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.
— 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”…
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…
About the “CINEMA AND BOY CQ” …we are idol unit of man and girl duo who sing fictional movie soundtracks mainly active around Tokyo. The members are Ruan and Yukkyun. We will take you to a journey into another different temporal dimension travel.https://t.co/R7ux9ty5ox
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 →
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!
I could not have been more explicit when I said that Amuse doesn’t care about you other than your ability to have a transactional relationship with Babymetal, but no, I was the bad guy. Or very likely the person that you agreed with, judging by the comments! I just felt like a little rueful back-patting upon finding out that MY LITERAL BABYMETAL SUB-OSHI YUIMETAL, Patron Saint of Try-hards Everywhere, did not appear at the Kansas City show last night. Let’s have a taste!
Let’s tell a story, one that involves yet another attempt at forming a heavy idol group and failing and coming back stronger.
I’m actually not talking about Parallel Japan, but their predecessor, Parallel 5.
Notice anything, or anyone, familiar? Like maybe a certain center for a certain idolcore phenomenon? She’s obviously doing other things now. And that’s literally the story of Parallel 5 — they formed as something of a dance unit with their own vocals, all self-produced, and then lost one of the best singers in the game probably right about the time when they were starting to feel like they were getting somewhere. “Look at Me,” after all, is a pretty okay song.
This is usually the part of the story when the rest of the group breaks up, gets repackaged, etc. But rarely are such things the choice of the members so much as it is the prerogatives of management, and Parallel 5 were running that show themselves.
So despite losses in March 2015, the remaining members — Sari, Asumi and Tibiyui — basically said, “Okay, nbd, let’s reboot.” And that’s what they did. They kept working. According to reader Caleb, they were promised debuts that never materialized. Somebody disappeared with their money; yes, Parallel Japan could very easily have a sad trombone accompaniment.
Definitely feel free to correct this, but most indications are that their first significant appearance on stage following the regroup was actually at the 2015 Tokyo Idol Festival backing up none other than Pour Lui:
They also, without a single official release, spent the autumn of that year rolling out a series of videos that really highlight what Parallel Japan is all about:
The first thing that springs to mind for me when I think about Parallel is a news segment that MTV News did following Kurt Cobain’s death. It involved interviews with mourners, one of whom remarked that he didn’t even know what to do with himself anymore, given that Nirvana was about all he listened to. “Well, them, and Mudhoney.” I’m not saying that Parallel is the Mudhoney of idolcore (not like the way that I look at Himekyun Fruit Can as the Van Halen of rock idols), but that for every ascendant master of a particular scene or sound, there are always keeping-it-real, beloved-by-fans acts at the margins, fiercely independent and just embodying grit and earned emotional expression.
That is Parallel. You can see it in their dance — crisp and professional, a cut above just about everybody else not named Q’ulle, but so expressly violent — and hear it in their songs — raw, largely unfiltered, intense and purposeful. This isn’t yami-kawaii; this spits in kawaii’s face.
But unlike with Mudhoney, I get the feeling that Parallel’s story has a happier ending, or at least a more successful one. You may have noticed that they’re suddenly all over the place, sharing stages with everybody from BiSH to Screaming Sixties to NEXT Shoujo Jiken; their anniversary show was loaded with groups featured on this site, and idol Twitter buzzed about it for days. And for what it’s worth, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group more well-respected by their peers: Maybe because they’re independent, or maybe because they’re just plain loved, but everybody takes photos after and genuinely shows a lot of affection.
Of course, such a sudden burst of attention is bound to mean something, right? As of this writing, the scuttlebutt suggests an album, which would be very cool. If anybody out there would get a huge bump out of working with pro producer to refine their sound, it’s Parallel, and the same goes for their presentation if they can get with solid management, especially if that management doesn’t make them lose their indie edge. Like, for example, these guys. The sudden appearance of this track on Soundcloud, and the accompanying art, suggests the possibility.
So keep an eye out for Parallel. They seemed to be poised to do some serious damage.
What they sound like
A gritty combination of hard rock and idolcore. Their performing style is so well-conceived and well-executed that you can almost tell the sound of their songs just from watching them dance. Which is violent. They are violent even when nobody actually gets hurt. Violence.
You’ll like them if
This is a tough one, and I hate to bring back Seattle scene comparisons, but I actually think that you’ll be able to get into Parallel Japan best if you’re a fan of those 90s-era bands that were distorting blues rock and adding punk and metal elements. Of course, Parallel involves plenty of synths, too, in which case the PassCodes of the world can give you a good place to start.
Do you like idols? And do you like things that are fun? And do you like rock ‘n’ roll music played at a fast tempo? Well, then you’ll like The Spunky. Get over yourself.
I can say with total honesty that I (even I!) hadn’t yet connected with THE SPUNKY when preparations for this site began, but I was cruising other websites and communities on the regular to make sure that I would be exposed to enough artists to warrant actually having a site that wouldn’t be just another Babymetal tribute.
“You failed at that one, Maniac!” Oh, you.
At any rate, I actually had a few light touches with THE SPUNKY along the way … unfortunately at the same time that I was getting a little idol fatigue. It’s not the idols’ fault that “Thunderbolt” was first played by me in the context of Little Brother asking out loud if every girl in Japan was in some kind of idol group.
But the name registered, and I recalled that there was an album coming out, and I even managed to follow up on that. And when I got to play the teaser, I got a little excited.
What are the things that stand out here, and just in general across their work? One, it’s all really well-written and well-produced, part of which you can tell because 2) the members are stupid talented, and their voices are put right out in front.
Also, their music is fun. This site owes its life as much to BiS and their legacy as anything, and there’s usually a certain merriment in the culture-shocking madness to those groups, but it’s all so deliberate that, if you take a step back, you wonder why they even bothered if it was all so joyless. Not the case for THE SPUNKY, who I’m not sure can even define “irony,” let alone apply it to their work.
And dammit, that easy-breezy attitude is very, very welcome sometimes.
These bouncy bolts of lightning are currently beginning what could be looked at as their big move, having recently relocated their performance schedule to Tokyo after getting their start in Nagoya. They’re also close to a ton of talent on the production side, with musical contributions from members of Kishidan (the band that inspired C-Style) and Mad Capsule Markets.
And, relevant to the point of this whole site, they have their eye on international markets.
I have to think that they have a chance. As mentioned, the music is on point, but the members really do make it happen. Rira is quite good on her own, but the real talent shines when she and Yuhi are working together. And I hate to celebrate one member over others in a group so small, but it’s worth pointing out that Yuhi (at 15!), given a chance to really show her chops with a power ballad …
If you’re having a hard time picking her out, you are crazy, because this is a solo song.
… she gets up there with the Nakamotos and Azumas and … the Ends (?) of the world.
At this point, having pumped out three quality singles and a full album in a little over two years together, and having relocated operations to the center of the idolverse in Tokyo, and being loaded with talent, the future for THE SPUNKY is a bright one.
What they sound like
Their base sound is a rough amalgam of Bay-area punk, with the brightness of the Bouncing Souls tempered with just a bit of an edge, but they’re legitimately “rock ‘n’ roll idols” with some true rockers in their repertoire. They may be idols, but the rock is real. And also the idol. They do that, too.
You’ll like them if
You’ve always wanted Hot Topic to come to life, or you still go to the Warped Tour every year even though it’s a caricature of itself and you know enough idol to think, “You know what this second stage needs right now? Idols doing punk that’s roughly 80 percent better than that terrible band that acted like a Jane’s Addiction cover band but sounded more like the sound that Dave Navarro’s liver makes in the morning.”
THE SPUNKY, make more YouTube-able videos of your best stuff. I can’t make things happen with Soundcloud! Nonetheless, “Rock ‘n’ Roll and Idol and I” and “Thunderbolt” are both there. “Kanjo VOLTAGE” would be if you had a non-live video for it; nonetheless, enjoy the crap out of this very good song.
I’m actually at a loss for why Lyric Holic isn’t a bigger deal. As the kids say, this is straight fire:
I went with the live video for this because it includes wota how-tos, and that’s amazing. Also, appreciate just how little effort Tama puts into dancing.
I can’t even get a read for when they debuted. Their earliest YouTube contribution is from late in 2014, and everything about it looks like a meaningful first effort, so maybe we can take that on faith. But then they already had their third single out in summer 2015, and a DVD early in 2016? It takes some idol groups years to get that far.
So lack of idea of how to figure out Lyric Holic’s ascent and current status aside, I find them more and more inexplicable the more that I learn about them. Is their music good? Most of it! Dramatic, operatic and violent, with the occasional dive into a Willy Wonka fever dream:
To whit: Their first video.
Which, okay, so a little S&M gothlita never hurt anybody, but this is some Anne Rice stuff, all erotic and necrophagic and like something you might see Jerry Only credited as the director for, and all wrapped up in that Bram Stoker look that’s sort of their signature.
So who are Lyric Holic? There’s that inexplicable that I mentioned. I remember at first thinking it was kind of a weird name, whatever, but the backdrop in the “Alice” video and things that I’ve seen on Tama’s Twitter have me wondering if it is not, in fact, Tama that’s the lyric holic, and this is really the lyric holic’s band, or something.
Does it matter? No. There are three members. They have interesting Euro-style stage names and dress like they still need to finish getting ready for a masquerade at a wonderful Victorian country estate. They sort of live in this astonishingly dramatic world, titling their performances things like “Labyrinth of the Flower” and “Debut da la Fin.” I’m not entirely certain that they aren’t vampires.
In other words, Lyric Holic is confounding. Their music is good, the members are interesting, their look is unique … and I still don’t understand.
What they sound like
When they’re metal, they get metal, with melody and brutality blended together, led by Tama’s very versatile voice and with sweetly idol contributions from Lu Lu and Lynne. Like, they sound like symphonic metal sung by idols. It is that simple sometimes.
You’ll like them if
I’ve found that Lyric Holic, along with Fruitpochette, is one of the metal idol groups that has more appeal to metalheads, particularly fans of the melodic and symphonic European looks.
“Don’t you usually put in some random cross-genre comparison here, or add something kind of forehandedly insulting?”
I do! Is this better? “Or are you about 15, angsty, at Hot Topic with a parent’s credit card and looking for something more elegant than whatever Warped Tour band of the month has all your friends’ attention?”
Like, Lyric Holic’s cool, but I know a disaffected teenager’s favorite band when I see it. It’s not their fault.
This is genuinely hard because they have a lot of video up, but most of it is repeats or low-quality live footage, and they do that thing where snips of several songs are all on the same video file. However, gimme “Alice” up there, plus “STARGAZER” and “SISTER,” which are basically symphonic thrash and could stand up as closing theme music for a weird Castlevania sequel.
Back when I was but a new, budding Maniac, I’d let YouTube take me on these incredible journeys. It had made me a BiS list, for instance, and I’d let that sucker run for hours at a time at work. I can’t even begin to try to number how many groups I found that way; it’s a lot. And some of them wound up being just kind of there in the end, while others were awesome enough that I wanted to learn more about them and eventually start a music website with them as a focus … and then there was Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da.
One thing that happens to just about everybody while they’re discovering the hard side of idol is that moment, or maybe it’s many moments, when you just sit there and watch a video play through like five times, trying to figure out just what the hell you’re watching and listening to these incredibly dense, rich, violent songs and make sense of them.
Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da (“It’s All Your Fault”) came along at a very ripe moment. Babymetal was conquering the world, BiSH was stepping into BiS’s shadow, groups like PassCode and Party Rockets were showing that idols could do music both hard and accessible … in other words, somebody who was willing to put all of that up there together was going to get attention in a good way.
A couple of digital singles and an album later, Kiminosei have become regulars on the rock+idol scene, and they’re at the forefront of the yami-kawaii … movement? scene? something. Regardless, it’s a fantastic way to approach performance, all twisted emotions and sickly appearance and bent expectations. You’d see them and be like “Oh how cool, they look like an A-pop grou–” and then get stabbed in the face. Like, remember GoGo Yubari from the Kill Bill movies? She’d probably be all about this (when she wasn’t working as a creative director for Deep Girl).
What they sound like
Mix one part J-pop and one part hardcore, place in blender, drizzle in denpa. Between them and sister group Yukueshirezutsurezure, they’re charting this beautifully tortured space that I hope goes really far.
You’ll like them if
I don’t have a good comparison for this one. Maybe if you like Converge and Dempagumi.inc all in the same day, or you remember that little window of time when Hole was just a tiny bit poppy and you approved. They have moments that actually aren’t that far from Bad Religion.
If you’re at all familiar with Babymetal, you know Nakamoto Suzuka, Su-metal, the Queen, the Goddess. One of the first coherent thoughts that people have after discovering the group (you know, after the shock of metal-meets-dance-meets-teens) is “Holy shit, that girl can motherhubbard sing.”
Q’ulle doesn’t get as much attention from other people who follow the indies, and I get it; this is a slick, pro group. But that doesn’t meant that they don’t rock.
Q’ulle actually began when a dance group called, appropriately, Danceroid, broke up by one means or another in June 2014; five members decided that it was time to sing, too.
Within a few months, they had an intro single and were signed by a major label, and it’s pretty much been off to the races ever since — three more singles and a full album, with another single pending. They’re having an Asia tour for early 2016. Get hype!
So another rock idol group, Maniac? Yes. Because while many idol groups will do rock songs here and there, and some groups use “rock music” writ large as kind of a base, they don’t really embrace it. Q’ulle does. And no, they aren’t as hard as, say, Himekyun Fruit Can, and I doubt that they’ll ever try to break themselves out of the idol mold, but their music holds up, is good, and they deserve to be here.
Also (and this is purely personal), their no-doubt embrace of fashion instead of typical idol outfits is great. Dress for the job you want, kids, not the job you have; Q’ulle dresses like they want to be on worldwide TV.
What they sound like
Like J-rock done by idols, except that the band desperately wants to drop their tuning a step and maybe shred a little. It yields an uncertain admixture of pop, pop rock and popcore, a pop group that rocks. They actually aren’t that far off from a Europop sound a lot of the time, honestly, but the J is absolutely evident.
You’ll like them if
Do you like Perfume and wish they’d try to get a little harder sometimes? Do you like PassCode and wish they’d tone it down a little? Hell, did you like Bon Jovi around the time of Slippery When Wet? Or maybe you just like good songs with a lot of melody and some guitar riffs. You’ll like Q’ulle.