- Released: 2002
- Origin: Oita, Japan
- Label: Xinlisupreme
- Best Track: All You Need Is Love Was Not True
‘Japanese shoegaze’ might sound like a niche within a niche and a genre created by “that guy” who has to out-weird everyone else with his music. Still, it’s quite a movement. In 2013, the ‘Yellow Loveless‘ album saw all 11 tracks on My Bloody Valentine’s landmark album Loveless covered by Japanese bands. Of course, MBV’s Kevin Shields also contributed several songs to the soundtrack for Tokyo-based film Lost In Translation.
There seems a kinship between the nation and the genre, although from what I’ve heard, there’s no uniform ‘Japanese’ sound adhered to by its shoegaze musicians. Some of it can be very dreamy and ethereal, almost to the point of being a bit boring. In other cases, it can be loud, industrial and experimental, combining the typical layered guitars and hushed vocals with the avant-garde playfulness of Japanese noise-makers like the Boredoms, Melt-Banana and Merzbow.
Certainly more at the latter end of the spectrum is Xinlisupreme, the solo project of Yasumi Okano. I’ve heard the name before, but after seeing it feature in Pitchfork’s 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time, I thought I’d lend my ears to Okano’s 2002 debut album, Tomorrow Never Comes.
Pitchfork describes the record as “perhaps the furthest from shoegaze in the purest sense of the term” out of anything on the list, but this is no token inclusion. This is an important, and highly innovative work that’s the perfect marriage of Western and Eastern noise.
Over an hour long and largely instrumental, it’s not ear-splitting from start to finish, but it is intense and unsettling throughout, with even the quieter tracks like ‘Amaryllis’ chaotic and quivering. ‘Kyoro’ and ‘Symmetry’ are like a fairground ride going drastically wrong, and ‘You Died in the Sea’ and ‘Fatal Sisters Opened Umbrella’ are disturbing by title alone. The same is true of ‘All You Need Is Love Was Not True’ – a wonderful eight and a half minutes of cyclic synth (that somehow reminds me of MBV’s ‘I Only Said‘), interspersed with murmured speech and dissonant, klaxon-like guitars.
This record has a Suicide-esque sense of terror, combined with the moving, otherworldliness of shoegaze to create something original, and somewhat underappreciated. It’s one I definitely need to give more time.