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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

Must-see indie groups coming out of Aichi


Special to The Japan Times

Nagoya is the biggest city in Aichi Prefecture and has a population of well over 2 million, so there is no way an article like this can hope to capture the full depth of its musical talent. However, here are a few bands that are well worth checking out.

News photo
Pop-Office TOMONORI TAKAI PHOTO

While Budo Grape has tended to gain most of the plaudits as Nagoya's premier purveyor of synthetic pop sounds, technopop duo Tika-Tika (pronounced "chika-chika") is arguably the city's finest exponent, with its strictly electronic arrangements, immaculately presented, emotionless yet candy-sweet vocals, and captivating assortment of blips, bleeps and lo-fi, retro-futurist synth buzz.

Fans of loud, chaotic, hardcore/jazz hybrid junk noise might want to check out The Act We Act. Actually hailing from nearby Toyota, the group's music combines frantic guitar feedback and squalls of jittery sax with thundering, pounding drums, making the industrial clank and grind of the nearby car factories seem positively pastoral in comparison.

On a sweeter and more uplifting note, acoustic guitar duo Mirror Balls performs cheerful, up-tempo, folk-influenced pop music, delivering it with a quirky, engaging and energetic stage presence. In addition, while things seem to have been quiet on the live front recently, new-wave revivalist act Building puts on a thrilling, B-52's-influenced spectacle.

Fans of all things eccentric and experimental need to make themselves acquainted with the work of Nohshintoh's squeaky-voiced former vocalist Ichi, whose ludicrous one-man-band performances need to be seen (and heard) to be believed, while those looking for something a bit more primal and shamanic need look no further than Blasting Rod, a heavy, psychedelic improvisational project of no fixed membership, whose extended guitar drones can sometimes be heard transporting K.D. Japon audiences into outer space.

Finally, one of the finest, most perfectly formed bands in Nagoya must surely be the lovely Pop-Office. The band wears its 1980s U.K. rock influences on its sleeves (Smiths, Cure, New Order, Bauhaus, Psychedelic Furs), but approaches them in its own way without ever sinking into pastiche or parody. The group's song "A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness" was Japan Times writer Patrick St. Michel's pick for best track off the recent "Style Band Tokyo" compilation, and Pop-Office's self-released mini-album, "I Was Killed Here," is well worth tracking down.


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