There are moments of disquieting turbulence on ITEKOMA HITS – the latest album from Otoboke Beaver. (おとぼけビ～バ～) We’re not speaking in reference to the sonic assault of avant-punk and garage rock that galvanizes the fourteen tunes. There is noise, for sure – it is loud and tight and nothing that happens here happens without challenge to your eardrums’ threshold. But it is the rage; an address of the dislocation between cultural norms, and our authentic selves – that underpins the weight of the work.
Much has been written about the Otoboke Beaver live show experience. Delirious, fevered, fun – spasms of energy that punch out tracks. Art is made from disruption. The dBs in use are barely legal. And all of that thrashing about is displayed on this studio album’ All of the the juts and thrusts of the Otoboke Beaver sound are here. It’s a sound that somehow applies nail polish to it’s knuckles, more so now than on previous releases. Production shows the nuance – the calm at the eye of the storm. Musicianship at this level is rare. The recorded performance that places a of machine gun snare beneath a rapidly stabbed bass line carries a strange kind of harmony. ‘Love is Short’. There’s a level of tightness across these tracks that is almost perfect.
There are many confrontations in this sequence. Sung, for the main, in Japanese, most song titles are titled in English for distribution outside of Japan. ‘Introduce me to your family’, and ‘Don’t light my fire’ are equally commanding, equally tragi-comic. ‘Bad Luck’, ‘I’m tired of your repeating story’, ‘ What do you mean you have to talk to me at this late date?’ are more direct in their address of life’s disappointment – or the disappointment in individuals, who also feel like they represent the ‘everyman’.
Our course, unless we’re Japanese-speakers, some of the lyrical nuance is lost. But through video and production techniques we get the emotive quality of Otoboke Beaver in spades.
There’s a sense of ‘Vermillion Pleasure Night’ about the video work the band has shared. Avant-Garde and self-aware in it’s Japanese-ness, Otoboke Beaver celebrate and taunt the culture from which they came, and also the western expectations of that culture. They fight, and find victory on all of these fronts. Just like every band from Liverpool has to work beyond the shadow of the Fab Four, so Otoboke Beaver move beyond the legacy of bands like Shonen Knife – they bleach their own path in the natural landscape, extending what it means to be in this kind of band, from this kind of culture.
There are simpler bands to listen to than Otoboke Beaver, but there are few that are as easy to develop a passion for. The methods they deploy in realizing their vision are truly unique, and their energy is affecting beyond measure. ITEKOMA HITS is an album that feels important. There is a gravity to what it means, landing at this time like it has – shuddering with depth along a cultural fault line.
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HURRY – BUY – OTOBOKE BEAVER MUSIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY JUMEI YAMADA