It would seem rather obvious that most people working in some facet of musical expression got where they are because they love crafting music. But there is a very special type of writer/performer/contributor among the multitude that stand out because they are not just musical artists, but because they are passionate, giddy star-struck fans of music themselves. These type of creators tend to not approach music clinically or with overly practiced technical skill (although many are indeed highly skilled), but rather with a metric ton of heart and soul poured into making every moment shine in whatever they do.
I often think of people like Alex Chilton, Brian Wilson, Joan Jett, Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, The Cramps and Shonen Knife being among these. None of these are (or were) simply musicians making great music, but they are (were) fans of great music harnessing that joyful love into amazing music. I am more than pleased to add Beni and Kotao from Avandoned to this list.
Aside from her tireless work with Avandoned, Beni also frequently DJs and displays an astonishingly wide range of musical tastes in selecting her songs. Her playlists are a who’s-who of classic soul, glorious pop confections, retro-rock goodies and twee musings that she dances along with as she gleefully shares them with her audiences. It’s inspiring to see someone who loves music this much wanting to spread that joy into a mutual happening, so naturally of course that earnestness translates into the eclectic musical spectrum of Avandoned.
This brings us to Avandoned’s new release, which has taken the form of a 45 rpm vinyl single. When placed on a turntable, this simple looking flat disc with grooves in it is a perfect seven inch-wide pop jewell. The two songs featured on this platter of molded wax are ドーナツふれんど (Donut Friend) and あヴぁんだんどのシャンプープラネット (Shampoo Planet), written by Gakuji “CHABE” Matsuda of the band LEARNERS. “Shampoo Planet” happens to be a cover of one of the band’s classics, and they even produced and recorded a new instrumental track to accompany this cover version.
Aside from being covered in Avandoned’s live sets, “Shampoo Planet” and other songs by LEARNERS are among Beni’s DJ-set staples. Her face always lights up when the needle hits one of their records, so this has been a release quite clearly close to her heart. The two songs are bouncy, danceable party-starters with irresistible charm. It’s the kind of music that artists who are themselves record-collecting fans make not just to fulfill contracts and “move units,” but rather to share their joy with other fans of music.
The record sleeve is itself another fan-nod to another group adored by the girls. The cover photos are playfully inspired by the Scottish pop duo Strawberry Switchblade, who found significant success in Japan during the Eighties. Inside you get Beni’s playfully quirky artwork gracing the lyrics to the song. And as a nice bonus, a CD is also included in the insert for your digital-fidelity listening, which contains the instrumentals of the two songs if you’d like to have an at-home karaoke session.
The full package is 12 minutes of absolutely joyous retro-pop that is infinitely listenable. It’s a short little burst of glorious twee-happiness that will always be seen as a highlight of Avandoned’s history. It’s the sound of Beni and Kotao deliriously in love with what they’re doing and bringing that love into tangible musical form with every fiber of their being.
If this turns out to be the last thing Avandoned ever releases (and I really hope it’s not), it’ll be the most perfect testament of what made them unique and special that could ever exist. Thank you for this wonderful gem, Beni, Kotao and Mr. CHABE!
Quick disclaimer: This is not a solicited review of Avandoned’s new single, nor is there any affiliation here that would cause bias or conflict of interest. The author wrote this out of sheer, delightful, giddy fandom.