What would the Speaking Heads sound like in the event that they had been funkier, and sleazier, and likewise Japanese? A query probably by no means requested, to make sure… however when you did, then Nanban Torai, the 1982 debut LP by Jagatara is your reply. Revolving round their unstoppably charismatic frontman Edo Akemi, Jagatara was, consider it or not, a shock-punk band after they initially shaped in 1979, and Akemi shortly gained a status for doing varied GG Allin-style stunts for his viewers involving uncooked chickens, head trauma, and bodily fluids.
Nonetheless, the band finally realized that their deal with public picture was distracting from real inventive endeavors, and so Akemi and co devoted themselves to transferring their sound in a brand new course, a course that will apply the political cost of punk to an energized mixture of funk, reggae (significantly dub), post-punk and jazz. And in a similar way to the more and more politicized funk and soul bands that laid the groundwork for American hip hop from the 1960’s to the 80’s, Jagatara turned one of the influential acts within the emergence of Japan’s personal hip hop explosion.
Resplendent in orange and black, that includes Akemi snarling into his microphone whereas a Chimpanzee of Uncommon Dimension looms over him, Nanban Torai’s cowl is straight away iconic; it will need to have virtually jumped off the shelf at Japanese music outlets, beckoning potential listeners inside for a very memorable expertise. And it delivers. The album explodes into the stressed, sax-filled grooves of Demo Demo Demo, the primary of many songs that mix groove, swagger, and uncooked energy expertly. The bass and bongos give the tune a get-up-and-dance bounce, permitting the saxophone and guitar leeway to pursue their very own chaotic agendas. Akemi’s vocals all through the album exude charisma; the assured swagger to his performances appears tailored for pumping up an viewers, however he additionally adopts a rhythmic pressure and aggression that assists the uncooked manufacturing in making Nanban Torai extra visceral than your traditional funk launch. The second monitor, Kisetsu No Owari, opens with a guitar sound that’s pure Andy Gill/Steve Albini, blasts of sharp, metallic scrapes and angle over a thumping bassline that come collectively for post-punk perfection.
Lots of the songs on this album function a sure oddball ingredient or two that set them aside from comparable bands, issues like sudden tempo adjustments, layered vocals, or noisy, dissonant guitar solos. These components add a sure unpredictability to the songs, maintaining you questioning if the groove the band is locked into will proceed, or shift into one thing stranger. The tune Fade Out is uncommon in that it options little of the bounce of the earlier songs, as a substitute specializing in a sluggish and sleazy downtempo sway with a contact of Maggot Mind-style guitar. Akemi’s vocal efficiency turns into much less David Byrne and extra Nick Cave, particularly as he chants “Fade, fade out!” with rising depth over some tense saxophone leads.
Nanban Torai is a gem of an album and Jagatara is a gem of a band. Whereas the band ended tragically with the drowning of Edo Akemi in 1990, their legacy as one of the influential underground Japanese bands of their day remains to be alive over there, however they’ve but to get wider recognition within the Western music world. Vinyl reissues are scarce, and few English sources exist on their historical past and affect. For an album that made Rolling Stone’s biggest Japanese albums listing, you’d assume Nanban Torai can be extra acknowledged. Worldwide fame or no, Jagatara’s albums aren’t going anyplace. Go and hearken to them.
BONUS: LOCAL BAND MINI-REVIEW
FACE URCHINS – THE OTHER SIDE
Northern California duo Face Urchins shaped within the early 1990’s and commenced writing music in response to the Rodney King beating. Now, Don Porcella and Dave “Wave” Morrow have launched their newest album, The Different Aspect, in response to the killing of George Floyd, full with occasional road recordings straight from the protests in St Paul. Whereas the album presents an attention-grabbing mix of psychedelic people, spacey electronics and scattered experimental passages, I can’t assist however discover my thoughts wandering on loads of the songs on right here. Nonetheless, the Face Urchins do put forth some moments of real potential, resembling Porcella’s soothing, stoned 70’s people singer voice and the acoustic guitar and keyboard pairings on the Belle-&-Sebastian-esque It’s What We Need, the tune Reverie – Keep Protected, which options stuttering electronics that lead right into a Nick Drake-y ballad, and the hypnotic ambient intro on the title monitor. Total, The Different Aspect is an album with vital room for enchancment, however with some commendable highlights as effectively. A good effort, to make certain.