In his introduction to Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock 'N' Roll, author Julian Cope astutely posits, "The Japanese thrust everything they discover from the outside world through their own singularly Japanese filter, mainly resulting in a peculiar copy of the original, but quite often bringing forth something magnificent and wholly better than that which had inspired it." This cultural infusion can be applied to everything from Akira Kurosawa's cinema to Boris' equally epic avant-metal, and no where is it more prevalent than Japan's exports for South by Southwest 08.
Case in point is Petty Booka. The Tokyo-based duo toys with the Western pop canon through ukuleles, covering everything from the Louvin Brothers and Alan Jackson to the Ramones and UB40. It's like a karaoke version of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. Likewise, Osaka's Maki Rinka resembles a modern Betty Boop, crafting bilingual cabaret piano-pop fit for films from the 1920s and 1930s.
Under the moniker Quartz-head 02, Fujiwara Daisuke, a Berklee College of Music graduate, fuses modal jazz with Japanese electronica, resulting in a lucid form of improvised dance music. Tokyo's Aonami, on the other hand, elicits seizures with mixes comprising Nintendo Game Boy samples. Sixpiece rave band Damage rages like Rammstein: brooding, industrial, and monolithic. Dokkebi Q, a collaboration between electronic bass conductor Gorgonn and visual artist Kiki Hitomi, has coined the genre "death dub," combining elements of Rastafarian rebel music with the ghostly trance of Burial.
In the punk realm, Ketchup Mania provides proof of Blink-182's worldwide impact, while NYC-based trio Peelander-Z reveals what happens when that same Japanese filter gets overloaded with American pop culture and turned on itself.
Behold the Power of Three
Toddle: All-female, Tokyo-based trio crosses the love-bent Distortion of the Magnetic Fields with modern J-pop. (Lost in translation: the Breeders.)
Avengers in Sci-Fi: Dizzying, intergalactic electro-pop laced with pixie dust. (LIT: the Postal Service.)
The Pillows: After achieving international fame with the soundtrack to the animé series FLCL, Tokyo's Pillows get equally animated on new live DVD Wake up! Stand up! and Go! (LIT: Weezer.)
Sodopp: Teen-branded J-pop that sizzles and fizzles. (LIT: Avril Lavigne.)
Detroit7: Garage punk from the land of the Rising Sun. (LIT: Heartless Bastards.)
The Emeralds: Kamikaze rock & roll, the yin to Electric Eel Shock's yang. (LIT: New York Dolls.)
Aonami, Tokyo, www.myspace.com/aonami, Saturday, TBA, Molotov Lounge
Avengers in Sci-Fi, Tokyo, www.myspace.com/avengersinscifi, Friday, 9pm, Elysium
Damage, Osaka, www.damage-web.com, Saturday, 10:20pm, Elysium
Detroit7, Tokyo, www.detroitseven.com, Friday, 11pm, Elysium
Dokkebi Q, Ainu Tribe, www.myspace.com/kikihitomi, Saturday, 11pm, Flamingo Cantina
The Emeralds, Yokohama, www.emeralds.jp, Saturday, 11:30pm, Elysium
Ketchup Mania, Tokyo, www.ketchup-mania.com, Friday, 1am, Elysium
Maki Rinka, Osaka, www.makirinka.net, Wednesday, 8pm, the Rio
Peelander-Z, New York City, www.peelander-z.com, Thursday, 1am, Molotov Lounge
Petty Booka, Tokyo, www.sister.co.jp/pettybooka, Friday, 12mid, Elysium
The Pillows, Tokyo, www.pillows.jp/p/en, Saturday, 12:45am, Elysium
Quartz-head 02, Tokyo, www.fujiwaradaisuke.com, Friday, 10pm, Elysium
Sodopp, Kagoshima, www.sodopp.com, Friday, 8pm, Elysium
Toddle, Tokyo, www.toddle.to, Saturday, 9:10pm, Elysium