Rising Sun Roster
Japan nite IX
From 1997's inaugural "Japan Nite" onward, SXSW has provided a fruitful conduit for bringing Japanese bands to American audiences. This year's Rising Sun roster features new faces along with many returning favorites. Leading off the latter category is Nagasaki's Fantasy's Core, a rabid blues-punk quintet that's equally versed in the art of interstitial slapstick. The Core's second album, Nagasaki Blues, was released in September. The cinematic, post-rock soundscapes of Mono attracted Steve Albini, who produced the Tokyo instrumental quartet's latest, Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined.
Tokyo's Clara Bell takes brethren on a techno club-hop through the neon jungle of Shinjuku, while Okinawa all-girl aggro-punk trio cum Gorch Fock tourmates BLEACH03 derail the Sabbath/Melvins axiom with hairpin-curve dynamics. Formed in Sapporo back in 1988, Tokyo quartet DMBQ has supported everyone from Fugazi to Bob Log III with their garage-flavored take on Seventies stoner rock. The Emeralds call themselves "The New Agers of Japanese Rock and Roll," which must be Japanese for swart power trio garage punk girded with a little taste o' soul.
Titan Go King's brought their zany, over-the-top pop-punk from Kyoto to Tokyo in 2000, signing with Audrey Kimura's influential Benten label. The trio's second album, Gut's Idol, was released last year. Guitar Wolf has plied their VU-meter-destroying garage rock extremism across America many times, leaving sweat puddles and blown eardrums in their wake. The trio's 2004 U.S. release, R.R.E., is one of their best.
After appearing on several compilations, last year's Meeting Point was the first EP from Tokyo trip-hop jazz quintet i-dep, while Noodles' emotive take on full-bodied modern rock delineates the Tokyo trio from the punk-girl pack. Yet another Tokyo trio (this one boys), the Pillows, have been performing melodic, well-constructed summertime pop for 15 years now. Their stateside claim to fame is the soundtrack to animé series Furi Kuri.
From their humble 1981 beginnings in Osaka, the Ramones-crazy former office clerks in Shonen Knife became Nineties alt-nation darlings, touring with Nirvana and playing Lollapalooza. Oglio re-released their first four albums in the U.S. last month. There's nothing cute about Tokyo's Electric Eel Shock. The slam-bang power trio nearly brought down the house at their SXSW 02 appearance with their excruciatingly loud punk-metal assault. Kyoto-bred Gearhead labelmates Gitogito Hustler are four exquisitely costumed girls playing energetic pop-punk. NRBQ's Terry Adams produced 2003's Jubilee! for Tokyo rockabilly quartet the Hot Shots.
Ukulele duo Petty Booka is a longtime SXSW favorite, recasting a rich mix of country, pop, and punk standards in placid Polynesian style. Kyoto-born singer-songwriter Bonnie Pink's latest Warner Music Japan release, Even So, featured the single "Last Kiss," which served as closing theme for the animé series Gantz. Having endured the 2004 death of bassist Satoo, Tokyo thrash quintet Suns Owl continues to mine the metal vein of Slayer and Sepultura in his honor. Last but not least, Zanzo bashes out a scaly underground homage to prog-rock and jazz that's tastefully twisted and downright refreshing at times.
Clara Bell (Tokyo) www.clarabell.org; Sat., 12mid, Hideout
Japan @ SXSW
BLEACH03 (Okinawa) www.highwave.co.jp/bleach; Fri., 12mid, Whisky Bar
DMBQ (Tokyo) www.dmbq.net; Fri., 11pm, Club de Ville
Electric Eel Shock (Tokyo) www.electriceelshock.com; Sat., 12mid, Beerland
The Emeralds (Tokyo) www.emeralds.jp; Fri., 10pm, Caribbean Lights
Fantasy's Core (Nagasaki-city) www2.ocn.ne.jp/~hodenz; Wed., 10pm, Room 710
Gitogito Hustler (Tokyo) www.gitogito.org; Sat., 9pm, Beerland
Titan Go King's (Tokyo) www.est.hi-ho.ne.jp/pinkysama; Fri., 8pm, Caribbean Lights
Guitar Wolf (Tokyo) www.guitarwolf.net; Fri., 1:15am, Beerland
The Hot Shots (Tokyo) hotshots.hp.infoseek.co.jp; Sat., 8pm, Elysium
i-dep (Tokyo) www.i-dep.jp; Fri., 9pm, Caribbean Lights
Mono (Tokyo) www.mono-44.com; Wed., 1am, Eternal
My Way My Love (Tokyo) www.mywaymylove.com; Sat., 9pm, Exodus
Noodles (Tokyo) noodles.velvet.jp; Fri., 11pm, Caribbean Lights
Petty Booka (Tokyo) www.sister.co.jp/pettybooka; Sat., 11pm, Elysium
The Pillows (Tokyo) www.pillows.gr.jp; Fri., 12mid, Caribbean Lights
Bonnie Pink (Tokyo) www.bonniepink.jp; Sat., 12mid, Elysium
Shonen Knife (Osaka) www.shonenknife.net; Fri., 1am, Elysium
Suns Owl (Tokyo) www.1138.co.jp/bands/suns/index.html; Sat., 9pm, Elysium
Zanzo (Tokyo) www.zzbach.com; Sat., 10pm, Elysium