Good Charamel / MVD.
long been established that even the most unlikely Western acts
can become, as the cliché goes, ‘big in Japan’,
but it’s pretty rare for the cultural trade to be reversed.
Only a handful of Japanese artists have had even the most cursory
level of success in Europe or the US, thanks in part to the genre-bending
approach of much Japanese music, and in part to the fact that
anti-Asian attitudes still seems to be fairly acceptable among
people who would be the first to complain about racism of any
Lewis Rapkin’s rather excellent documentary Live
From Tokyo is, therefore, an essential and fascinating
look at the thriving, remarkable and exciting underground music
scene in Tokyo. Taking a free-flowing approach, Rapkin mixes imagery
of Tokyo’s neon landscapes with live footage and interviews
with bands and solo performers who are at the cutting edge of
musical innovation. It’s long been acknowledged that Japanese
popular music is a strange and inevitable hybrid of Western musical
influences and home grown cultural obsessions, and the result
is quite often a fascinating mix of styles that blur genres. Of
course, Japanese artists have long been at the forefront of experimental,
noise and electronic music with performers like Merzbow, and the
acts seem here, almost certainly unfamiliar to all but the most
dedicated Western viewer, are carrying on that fine tradition.
Names like D.V.D, Makato Oshiro, Sexy-Synthesiser, Nissennenmondai
and Tenniscoats might not be on your ipod right now, but if you
are a fan of experimental music, you’ll certainly want to
seek them out after watching this.
The documentary takes in all aspects of Japanese music today –
from the sheer costs of performing (venues routinely charge bands
to play), to the threats and opportunities of the internet and
the musical influences that drive the artists. Mixing live footage
with snippets of animation, the film shares the visual dynamics
that many of the artists featured use, and is as visually arresting
as it is informative.
Coming complete with a download code for the soundtrack album,
this is an excellent introduction to new music and a thoroughly
enjoyable documentary to boot. If you are looking to widen your
musical boundaries, it’s an excellent place to begin. Need
another reason to buy it? A portion of the proceeds from the sale
DVD and soundtrack album will be donated to the Red Cross Tsunami
Relief fund in Japan.
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