Tokyo Damage Report



I often write about punk, metal, goth/loli, and such. But now it’s time for a new subculture: SONORE.


SONORE is a music label run by Big Franck, who is a sort of one-man French Embassy for odd Japanese bands – for 10 years he’s been working to promote bands both in Japan and Europe. What kind of bands is SONORe about? Avant-garde electronic. "Oh right," you say, "Breakcore or whatever. Merzbow with a laptop or. . ." Stop right there, Mr. Smart Trouser. I’m talkin’ about a DIFFERENT kind of electronic avant thing. It ain’t a specific sound – but most of the bands start with a Concept and then use technology to turn that Concept into a song.





YMCK is a printer’s term – an abbreviation for YELLOW MAGENTA, CYAN, blacK. (the four primary colors used in offset lithography). YMCK the band is a part of the 8-bit scene. I’m not big on that scene, but from what I learned, they use the same circut boards and same sounds of ’80s video games to make retro music. YMCK also uses a video projection (with 8-bit retro graphics, naturally) of an imaginary 1980 video game featuring . . .the band members themselves! There is a different video for each song, and the actions of the 8-bit musicians on screen correlated with the lyrics and motions of the real-life musicians!

The photo above is amazing. . . .since Franck is French, they covered a ’80s French pop idol. (the original video of the french idol is in the lower-right corner of the video projection). And both the real performers and their 8-bit animated versions ALSO do the same dance from the video! It’s 3 layers!!!!!

Above – another "concept" song: The gentleman on the left is doing a demonstration of a "game" for the Nintendo Famicom (sort of like a failed old version of WII MUSIC!!) – according to his lecture, you could plug a cartridge into the Famicom, and then use your joystick to operate this virtual synthesyzer (pictured on the projection). But since the joystick only had 3 buttons, the synthesyzer controls were limited to: 1) YNGWIE MALMSTEEN SOLO, UPWARDS


3) STOP.


Anyway they wrote their own original song to showcase homeboy’s Famicom Synth skills. See, this is why I never liked "laptop music." – you coudln’t see what the guy was doing or why. There was no explanation.



BABY -Q was, I guess, what you’d call "modern dance" – ambient noise music with people writhing . . . for 30 minutes. The video backgrounds were these marvelous black-white geometric patterns, but I – as you might expect – didn’t get the dance. Howcome no one ever does Modern Dance to the Benny hill theme?

Wait, I got a better one: what if they introduced all their songs like this:

“Allright to-kee-yoo!! They got some hot ladeeez in the house tonight, right fellas?? Everybody hiiiigh?? Everybody ready to paaarty? Is everybody ready for some fuckin’ Contemporary Modern Daaaaaaaaaaaaance?"

. . . .and then the whooshing laptop noise starts and dudes start rolling on the floor.


Which reminds me of an Important Question : At a blues show, in between songs, do blues guys do the opposite of rock guys’ banter? That would be rad! “Allright, Memphis! Everyone feeling all rite? Really? THEN GET THE HELL OUT!! OK -Everyone feeling miserable?? Everyone feeling down so long that it seems like up to them? Well, OK. Everyone whose dog just got run down by a train, make some fuckin’ nooiise! OK, Now just the llllllllllllleft siiiiiiiiiiiide!”


How about a ‘laptop music’ show where there are the 2 bespectacled nerds with macs and they start out playing their bullshit, but they both are running through one mixer. So one guy makes an adjustment to the shared mixer, kind of making himself a little louder . . .soon the other guy kind of passive-aggresively yanks the knob the other way, then the first guy blatantly makes his volume hella louder. Then the second guy reaches ACROSS the mixer and starts fucking with the first guy’s keyboard, switching off his delay, and the the first guy tries to straight-up ctrl-alt-delete on the first guy, and then they get into a slap-fight. Now THAT would be a laptop show I’d like to see. So the one nerd loses the fight and has to unplug from the mixer . . .but spends the rest of the show off to the side, doing MSPaint pictures of him fucking the other guy’s mom and emiling it to the other guy. Super passive ag- stylezzz.


Anyway, back to Modern Dance:

In addition to the overhead projector, they had a guy put a transparency over the projector lens and draw squiggly lines on it, which were superimposed on the dancers (above).



Franck talked about the history of the SONORE label, and thanked the bands for playing the show.

(full disclosure: he may be printing my kanji dictionary as a real book!)

Franck is starting , a new site that not only sells Japanese music like the stuff pictured here, but also underground books, toys, and art. Kind of like J-list but with art instead of porn. He’s just starting this venture, so if you live overseas and want some specific Japanese thing, email Franck and let him know there is a demand for such-and-such.


These guys were pretty amazing. Not many bands have HAL 5000 on their team:

All, "HAL! HAL!! Make it funkier!" "Dave, I can’t do that."

Actually it looks more like a pimped-out beatbox version of Dr. Theopolis. It’s a custom-built beat box and Indian-style drone machine!

These guys had a great variety of folk instruments – different on each song. But the main deal was the gentleman on the right – with the tablas. The tablas sounded like tablas but also had MIDI triggers that triggered samples. The samples were single syllables of a scat-singing lady. (not a scat-flinging lady – that’s a different night). It wasn’t some cheesy, ’80s Max Headroom thing where the rapper goes "G-GG-G-G-GGG—GG-G–GET DOWN, D-D-D-DOWN!" It was like 200 samples in a long, non-repeating sequence that had been, I guess pre-programmed. Watching him in action was fucking amazing.


This is a young lady from Osaka that Franck insists on calling a rapper, but. . .she mostly sings- in a voice roughly the texture of Howlin’ Wolf – and I’m pretty sure she’s not singing about rolling on 22s. Other things about DODDODO:

1) retro-cheapo casio synth beats.

2) a ruthless and terrifying command of the crowd. She got butts moving at an art party!

3) At one point her mic broke so without even pausing she jumped into the crowd and ran around singing at each person in turn.

Madddd charisma!


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