamax?) look, complete with an old-school aspect ratio and it’s blown-out-saturation. Also, the video brilliantly tackles a classic debate that even the idol world contends with: Are you a cat or dog person? I keep telling people, “Why not both?”, and it makes me pleased-as-punch to see that Kai agrees with me!

The video also answers another anticipated question: Would the TRASH-UP!! incarnation of Kai, with her newly colored hair and a wardrobe other than black crow costumes, maintain the classic Kai personality-type we’ve come to know and adore? It sure looks that way! She’s just as endearingly disconnected as ever, coming off as the sort of person who’s far more comfortable with a couple of cute pets than a room of chanting wota, and doggone it (see what I did there.), that’s the Kai we love! Would you really want it another way?

At present, I haven’t seen any word yet on any actual releases for Kai yet, digital or otherwise, but I think that’ll happen soon. Currently she’s preparing for her live debut and cooking up some merch that she showed off (see above) on twitter. There’s also an official website for her solo work, appropriately with the perfect domain name all-kai.com, cause this 100% pure Kai, and that’s just what we the people need!

https://twitter.com/mizuho_TUR/status/1119952235683651584?s=20

I think we’re off to a good start here! And we still have Mizuho’s upcoming idol group, ATOMIC MINISTRY (Which is an awesome group name!!) currently in it’s audition phase to still look forward to. I keep repeating it for the people in the back, TRASH-UP!! is the real future idol dynasty to watch out for, and I’d recommend paying attention to all the exciting things they have in the works.

 

 

You Should Get RAY On Your Radar Right Now…

I’ve been kind of tingling with giddy anticipation all day today since this bit of news broke via a retweet from the Dots staff twitter. As you may know, the mysterious mind behind Dots has been quietly planning a successor to the seminal experimental and constantly evolving shoegaze idol project, and at last, it appears that the time is nigh for the next event to break out and dare I suggest, likely shatter expectations with an exciting new unit…

It’s RAY, and their plan as stated, is to bring about “Omnidirectional music development and performance”. The group is determined to achieve a fusion of idol with different fields of interest in ways that have never been done before. They’ve also stated that they fully intend to reach out and collaborate with creators on a global level, and they’ve already made good on that promise: Their first international connection will come in the form of music provided by the amazing Austin, Texas shoegaze band Ringo Deathstarr. (This is the part where I went from excited to really really excited.)

It turns out that Ringo Deathstarr toured Japan earlier this year and crossed paths with Dots while making the highly active shoegaze scene there, and well, good things came of it. This is a pretty high-profile beginning that could potentially introduce RAY with a pretty new audience, with a nice bit of indie-cred attached to it!

So who are these RAY girls? A couple of things: This group will be significantly different  because the members will not be anonyomous entities. And not only will they have names attached to their faces, but each girl will also pursue solo work, and work on individual projects using crowdfunding to help pursue their goals. It’s a very unique and yet still groundbreaking arrangement that’ll be interesting to see unfold. Here they are…

(I’m not sure if anyone looks familiar to you or not, but I’ll offer you this much… One of these girls is somebody whose eyes you’ve never seen before…)

RAY will be making their live debut on May 1st, and it’s a safe bet that they’ll be highly talked about shortly after. You can follow the group’s twitter account here, their official website here, and also click on the members above to follow them too!

Very cool and very wonderful things are unfolding here, and this is your opportunity to not miss the boat.  RAY is gonna show us the way!