Since it is doubtful I will ever get around to writing a proper recount of this month’s cultural outings, here are a couple random thoughts instead:

  • Despite my impression of the past few years that Japanese cinema was losing ground to more daring, less formulaic Korean filmmakers such as Park Chan-wook, Japanese movies were particularly well represented at the Berlinale and fared pretty well.
  • Of the three screening we attended, Korean movie Ki-chin was definitely the weakest: beautiful photography, unfortunately undermined by a contrived plot and the least engaging depictions of food I have ever seen in a food-oriented movie (not to mention terminally inept subtitling work, which made it difficult to follow even basic dialogues).
  • Yoji Yamada‘s films were of a much higher grade. Friday’s première screening of Kyoto Uzumasa Monogatari was a nice prelude to the more involved Ototo, on Sunday. Both had a rather typical Japanese vibe of quiet everyday life events mixed with deeper topics that never take themselves too seriously. Still not convinced about the Japanese conception of slapstick physical humour as the height of comic relief, but overall good movies.
  • Thanks to Berlin’s opulence in Opera venues, we obtained last minute tickets for a representation of my all-time favourite (my undying love of Verdi’s works, over any Bellini, Wagner or even Mozart, is a clear reflection of my mundane operatic tastes, sure, but I stand by it).
  • Musical happiness.
  • Small aside: people who can’t help loudly coughing, right in the middle of Violetta’s dying aria, deserve to be put to a slow and painful death. I don’t care how much your throat itches: put a lid on it or stay home. And while we are at it: do not clap at the end of every single fucking scene. Keep it limited to the overture, the end of each act and at most a few noteworthy arias and find something else to keep your hands and cerebral-motor cortex busy.

This morning, upon hearing Pet Shop Boys’ cover of Go West playing on the stereo:

H.: Hey, I’ve heard that song before, it’s a famous soccer game anthem, innit…

Dave: Yea, funny that… considering it’s probably the gayest song ever recorded…

H.: Ehh?

Dave: The song is inviting young guys to move to sexually liberated San Francisco of the late 70’s in order to live peacefully their gay lifestyle.. The only way it could have been more openly gay is by including the phone number for a few bathhouses in the Castro.

H.: You don’t say? Who sings that song?

Dave: Well, this version is a cover by the Pet Shop Boys who are quite gay, but the original was sung by the Village People…

H. Oh yea, I’ve heard of them!

Dave: And you know they weren’t exactly playing for the ladies themselves, right?

H.: Huh?

Dave: C’mon now… They were nothing if not one long drawn-out joke on gay stereotypes.

H.: Woa… I didn’t know that…

I guess, considering the Japanese’s rather confused approach to western gay iconography, one might easily be forgiven on that one…

Still: gotta love the unintended irony that brings some of the least gay-friendly people on earth to belt out such a song with recurring enthusiasm.

Update: added some linky goodness to some of the pics H took that night.

Last weekend was メタモ 08, aka the Metamorphose Music Festival in Shizuoka: a comparatively low-key, 3-stages-1-night, affair with affordable ticket price (a fourth of Fuji Rock’s), featuring mostly electronic and/or non-mainstream acts.

Conditions this year were just short of apocalyptic, thanks to the nastiest weather of the entire Summer: rainy and cold… Fortunately, the real downpour held off until Sunday morning and we managed with only a couple light drizzle episodes through the night.

Anyway, I’ll spare you our own antiques and just post a couple thoughts on the different acts we got to hear:

1. Tony Allen opened the night with some kickass afrobeat on the main stage. He did quite alright, bringing up the generally dampen mood into party mode. Having spent countless hours of my youth looping Africa 70 tracks to exhaustion, this was probably one of my most feverishly awaited act of the night, and the only disappointment was that it didn’t have a better timeslot.

2. Since I’d already heard Jazztronic and DJ Krush a few times before, I used the chance to take a little rest at our “camp” and stock up some [mostly natural] energy for the night. Whatever I caught of Album Leaf in the distance (and later up close) provided a satisfyingly eery ambiant background for a relaxing time.

3. Fully rested and after walking around a bit, we came back to the main stage for Boom Boom Satellites, which was really the nice surprise of the evening: knowing nothing of them save for a couple tracks and videos H. showed me, I was expecting some slightly boring typical J-pop with some electro-rock accents… But apparently (and also according to H.), their style has evolved a great deal over the years and they played something much closer to full-on electronic music with rock instruments. Both the resulting hypnotically long tracks and the super-upbeat crowd made it one of the highlight of the night.

4. Theo Parrish was another act I was really looking forward to, seeing how his two last parties rocked my Summers
And the disappointment was commensurate: his usual awesome blend of beats was made absolutely unbearable by some of the worst sound quality I have ever heard in my life (and I have heard a lot, trust me). Not only were the highs and mediums ear-piercingly loud, to the point of physical pain (we had to walk one full hill over before we could stand it), but they were also so distorted as to make the whole thing absolutely impossible to listen to.
I remember one of the first piece of advice I was ever given when I started pushing records in clubs, was to always take a minute off and walk around the place to see how the music sounds from the other side of the turntables (usually heaps less nice than what you hear from your spot). Of course, when you play some huge outdoor venue like that, you don’t need to worry about it: that’s what the sound guy is for. Except the sound guy that night was obviously sleeping. or deaf. or both.
Either way: after toughing it out for 20 minutes, we gave up in rage and went back to the other stages.

5. Back at the steamy indoor stage, we caught the end of a nice set by Fumiya Tanaka (seen a month ago at Womb) and then Josh Wink: pope of 90s acid house and producer of one of the most infectious 303 track ever made… A solid and largely danceable set, albeit ostensibly geared at people in a much less sober state than I was (yea, no higher state of consciousness for me that night): could have used a teensy bit more melody and texture here and there to complement the raw pumping beats.
Also, I realise whining about this puts me into the annoying clueless fanboy category, but I was really hoping to hear some version of his signature track: I know he might have got sick of people expecting it every single time for the past 15 years, but there really aren’t many occasions to hear it in a live club these days.

6. Galaxy 2 Galaxy was another nice surprise (only today did I realise I had heard them before: many years ago at DNA lounge in SF): live instrumental, jazzy, funky house with some seriously good vibes… Would have probably been the high note of the trip with an uplifting warm sunrise instead of that gloomy morning weather drowned in drizzle and gray skies. Still enjoyable nonetheless.
Also they played the best dance track of all time, so there’s no way to go wrong with that.

7. I honestly felt bad for Cobblestone Jazz: they played some nice groovy stuff, but by then rain had started falling for real and we were all rather content sitting under the roof structure, huddled together in our makeshift camp, snacking on curry and planning a strategic exit.

Apparently, we left none too early, since, just a couple hours later, torrential rains forced all trains out of Shuzenji to a complete stop until Monday.

Overall, a great night and some awesome music: can’t wait to do it again next year, on a dry and warm Summer weekend.

Location: Hair of the Dog, Golden Gai’s one and only true punk bar.
Yi and I having a heavily inebriated wednesday evening night out, group of young Japanese boys discussing their band’s next club night on the other side of the bar, 時計じかけのオレンジ projecting to the tiny corner screen, random punk score blaring through the speakers…

Barmaid: [handing a menu-like list of all-time punk records] Please pick anything you would like to hear from that list.

Dave: Huh… let’s see… I don’t know… how about Japanese punk…?

Yi: [showing rather random entry in the list] Hey! that Japanese punk band’s called So-Do-Mu!!! Tee hee hee…

Dave: Yay for Sodomu…

Yi: Tee hee hee…

Dave: [to the barmaid] How about playing some “Sodomu”…

Barmaid: Sure, Right on its way…

[couple minutes of fumbling around the mp3 collection on the computer, then finally the track changes…]

Yi: Hey! that doesn’t sound so bad actually…

Dave: Yea, I’m not sure that part is really their own… Probably an intro of sorts…

[Young japanese guys mumbling things about ongoing music in their corner]

Young Japanese Guy #1: Blahblahblah, right?

Young Japanese Guy #2: Blahblahblah… No, I don’t think so, this must
be Chopin…

Young Japanese Guy #3: Chopin? Mmmnnn… Blahblahblah

Dave: Actually, that’s Beethoven… Moonlight sonata.

Young Japanese Guy #1: Really? Oh… maybe…

Young Japanese Guy #2: Oh yea! of course…

Young Japanese Guy #3: Definitely Beethoven!

[All three guys: swooning to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata’s first movement, Adagio Sostenuto]


Dave: So yea… this is one of Tokyo’s most hardcore punk bar.


Sound equipment

Three years since I last owned any serious piece of bleepy-music-making equipment…

Only have to get a midi keyboard next week and we should be back in business for real.

I foresee a sharp decrease in outdoors activities for the weeks to come.

All names, situations, health hazards and general disregard for a sane and reasonable lifestyle depicted here are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or soon to be, is purely coincidental.

Kai: Mosh’mosh’!!!

Dave: Shin Nakano Suicide Hotline, what may I do for you?

Kai: Dave, I know it’s you.

Dave: Barely.

Kai: Where are you? get your ass over here.

Dave: Sorry: I’m sure it’s a great party, but I think I’m gonna pass on this. I badly need some rest.

Kai: Man. Get over here. NOW.

Dave: Really, I’m sorry… I would. But all I can think about is: my bed, some hot chocolate and a good movie.

Kai: Sakamoto Ryuichi is standing less than 3 feet away from me now.


Kai: Get fucking a-moving.


Dave: Do you know how much sleep I’ve had in the past 3 days? I currently look like what a 70 year-old crack whore raped by a meth-addicted raccoon might give birth to.

Kai: Sakamoto. Ryuichi.

Dave: Oh: and I finally succeeded at dislocating entirely both shoulders at the gym tonight. I can’t raise my arms above waist-level. I would need a 3-ft long straw to drink anything from a glass.

Kai: Sakamoto Fucking Ryuichi.

Dave: I am one hour of sleeplessness away from paranoid dementia. Random acts of senseless violence cannot be too long to follow.

Kai: Sa. ka. mo. to. Ri. yu. i. chi.

Dave: You have really sworn my demise, haven’t you…

Kai: Great. Get a cab. See you in 20.