or go back to

visitors since 2005-2-5

Links for Japanese music on the net & labels with Japanese prog & avant garde are attached at next text-file. or http://www.hon-s.co.jp/reco2shinjuku.html

Japanese electronic music page : http://www.artskool.biz/jem/index.html
Japanese Rock : http://www.rockofjapan.com/

More interesting links (groups & labels) : http://park10.wakwak.com/~techno/index.html

-Some early favourites of Japanese music here-
Sonore     Japanese Independent Music
-(a full picture from Japan's underground of the 80's and 90's)-

An interesting book, written in English with various introductions which give an overview from the underground and independent scene in Japan right now. It explains this scene from various viewpoints including a psychological, and social context. Maps of Japan situate the areas where this music scene is most vivid.
The interest of this book spans from noise to avant-rock, punk and progressive, electronic and free music. The book is a very comprehensive guide with an alphabetic list of all interesting groups from within this range. The descriptions are brief but seemingly accurate.
Included is also a list of interesting labels and magazines (with links to the internet). Not included is a historical musical perspective from the progressive scene from where this new scene originates. Old psychedelic bands (beat, rockabilly,..) are because of the books perspective and scope not intigrated. May be there was not much of an organized independent scene before the eighties. Describing such groups would have been interesting for us collectors too but are probably better covered in a different book and with a different title. However if you wish to have a full overview of the contemporary existing scene this book succeeds to be suitable for it (with biographies until 2000).
One of the groups in the book, Acid Mothers Temple have projects under various names. So these are randomly spread over the whole book. A general overview of all these names connected with their label would possibly have needed many other pages. Now with this huge amount of information being already there but still in the form of a handy pocket format it's a practical book to take with you on large trips (train, plane,..) and having the pleasure being able to browse.

The CD which came along with the book gives an idea of the more challenging areas the Japanese scene has. The first tracks are best be listened to with head
phones or very loud descent equipment. An unusual (and quiet) artist is Wono Satoru who uses turn table sound conceptual art, as painfully experimental as Haino Keji's track. Personally my favourite track by Harpy is the most normal track on the album, nicely composed pop with complex fusing rhythm. Hoppy Kamiyama I like as well, a contemporary classic piece with RIO influence, more harsh rhythms combined with very structured violins. Further we have Furudate Tetsuo who brings a environmental industrial soundscape, reminding me somewhat of 80's. Then followed by a few noise and white noise tracks and unpleasant collages. A different, still dark but TV like, DJ collage is performed by Sawada Juyoi. Perfect(ionist) madness and tempo changes we hear in the Ruins track. But over-the-top psychedelic madness could only be from the group Acid Mothers Temple. The whole idea reminds me a bit of the contemporary classical music scene in the seventies, slightly followed up side by side with free music between the fifties and seventies in Germany and some other countries. Challenging ideas were tried out, but remained much too conceptual, too new, but not creating a new area good enough to be from a non-intellectual but
human level. Only 10 years later some composers like Stockhausen for instance succeeded in performances with the same ideas so well worked out that it becomes a pleasant experience no matter how strange the ideas involved. In that way, the Japanese groups remain within the 'fluxus' of conceptual parts  where challenging and ground breaking effects are still rebellious are not realising a full mature sound. Globaly, also the eighties did not bring much music we still care to listen too any more. I do like new sounds and ideas a lot, but without the achievement of integrating them (-it asks too much time to assimilate them, and time is something the Japanese don't seem to have too much-) it remains an unpleasant (fragmented) area to stay in, while for the mind it seems to be opening a new area of freedom, for the soul, it involves no challenge. The emotional freedom within this direct involvement is still with some distance away. 

I continued this with a small outro about the psychological effects of a fast living, in Japan, leading sometimes to some of more extreme music forms :

There seems to be an intellectualisation-transformation of 1) an unspecified pain, an unconscious frustration, reflecting a need for a higher guiding structure within a chaos, 2) of aggression leading to unlistenable music genres (noise, extreme experimental..) or towards challenging but still unpleasant areas like avant garde, victimised through a filter of a social structure that creates through the years a perverted distance from the calmness of the soul. There's a stagnation in older Japanese traditional music reinvented in a raped version where freedom of expressing this reflected only the conscious state of mind. The admiration of mostly European progressive music might be caused by the remembrance of a lost pleasant area in which it is possible to share the freedom of mind and soul. The open structure of German Krautrock, the underground social structure of the avant garde part of the 'Rock In Opposition' (RIO) group, the psychedelic music as expression of a free mind, but also the experimental sadomasochistic exaggerations of the Nurse With Wound related groups are being adapted to give these influenced expressions an extra dimension.
Contemporary classical music and free jazz are being appreciated as areas only for their intellectual freedom. Many of such groups are in a first state of growing independency. Only a minority succeed in creating a new area which is theirs only, an area of freedom in music and mind. It evolves towards a certain pleasure of belonging just there, as in a drugged state of mind slowly awaking from former nightmares of a more dependent structured evolution.

page 1 : introductions
"Evolution of Japanese underground scene :
developments from Japanese psychedelic music from 1966-1996" :

After a short "twist" boom and a few unsuccessful Beatles inspired groups (Tokyo Beatles) groups with a Ventures sound became more popular (Takeshi Terauchi, Blue Jeanes, Yuzo Yakama, Launchers) leading to thousands of instrumental rock groups, mostly schoolstudents. However when The Beatles came to Japan in 1966 these groups played a more vocal styled (the first vocal hits were by the Blue Comets, Spiders, followed by formations like The Tigers, The Carnabeats, The Jaguars, The Golden Cups, The Bunny's). This new style was called the "Group Sounds" or simply G.S., had its peak from 1967-1968 with hundreds of professional bands, like The Dynamites, The Floral, The Golden Cups, Happenings 4, Helpful Soul, Mops, Powerhouse, and thousands of amateur teen bands. Beside bringing covers of Rolling Stones, Monkees, Bee Gees the groups had also their own songs. Most gigs were in "jazz kissa's" and American airbases and some groups became popular because of youth program television performances. There was also an underground scene lead by The Jacks with a more radical sound and lyrics.
By the end of '69 this style disappeared with the appearance of Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Some tried to copy Eric Clapton or Paul Butterfield. This was the beginning of psychedelic and hippie influenced groups (like Flowers, later Flower Travelling Band). The psychedelic music in Japan never was under the influence of drugs, but by assimilation of just musical psychedelic effects. These effects were at first the uses of fuzz guitar effects (for the first time by The Blue Comets), backward tapes (firstly used by the Wild Ones) , eastern instruments like the sitar (firstly by the Flower Pop Group and later by the Mops), wah-wah effect pedals (firstly by the Phoenix), use of cymbals, gongs (firstly by the Rangers), radio voices (firstly by Folk Crusaders). The term "psychedelic" was first used in Japan by The Mops.
All new groups (lot of hardrock, but also American West Coast sound, to singer song-writers) were categorised in the media as "new rock". April Fool later Happy End- were a pioneering Japanese rock band, Blues Creation played hard rock blues,... Most influence came from the English scene, some of it fom the American scene. Some more progressive bands came into existence like the Far East Family Band, Cosmos Factory, Far Out, Flied Egg, Flower Travellin' Band, Food Brain, Taj-Mahal-Travellers, Yoni Bayashi, Zoni Keisatu, and later Magical Power Mako, .. Also interesting was the theatre group Tenjosajiki lead by J.A.Caesar (as a combination of No theatre with progressive rock).
Because of a lack of contracts little of the groups survived. Yellow Magic Orchestra and Tomita received good contracts. 
In the eighties new music styles were evolved : punk, industrial and new wave.
At the same time the underground scene recieved its foundation. SM, noise were introduced and became popular with bands like Merzbow.
Gerogerigegege accumulated sounds from masturbation, Hantarash once destroyed even the concert hall with a bulldozer. Many groups in the extreme and controversial genre came into existence. A part of what happened since then can be found can also be read/found in detail in the other book beneath.
Luckily some independent Japanese labels helped develope an independent music scene in Japan.

A few last remarks :

* Japan had a parallel development of early Electronic music with Germany. Not much correct information has been published about it yet.
* Some other genres besides prog or rock or wave are best not to be enied. Even some of the mainstream music, has some pearls of beauty . Within the genre of  Enka (chanson) -surely among the darker text based Enka- and Kayokyou (popular songs) -  are some beautiful examples, but that's a work for specialists to find that out.
* -(Thanks for using some information from J.W.)-

PS. A useful book to read is :
"History of Jap's Progressive Rock 1970-1990" by Numero Ueno.
There are not many books in English about the Japanese scene. This book is until now one of the only ones. It gives a bit a limited view about the scene, with a bit more attention to the weird aspects than necessary. Sometimes in the West we have a tendency to focus on the more extreme things we don't have in that form, rather than see a development in Japan which occured simultanuesly with the rest of the world. Japan had its own aspects too, but there are many more aspects than what is described in this book.-

This was my first impression :
Lately I found other introductions for Japanese Psych : http://www.recordheaven.net/japan.htm or here
and on http://noise.as/main/jpsyc or here
and on http://www.scaruffi.com/history/japanese.html
and another article on evolutions in Japanese Music
on http://www.farsidemusic.com/historyJa.html or here

by Chris McLean
in several parts here