19 June 2014

Kogumaza Interview for LeftLion

Kogumaza Interview LeftLion Thom Stone Photography

Click the above image to read the online version of my recent interview with Kogumaza that originally featured in LeftLion Magazine #59.

Sludgy, heavy, spacey; whatever you want to call them, Kogumaza are one of those bands where no amount of attempting to describe their sound or pigeonholing will do them justice. The only way to get what they are about is to listen to their records, or even better, experience their sonic onslaught live and feel the full-force of their sound. 

A truly remarkable band, and it was a pleasure to not only do this piece, but to finally feature them in the magazine. For a band who are so hard to nail-down in terms of sound, I think this interview gives a good idea of what they are trying to achieve. It's also rare to speak to a band (in Nottingham anyhow) who are clued-up on what they are trying to do, the way they want to sound, and how they want to put that across to the audience.  

Give them a listen on the Kogumaza Bandcamp.

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13 June 2014

Live Review of Supersonic Festival 2014 for LeftLion


Click on the image of Sleaford Mods to read my review for LeftLion of Supersonic Festival 2014

Two weeks ago today I was in Birmingham for the weekend attending the Supersonic Festival, which is held at the Custard Factory in the Digbeth area of the city. 

The festival is now in its 11th year and prides itself on having an eccentric and eclectic line-up. It was my first time attending and It certainly didn't disappoint, it was the most fun I've had at a festival for a long time and I will definitely be trying to attend future events.

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Live Review of Flaming Lips and Young Knives for LeftLion


Click the image of Wayne Coyne to go to my recent review for LeftLion of Flaming Lips and Young Knives at Rock City in Nottingham. 

The recent Flaming Lips show in Nottingham was downsized from the Arena to Rock City, which still holds 2000 people so it is not exactly tiny. I did think it was a little optimistic to be booking Nottingham Arena for a band who are little more than a very big cult band. 

As with a lot of these things, I managed to wrangle tickets via the support act, Young Knives, in exchange for agreeing to review their set. I wasn't too enamored with Young Knives, I couldn't get on with their attitude and 'kookiness'. Flaming Lips on the other hand were an enormous amount of fun.
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5 Must-Watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Videos

Partly to accompany this post I recently wrote explaining my love of Yume No Hajima Ring Ring, and partly inspired by this recent i-D Magazine website piece looking at her most weird and wonderful videos and thinking that I could do something similar, I thought that I would put something together highlighting five must-watch videos by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the kawaii J-Pop megastar.  

PonPonPon (Moshi Moshi Harajuku, 2011)

Her debut song is still more insanely catchy than any song ever deserves to be. I dare you to listen to it and not have that chorus stuck in your head for the following days - no, scrap that - weeks. While the video is a hyperactive bombardment of the weird and wonderful, laying out the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu style from the start. Look out for when she farts out a rainbow. 

Fashion Monster (Nanda Collection, 2012)

I imagine that this Halloween inspired video is what family gatherings at Tim Burton's gaff are like. We see Kyary wearing a Beetjuice inspired costume as she jams with a band of ghouls. At one point an old Samurai master is summoned, the moon grows a body, and she makes a phone call using her guitar. Much like her songs, her videos always have so much going on in them it can be overwhelming trying to take it all in, and this is no exception. There's even some naughty bits pixeled out.

Re Ninja Bang Bang (Nanda Collection, 2013)

Another song with an ear-worm of a chorus. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu rides a fish while singing through a megaphone, cartoon robots have a dance-off, and there's a fair bit of jumping around in this chiptune inspired ode to a Ninja (I presume).

Invader Invader (Nanda Collection, 2013)

Hyperactive electro-pop with a dubsteppy breakdown that sounds like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu flying a spaceship powered by a dying NES before crash landing it on an alien planet and proceeding to hold the most insane E-numbers fuelled party with the extra-terrestrial inhabitants. Again, features a chorus that buries itself deep within your ears where it refuses to budge. The video has a vaguely sci-fi theme, but doesn't go out of it's way to make much sense.

Mottai Nightland (Pikapika Fantasian, 2013)

The first single from her very-soon-to-be-released forthcoming new album and where we get invited in to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's dreams, and they're just as bizarre and surreal as you would have hoped for; over-sized hands, dancing ghouls, gyrating bikini-clad ghouls, an anime section, a bit where she turns in to a dog and lays a strawberry coloured turd, and just the general next-level insanity we have come to expect from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu music videos. The music is less bombastic than usual, with bright, tinkling pianos and glockenspiels adding to the light-hearted feel. 

This recent Vice Magazine interview with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is worth a read too.

Read my track-by-track review of Pika Pika Fantajin. 

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12 June 2014

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Yume No Hajima Ring Ring

I have been fortunate enough to travel to Tokyo twice this year for work reasons. The first trip was at the end of February and the second at the end of March. It was during that second visit to Japan when I was introduced to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the Empress of J-Pop

After being told to check her out, back in my hotel room later that evening I typed her name in to YouTube and with it being her most recent song at the time, I played Yume No Hajima Ring Ring. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. 

Anticipating some dreary ballad or an EDM nightmare, I was pleasantly surprised that this song wasn't anything like that - It was considered, playful, oddly dreamlike, with that nagging piano motif keeping me locked in. 

Yume No Hajima Ring Ring has this weird sense of longing and melancholy to it, but it isn't depressing; it feels hopeful and bittersweet. I was hooked and have been quietly obsessed with this song ever since.

Of course, not being able to speak Japanese I was unable to work out what Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was singing and what the song was about. I was just drawn to this exotic and strangely catchy pop song.

Going online when I returned to the UK I fortunately stumbled upon this post on the blog Super Happy Awesome that helpfully analysed the song and translated the lyrics in to English. It's where I discovered that it's a 'graduation' song about moving on to the next stage in your life or coming of age, a theme popular in Japanese culture especially amongst young people. The blog I have linked to explains more. 

Yume No Hajima Ring Ring is a song dealing with the sadness of growing-up and moving on to the next stage of your life and having to leave your old life behind. It is testament to the strength of the song that I was able to pick up on these themes without understanding the lyrics and being ignorant to the clues laid out in the video.

As the Super Happy Awesome blog explains, in the video we see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu 'graduating' through the different stages of her life so far. The video depicts her leaving versions of her old self behind, shedding a tear each time before moving on to the next phase. This video is almost meta in the fact that it cleverly references her career up to this point; from student to the breakthrough of her first song PonPonPon, through to Fashion Monster and eventually we see her in a hakama at the end for the graduation section. It's perfectly and beautifully executed. 

Something about this song has resonated with me, I can't stop listening to it even now a few months down the line. Part of the reason for writing this blog is to try and work out what it is about this song that makes me keep going back to it. It's definitely my song of the year so far. 

It was a welcome delight to discover that she makes absolutely bonkers pop music with equally delightful and surreal music videos. Although I know that I shouldn't look too much in to this, I am perturbed to find that the YouTube plays for Yume No Hajima Ring Ring lag far behind those of her other songs. Perhaps not everyone appreciates the subtleties as much as I do?

I have also put together this post on the 5 must-watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu music videos.

Read my track-by-track review of Pika Pika Fantajin by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

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11 June 2014

Jake Bugg The Biography

Jake Bugg Biography

Click the image to read my review for LeftLion of the Jake Bugg Biography.

The biography charts Jake's rise to fame by talking to friends and family as well as people who have written about it from his early days. It even uses a few LeftLion reviews and articles as sources of information. It was a bit strange reading a book where not only do you find yourself quoted, but people I know and have worked with in some capacity are quoted too. 

I thought it was a pretty fair write-up of the book, but I'm not sure the author thought so judging by this tweet.  

As I said in my review, it's telling of the growing stature of Nottingham's music scene that people from outside of the city are now taking an active interest in it, making the effort to visit the city to find out for themselves what is going on, and writing about it too. 
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