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776: Yoko Ono
775: Boredoms
772: Kurofunedan
768: Merzbow
766: Oshiripenpenz
765: YMCK
763: Shizuka Kudo
762: Mo’some Tonebender
761: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
756: Tokyo Conflux 2008
754: Ed Woods
753: 8otto
751: Para
750: Fuji Rock Festival 2008
748: Katan Hiviya
745: Who the Bitch
742: Low IQ 01
740: Shake Forward!
738: iLL
736: Tobu Ongakusai
733: Yanokami
731: One Night in Naha
729: Shugo Tokumaru
727: Japan Nite
725: Getting out the vote
723: J-Melo
721: Electric Eel Shock
717: GO!GO!7188
715: Yura Yura Teikoku
712: Midori
710: Seigen Ono
708: Wrench
707: Shinichi Osawa
704: M-flo
701: Freesscape
699: Versailles
698: Fuji Rock Festival 2007
697: Uri Nakayama
695: UA
693: Shonen Knife
690: Kemuri
689: Ikochi
686: Best Japanese Albums
684: Monkey Majik
682: Shibusashirazu Orchestra
681: Jon Lynch and Juice magazine
677: DJ Kentaro
675: Sadistic Mikaela Band
673: Osaka Monaurail
672: Teriyaki Boyz featuring Kanye West
666: Oki
662: Amanojaku
659: Polysics
657: Oceanlane
655: Cornelius
651: Bomb Factory
642: Soul Flower Mononoke Summit
640: African JAG
637: Buffalo Daughter
635: Ryukyu Underground
633: Mazri no Matsuri
631: Mono
629: Coldfeet
628: Crystal Kay
625: J-pop goes def
623: Ken Yokoyama
621: Zazen Boys
619: Monday Michiru
613: PE’Z
611: Afrirampo
609: Sherbets
603: Double Famous
601: Meltone
599: Michiyo Yagi
597: Hifana
594: Guitar Wolf
592: Rip Slyme
590: Little Creatures
588: Bliss Out on Hougaku
586: Hoppy Kamiyama
584: Bliss Out on Hougaku
582: Mazri no Matsuri
580: Mari Natsuki
575: Towa Tei
573: The Beautiful Losers
571: Fantastic Plastic Machine
569: Nippop
567: Brahman
560: Shonen Knife
558: Nice Guy Jin
556: Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi
554: Hiromi Uehara
551: Nicotine
549: Ego-Wrappin'
545: Eastern Youth
538: Inside tracks
536: Outside the Box
534: Rainbow Warrior
529: Breaking the mold
527: Sadao China
524: The sound of cyberpunk
522: Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chasm
516: Ken Yokoyama
514: Jan Linton
512: Jazz messengers
509/10: Naoko Terai
507: Akiko Yano
504: Kotaro Oshio: Solo Strings
502: Refurbished rhythms
494: Resonance
492: cyber-swordsmen
490: Loop Junktion
488: Ryukyu Underground: Okinawan Odyssey
484: Gocoo: Reinventing taiko
481: Leonard Eto
479: Gaijin à Go-Go
477: Enemy music
475: Yoriko Ganeko with Chuei Yoshikawa
472: DJ Kaori
469: Yuki
467: Wrench
464: Young and swingin
462: Jazzy Live 2003 from Blue Breath
460: Shonen Knife
457/458: Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden
456: Yuka Kamebuchi & The Voices of Japan
454: Jude
452: Kokoo
451: BBQ Chickens
449: Man and the machinery
446: Crystal Kay
443: Lava
440: Jazz on Leave
437: Rip Slyme
434: Boom Boom Satellites
432: "Rambling" Steve Gardner
430: Dry & Heavy
428: The Birth of OE
426: Anmitsu
424: Happy Kamiyam
422: Shing02
420: Supercar
418: Ryuichi Sakamoto
416: Kick The Can Crew
414: King Brothers
412: Kazufumi Miyazawa
410: Japanese Independent Music
408: The Yoshida Brothers
406: Love Psychedelico
393: Mikidozan
391: Shelter 10th Anniversary
389: The beautiful losers
387: Junpei Shiina
383: Umekuichi
381: P'ez
379: Boredoms
377: Dai Sakakibara
375: Dreams Come True
373: eX-Girl
370: Pizzicato Five
368: Dub Squad
366: Buffalo Daughter
364: Phew Phew L!ve
362: Fumio Yasuda
360: Boom Boom Satellites
358: Kei Kobayashi
356: Cool Drive Makers
354: Bird
351: United Future Organization
349: Audio Active
347: Ondekoza
345: Misia
343: Brahman
341: Puffy
339: Ryukyu Festival 2000
337: Rappagariya
335: Lisa Ono
333: Air Jam 2000
331: Feed
327: Tenkoo Orchestra
325: Wrench
323: Sadao Watanabe
321: Dry & Heavy
319: Bonny Pink
317: Sakura Hills Disco 3000
315: Aco
313: Rovo
311: The Mad Capsule Markets
309: Coldfeet

Outside the Box

The Boredoms' iconic frontman EYE says musical experimentation has its successes and its failures.

l to r: Yojiro, Yoshimi, Atari, EYE

As Japan begins to confront the downside of its conformist culture, child crime, depression, and the uniquely Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori (depressed young people who have taken to holing up in their rooms) are issues of the moment. But beyond the fringes of the mainstream, alternative forms of expression such as Japan's thriving noise-music community have long offered a healthier outlet for those who don't fit the mold; and the contrast between its shaggy practitioners and the cookie cutter Ayumi Hamazakis and Smaps of the mainstream J-pop scene couldn't be more stark.

Among the bands that have emerged from Japan's noise-music underground, none are more influential than Osaka's Boredoms, who this year mark two decades of pushing the musical envelope.

Back in the early '90s, influential US alt-rock bands Sonic Youth and Nirvana found inspiration in the visceral shock of the Boredoms' anarchic performances, and used their powers to get them signed to a major label record deal. This period of worldwide exposure was capped by a tour with the Lollapalooza festival in 1995.

But despite being subsequently dropped in the US by Reprise and not having released a new album since 2001's electronica-influenced Vision Creation Newsun, the Boredoms are still viewed as the elder statesmen of noise-rock. Their cult following is dedicated, their rare concerts always sell out, and Yamatsuka Eye, or simply EYE as he is now known, has become a draw on his own in his recent DJ incarnation.

Known for a volatile stage presence, EYE cuts a formidable figure with his leonine head of dreadlocks and slightly manic gaze. So it is with some trepidation that I sit down with him following a DJ set before a recent Tokyo concert by Seattle's experimental unit Critters Buggin'.

"We put the drums in the water and tried to play along with the sound of the waves."

Conversation naturally turns to the Boredoms' recent activities-or seeming lack thereof-and it is slightly unexpected to hear that the band still convenes once a week for sessions in Osaka. Dropping its former, more conventional rock instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums, the band, now calling themselves the V∞REDOMS, perform occasionally with EYE as DJ and effects manipulator and the other three members arrayed around him playing drums.

A surprisingly sociable EYE says that the approach grew out of a wish to upend the conventional rock concert experience in which the band is on stage facing out towards the audience. "What we really were aiming for was something like in bon odori, in which the drummers are in the middle and the audience dances around them in a circle."

He says that what they really would like to do is set up in the middle of a concert hall with the audience around them, but that they haven't yet found a hall that will accommodate their wishes. As with many of EYE's unorthodox approaches, which have included such undertakings as smashing an aquarium on stage, the band has run up against the limits of the possible.

Their most recent attempt at recording, he explains, was a disaster. Inspired by the sound of waves crashing on the shoreline and thinking it sounded very much like a snare drum, he convinced the Boredoms' domestic label Warner Japan to pay for a mobile recording studio to set up by the ocean to record them as they played the drums in what he envisioned would be a conversation between the waves and percussion instruments.

"We put the drums in the water and tried to play along with the sound of the waves. I thought if we recorded the drums with the waves it would be magical. But it was a complete failure. The drums got wet, and the owner got pissed off. And because we were outside, the sound dissipated. It was a difficult recording challenge and didn't work out at all. The label was upset and won't pay for us to do something like that again."

Notwithstanding such disappointments, however, EYE remains undaunted in his efforts to push the boundaries of music. Another ongoing project makes use of electronic sensors developed by a friend at IBM that attach to the body to produce sounds according to the body's movements. "Usually one dances according to the music, but the premise of this band reverses that: the music is generated according to our movements," he says. "So this is in a way true dance music. When you move quickly, it makes a fast sound. When you move slowly, the music is slow."

EYE's concerns with the organic and physical aspects of music, whether it be the vibrations of drums which he says produce a healing effect, or his exploration of the intrinsic links between music, dance and the body, have also led him to a deep concern for Japan's environment.

While EYE says that the dirt and noise of Osaka provided the crucible for the Boredoms' noise-rock experimentation, he chooses to live now in the clean air of the countryside outside Nara. He's also embarked recently on a search for truly clean water, something that is unavailable in Tokyo or Osaka.

"In the past, water was clean enough to drink for everyone. Now you need to buy water," EYE laments. "Recently I'm interested in seeking out good water around Japan. There's delicious water in the mountains, and in natural springs. I have a guidebook to good water in Japan."

Where is the best water in Japan to be found? "Tottori. That water was like a woman. Very soft, kind...I felt almost orgasmic when I drank it."

EYE expresses dissatisfaction with the recordings the Boredoms have been making of their weekly sessions, saying that they fail to capture what is really intended as a live experience. Nonetheless, fans will be glad to know that they are hoping to edit them down and release something in the fall.

And while the album may not produce a hit single, the Boredoms' recordings and performances constitute a body of work that has changed the way we view music. Notwithstanding the various disasters along the way, that kind of success is not in doubt.

The V∞REDOMS play Ebisu Liquid Room on August 8. See concert listings for details.

credits: Smash