Sunday, September 25, 2005

Linus' Blanket's Single & Other Asian CDs

Linus' Blanket's Labor in Vain single.

Apple Crumble Record in Shibuya, as I’ve written before, is one of the coolest record stores in Tokyo, a tiny closet of a shop that stocks only good music from Europe, North America and Asia. I stopped by there the other day, and without having planned on it, ended up buying several CDs by bands from elsewhere in Asia.

One was “Labor in Vain”, the new single by Seoul-based band Linus’ Blanket. A delightful Korean group whose songs sound, at different times, European pop, lounge jazz and bossa nova, Linus creates some of the most delicate, sweet music I’ve ever listened to. It’s the sort of music one might enjoy over afternoon tea with fine china in a forest cabin in Europe or something. Singer and keyboardist YeonGene, on the cover above, apparently has the Mozart-like ability to play back a song on the piano after hearing it just once.

invisible cities journeys compilation

Also in the shopping cart was a compilation album by several Hong Kong bands, called invisible cities journeys, released by Mackie Study. A lot of great music seems to be coming out of Hong Kong and Taiwan these days, and this compilation was further proof of that. I especially liked the fourth track, a slow Cantonese ballad by a female musician whose name in English I don’t know, singing a song that I think means “Missing Person”. The compilation also included vivacious illustrations by local artists. Two examples below:

invisible cities journeys illustration.

... and another.

One of the differences between music made by Japanese musicians and musicians elsewhere in Asia is that the latter don’t seem to be afraid of writing gentle, relaxed pop songs, whereas Japanese groups, for the most part, seem to prefer rock, or music that tries new things, for example a mix of various genres such as jazz or hip-hop or techno. The Japanese groups often come up with nice results, but they don’t often produce mellow CD like this invisible cities journeys compilation or the Linus single. My knowledge of other Asian music is pretty limited, however, and it could be I’ve just run into several unrepresentative examples of relaxed music.

the pancakes' everyone has a secret.

A third CD I bought is another instance of a non-Japan Asian music you can relax to: everyone has a secret, by the pancakes of Hong Kong. The pancakes, the musical unit of the Hong Kong girl ‘dejay’, seems to already be very popular locally. Interestingly, the first song on this album is called “tamagawa”, the name of one of the big rivers in Tokyo, the Tama River, and the album art is photographs of a riverbed park, where Tokyoites play sports and have barbecue parties over weekends. The lyrics have nothing to do with the river or Tokyo, as far as I can tell. I wonder what this Japan connection is?


I wish, one of these days, I could see a show that brings together great bands from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia. A gathering like this I think would not only be completely awesome, but even transforming (in that music helps bridge gaps, and this is a region with a lot of gaps to bridge).

And if such a thing were possible, I also wish I could fly to these other Asian musical centers on weekends when nothing is happening in Tokyo, to keep abreast of what’s happening in other parts of Asia (then maybe I would change the name of this blog to East Asia Live).

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