Monday, 22 February 2010

嘎调 - 嘎调 [2009]

Artist: The Gar
Album: The Gar
Label: Maybe Mars Records

This is the self-titled debut of Beijing-based indie rock band The Gar. Formed in 2007 by ex-The Naza singer Zhan Pan, the band's presence was felt almost immediately in the Beijing scene. After 6 months of shows around China, the band entered the studio to begin work on their debut release for Maybe Mars Records. In early 2009, over a year after they began recording, the album was finally released to widespread critical acclaim. Recently the band have also toured with Carsick Cars and have begun to get some recognition from the press outside of their native China.

The Beijing indie scene is now pretty firmly established, and alongside Shanghai is the major music/art/culture capital of China. I've been listening to Beijing indie rock stuff for a while now, and while a great deal of the bands are simply doing bland copies of western music, there are a few acts that really stand out. The Gar definitely fall into the latter category. This record in particular straddles the barrier between densely textured shoegaze and melodic post-punk, while retaining a somewhat carefree vibe that seems to run through the album.


1) Sea Birds
2) 猫
3) 圈
4) 王子复仇记
5) 两个妈妈
6) 白
7) 生之爱
8) 大
9) 告诉蕾
10) 新秩序
11) 猴子D
12) 尾巴

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ねじまき鳥クロニクル [1997]

Title: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Vintage

I've been a fan of Murakami's work for quite some time now, and for me, this is really the centrepiece of his career. On reading this book about a year ago, I had only previously read Norwegian Wood and A Wild Sheep Chase which of course, I enjoyed enormously. However, In contrast to both of the aforementioned novels, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle manages to capture all elements of Murakami's writing persona, which is perhaps the reason for its somewhat overwhelming length.

I actually lent this book to one of my old chemistry teachers at school who had noticed that I was reading it, and was curious to check it out himself after hearing about Murakami's jazz club business ventures. He came back to me a few days later mildly offended and in disbelief about the book's content and general direction, which I could sort of understand. The primary reason for his reaction can (in my mind) be attributed to the novel's immediately apparent lack of direction. Readers of Murakami will no doubt already be used to the author's tendency to create space and acknowledge the passage of time by inserting seemingly meaningless dialogue and events into the order of the novel. What makes The Wind-up Bird Chronicle special in this sense is exactly how much of the book is taken up by this technique. Throughout the whole novel, Murakami continually introduces new characters and creates new situations, which one automatically assumes will have some bearing on the course of the plot. On review, however, one notices that many of these potential avenues for plot development are either abandoned, or more interestingly still, were never intended to be more than random happenings in the characters' day to day life.

If you read Norwegian Wood and enjoyed it, but could do with something more surreal while retaining the strange romance, then get this. If you read A Wild Sheep Chase and enjoyed it, but want something even more jarring than a man dressed up in a sheep outfit with a speech impediment, then get this. They should sell this at your local bookshop (it's one of Murakami's best known novels), but if they don't, or you're just too lazy to walk all the way there, then check out the links below.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Killer Bug - Beyond the Valley of the Tapes [2005]

Artist: Killer Bug
Album: Beyond the Valley of the Tapes
Label: Troniks/Ninth Circle Music

Killer Bug was the name used by Kazumoto Endo early in his career, and Beyond the Valley of the Tapes is a collection of Killer Bug cassette releases, ripped and remastered to CD. As far as harsh noise goes, it doesn't get much better than this. This is a double CD release and the first disc is dominated by Endo's signature 'cut-up' style of noise, which sounds like he's done some live sessions, then meticulously cut the tapes up and stuck them back together. Whatever process he went through, the final sound is incredible: relentless bursts and screams, screeched vocals, all swathed in layers of distortion.

The second half of the first disc takes a slightly different turn, however. It moves away from brutal onslaught of the first disc in favour of brooding ambience, which builds up on each track. Disc 2 brings the listener more stuff fairly similar to the first, with a nice live track at the end, which works really well to round it up.


Disc 1
1) Dragon Rocket
2) Metal Dildo
3) Bloody Rehearsal
4) Brutal Rainbow
5) Dream Whip
6) One Eyed Nudist
7) Masked Porno Star
8) Slaughter on the Beach

Disc 2
1) Steaming Gash
2) Vaginal Disco
3) Live