One of my favorite moments in The Flowers of Passion documentary series comes at the beginning of each episode where CHiHiRO of MERRY BAD END sings a subdued, acapella version of their song, “Restart”, while the opening credits roll. It is a mesmerizing yet imperfect performance and the delicate smile she gives the camera at its conclusion epitomizes, in miniature, the portrait the series attempts to portray: that while underground idol lacks perfection, it comes from an earnest and genuine place.
CHiHiRO, for her part, is kind of the break-out star of the series. Aside from providing the series’ opening theme song, she is featured in most of the episodes providing valuable access and articulate insight into the backstage workings of the idol unit she created and leads. Episode four, entitled, “Idol Grind”, focuses on the daily scramble of idol life and the long hours required to put those acts on stage while taking care of the other responsibilities and priorities in their lives. Continue reading
It’s not every day that we get new long form content from the underground idol scene, especially now that we are in this whole sanitary disaster. So it was with great curiosity that I rented Derek Vasconi’s first episode of his documentary series Flowers of Passion.
Derek Vasconi has made his mark in the idol scene through several ventures: he organized the East Meets West Music Festival, and went on to create the idol merch website Idol Underworld, which aims to make idol merch more accessible for overseas fans, as well as producing original merch, like the many idol exclusive photobooks. Idol Underworld also has a sister site called Cheki World, a second-hand market to allow oversea fans to sell and trade their covetable idol polaroids. Flowers of Passion is his first foray into film and his first documentary.
The hour long episode, first of a series of five, seems centered on the production and self-production aspect, as well as the historic roots of idols. It revolves mostly around Asakura Mizuho via Bellring Girl’s Heart & Saka-Sama, NaNoMoRaL, Usakura Beni from avandoned, and finally, Merry Bad End.
CHILDISH TONES, the toy-instrument garage-rock band led by Naoki Nemoto seem to have really struck gold ever since they started recording songs with Beni Usakura. They’ve released four highly-prized singles so far, all of which sold-out of their initial vinyl pressings almost immediately upon release, and it seems only natural that it’s time for them to level-up to the long-play format.
So with that, their newest release is a package of twelve twee-pop nuggets, including both the previous singles and and some new stuff as well! “God Bless The Girls” is the title of this collection, and it just dropped last week!
Here’s a short trailer with a handful of song snippets from the previous singles to check out…
While the big streaming services are certainly conveinent and useful, (And surprisingly packed with idol music.) they are, at their core, in league with Satan. And not Satan in a cool metal kind of way, but Satan as in soulless and greedy corporate ogres. You know who’s not in league with Satan though? Bandcamp!
I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but I believe Bandcamp is the very best thing that’s happened to music distribution in the 21st century. I love it and surf it addictively, searching for neat stuff and often striking gold. And the other reason I love is because it’s a terrific company with ethical practices and noble motives. As you may know by now, in light of Covid’s destructive impact on the ability of musicians and music providers to earn a living, the website began “Bandcamp Fridays”, where on the first Friday of every month, the revenue earned on that day goes entirely to the artist. I’ve been trying to keep this when in mind when purchasing from the website, and since today is the first Friday of October, here’s a few idol and idol-adjacent offerings I felt compelled to share with you…
Okinawa Electric Girl Saya has been uploading the majority of her prolific catalog of experimental releases onto Bandcamp, and there’s a couple that especially stand out for me: Continue reading
avandoned may be approaching an end to it’s illustrious career run, but by no means does this mean that Beni Usakura will be ceasing to work on terrific musical projects that are both sublime and meaningful. Once again the multi-media chanteuse has teamed-up with the amazing toy instrument garage band CHILDISH TONES to offer another great take on a classic pop tune!
This time the delightfully quirky combo is treating us to a haunting cover of a song written by the LEGENDARY master of subversive pop, the great Serge Gainsbourg himself, which was recorded by his long-running romantic and artistic muse, the fabulous and stunning Jane Birkin…
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…
Hey, I know we’re dealing with the impending graduation of Kotao from Avandoned and of course, it’s a monumental upheaval for a very special group, but if there’s one thing I know, Beni is never ever going to slow down for a single minute. She’s gotta be hands-down one of the hardest working people on the scene, and her latest endeavor is one to really be excited over, a 45″ single collaboration with her friends and frequent stage partners, The Childish Tones!
I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced, but waited to see if maybe we’d get an MV or something to go along with the details, and now here we are! The record consists of Usabeni and The Childish Tones on two tracks, one being a cover of the classic Nick Lowe power-pop number “Cruel to be Kind”, accompanied with a cover of The La’s “There She Goes” for the b-side!
Yesterday an MV was shared for the La’s cover, and it’s a delightful trip to twee-town once again with Beni: Continue reading
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…