Boris with Merzbow- Gensho

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Drone/rock/pop/stoner/chameleons/whatever-they-are Boris are no strangers to working with legendary noise musician Merzbow, and once again, have taken to the studio together for another collaboration effort. However this time they offer a new twist- 2 discs, one Merzbow one Boris. Intended to be played at the same time at varying volumes and starting points each time- to give a unique “Gensho” or “experience”. I will get to how I think this experiment works as a whole later- but first I listened to the discs separately, so I could judge them on their own personal strengths:

The Boris disc is breathtaking. Presented here are reworked older tracks and a cover of My Bloody Valentine‘s “Sometimes“, all in drum-less, drone style versions that quite frankly, are Boris’ absolute forte. Not only that, but these may indeed be some of the best, if not THE best recorded drone tracks in their entire catalog. The production value here is immaculate. The main thing that really sets them apart though, is their absolute beauty underneath the crushing, overpowering heaviness. Even tracks like Huge sound gorgeous (in their own twisted way, like the awe of watching a building collapse). For me though, the absolute highlight is the new version of Rainbow. This is the ultimate version- it’s absolutely fucking gorgeous. The guitar solo elevates it to the next level and it’s hard to believe that the band still has so much to surprise us with even after so many releases.

The Merzbow disc, is, like most Merzbow, quite overwhelming at first. However, there seems to be a solid sense of direction this time around, Merzbow has a location he intends on taking the listener, regardless of how rocky and jagged the journey. It’s at times quite terrifying, especially if approached on headphones. I never found it to be insanely abrasive like some other works I’ve heard by Merzbow, ultimately it was a quite surprisingly easy and pleasant listen (for Merzbow standards that is). There is quite a lot of atmosphere and many, many layers to explore- if you have the patience and stomach for it. Golaka pts 1 and 2 are the most interesting pieces here and are quite entrancing. Overall, one of the better standalone Merzbow discs I’ve heard.

But… these are meant to be played at the same time. And that’s where I think the project doesn’t work as well as it was intended. Both discs are quite superior individual releases and I find- no matter how much I fiddle about with the levels, that when played together, they honestly detract and take away from one another, rather than adding anything. It’s not that I think the two bands don’t go great together- they do and have- look at previous collaborations such as Klatter for example- just this time, it all seems a bit too ambitious for their own good.

I feel like most of the time I will opt to just listen to the Boris or Merzbow disc by themselves and can’t really find any justification to listen to the album as intended. So for that, I feel I need to knock a couple points off. Perhaps in the future, someone will release a pre-mixed version with the levels set ample, but for now- I just wait to hear the live discs that come with the 4 disc version (as of this review, untested).

Overall though, 2 great separate albums, but the concept doesn’t really work as well as it should.

Boris Disc- 9/10
Merzbow Disc- 8/10
Concept- 5/10

Total= 22/30

Final Score= 7.3/10.

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Boris with Merzbow- Gensho

Kuchuu Moranko – Mocha Escape

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While most people know Seiko Oomori as the hyper pop AVEX starlet she is now, I dare say many will perhaps not be aware of her punk band roots. That’s right, 4 years before PINK, she had a strew of solo CD-Rs and albums that are as illusive as they are (nowadays) expensive. They all offer a side of Oomori in her developmental stages that is delightful to hear, particularly to her more hardcore fans. But one release really stands out- and that is the one and only release “Mocha Escape” by her first band “Kuchuu Moranko“.

Released in August of 2007 on indie label KEBAB records (for a measly 300 yen…), the group apparently wasn’t even it’s final stages when it was recorded. In-fact, Seiko Oomori was (according to Oka Keishi of KEBAB records) a “shock addition with her electrifying cute voice“. Eventually the recording would become Kuchuu Moranko‘s one and only recording, and serves as an excellent piece of history in Oomori’s catalog. So how does it sound? Pretty damn great actually!

I think most of the EP’s charm comes from the whole ‘do it now, do it fast‘ feel and damn, there is some moments of greatness here. Whether it be the kickass opener “Motherfucker” or the brilliant, heartwarming “Tokyo Tower” (my god those group chorus parts just melt me), every track seethes with raw emotion and that sense of legitimacy and bright eyed hope that comes from young bands starting out. The best track however- is this early version of “Kamisori Girl“, which would later become a staple Oomori solo track. This version though- is so emotionally charged, it feels like it’s about to go off the rails. The melody is truly infectious and it’s one of my all time favorite tracks, by anyone.

Production is DIY and delicious, true youth energy pounds through the crusty recordings. Every bit of distortion, every muffled drum hit, sounds so RIGHT. The addition of keys is a nice little touch- they add a nice layer of cuteness to the mix. It’s hard not to start fist pumping throughout. While the group may not do anything groundbreaking or edgy, the EP still offers heart by the bucketful- and that’s the most important thing in the end. It’s interesting to think about the group working with someone that would go off and do so much- being totally oblivious to this fact. But hey, everyone starts somewhere right?

While Oomori would go on to hone her rock band sound with the likes of Lai Lai Lai Team and The Pink Tokarev (as well as become much more confident and confronting with her vocals), none of them are quite as raw and punk as what is on offer in this EP. A must hear for anyone seriously interested in Seiko, and I highly recommend picking it up if you see it- though prepare to burn a not-so-small hole in your bank account (average price it goes for on Yahoo! Auctions is around 15,000 yen or more). Its either that or pray for a reissue…

8.5/10– Oomori’s humble beginnings are just as fascinating as her massive AVEX offerings.

Kuchuu Moranko – Mocha Escape

CHARISMA.COM- AIDORO C

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Charisma.com picked up steam a couple years back when people discovered their first mini album “Aye-Aye Syndrome“. It offered something fresh- a hip hop group who’s attitude and resilience toward the restrictive society that is Japan resonated- particularly with women. It, like other new groups popping up, offered an outlet, a voice. Somewhere where you COULD be angry and not be afraid to show it. And it was a hell of a good time to boot. That mini was followed up with “DIStopping” which propelled their sound and formula to even greater heights. It was an outlet for not only hip hop fans, but pop fans in general. It cooked.

And then something happened. Charisma.com‘s success from these first two releases got them a contract on major label Warner Music. But it somewhat came with a price- the hard edge seemed to have been softened. Whether or not that is legitimately the case is yet to be seen- but the last EP “O’Lest” and now this new mini album, “Aidoru C” certainly suggest that it is. Sure there may be remnants of the Charisma.com everyone fell in love with- but you do have to look for them. One can’t help but draw parallels to another duo -the legedary HALCALI- in this regard.

I write this introduction because it helps to put my feelings into perspective when I talk about this latest mini album. I certainly don’t hate the group. I still find merit in some of these tracks, but overall, it’s hard not to feel a little alienated with it as an old fan. First up. Let’s talk about the positive elements. The production is fine, if a little flat at times. There are, fortunately, moments where a more hard electronic sound ala “Super Girl” come into play, and this still gets this listener pumped up. Vocals are still great, Itsuka is tight as ever. There are moments where the playful and bitchy attitude of earlier releases shine through, and those are highly appreciated. There are also a trilogy of undeniably great songs, “Horunuki ni Koishite” which really does sound as good as anything from DIStopping, “Koshihake Rap” which shows a slight spark of how hard these girls can go when they want (and I love that fucking drop) and “Toshindai Gray” that is just plain great to listen to.

Unfortunately, the lesser elements truly outweigh the positives. First up the awful single “Subliminal Diet” which is as watered down as it gets- and to make things worse- it’s the opening track to the mini. It’s definitely not the most oomphy choice for an opener, and really sets up a bad vibe to begin with. The closer is just as bad, the utterly charmless “Jidoll” that is so forgettable it’s ridiculous.

And that’s the key word really- forgettable. This word really leads into one of the major problems I have with the mini. Quite often at times, where something could sound really great, it sounds washed out and weak. There seems to be an urgency to make a lot of these tracks sound as poppy and modern/trendy as possible, and doing so really makes them turn into mush that goes in one ear and comes out the other. A duo that used to have so much flavor now, for the most part, taste like oatmeal. A shame really.

Other than that there’s a couple cute touches here and there, like the track “GODCustomer” which I’m on the fence with. “Bell Sassa” is a nice attempt at doing something a little different- but it sounds so generic that it could be by anyone. Aidoro C is by no means the worst thing I’ve ever heard- but it’s certainly Charisma.com‘s weakest effort yet. Sadly, the pattern they are taking really doesn’t give me much hope for future releases being much better- but those three great songs on it are at least a straw to cling to. I could be totally wrong and Charisma.com will release another breathtaking album- but this certainly isn’t it. Fans may or may not get something out of it, depending on what they’re after.

6/10 – The weakest release by Charisma.com. Take the three good tracks and skip the rest.

CHARISMA.COM- AIDORO C