Next Music from Tokyo Vol 13 – Elephant Gym

Elephant Gym is a bass-driven, math rock band from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The band formed in 2012 and is composed of Tif on bass, Tell on guitar, and Chia-Chin on drums. Elephant Gym delivers clear and memorable bass lines, emotional guitar riffs, and melodic drumming in their mostly instrumental song production. Since 2013, Elephant Gym has started to invite singers to compose with them.

Tell and Tif are siblings. In their childhood, their mother taught them classical music into their adolescence. Later, they developed an interest in rock music, especially post rock and math rock. Tell met Tu in a high school music club and formed Elephant Gym along with Tif after discovering they all shared the same taste in music.

Elephant Gym may seem an unusual name for a band but it describes their music perfectly.  Elephant is a metaphor for their low-end bass-centric sound while gym is short for the intricate musical gymnastics characteristic of math rock.

Fans of Japanese math rock bands such as toe and JYOCHO that excel at emotional music with clean instrumentation should fall in love with Elephant Gym in a heartbeat.

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 13 – Paranoid Void

paranoid void is an all-female 3-pc math rock band from Osaka.  They started off playing hard-driving, emotive post-punk similar to MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS.  In fact, guitarist Meguri was temporarily the support guitarist for MOTFD after Chiemi left.  Although paranoid void has always been a technical band, in 2015, they started dabbling in math rock and odd time signatures most likely influenced by fellow Kansai band tricot.

Most recently with the release of their latest album ‘Literary Math’ paranoid void have delved further into math rock territory and moved away from a tricot/MOTFD hybrid and developed a style of their own.

paranoid void are an awesome combination of technical chops and raw power­—beauty and the nerd and the beast, all in one.

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 13 – Mass of the Fermenting Dregs

MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS (MOTFD) will become the first band to make a third appearance on the NMFT tour.  Formed in 2002 by three girls from Kobe, MOTFD perform a blend of post-punk combining beautifully melancholic vocals with ferociously powerful instrumentation. The anomaly of such a huge, powerful sound coming from an all-female band drew them a large underground following and became an important inspiration for bands such as tricot and paranoid void.

Unfortunately, after MOTFD signed with major label EMI and leaned gradually toward a more radio-friendly sound, the original drummer would quit in 2007 (replaced by Isao Yoshino) and subsequently the guitarist in 2010(replaced by Naoya Ogura of Qomolangma Tomato). MOTFD ceased all activity shortly after in 2012.

In 2015, to the delight of a legion of fans bassist and leader Natsuko Miyamoto brought life back to MOTFD and they started performing and writing new songs with Isao and Naoya returning on drums and guitar, respectively.  The hiatus did not soften MOTFD at all as they came back heavier and more badass than ever.

MOTFD returned to Canada in 2016 as part of NMFT vol 8.  They slayed audiences in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and developed a true fondness for the country and their Canadian fans.  In October, MOTFD return for the third time with their first new album in eight years.  They are dying to play their new songs for Canada and show everyone how great they sound live in beast-mode.

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 13 – UlulU

UlulU is an all-female 3-pc band with a retro or garage-rock revival sound akin to The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys.  They’re a fun band who keep the music simple but with enough jazz in the drum fills and blues in the guitars to keep things interesting.  The highlight of UlulU’s music is definitely guitarist Kayo’s beautiful, soulful and charismatic vocals.

UlulU will charm the audience with their timeless melodies, unpretentious style and occasional bursts of rock’n’roll power.

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 12 – Koutei Camera Girl Drei

In 2014, Tapestok Records created a female idol rap group consisting of five members named 校庭カメラガール [Koutei Camera Girl (KCG)].  The music was produced by an eight member collective known as ALYT involving six beat-makers, one designer and lyricist–vivid jas.  Although the girls rapped, Tapestok made the distinction clear that KCG is not a hip hop group.  The girls did not write their own rhymes and the group did not even pretend to follow the tenets/elements of hip hop culture.  In fact none of the girls had any previous experience rapping nor any interest in hip hop music. Tapestok wanted to create their own style of music involving rap but otherwise something completely different from hip hop.

The name Koutei Camera Girl derives from the production team’s admiration and respect for British experimental electronic duo Autechre. (Abridged form of Koutei Camera Girl is コウテカ (Kouteka) which purposely rhymes with ‘Autechre’).  KCG’s music is rooted in electronic/house/techno but having six different track makers allows for an extensive variety in tone and style especially when they’re not afraid to incorporate other genres such as post-rock, funk and jazz.  The quality of the music is what sets KCG apart from almost all other idol groups as the attention to detail and soulfulness is akin to the production of greats such as Nujabes and Evisbeats combined with the creativity/experimentation of Flying Lotus and Autechre.  (note: don’t go by the videos on Youtube which show a completely skewed version of the more idol-esque side of KCG)

KCG has actually undergone a number of changes to the line-up.  After releasing two albums and expanding to six members, Tapestok removed the two newest members and had them form a separate, more hip-hop oriented duo known as Koutei Camera Gal.  The resulting four member line-up also changed their name to Koutei Camera Girl Zwei aka Kouteka2. (Zwei being German for the number two). In January 2017, KCG Zwei was disbanded for members’ personal reasons and to allow original member molm’o’mol to pursue a solo career unrelated to idol music as あめとかんむり (ame to kanmuri).

After Kouteka2 disbanded, Tapestok began auditioning completely new members for the third phase of KCG–Koutei Camera Girl Drei aka Kouteka3. (Yes, ‘drei’ is German for the number three).  The auditioning finished in August and KCG Drei will perform their very first shows in Canada as part of NMFT11 before their first show in Japan on Oct 28.

The members of KCG 1&2 had vivacious but very distinct personalities and singing/rapping styles that complemented each other extremely well.  Fans, especially those who don’t actually live in Japan, were quite upset when Tapestok dissolved KCG in favor of an entirely new line-up. (note: two of the members didn’t want to continue so blaming Tapestok is ridiculous).  However, given Tapestok’s amazing track record in recruiting new members (e.g. warwar2me) and forming new groups (Koutei Camera Gal and Koutei Camera Actress) it is almost guaranteed that the members of Kouteka3 will be talented, soulful and charming enough to have fans of Kouteka2 saying KoutekaWho? and jumping on the KCG3 bandwagon.

 

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 12 – Koutei Camera Gal

Koutei Camera Girl is an all-female idol rap unit produced by Tapestok Records (all lyrics by jas; instrumentals by beatsmith collective ALYT). After a couple of line-up changes KCG is currently in their third incarnation consisting of three members and going by the name Koutei Camera Girl Drei (Drei = three in German). Their sound involves rapped lyrics over EDM instrumentals but it’s the soulfulness, creativity and supreme attention to detail in production coupled with the heartfelt, raw-as-punk ebullience of the girls’ on-stage performance that makes KCG3 one of the most captivating acts, idol or not, in Tokyo’s underground music scene.

Instead of warming up with a bunch of shows in Japan before coming to Canada, KCG3  might have made music history by making their live performance debut in a foreign country—October 6, 2017 in Toronto during NMFT11.  To elaborate—auditions were held in Tokyo and the members of KCG3 were chosen just a couple months before coming to Canada. They had never travelled outside Japan (passports for the first time) and never performed together in front of a live audience. They had only a few weeks to memorize a sh*tload of lyrics and create their own dance routines before making their live debut in Toronto.  Talk about being thrown to the wolves!!  But not only did they perform admirably, they improved exponentially with each show and absolutely killed it with a floor live performance in the centre of the crowd in Vancouver.

The core members of the two previous versions of Koutei Camera Girl were extremely diverse, outlandish and quirky. One girl had a comically high-pitched nasal voice and another was a non-stop ball of energy.  With KCG3 it seems Tapestok Records are moving further away from the ‘kawaii‘, bubbly image associated with idols and aiming for a more earnest persona and mature sound.  Initially there were concerns this newest line-up wasn’t as fun and diverse but the members of KCG3 are showing their own synergy and eclecticism through clearly defined roles.

Ramy t talata spits rhymes with an aggressive style and confident swagger. Catch My Heart has a beautiful voice—rare in the idol world as an inability to sing is considered cuter and more endearing. She sings lead with incredible soul but is equally adept getting vicious on the mic with her fluid rap flow. Finally, Sappy Halloween appears the most calm and demure but is actually the wild, emotionally unstable one who pours her heart and soul into the performance—more emotive spoken word than actual rapping.

KCG3’s music and personality is very atypical of idols—in fact, they’re more like a female version of group_inou.  They both rap over electronic instrumentals and perform with incredible emotion, passion and an underground punk energy. Since group_inou is on indefinite hiatus, KCG3 and Imai were invited together by the organizer with the secret hope and intention of a possible collaboration (i.e group_inou cover songs) during NMFT12. Whether a collab happens or not, KCG3 will bring the house down especially when they perform their Canadian themed songs: “Toronto Lot” and “Lonely Montreal.”  And as an added bonus, ramy t talata and catch my heart will perform a few songs as their more hip hop oriented alter-ego, Koutei Camera Gal.

 

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Next Music from Tokyo Vol 12 – Bakyun the everyday

Bakyun the everyday is a 4pc rock band that plays melodic pop-punk of the pleasantly dreamy variety before switching gears into ultra-fast, ultra-loud mayhem. Nobumi and Yuji are the two remaining original members both of whom sing and play guitar while a rotating cast of friends fill in on bass and drums. I’m guessing the original drummer was responsible for running the band’s website because after he left the homepage disappeared soon after. Bakyun the everyday is still a very young band but they had some success making it to the finals of a prestigious battle of the bands held by Space Shower TV (Japan’s version of MTV). Their music is straightforward pop-punk in the vein of Cloud Nothings but Yuji also plays guitar for emo/math rock band Arigarnon Friends (ex-PENs+) and he flexes similar guitar wizardry on occasion during Bakyun’s performances. Nobumi will never be accused of having perfect pitch but the fact she tries her best with such emotion, missed notes and all, is what gives her singing a degree of charm. Bakyun the everyday is a fun band to watch live and surprisingly badass when they go full throttle.

 

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