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Feel the Japanoise

By Josh Potter

The Boredoms

Super Roots 9 (Thrill Jockey)

It can be exciting to watch a pop ular band turn their collective back on the musical establishment to drift, risking disdain and obscurity, into the realm of abstract experimentalism. More interesting, though, is to see a band crawl from the primordial soup, swallow it down, and evolve into manic greatness. Birthed by a dada-slinging ’80s noise-scene in Osaka, Japan, and reared by American grunge-rock, the Boredoms are the kind of band who can get away with pretty much anything. However, having already traded no-wave nihilism for Kraut-rocking sun-worship, we might have seen this one coming. (The band did play a 7/7/2007 Brooklyn show with 77 drummers, after all.) On “LIVWE!!,” SR9’s sole 40-minute track, the trio’s three-set tribal drumming is wrapped in a 24-piece choir that swells and modulates over the meticulous score, inspired by minimalist composer Jon Gibson. Augmented by swirling turntables and a reaching sense of climax, this stuff probably is best left untitled, but it sure sounds the way cellular division must first have felt.

Hadouken!

Music for an Accelerated Culture (Atlantic)

Meaning “surge fist” in Japanese, and a reference to a special fireball move in the Street Fighter 2 arcade game, Hadouken! also is the moniker of a group of rowdy young grimey dance-punks from Leeds, England. There is really only one thing you need to know about Hadouken!: They like to party. Their style—highly influenced by grime, a style of two-step breakbeat techno that runs at more than 135 beats per minute and uses video-game-style keyboard sounds—is punctuated by their snarling, half-Johnny Rotten, half-soccer-hooligan-on-ecstasy vocals. This is Atari Teenage Riot for kids who are less interested in nihilism and revolution and more interested in, well, banging, drinking and doing drugs—or as they put it so eloquently in their song “Liquid Lives,” “I wanna drink drink drink smoke fuck fight/I wanna shout, drink, scream, I wanna die!/I wanna be arrested/I wanna be molested/and my head’s in pain, next weekend let’s do it again!” Hadouken! aren’t against destroying 2000 years of human culture; they just want to make sure they have a good time doing it.

NME described the band’s first single “That Boy, That Girl” as “a savage, snarling work of genius,” and although the boys in the band don’t ever really let on their smarts, it had to take someone with brains to dare to be as big and dumb as Hadouken! allow their smash-mouth techno to be. Sometimes they get sensitive and Justin Timberlake it; other times they get thoughtful and talk about the man holding them down with their high-interest credit cards. The best moments come on songs like “Get Smashed Gate Crash” where the band are thinking and singing about nothing: “Let’s get this party started/And rip the place apart/Cut the brakes, text your mates/Let’s tear this house apart!” Sounding something like a roid-rage Happy Mondays, Hadouken! have likely made Tony Wilson smile in his grave.

—David King

Nisennenmondai

Neji/Tori (Smalltown Supersound)

Noise, like jazz, is a self-renewing genre. Not only is the idiom’s vocabulary virtually infinite, but it also tends to be an equal-opportunity employer. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, after listening to the band’s dual EPs (compiled here on one disc), that Nisennenmondai—named after the Japanese term for the Y2K bug—consist of three slight women. There’s nothing cute about the fuzzy, postpunk, garage vamps the band dispense. They’ve already won the admiration of Lightning Bolt, Hella, and Battles with nary a Hello Kitty. Simple, metallic guitar motifs circle, like a child repeating a new word, until they shed all representational meaning for a swelling sense of sound. Far from a swarming or droning regard for noise, everything about Neji/Tori is cyclical and deliberate. If visceral music can also be subliminal, then here it is. It will seep through your ears and scour the auditory cortex directly.

—Josh Potter

Icy Demons

Miami Ice (Ice Cream Demons)

There’s nothing noisy or remotely Japanese about Icy Demons, but six degrees of separation in the international DIY music world is enough to link the Chicago/Philadelphia band to Japanese brethren by way of Prefuse 73. (Bassist Josh Abrams guests here on a number of tracks.) Drawing on the better part of Man Man, “Miami Ice” is a neon, macramé vacation of Midwest whimsy to warmer climates. With vintage keyboards, delicate percussion, and Tortoise’s Jeff Parker on guitar, the band sound at turns like Talking Heads, Chromeo, and a more soulful Devo. Panning synthesizers splash plastic gemstones across 8-bit live-tronic beats so tight you’d swear this was the work of one producer, not some post-rock, tropicali band. There’s a shirtless dance-party in there; it just happens to be in celebration of the Wild West, time travel, and alien paranoia.

—Josh Potter


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