SAKA-SAMA summed up the state of idol for 2019 in a nutshell: They kicked off in January as a six-member unit, then experienced a major overall, leaving them as Kokone’s solo act for a bit, and is now ending the year with multiple-group veteran Mizuho stepping up as a support recruit, rebranding SAKA-SAMA as a duo. (I think they’ve been a duo at least once before… it’s hard to remember every incarnation!) How long will this arrangement last? It’s a SAKA-SAMA world, so we’ll just have to simply wait and see! But this moment in the group’s evolving history will be documented in the form of a recorded single that’s title translates to “Goodnight Judy”. So with this new single, how does the dynamic change? Here’s an MV to give us the insight…
It was just mere days ago we were talking about that wonderful footage of RAY performing live in Taiwan, and we took a moment to also mention that the group will also be releasing their first single/EP, entitled “Blue”. The release has lovely cover art and an extremely impressive roster of collaborators. Now we’ve been blessed with another highly anticipated track on the disk, “Meteor”, featuring an instrumental arrangement by Elliot Frazier of the highly regarded Austin band Ringo Deathstarr!
This is one of those times and RAY is one of those groups where I try to remain self-aware of my effusive praise and realize that if I get too over-the-top raving about how much I love this, I run the risk making some of you question if my judgment is clouded by my gushing enthusiasm. Yeah well, I’m raving cause Holy Moses I love this song to the moon and back.
Even if this wasn’t one of my favorite groups currently on the scene, I’d be still incredibly excited and wanting more. The wash of the guitars, the reverb, bubbling bass and the drums are just perfect examples of the musical influences of this group. And the lush, almost buried (Sung in English, no less.) vocals are beautiful indeed! There’s a bit of a half-joking argument in shoegaze circles that in this genre, the vocals need to be barely heard and nearly indecipherable to be truly gazing at shoes, and this certainly does that, adding a delicious air of mystery to the song. (The actual lyrics are in the YouTube description, by the way.)
As for the MV, it’s just gorgeous, brimming with sensory overload and yet an underlying feeling of melancholia. It intimately captures how a megacity like Tokyo can be at equal turns exciting and bursting with bustling activity, but yet at the same time be the most oppressively lonely place on Earth. Notice how the MV begins with high-tech consumer-driven dazzle, but by the end, mundane images of street cleaning and trash collection work their way in, as the superficial wonder of the city gives way to garbage bags and emotionally exhausted people hanging their heads low on the late-night streets.
There’s so many amazing shots here, from the wide pans over the busy intersections to the close-ups of pay phones and long treks down vacancies corridors, that tell us a dozen stories at once. And binding everything together is RAY member Marino Kai wandering through it all, trying to simply get through this night and maybe hopefully finding something better tomorrow as she pauses to silently sip a beer.
RAY is delivering on it’s every promise here. A beautiful merging of music, art, and the concepts of idol in complex, fascinating ways, with collaborations by top talent. I hope this upcoming release really puts them on the map, and that people everywhere take notice. I would love to see this group visit Austin and perform at SXSW, showing the real potential of this genre beyond the old idol tropes and stereotypes. Here’s wishing them the best!
RAY, the next generation shoegaze idols who arose from the ashes of the legendary dot-chans, have been hard at work crossing genres, boundaries and now borders. The group visited Taiwan and performed a show in Taipei. Excitedly, I scanned Twitter and YouTube hoping to find some footage of the concert. Viz and Rain were also thankfully on the case, and proved to be ethusiatic as always to help out…
Witness one of the best idol groups from Japan. Their summer matsuri performance at Otsuka Hearts Next this past August is still so vivid in my memory. Visually & sonically amazing.
Meteor / RAY 2019.10.19 Total Feedback at THE WALL LIVE HOUSE TAIWANhttps://t.co/8vGwPEfPdv
— ヴィズ (@VizMajor) October 22, 2019
And Rain went and found an upload of the entire set! He certainly wanted to make sure we didn’t sleep on it… Continue reading
Friends, idol has been in tumult this year. Emotional graduations, gut-wrenching disbandments, the usual shenanigans turned up to 11 … it’s been a year of as many negatives as positives, I think, and that’s really hard to do in an industry built on the idea of making people happy. For a lot of us, one of the hardest-to-take moments of the year’s first half was the disbandment of our beloved Dots, who for two-plus years had been the real standard bearer for awesome shoegaze-derived alt-rock songs and enigmatic personalities. It was a blessing, frankly, to be able to host one of the good digs into the concept. Everybody on Team, I think, loved them.
And then they were gone, but it wasn’t long before the suspected successor came along — Ray came into theoretical existence not terribly long thereafter, and while things have been quiet for them in the first couple of months, of course it stood to reason that interesting and creative things were afoot. That’s where we land today, with their effective debut:
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…
— 音楽ナタリー (@natalie_mu) April 15, 2019
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 (@_RAY_world) April 15, 2019
— RAY (@_RAY_world) April 15, 2019
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!
In seems that even in a world where our dearly beloved shoegaze idols have been spirited off the mortal plane, we will (thankfully) never truly be left behind in a totally Dot-chan less world. Even now the ethereal beings slowly unravel little parting gifts that will allow us to continue reaping the rewards of their time on Earth.
The Dots dropped their final album “Points” last week, (along with a 7″ single!) gathering up their remaining unreleased tracks. There will be a review of that album here in the next day or so, so watch out for that a bit later! But let’s talk about this newest offering first…
While “PD” could certainly mean “Post Dots”, in this case, it stands for “Public Domain”, as in certain works in the Dot-chan universe have been placed into the care of all of us. Now before you start pressing your own Dots merch and bootlegs, keep in mind that there’s still ownership and restrictions that apply here!
Before dashing off this article too briskly, I took in the last evening to ponder yesterday’s announcement that the dot-chans have scheduled what will be their final live, do a little research to understand what I could, and also to reflect on where we go in a world without the beloved shoegaze idols we’ve come to know.
「Tokyo in Natural Machine」
前売/当日 3000/3500円 (＋1D)
Peatix 2/6 22時〜（手売りもあり、詳細以下)https://t.co/7jXAImYd8T
— ・・・・・・・・・ (@dotstokyo) February 4, 2019
I know that most all of you who follow the group are already aware of the impending closure, because I heard from a number of you about it, some in personal messages, and others from reading your reactions online. It speaks to the unique specialness of this group in the way many of you expressed your thoughts with a feeling of personal loss and perhaps a sense of disappointment. Oshi-loss, as Kerrie refers to it, is a very real emotional reaction when you’ve connected to an idol who’s graduating or a group that’s dissolving. And although these dot-chans have largely maintained a sort of aloof anonymity, they still touched a part of each of us fans. It’s also very notable to point out, as this article from Matt Bedford of Muso Japan demonstrates, that the group succeeded in gaining followers outside of idol circles.
— ・・・・・・・・・ (@dotstokyo) February 4, 2019
I did reach out to Japanese fans, and I also read the group’s blog entry containing the chan’s statements. I can tell you that amongst the fans, the announcement was a surprise, and there is no obvious tangible reason for the dissolution that’s been given. I can also tell you that the dot girls of Tokyo are going to remain just as mysterious as they’ve been right up to the end. Everyone is very much remaining in character, and I not only appreciate that, but I love that that’s how they’re going out. The more I think about it, I’m less interested in finding out the “why”, and more interested in celebrating what we knew. In their blog statements, the members of the group seem to be upbeat and positive to travel into their futures. I get no sense of sadness.
The group’s primary manager/producer/visionary also kept the mythology going, explaining that the ethereal manifestations that took the shape of girls will inhabit those forms for only a limited amount of remaining time, and then the end of that time on Earth is here. The dot-chans were always meant to be impermanent, and so they move on to new planes of existence.
— ・・・・・・・・・運営 (@tokyo_tsukurou) February 4, 2019
If you really want my non-mythology theory, I believe the dots are disbanding for the very best of reasons: Because they’ve largely achieved what they set out to do. Now they can go explore new things in their lives which may or may not include obsessive fans and metaphysical concepts. (There’s also the matter of this being a nearly no-profit industry, but I think that’s a given with most art-driven projects.) Some time ago, it was hinted that there was a new project underway that I thought was going to be a sister-group to the Dot-chans. That project is still happening. So far, almost nothing has been revealed about it except that it’s continuing the innovative high art concepts that Dots have broken ground with. I believe a torch is being passed, and it’ll be exciting to see what’s coming as this new project takes a tangible shape.
I want to tell you dear people reading this: Do not anticipate this event with despair, but rather look forward to the new things to come. Don’t miss the Dots with sadness, but remember them fondly with affection. This is the way of things, and like a passing satellite in the sky, it’s something you should cherish for simply having seen it.
The dot-chans will have their final live on March 24. They will also have additional activities building up to the last show. And since they still have unreleased recorded material and more songs, including another great tune written by Azusa Suga of For Tracy Hyde, (The video posted above!) I also suspect that they’ll have some more musical output to be consumed as well. I know the fans will support the group to the fullest and send them off in celebratory style, because they deserve it.
Now let’s thank Dots for what they gave us and wish them the very best.
SAKA-SAMA have been something of a favorite with Team Homicidols since they first formed in 2016, but at the same time, they’ve remained a perplexing enigma of an idol unit. Constantly shifting membership rosters are always part of this territory, but this group seems especially prone to changing it’s line-up with each passing season, with only Kokone and Dr. Mahiru providing consistency as it’s founding members. And the music of SAKA-SAMA, primarily billed as “Low-Fi Dream Pop”, is in truth equally unpredictable, with a wide variety of unique genres and styles that run the gamut of shoegazey indie-pop to oddball quirky country songs and spoken word pieces, making it a rather difficult task to describe what exactly the group does. Mind you, this isn’t a complaint by any means, I’m just trying to clarify why writing about TRASH-UP!!’s in-house idol group is well… quite a challenge.
So after a couple of years of compilation tracks, EPs, singles, and one live recording, SAKA-SAMA have finally released an actual, honest-to-goodness full length album, titled, appropriately enough, “It’s a SAKA-SAMA World’! I’ve been excitedly anticipating this release since the moment it was announced, and I eagerly snatched it from OTOTOY right away. I came to realize quickly that this is an album that, just like anything related to SAKA-SAMA, has certain unique traits that can’t be summed up after a breezy listening session. This is what we call a “grower”, or a “slow-burn”, wherein one must dig in deeply to truly reap the rewards of the listening experience, and develop an opinion based on multiple takes instead of relying on easy gratification.
DIY rock bands figured out a long time ago that the “split-single” is a great way for fledgling artists to achieve the milestone of getting a record out there. Two bands chip in their money, and each gets one side of a 45 rpm vinyl record, ready to share with the masses. And for music lovers, it’s a pretty nifty deal as well, cause for a low price point,
you could take a chance on hearing two new bands you might happen to dig. It’s a great punk-rock tradition that plenty of bands still carry on today.
And now here come two darlings on the indie-idol set, tipToe. (That’s how you stylize the type.) and ········· (You know, Dots.) with a split/collaboration single entitled “Tokyo Sentimental”. The two groups have been friendly buds for a while now since they shared a bill in which the tipToe. girls surprised the audience by coming out on stage wearing the Dots’ patented visors and vintage dresses and paying a little tribute to the ethereal idols. It was a fun little moment that brought tipToe. to my attention for the first time, and thanks very much for that!
So how’s the single? “Tokyo Sentimental” is only four songs and it’s quick listen, and the two groups make the most of the brevity. Continue reading
About the only predictable thing about Dots is that well, they’re not predictable. In the past few weeks, a furious flurry of activities has suddenly sprung from the enigmatic collective of non-corporeal idols, including the announcement that two of the chans are about to move to new planes of existence. Things are happening again in the Dots universe, and they’re happening rapidly.
Late last month, Maniac shared his thoughts on a new Dots song that was posted online. I also really love the song a lot, like a whole lot. It’s an absolutely wondrous burst of the kind of shoegaze purity that gives me life. That song belongs alongside Ride, Lush and of course MBV’s best songs, all archived within the Shoegaze Hall of Fame cause it’s just that good.
But hold on, now there’s a new Dots transmission that just dropped! This new song arrived quietly in the form of an “Image Video”. Fresh off the radiant energy of the previous preview tune, I was of course all aboard for another rush of swirly guitars and wispy vocals, but this is Dots, and you don’t get to make a call on what to expect so easily: Continue reading