Japan Nite US Tour | 03.18-27.11

A preview of this year’s edition of SXSW’s annual spotlight on Japan’s best and brightest bands.


This year’s year marks the 16th South By Southwest to feature Japan Nite, the annual showcase of Japan’s best and brightest rock bands. Given the tragedy of last week’s devastating earthquake, we could all use some levity, so do your part and check out the rich musical variety that the Land of the Rising Sun has to offer, either at the SXSW showcase or one of the six other cities that are part of the Japan Nite tour. Read on to learn more about this year’s bands, and learn how you can help SXSW’s “Save Japan” effort by visiting http://sxsw.com/node/7005.
Hystoic Vein [Website] [MySpace]
Do you long for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ pre-electro-pop days, when everything they did was loud and angular and glammy and just plain awesome? Then you’ll find a lot to like on “Deca-Dence,” a savage post-punker from the Hyogo-based all-girl quartet Hystoic Vein. Like Karen O., frontwoman Inko yelps, screams, and squeals with the best of them over Lyn’s disco drumbeats and guitar and bass that move in lockstep. On “Ring,” the band emulates the dark surf sound of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet as bassist Yukary offers a bottom end that throbs with sexual energy, guitarist Youkaku lays on the reverb, and Inko passionately shout-scats doo-doo-doos as if her life depended on it. Don’t let the comparisons to the YYYs throw you off: Hystoic Vein captures that band’s vibe of tightly controlled chaos, but the noisy pop-punk of “Messiah” and the slow-burning epic grunge ballad “Shadow” prove they have a sound all their own.
Lolita No. 18 [Website] [MySpace]
With a name like Lolita No. 18, you might suspect this all-girl quartet to be nothing more than ingénue jailbait trying to cash in on Japan’s moe craze. Hardly. This band is punk rock through and through, with the pedigree to prove it: after appearing at the very first Japan Nite at SXSW 1996, the band convinced punk rock legend Joey Ramone to produce their 1998 album FUBO LOVE NY, then later teamed with Michael “Olga” Alger (of British Oi! punkers the Toy Dolls) for 1999’s Toy Doll and 2000’s toriningen. The original lineup of Lolita No. 18 called it quits in late 2001, but frontwoman Masayo Ishizaka revived the band with a new lineup the following year. Lolita No. 18 version 2.0’s latest, 2010’s Akirameruka?, proves that the band’s punk rock legacy is very much intact, opening with a forty-second blistering blast of instrumental fury aptly titled “Recording Violence” before Ishizaka’s trademark warbly, snotty snarl (imagine a voice equal parts Yoko Ono, Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra) kicks in on the Misfits-esque call-and-response rocker “Saraba, Seishun no Setsuna.” For the most part, this is a record for people who want their punk rock loud, fast, and in-your-face, filled with lightning speed four-on-the-floor beats and punchy, nimble guitar solos. But even though the band can thrash with the best of them—check out the shoutalong “Oi!”s over savage hardcore (a la Metal Circus-era Hüsker Dü) on “Shippai Shonen” or the unintelligible yelps, screamed “Fuck You!”s and speedcore blast of “Horyo Shuyojo”—songs like the slower, sunnier pop anthem “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Sunshine” and the acoustic strummer “Last Song” (the kind of weeper Alkaline Trio likes to end their albums with) show off the band’s musicianship and range.
MO’SOME TONEBENDER [Website] [MySpace]
Though the band claims only three members, MO’SOME TONEBENDER comes on like the hordes of an invading army. “Hammmmer,” the opener of their 2010 heavy Struggle, stomps with the industrial fury of Ministry, while the fuzzed-out metal of “Junk” sounds like And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead at their thrashiest and the Deftones-y “Drum Song” stirs up guitar sludge so thick that singer/guitarist Kazuhiro Momo’s wails have to fight to be heard above the din. Momo’s guitar can meld with Yasunori Takei’s bass and Isamu Fujita’s drums to create a wall of glorious fuzz (check out the feedback-soaked cover of Sonic Youth’s “Purr”), and when the sea of guitars parts, Momo proves he has a great set of pipes, too (with a hint of raspiness that brings to mind Filter’s Richard Patrick). But the band also has an experimental side, as evidenced by the album closer “Kingdom Come” (where a gently strummed acoustic guitar rides atop squalling feedback) and the album’s sixth track, a stop-start beast of a song with twisting Gang of Four guitars, spoken word interludes, and metal freakouts topped with braying trumpets (courtesy of Takei) that feed the insanity like Steven MacKay’s sax on the Stooges’ Funhouse.
white white sisters [MySpace]
Listen to the mixture of heavy, down-tuned guitars and electronic blips and bleeps on “Falling Down,” the opening track on white white sisters’ debut EP [euphoriaofeuphobia], and you might be tempted to call their music “industrial.” But dig further and you’ll notice that the duo’s beats replace industrial’s militaristic march with something far warmer and more enveloping. These are songs that simmer, gradually building energy until they boil over with pure joy, laid end to end as a finely sequenced DJ set. Singer/guitarist/programmer Yuya Matsumura builds songs like “SNS” out of a blissed-out trance groove, reverb-drenched guitars and disaffected vocals, but the band’s secret weapon is drummer Kazumasa Ishii, who augments Matsumura’s fluttering electronics on “Grader Has Been Survived” with Chemical Brothers-style block rockin’ beats that provide ten times the groove of any drum machine. For their live show, the pair bring along VJ Kouta Tajima, who manipulates dots, lines, and planes on-the-fly to create a visual art spectacle to match white white sisters’ aural delights.
ZUKUNASISTERS [Website] [MySpace]
And now for something completely different! Despite their stylistic differences, each of the other Japan Nite bands is, at heart, a loud rock outfit. Not so with ZUKUNASI, who have lengthened their name to ZUKUNASISTERS for their first American tour. On For You (their second full length after a number of mini-albums since their formation in 2002), the all-female foursome offers up some honest to goodness soul, informed with the greatest R&B and gospel of the ‘60s and ‘70s. This is a stylistically assured album, using mostly piano-based melodies (check out the Steve Wonder organ groove of “Shine”) to support frontwoman Emi’s powerful, neo-soul delivery (think Joss Stone or Serena Ryder by way of Janis Joplin). Emi channels Tina Turner over Spicy-Marico’s burbling bassline and 238’s plinking piano chords on “SOULTRAIN, but then adds her own ‘70s soft-funk guitars to the Earth Wind & Fire-style harmonies to “YOU.” There’s also funk with some JB’s-style swing (track seven), an Aretha-worthy gospel hymn (the churchy pianos and brushed drums on “Slow”), and everything wraps up with the Sister Sledge-ish party anthem “Hello Goodday!” And with around a dozen festival appearances already under their belts, it’s probably a safe bet that ZUKUNASISTERS have the chops to bring the party to a life setting. | Jason Green
Also appearing on select dates:
oh sunshine [MySpace] [More info]
03.18 Austin, TX @ Elysium —SXSW2011 Japan Nite—
www.elysiumonline.net |
8pm: ZUKUNASISTERS / 9pm: white white sisters / 10pm: oh sunshine / 11pm: Hystoic Vein / 12 pm: Lolita No.18 / 1am: MO’SOME TONEBENDER

3.20 New York @ Bowery Ballroom
Age: 18+ , Tickets: $13 advance / $15 day of show, Doors: 7:00 PM / Show: 8:00 PM
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS / white white sisters

3.22 Chicago @ Empty Bottle
Age: 21+ , Tickets: $10 adv/day, Show time: 9 pm
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS

3.23 Seattle @ Chop Suey
Age: 21+ , Tickets: $12 advance / $15 day of show, Show time: 8 pm
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS

3.25 Las Vegas @ Count’s Vamp’d
All age, Tickets: $10, Door: 7 pm / Show: 8 pm
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS / JOSY

3.26 Los Angeles @ Viper Room
Age: 21+, Tickets: $15, Show time: 8 pm
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS / JOSY

3.27 San Francisco @ The Independent
Age: 21+, Tickets: $15, show: 8:00 pm / Doors: 7:30 pm
with: MO’SOME TONEBENDER / Lolita No.18 / Hystoic Vein / ZUKUNASISTERS / JOSY

For more info, visit www.myspace.com/japannite

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