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Matsuri-kei: Guía para el hipócrita - click opera
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Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 03:15 pm
Matsuri-kei: Guía para el hipócrita

Matsuri-kei: A Hypocrite's Guide, my new column for Spanish music zine Playground, has gone up today. It's published there only in Spanish, so as usual I'm putting the English version here. There's more background research (focusing on The Slits, and including an mp3 of their Japanese-language version of Earthbeat) here.



Matsuri-kei: A Hypocrite's Guide

Today I want to tell you about a new genre. It's one I've just invented. I call it Matsuri-kei.

Now some of you, reading this, will want to exclaim: "Momus, what a hypocrite you are! Weren't you telling us just last month that categories and genres were ruining record shops, and that we should blow up statues of Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy? And, by the way, weren't you telling us the month before that record shops were dead? Hypocrisy on hypocrisy! Have you no shame?"

Well, I'm blushing, of course; I clearly have some shame. But I'm stubborn; in my mind this all makes sense. Yes, record shops are on their last legs. The insane plethora of categories is one symptom of their flailing, clumsy, hopeless efforts to cover the diversity of music out there in the digital and performance worlds. And yes, I sometimes wish they'd just arrange everything alphabetically.

But there's another solution, one I planned -- I promise! -- to add to that rant. Either there should be no genres (just alphabetical arrangement by artist name) or there should be millions and millions of genres, one for each artist. Better, how about one genre for each record, or one for each song, or for each section of each song, or each track on the multitrack master, or each string of the guitar on track 29.

Imagine that, my top E string could be in the genre "Swedish Flamenco" and my bottom E string could be in the genre "Twangy Shadows"! Or maybe the bottom E string could even have two genres: "Twangy 1950s" and "Sub-Peter Hook"! What's more, each new digital effect I applied to the naked sound of the string could put it in a different genre!

So, with this "either none or millions" argument in mind, let's proceed to a practical example. Here's Matsuri-kei. I've made it up. It's a genre containing Japanese female artists who shout over a festival drumbeat (a matsuri is a traditional Japanese summer festival containing Shinto fertility symbols and lots of drum-led dancing, and kei just means "style").



I didn't just pull Matsuri-kei totally out of the blue, though. I started seeing Japanese artists who had a certain sound that didn't really fit any categories I knew, but had something in common with each other. They seemed to be doing something tribal, something primal, something digital and yet also traditional. I think "Umo" by OOIOO was the first track in this style that really struck me:



OOIOO is of course the band started by Yoshimi from The Boredoms, so immediately there's a hippy-trippy-art-punk vibe and a Jamaican influence. That Jamaican feel, and the fact that OOIOO is an all-girl band with a primal, tribal beat, leads to comparisons, in my mind, with The Slits, and especially their second and final album, Return of the Giant Slits, produced by Dennis Bovell and Dick O'Dell in 1981 and re-released last year by Blast First. When I see the wild, boho-eco-tribal video for Umo, I feel like it could fit without much trouble onto that final Slits album.

Early on, The Slits kicked thick, distorted punk rock guitars out of their sound, opening it up to more subtle, precarious spaces and funky, broken rhythms. That decision is crucial, and it's why we can't include bands like Afrirampo in the Matsuri-kei genre. Afrirampo's guitars rock too hard, and their full-on assault takes us into a totally different area, not just of music, but of symbolism. If the Matsuri-kei bands are playing the role of female shamans, Afrirampo evoke a more male power: there's an unavoidable suggestion of penis envy in their use of music's best-known phallic symbol.



If Afrirampo are too phallic -- and have too thick a sound -- to be included in our hypothetical Matsuri-kei category, who else fits? Well, I'd say Kiiiiiii are candidates. Here's the Tokyo-based duo doing "4 Little Joeys":



Another all-female duo with a wild and crazy sound -- although more glitchy than tribal -- is Groopies (Nobuko Hori and Kyoka Kyoka, currently based in New York and Berlin respectively):



But Nobuko and Kyoka are in a slightly different area. A better fit to the Matsuri-kei template -- perhaps the best fit of all -- would be Osaka laptop artist DODDODO. This clip, for me, defines the sound almost perfectly:



DODDODO comes out of the Osaka noise underground, the same scene that hatched Acid Mothers Temple, Ove-Naxx, and The Boredoms. DODDODO calls herself a "sample bitch" and Boomkat calls her style "girltronica", but for me it's Matsuri-kei. What's more, DODDODO performed earlier this year at a festival in the mountains south of Osaka called the Gocha Matsuri Festival (see the start of her set 7 minutes and 51 seconds into this video). Perfect!

Other candidates for the Matsuri-kei badge might be more difficult to track down. I'd want to include an excellent but obscure 1989 album by Izumi "Mimi" Kobayashi (produced by Holger Hiller). It's called iK.i, and it's a strange mixture of sampled beats and traditional Japanese chants and songs. You might be able to tell me about some others I haven't heard.

So there it is, a new category for bands often declared "uncategorizable". A lineage from The Slits via Mimi Kobayashi and The Boredoms to today's laptop vandals. A clustered set of signifiers, an appetizing specification of stylistic limitations (no thick phallic guitars!). Matsuri-kei is totally fictional at this point -- it doesn't really exist anywhere -- and yet it doesn't not-exist, either. It's useless, and yet it might prove useful if you need a string bag for a day's record-buying, or a folder name for the contents of a day's downloading.

The next time you see a Japanese all-girl band in tribal make-up shouting eco-shamanic lyrics over an Afro-Jamaican beat unencumbered by guitars, you might well say to yourself: "Ah, this is the thing Momus calls Matsuri-kei! The hypocrite!"

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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)

Oh, quite possibly. But there's a "curse of Bjork", you know. Any genre you put Bjork in immediately becomes irrelevant. Not because Bjork herself is irrelevant, just because she's unclubbable. And I don't mean in a seal sense.

Here's an example of my next invented genre: Kodomo-kei (another word for douyou.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)

Sounds like you don't like the pigeonholing of albums (each album has to be one genre), but you do like the way genres can group together similar albums. So you would like a record store with a many-to-many relationship between genres and albums, or better yet a multi-dimensional record store.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
Slits

Interesting that you are talking about the Slits. I was in Kreuzberg pub the other day and it was very nice to hear The Slit's 'Shoplifting' and 'Fade Away' by the New Age Steppers (with vocals by Ari-Up). Having never heard these tracks played in London, I was wondering if this is a common occurrence in Berlin these days. And do you see a connection between The Slits later recordings and the reggae pastiches you have recorded over the last couple of years?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Slits

Fade Away by the New Age Steppers is great, I listened to it non-stop back in the day and it makes a fantastic post-crash anthem today. I can't say I've heard much Slits in Berlin recently, but I've been staying in writing, and when I go out I tend to deliberately avoid places where they pipe in pop music.


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)

By the way, DODDODO really blows my mind. Yet another house goddess to add.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)

Holger Hiller is living in Berlin, teaching English for a living, but preparing a return to music very shortly. I'll keep you posted!


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junkerr
junkerr
Junker!
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)

puedo encontrarlo en espanyol tambien?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)

Aqui!


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dogsolitude_v2
dogsolitude_v2
dogsolitude_v2
Wed, Oct. 8th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)

Ordering everythign alphabetically? Ahhh... Bach and Bauhaus, together(ish) at last...


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)



more :)



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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 02:20 am (UTC)

That second one is excellent!

Yokoo Tadanori is da man!


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blogisblog
blogisblog
blogisblog
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)

Why not just order them note by colour.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)

Synaesthete!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)

Most of this stuff sounds like it's from the late 90s.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)

It could be a bit like early DAT Politics, which is no bad thing. Personally, though, in the late 90s I was into things like Doo Rag:



That and medieval dance music.


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ohayo_sakura
ohayo_sakura
sleepy chan
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)

this post makes me want to start a matsuri-kei band!


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)

uniqlock


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
Matsuri-kei: Guía para el hipócrita

AE, the current band of ex Stock, Hausen & Walkman member Andrew Sharpley (with his Japanese wife) could easily plant a kiss on to your swelling hypocritical Matsuri-kei jawbone. Also... never got what all the fuss was about the Slits, all the time Slits this, Slits that, 'Heard It Through The Grapevine' blah blah blah. OK, they looked good trashing a car in Jubilee and couldn't tune their guitars, but musically it's only semi-interesting (another relevant musical genre)... but then again I'm a total snob who puts cocaine on his cornflakes and thinks that The Slits are for people who are too scared to touch Inflatable Boy Clams or anything femme pow wow ed out of No New York. Memento mori!


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lastclearchance
lastclearchance
Nick Minichino
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 09:00 am (UTC)

Not to miss the joke here, but I've been thinking a lot lately about Ponytail, and how I would categorize them. These days hyper-taxonomizers tend to categorize bands by geographic origin/"scene" such as it were, which aside from being more than a little misleading (show of hands how many "Brooklyn" bands aren't made up of post-collegiate immigrés? anybody?) doesn't really give any good information about how bands sound (unless they're just copying each other).

Frankly I think Ponytail share a lot of similarities with the matsuri-kei tradition, but like Afrirampo are a bit too guitar-oriented (plus the vocals, when intelligible, are in English, I think). Also only the vocalist is female. It's sort of matsuri-kei by way of Marnie Stern. Does Taxonomer-Hypocrite-Momus have a pithy/catchy name for this related but distinct genre?


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robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Thu, Oct. 9th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)

mmm this could be an aspect of the suspected new genre Cobblers! after the revival in shoe repairs post Crash.
Like all great absences it fails when it produces anything.
Barthesian projected text.


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