Best of Year of the Monkey: Matt Edition
2016 was, despite many claims, a pretty good year, at least as far as Japan's underground was concerned. There were a whole lot of excellent releases (as you can see in the other Best of's! (when they're posted...)), and while it was hard to choose amongst them all, I found myself gravitating heavily towards Doom (maybe because its so heavy?), with a hint of Crust. There were quite a few runners up, but in lieu of providing that huge list, I hope you find a few points in Japan's underground to jump in to with this!
GUEVNNA’s been at the top of my list of all-around favorite bands for quite some time given how long I’ve known Temi (drums), Go (Guitars) and, especially, Ryo (vocals), so for those of you who know me this one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
But nepotism aside, I’m of the opinion this is one hell of an album, meandering as it does between sludgy dirges, doomy head bobbing, and stoner (bong) rippers. Watching them progress from ~2012 has been a real joy, and this album is definitely a step up from the still-excellent Conspiracies EP. And I’m pretty sure there’s a rooster crowing in the background of the first track, so that gets them some bonus points.
Buy Heart of Evil here.
Funeral Moth - Transience (Weird Truth)
You know how sometimes, on very rare occasions, you blurt out something really stupid without thinking about it, saying to yourself just prior “oh man this is so funny its just gotta be said!” and then bowing your head in pickled shame just after realizing what it is you’ve done? I did that with Funeral Moth’s now-ex bassist, Sento-san, when I first met him a good while back. I didn’t know who he was at the time, nor that his wife was next to me, but I made some dumb dig about baths and who-the-fuck-is-named-”Sento”-omglolol and then his wife, very kindly, corrected me. Let's just say it was sufficiently embarrassing.
The above anecdote is the kind of Funeral Doom Funeral Moth play: you can’t get over just how much you fucked up, the dread sets in, brings you down, but at the near-bottom of that well of self-doubt there’s a kind little light that beckons, calls you back from the abyss which you can still sense but are now separate from and floating upwards through, to a place that might be full of pain and hits to your ego, but that’s all it is - fleeting - and it’ll end soon so don’t fret.
Buy Transience here.
Despite Sekien having broken up following this release, I think I’m proudest to include their self-titled release on this top 3. There’s so much to like about this effort, not least of which is the fury and disgust that’s readily apparent in each pummeling track. Oh, and I guess its also fitting to include the first and last album of a band at what I guess was the top of their game: reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes and Bill Watterson's decision to end his run before things took a turn for the worse. Let's hope that's what was going through their minds, too.
But regardless! Theirs is/was a refreshing voice in the crust/punk scene which frequently professes anti-government and anti-violence sentiments but which often pigeonholes itself into something approaching predictability. Not that this is a bad thing, but too much of the (same) good thing can make one weary from time to time, so seeing a band burst out of Himeji of all places (a place I fully associate with my favorite psych-folk act, LSD March) carrying a newly-lit torch of dissatisfaction and calls to action is/was, well, envigorating. RIP, and thanks for the tunes.
Buy S/T here.
*Note* 3LA informs me that Sekien's bassist recently formed a band called Kugurido. Check them out!
So that's that, my top 3 list of 2016! Hope you found some good stuff in there, but even if you didn't there's always new, great stuff coming out of Japan's underground, so keep an eye out and stay in touch!