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
avandoned‘s leader-self-producer-and all-around mastermind Beni Usakura enjoyed a surprise hit earlier this year when she collaborated with the toy-instrument garage-punk band CHILDISH TONES! Aside from an acclaimed single, the 45 record sold-out it’s pre-sales, then sold out it’s extended press-run, and eventually got a second pressing to meet it’s demand! Of course it makes sense that the hippest idol in the biz would once again team up with rockin’ist toy band on the planet, and here’s their latest delicious pop nugget for our listening satisfaction!
The A-side is called “Make Her Mine”, and there’s an appropriately lo-fi homemade MV to go along with it…
Time goes by quick! It was at the very end of August when we hosted a Friday Fun dedicated to the joys of fan art, and it came together quite nicely, and YOU deserve all the credit for that! Literally every single post with the #idoldoodles tag was wonderful, I mean that! That kind of positive, creative energy really makes my day, and is truly one of my very favorite things about being a part of this fandom.
One thing you may recall is that we’re intending to maintain a regular feature here on the blog where we share a few of our favorite pieces with the masses. We’ll be revisiting the aforementioned hashtag, but also keeping our eyes peeled for any other terrific idol-themed artwork we happen upon. I’m not sure how often we’ll do a round-up yet: semi-weekly, monthly, probably most likely when we feel like it, but I really want everybody who cares about the wonderful artwork in this community to participate in any way they want. If you make art, (any kind of art) let us know! If you see some else’s art you especially like, also let us know!
We’ll link the twitter or Instagram posts here, and if you see something you appreciate, by all means, please visit their account and let them know you like it! You’ll be surprised how much a simple click of the heart, or a nice comment, or a retweet can mean to a person brave enough to put their work out there. If you do that, they’ll feel compelled to make more art, maybe even score a commission, or just plain feel more confident in what they do. Everybody wins!
With that said, here’s some stuff from the last month that we really liked…
Wow! Okinawa Electric Saya is so full-steam-ahead at this point that I really can’t keep up with her, but I’m trying my best! I joked before that I suspect that she doesn’t actually sleep, and that theory seems to only continue to hold up to the evidence at hand…
— 沖縄電子少女彩 Okinawa Electric Girl Saya 9/6〜11/22全国ツアー (@Tincy_saya) September 10, 2019
So our favorite black-clad-experimental-neo-art-idol from Okinawa dropped another MV today, her third video set piece promoting her recent album “Black Angel”. As per usual, it’s worth checking out and delving into a world significantly different than what anybody else in the game is exploring…
Now this is the kind of stuff I really dig from her! Continue reading
Okinawa Electric Girl Saya’s new album “Black Angel” is finally out, and she’s been working overtime doing shows and publicity to promote it! Not only is she consistently interesting and daring with her musical choices, but with a non-stop succession of live performances and a highly active social media presence, Saya has also emerged to be easily one of the most tirelessly committed artists on the scene right now. I’m really not sure if she actually sleeps or has a battery pack hidden under her black clothing.
Okinawa Electronic Girl Saya, 8/7 release second album 'Black Angel' preview movie completed!
— 沖縄電子少女彩 Okinawa Electric Girl Saya 8/21代々木23小岩 (@Tincy_saya) July 21, 2019
The avant-garde idol from Okinawa is also quite prolific, releasing a steady stream of experimental CDRs nearly monthly along with her regular output. A few of those works are even on Bandcamp, which we covered here a months ago. Her new album is a crowd-funded effort, featuring quite a number of collaborative guests helping this unique vision come out in what’s certainly her biggest push on the edge of the envelope yet. Saya already released one MV last week, and now a second one has already arrived! Here’s the most recent, a video for “Black Flower”…
Okay, so I started to ask the proprietor of this website “Hey Maniac, you think just this once, based on their recent activity, you could humor me into declaring Boris the ultimate endgame in this experimental synthesis of idols with rock music that’s been happening over the last few years and post this new MV on the blog even though it’s a complete stretch of our already shifting mission statement?”
And he’d either say “Hey, why the heck not?” or “C’mon man, don’t mess up my life’s work. You post that Boris MV and you’re fired.”
But anyway, he’s been away on business, so I didn’t ask him and posted this recklessly, so if my bags are packed in the next day or so, you know why!
Mother-F’n Boris man. Even your non-weeb friends love them. They’re absolute freakin’ titans of drone-noise-experimental-soundscapes who’ve recorded a massive discography on a dozen different labels. So when TRASH-UP!! Records, a label that I first came to love through their magazine, low-budget films, and releases by the quirkiest of the quirky world of chika idols announced that they were celebrating their 10th (!) anniversary with an EP by the band, I was pretty excited. Giddy might even be the better word! I even joked that I couldn’t wait for the eventual collaboration between the power-trio of sludge and the label’s flagship unit SAKA-SAMA.
Well, that collaboration hasn’t happened yet, but they did play a gig with the TRASH-UP!! groups along with the wonderful Aqbi roster of artists for the label’s big anniversary showcase, and it was worth noting that the band, especially Wata, seemed quite comfortable and welcoming of their surroundings. All my kidding aside, it really does open up thoughts of potential possibilities and reminds us of an important thing, the walls dividing genres have been knocked down and utterly destroyed as they always were meant to be for the good of music enjoyed by the truly open-minded masses. I think this is our new future, and it pleases me highly.
Idol supergroup APOKALIPPPS have been active for a while now, but unfortunately a bit out of reach for us Western fans. The group is still very much an indie thing and their previous singles haven’t been terribly assessable due to their limited distribution, so supporting the group has mostly consisted of cheering the group on from afar…
Well, cheer up peeps, because the APOKALIPPPS is finally reaching worldwide!
— APOKALIPPPS official (@APOKALIPPPS_NOW) August 10, 2019
The wonder group has self-released an EP, “APOKALIPPPS ONGEN”, and it’s also seeing a digital release via the major streaming networks, so you have no excuse to sleep on it! I eagerly decided to give a listen…
The producer/singer duo of Amamiya Miku and Paseli-chan are one of the most active groups on the scene, playing tons of live shows and finding time for the occasional CD-R release to keep their flow of creative output fresh-faced and continuously evolving. Their group, NaNoMoRaL still remain one of the great stand-outs of a saturated scene, because they pursue their own vision and eskew the easier paths to more conventional success as an idol unit. This gamble pays off for them, at least on an artistic level, as they consistently make excellent, powerful music with lots of heart and courage!
「 唖然呆然 」
— NaNoMoRaL -ナノモラル- 11/11(月)渋谷WWWワンマン (@NaNoMoRaL_info) August 11, 2019
The CD-R is a single song “Donen Shizuru” (I hope I got that right.) and it’s very much a continuation of one of the more unique and distinctive sounds to be found in idol circles. And as an extra treat, Amamiya stars in a low-key DIY MV to share the song with the world at large…