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By Dan Grunebaum


With a new album and a US distribution deal, 2005 is looking up

Like Hi-Standard or Eastern Youth, Brahman are a Japanese post-punk band that can go head-to-head with the best the West can offer. But Brahman—as their Sanskrit name indicates—add something different, lacing their thrashing guitars and screaming vocals with Asian influences.

Since debuting in 1995, the Tokyo-based group led by charismatic singer Toshi-Low have firmly established themselves on the burgeoning Japanese indie-rock scene, playing the Fuji Rock Festival and touring Europe and China. With a new album, The Middle Way (Toy’s Factory), in stores and the re-release of their 2001 disc A Forlorn Hope by California’s Revelation Records marking their first foray in the States, 2005 could be Brahman’s year.
Bypassing the years of obscurity a band often needs before a breakthrough, Brahman seem to have arrived as a fully formed package. Their two early mini-albums, 1996’s Grope Our Way and the following year’s Wait and Wait, showed a band that had digested the melocore of US acts like Bad Religion and arrived at their own reformulation of its basic ingredients of raw, distorted guitars, breakneck tempos and howling, emotive vocals.

It didn’t take long for the Japanese music industry to take notice. 1998 saw Brahman manhandling a crowd of 30,000 at the youth culture extravaganza Air-Jam and herald the break of a new wave of Japanese indie-rock by topping the charts with their full-length indie release, A Man of the World.

A bidding war ensued in 1999, with independent heavyweight Toy’s Factory signing Brahman to a multi-album deal, the first installation of which arrived in the form of the 2000 live recording Craving. In 1999, Brahman also shared the stage at Fuji Rock with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and participated in the Tibetan Freedom Concert alongside Japanese bands such as Audio Active.

Brahman made their first trip abroad in 2000, bringing their explosive live act to Hong Kong, Spain and Italy, while their 2001 opus,
A Forlorn Hope, achieved the remarkable feat of moving over 500,000 copies. The album arrived on a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the J-Pop pap the Japanese majors were shovelling at consumers, and signaled the arrival of the Japanese indie scene as a force to be reckoned with in the domestic record market. The band capped both 2001 and 2002 with Fuji Rock appearances alongside the likes of Eminem and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The last two years have seen Brahman touring abroad on a regular basis. Their efforts paid off recently when California’s Revelation Records decided to license A Forlorn Hope, saying, “Brahman’s scintillating live performances both at home and in brief jaunts overseas have met with rave reviews. Brahman are one of the best live bands around; their performances are breathtaking.”
Their latest, The Middle Way, with its Buddhist reference point, is not an album to hold its punches. The video for the single, “A White Deep Morning,” features an innocent-looking school girl looking serenely out a window, only to witness the explosion of an atomic bomb. With Japan facing a growing nuclear threat from North Korea and contemplating going nuclear itself, it’s refreshing to see typically apolitical Japanese bands doing something topical.

Yokohama Blitz, Feb 11. See concert listings for details. M

Photo courtesy of Smash

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