Japan often gets stereotyped as having a lot of bizarre media. We’ve all seen those clips of insane Japanese game shows. I’ve never been to Japan, so I can’t personally vouch for the country, but I’ve got a feeling that’s an unfair, unrepresentative slice of their media landscape. I’ve heard enough dull Japanese jazz-rock to be confident they’ve got their own anodyne TV shows. However, sometimes that reputation for weirdness is warranted. Those insane game shows do exist, after all. And musically, it was Japan that revitalized zeuhl in the 1990s. The latest release from GEZAN falls firmly into that tradition of strangeness.
「あのち」(“Anochi”) is a striking record. It’s distinctive in its sound, and I somewhat struggled when thinking up artists for the “For fans of” section of the header. This album contains a dizzying blend of punk, prog, jazz, art rock and more. It touches on an impressive number of genres while also maintaining a sense of purpose about itself.
Band: Ak’chamel, The Divinatory Monkey and the Sovereign Plumed Serpent | Album:A Mournful Kingdom of Sand | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive folk | Bandcamp
Ak’chamel is back with a slightly altered name since I last covered this band. The music’s a bit different, too, and I like this album more for it. It’s less murky, and the instruments are more able to shine through. There’s still a hazy, incense-filled atmosphere to this record, but it’s easier to discern individual elements. Wiry guitar lines, hypnotic rhythms, and assorted non-European flavors swirl together. Some songs are relaxing, and others have a mood that portends doom.
Band: Atsuko Chiba | Album:Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing | Genre: Post-rock, Post-punk | Bandcamp
The latest release from this Quebecois act is a hazy, somewhat droney excursion. The music is often abstract and shifting, but the compositions are strong enough to give the songs identifiable and enjoyable structures. There are still plenty of driving, energetic riffs, but they’re often coupled with ethereal atmospheres to make for a haunting effect. There’s a sense of menace to a number of these songs, and everything gels into a cohesive whole.