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February 2010
 
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Thu, May. 21st, 2009 08:59 am
Kinokuniy-aaahhhhhh!

It's a buzz coming back into New York, even after just a day or so away. Boston may have lots to recommend it -- the waterfront ICA, the smell of the seaweed, the gulls and lobsters and Irish beer -- but it can't match New York's density and intensity. When you come out of Penn Station the first thing you see is the Empire State Building, glinting in the sun. The sidewalks are seething with vendors, commuters, soldiers, Asians, and New York's very own brand of vociferously self-expressive crazy people. On the roads emergency vehicles blast by with sirens screaming. You're tired, but the brutal energy of New York perks you up, spins you up to its own speed. There's nothing quite as varied, as vital, as over-the-top for thousands of miles around.



New York is also a world city in a way a place like Boston (or Berlin, for that matter) isn't. I head for the fantastic new Kinokuniya on 6th Avenue, facing Bryant Park. It's quickly become one of my favourite New York locations. The ground floor has all the Japanese magazines you'd expect to find in a big Japanese bookstore, and they're bang up to date, too.



Upstairs there's a cafe, manga stuff, CDs. There's nothing like this store in the whole of Europe, not even in London. You're basically in Japan the moment you step inside. You sense the different etiquette of the browsers (and you can actually browse, the mags are mostly open), that deep Japanese detachment and discretion, itself a product of the density of great cities.

So what caught my eye amongst the Japanese mags at Kinokuniya? Well, the latest issue of Studio Voice is themed "I love vintage", or, more poetically, "new discoveries of vintage mind". It's about the delights of secondhand shopping. I particularly liked the Voice Art Space section, which shows a group of artists who've collectively refurbished a traditional shitamachi townhouse and are living there in simple trad-Jap style (kerosene heater, teapot, kotatsu).



Brutus Casa shows some intriguing photos of Ryue Nishizawa's new Towada City Art Centre, which has the satisfying sparseness of SANAA's New Museum and skews his Moriyama House into diagonals.

I must say that the feeling I get, ducking into a Japanese bookstore straight from an American street, is that I'm instantly in a better, more beautiful world. It's not just Nishizawa's light, rational, relaxing buildings, or the beautiful fresh patterns of the tenuguis on sale, or the gorgeous girl floating round the store in a billowing green dress made from some kind of new, light gossamer material, like someone teleported in from a refreshingly graceful future. It's also the girls in Spoon magazine, gracious creatures with beatific smiles and incredible crafts skills. Inside, there's the inevitable Aoi Yu photoshoot, for who could be more gracious and beatific than Yu?

Upstairs I'm somewhat intrigued by a table of CDs from Powershovel audio, a Japanese label (started by a Lomo photography fan and camera-maker called Ohmori Hideki) featuring releases from my friends Alejandra and Aeron, my noise heroine DODDODO, and the excellent Yuichiro Fujimoto. A label with great taste, then.



I'm particularly interested in the CDs of Mika Sasaki, who records her albums with her cellphone (well, we have keitai novels, why not keitai albums too?). The blurb says: "Mika Sasaki is living in Japan, she is an ordinary woman, not a musician or an artist, and she never studied music or played an instrument. I doubt that she never bought a CD, either. She has started making music like keeping journals ever since she found out that her cellular phone has a tool to create her own melody. The sound composed with her rule and control is the rough as a sketch and mysterious (small) electronic music, which is so far from something made to be musical but very attractive. There are over 300 songs, and she still keeps making more." The results tinkle like the sound of tiny cowbells.

43CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)

So the thing you like about New York is that you can pretend you're in Japan there?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)

It does seem a little odd that you fetishize a country that you don't seem to want to live in. I mean, what's stopping you? It's not even that expensive any more.


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kingfox
kingfox
☞Wasteland Warlock☜
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)

My good friend redvector's girlfriend works there, yet I have yet to make inside. Maybe this week, on your recommendation.


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parallel_botany
parallel_botany
Doña Nadie
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)

God dammit, Momus.

I've been dying to check out the new Kinokuniya for ages now, but I'm really not in a position to spend money on awesome-yet-expensive Japanese design magazines. It looks wonderful, though.

Stupid economy.


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)

I cant tell if these posters are trying to bash this post as a humorous jab at the ribs or if they're just bored, uninventive and a bit nasty.
Anyways, yeah I love Kinokuniya, I enjoyed hearing your slant on the whole thing, and that you took the time to mention a few magazines, cd, etc that caught your interest. thats why I follow your blog... youre really quite gifted at pulling together a nice little mid-day discussion out of thin air.
I do want to bring up an earlier post about the less then perfect elements in America, all the pushy people in uniforms and rules, etc and contrast it to this post. I find it so interesting (I live in NY) that a place so rotten is yet so vibrant. It just is the biggest rush... and it's all crammed together in one place, at the same time.
... you know... want some time in a japanese book store...? just slip into Kinokuniya... and there you are... step out and your back in the crazy pushy ny life.


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)

Mexico City, on the other hand, is massive, but it is not a world city. It has the density and lots of beauty, but it also has a tension that I find similar to Baltimore - a massive and palpable disparity between rich and poor. That said, I was recently in Acapulco for a local wedding and I was the only gringo there, and that felt REALLY good, although I can't really explain why.

Anyway, I'm back on the internet. Wish we would have had more time to chat... next time.

Oh, and Kinokuniya is amazing. I was wondering how close it was to Japan but was too embarrassed to ask my Japanese friends (and I'm not usually shy about asking questions - it's only potential cultural gaffs and insensitivities that trip me up).


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(Anonymous)
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)

I have a question;

Why is it that what may seem suspect in one place (music recycling styles and techniques from the past), passes largely unremarked and unquestioned in others (houses, interior decoration etc)?

What marks a tradition worth reviving or exploring and how does that relate to the cycles of fashion?


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krring
krring
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)

My guess is that areas where it's frowned upon are by nature creative, innovative, original, relevant in some vague way. A successful piece of music, literature, dance... (let's stuff them under the capital-Art umbrella) has all of those things demanded of it - demanded of its core, in one way or another.

Houses are where all your ups and downs happen. They have to succeed in a much less wanky (read pragmatic) way. Sure, the design of a house has creativity, innovation, originality demanded of it, but only as a means to your happy existence.

You can't turn off a house. You can walk out of a house, but unless you get back in there soon, you'd better be feeling post-materialistic.


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tropigalia
tropigalia
Dewy-Eyed Disney Bride
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)

there is a Sixties fashion magazine at kinokuniya (all mod all the time!) that i have been dying to get but can never justify spending $16 on.

my mom wanted to come see your show with me since it is my pre-birthday celebration but i don't know if 4 hours of songs about literature and bonin' are mom-appropriate.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)

Kinokuniya is a nice place though somehow I like the more random and castoff treasure hunting experience at Bookoff. There's another larger Cafe Zaiya two doors down too, though you can't read and eat without buying first. As far as I know Zakka is still in Brooklyn by the Manhattan Bridge -- 155 Plymouth St for a more ecclectic mix of hard to find design books and toy collecting. -ndkent


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)

Yes, I'm a big Zakka fan.


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eclectiktronik
eclectiktronik
eclectiktronik
Thu, May. 21st, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)

speaking of studio voice's latest - whilst over there, I'd try and find a thrift store. You'd be sure to get some inspiration from it. I love those places - usually packed full of old gadgets, consumer detritus, and lots of music on tape, cd and vinyl, make your average oxfam shop seem like a joke in comparison!

...and whilst you're in there, bring us back some classic cassette decks!






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eclectiktronik
eclectiktronik
eclectiktronik
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)









....so, when's the Momus New York homage song coming out?! ;-)

seriously, seems like there are quite a few musicians who have sung its praises over the years. I haven't included Sinatra and Don Henley in the video selection, either!






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(Anonymous)
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
OMG!!

OMG!! Something positive about New York. -Jimmy McDonough


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(Anonymous)
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
Advocating for the gentle pervert

Alright. A lot of the anons out there need to have someone have a look at that chip on their collective shoulder

I like poking fun at Momus as much as the next guy, the pretension, the orientalism, the contradictions, etc.. But at the end of the day I like the guy. It's gentle ribbing and I think the commenters (commentators?) and Momus both get a kick out of it.

But the comments have taken on a mean tone lately that I'm not sure I like. Click Opera is not about to descend into YouTube purgatory anytime soon but this needs to be addressed before it starts to slide down that slope.

Go back, listen to the man's albums, and read a few of his older posts. The whole New York thing has been kind of dull and repetitive, I know...but we know what Momus is capable of, so just...just don't...ok?

There. Momus is like my much older younger brother. I'm allowed to beat him up but I'll jump to his defense in a heartbeat if I see any of the neighborhood kids taking a crack at the boy.

So.
Grumpy anons = fuck off
Momus = Stop whining about New York and get the fuck on with the perverted philosophizing


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theartoflamb
theartoflamb
josewilliamvigers
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)

theres a kinokuniya store in sydney too. I was visting family in there last week and picked up haruki murakamis wind up bird chronicles while i was there.

sublime :)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)

Timelord is the perfect pop album!!!!

It's not too long, too short, and it's great to chug Robotussin to.

Thank you for deciding to make that gem at some point in time Nick!

-Brian


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Fri, May. 22nd, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Sat, May. 23rd, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
Beard Papa

Yum, did you have any Beard Papa?


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