Totally extreme and truly outrageous Japanese idols group BiS don’t hold back at all when it comes to their music videos (see here and here for previous examples). And for their latest clip, “STUPiG”, to be featured on a new maxi single slated for release in early 2014, the girls – who together comprise the “Brand New Idol Society” – appear to have travelled to a bizarre biomechanical dimension made of pure crazy, a million laser lights, and very ear-bleeding sounds...sort of the like Tokyo Robot Restaurant as filtered through bath salts and a terrible fever.
No matter if you find “STUPiG” and BiS fascinating or just nightmare inducing, you have to admit, when it comes to idols, it sure is different from AKB48!
Bonus! Official visual and covers for the STUPiG maxi-single (produced by AA= of the The Mad Capsule Markets)
As the current Era of Warring Idols gathers momentum in
Japan, it seeks out new hosts around the world, mutating and evolving like a
hungry virus in order to survive. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the bizarre
“B-pop” inspired shenanigans of Brazilian-Japanese idol unit Linda III Sei.
Now, the girls of hy4_4yh (pronounced “Hyper Yoyo”) have set sail for Indonesia
and a new frontier in hyperactive sound.
Safeguarding their passage into these strange lands is DJ Jet
Baron, aka Mandokoro Takano, formerly of pioneering Japanese nerdcore group Leopaldon.
Ever on the hunt for bad taste and Asian trash culture, DJ Jet Baron
eventually tuned into the obscure Funkot (“funky kota”) scene happening in
Indonesia based around terrifying 180 bpm music that some house music pundits have compared
to Happy Hardcore. Back in Japan, Jet Baron became a prophet of sorts, holding
sweaty Funkot parties at his Acid Panda Cafe club in Tokyo and getting the
music out to the masses via appearances on TBS Radio. Funkot became something
of an underground sensation and took up roots in Japan, which have now borne strange
fruit and even stranger outfits...
Formed in 2005, Idol unit hy4_4yh (above) were already a crazy and
borderline uncontrollable bunch of zany girls to begin with (their live gigs are particularly exhausting), but now they have sold
their souls to Funkot in their new song and video “Ticckkeee Operation ~ YAVAY”, arranged by Jet Baron, and the results may just have you thrashing about on the floor and frothing at the mouth.
The song makes much use of the word YAVAY (which most people just
Romanize as “yabai”, but whatever… ), which the official hy4_4yh ministry of propaganda claims, “is a new Japanese slang. It's an adjective which means more than
CRAZY, COOL and ILL.” The video makes use of the only three known locations
that can visually match the fury of the wild Funkot beat: the synapse frying Tokyo
Robot Restaurant, the streets of Shibuya, and the Acid Panda Café itself.
Where Japan will go next in search of new sounds and gimmicks
to mine is anyone's guess, but know this: the Era of Warring Idols has gone
global and the prognosis is YAVAY.
Future generations will
look back on the current Era of Warring Idols (アイドル戦国時代) in pure wonderment and stark terror. Maybe there
will even be memorial buildings and military museums filled with hundreds of
bizarre and sparkly girl’s dresses hung up behind bulletproof glass, along
of autographed relics, and interactive
“survivor’s tales” from fans and performers alike.
The war’s inevitability will be one of the major study points for
visiting students, and how,
short of going back in
time to prevent the invention of the microprocessor, there really could have been no way to stop it: the Rise of the B-Grade Idols.
The flashpoint occurred the moment that indie producers
latched onto affordable tech which made it cheap
and easy to create idol music, idol promo videos, and, of course, idol groups. AKB48’s and Perfume’s marches out from the otaku underground into the mainstream helped to map out a new world,
and “Idol Units” became the coins of the realm.
It’s been this way for years now: every month, a new indie idol group comes down the line, buzzes up
the Japanese net for a bit,
and gets a shot at either becoming some kind of next big thing (Momoiro Clover Z
occupying that spot now) or remains stuck in idol limbo with regular gigs and maybe -- if they are lucky -- a TV theme song or two.
Either way, the idol scene is now crazier
than a cuckoo clock (neophytes
would do well to investigate BABY METAL, Team Syachihoko, and 9nine for proof)
and you either dig it, or you don’t.
I’ll be writing up a
piece about idol audiences later on (with a particular emphasis on
female fans, who have been totally ignored in the Western dismissal of idol
culture) but to these eyes, it’s like pro wrestling: you can either hoot and holler at the dumb show biz spectacle or take great offense to it. The line is drawn, and for some doubly so after the recent AKB48 “apology
video” scandal, but most "Japan pundits" probably stood on the sanctimonious side of
disapproval already. Even so, I have a sneaking feeling that history will sort
it all out for us and get the last laugh. Pop eats itself, and in 20 to 30 years, people will be “discovering” old indie idol gems much in
the same way that people
continue to “discover” obscure kayokyokusingles today. But seriously, why wait for an expiration date when
Linda III Sei is happening right now?
Pardon the long preamble and background set-up on
B-grade idols, but I think it is
necessary to try and explain how something as
spectacularly odd as the new idol unit known as Linda III Sei (リンダIII世) could even exist in the first place.
Let’s look at what we got here: Linda III Sei is five girls, ages 11-14, bound together by their
background as third-generation Brazilian-Japanese living in Gunma Prefecture. As a bonus to their
presumably working class backgrounds (Gunma is one of Japan’s major manufacturing centers, and has
a large, decidedly non-prosperous, Brazilian populace), they were hand picked by the fickle finger of fate to be idols performing near the exit signs at electronic
stores like Yamada Denki in Ota city (below).
Their official bio claims
that their sound is “not K-pop, not J-pop”, but “B-pop” influenced by Brazil’s Baile Funk party scene. But in truth, the
group’s first release, “Future Century eZ zoo” (未来世紀eZ zoo) is an ear
bending Frankenstein monster of auto-tune settings, 8-bit sounds, some English and mangled Japanese, that bravely remembers to include
a full-on samba interlude on the bridge. The result is something strange and shockingly new.
The song’s stylistic mash-up is the sonic equivalent of the inexplicable outfits the girls are forced to
wear: steampunk tops, medieval torture straps, tattoo tights, and sneakers. Again, we are in
the realm of indie producers, and the ones behind the scenes here are said to
have worked on songs for Johnny’s boy band V6
and some anime themes. But everything goes out the window once you see the video for "Future Century eZ zoo", which first erupted two weeks ago.
Linda III Sei look like
they put together hours before the video was shot; dance like the choreography
was taught seconds before. The sheep and chickens probably just wandered into the frame. I get the same feeling I get from Wassup Rockers, Diane
Arbus pics and early Harmony
Korine films: “I am gazing at something that cannot possibly exist, but the
world is so fucking weird that I guess it must”. The only major misstep in a
work of otherwise synapse rattling chaos, randomness, and literal darkness are the zombies. Is
there anything more plebian and ordinary than zombies at this
Lots of questions begin to whirl about, and the group is so
new that there’s just not a lot of answers. But decoding names can turn up some
clues. As mentioned before, the girls in the group are third-generation Brazilian-Japanese,
hence the name “Linda the Third”. Also, the girls have said in interviews that “they
want to steal fan’s hearts”, just like anime/manga anti-hero Lupin the Third,
and their use of a familiar-looking retro font for their official logo seems to
hint at this connection. And would you believe that Terry Gilliam is also part
of this goulash? His 1985 film is known as “Future Century Brazil” in Japan (未来世紀ブラジル), a reference
that bonkura fans will immediately pick up when considering the title of Linda III
Sei’s first single.
Either way, identity
politics and outsider status are the key to Linda III Sei’s gimmick and
could effectively be mined by academics for days. For others, the Brazil-Japan connection will be about as culturally enlightening as a drunken night out to a Philippine Pub. The Japanese net is intrigued for
now, and their facebook and YouTube pages are swarmed with comments in Portuguese. While it is unlikely that you will see them on NHK's Red and White Singing Contest anytime soon, seriously, how often
do you see Brazilian-Japanese people in the
spotlight, even one as wobbly as this?
Call it exploitation, call it trash, call it pre-apocalyptic performance art. It's a motherfuckin' ZOO and future history will
call them IDOLS.
The Lady Spade is not only one of the best indie idol acts working the circuit now, but one of the best unsigned music acts in Japan period. I admit that the sight of cute girls dressed in cosplay style uniforms may not seem particularly groundbreaking at this juncture in human history, but believe me, whenever The Lady Spade commands a stage, the difference is immediately apparent.
First of all, their music is really, really good. Songs like “You Must Obey Me” and “Wakaranai” are monster dance tracks that sound like chart ready J-pop (or K-pop) smash hits. Also, the ladies – ATG, Tiffany, and Lotta by name – give 100% in delivering this material with high spirited dancing and razor-sharp choreography. The end result is FUN, FUN, FUN!
From left: Lotta, ATG, Tiffany
Best of all, The Lady Spade is fully equipped to airlift their act overseas, and has performed on US soil several times…and is about to again!
How would you describe The Lady Spade to someone who has never heard of them?
Well, the world is at its end anyhow, so consider us your final gift! Magic spells and glistening artificial sweetener have been aggressively blended to create a confection like a powerful medicine…totally cute, totally fun, but a little sad, and a tad frightening too. I'm sure you'll like us. You'll like us, right? Riiight? Sooooo before you break down and stop working, before you fall apart, please listen to our songs.
Vulgar Display of Beauty
Magical Electric Doll
THE LADY SPADE
I guess this isn't enough for you to understand, huh? From the realm of two-faced girls — truly sweet, truly scary; sparkly, cute magical girls, the dark and sexy goth world — we're a unit that combines kawaii, sexy, otaku, anime, cosplay, fashion, art. We perform our electric sound high on teenage delusions.
How did the group start? How has it changed over the years?
At first we were using old anime songs and '60s spy movie themes from the West as our motifs, but about three years ago we added member ATG for vocals so the style changed to magical girls and the gothic world. We incorporated a club sound with electronic music and were largely reborn.
What are some of your musical influences and inspirations?
Lots of electro club music and anime songs. We're also influenced by a lot of other things besides music, like fashion and illustration, photography, other art…
How would you describe each member of the group? What are they like on stage and off?
ATG - Vocals
The 666th doll made for kicks by the 8 million gods.
She has an upside down heart that is pure black — the shape of a spade.
She was abused and violated by the gods for such an insanely long time that she became broken, and can't do anything except sing and dance.
TIFFANY - Dancer
A superior familiar who sees to ATG's needs. When she gets mad, she'll make you drink poison. Loves rock 'n roll, the Twist, and doing experiments on ATG.
LOTTA - Dancer
A robot from the 2-D world of manga. She is crazy about ATG, but always messes up and ends up torturing her. Loves doujinshi.
SLF!! - DJ, All Sounds & Design
The skull-mask wearing scientist who implanted ATG's upside-down, pure black heart. He's always tinkering with something in a dark place. Loves meat.
The dance choreography for the Lady Spade's live is really impressive. Who does the choreography and what are rehearsals like?
Thanks! We're so happy to hear you like it. ATG creates the movements and we all practice together. Instead of a band playing, we want people to enjoy a dance performance, so we take choreography very seriously.
The Lady Spade has performed in America before. What was that like?
We appeared at the “Sweet Streets” art reception in Los Angeles in April of 2011 and at the APAHA (Asian-Pacific American Heritage Association) festival in Houston in June of 2012.
Did anything fun or crazy happen when you guys were in the USA?
When we were in Hollywood, ATG was wearing a bikini so lots of people stopped to take pictures (of course young people and kids, but even old ladies!) and one of them was the art director for The Boondock Saints, whom SLF!! loves.
Also, we were surprised when Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins came to our signing event (although he may not have really known who we were *laughing*)
In Houston we were happy to see lots of cute Lolitas and young fans who were good at Japanese. I don't think we would have been able to tell from Japan that there were so many people who like anime and otaku culture even in Texas.
What do you think of American otaku compared to Japanese otaku?
I don't think there are that many differences! "Otaku" is a culture the world shares now, so we cross national borders and love everyone. If something is good, they call it good — I'm really happy we have this shared sense of otakuness. For example, "Striped panties are so cute!" *laughing* On the other hand, sometimes they interpret things in an ultra-fresh way, very different from Japan. We were really excited to find that out! For example, gyaru culture and otaku culture don't mix in Japan, but the idea that 'they're both are kawaii so I'll like both' is really wonderful.
What's next for The Lady Spade?
In March we'll be at Houston's Anime Matsuri 2013 doing one kawaii show, one dark show, and also a maid cafe party. The maid cafe party is the event we put on Shibuya as "Spade Lounge."
Do you have any special message for our readers?
The things you like are wonderful things, crucial because they make you you, and at the same time crossing all kinds of boundaries to connect everyone. Let's spread otaku culture even further together by continuously making discoveries and meeting new people.
Now, Yun*chi is set to release her second mini-LP, which like her debut, feature songs written and produced by kz of Vocaloid supergroup livetune. The first single, “Shake You*”, along with the psychedelic, dazzling, sometimes disturbing PV below, makes a stronger impression than Yun*chi’s debut "Reverb" did...at least to these eyes and ears...
The Shake You* mini-LP goes on sale on 4/17 in Japan and the clip bodes well for a mind-altering future ahead for Yun*chi and friends.
BiS (the name is short for "Brand New Idol Society") are an intense Japanese idol group, sort of like a dark and dysfunctional AKB48 in serious need of shock therapy and/or happy pills.
With ham-fisted promo images like the one below, it is initially kind of tempting to laugh them off, but BiS music – which is a mix of metal rock and more traditional jpop songcraft – continues to be oddly compelling.
BiS: voted "most likely to bring nail-studded bats to an idol concert"
I've written about before for the slow motion face-slapping fest that was their “GET YOU” music video and now, BiS is BACK, clad in "Who Killed Idol?" shirts and fake yakuza tattoos, with a wet and messy PV for the song “BiSimulation” filled with all manner of pained facial expressions and body fluids carelessly flung about. Watch below.
Is it all a deep and meaningful metaphor for the pain of being in an idol band? Has someone watched Battle Royale too many times? Does someone need a hug? Hopefully some explanations are forthcoming when BiS release their new album in March.