After Midnight In Japan with Noise-rock Misfits, The Dip

ATN

Japanese correspondent r e n reports: I first saw The Dip last

summer at an all-night college festival. September is school festival

season in Japan, and all the colleges in Tokyo have massive blowouts

limited only by their students' collective imaginations. This

particular evening featured 12 bands ranging from a bunch of freshman

to well-known alternative acts. Heading the bill was The Dip.

By the time they came on it was near two in the morning, and from 3

hours of straight moshing to standard unintelligible hardcore lyrics,

the crowd was anything but pumped. But, dutifully everyone stood and

silently pressed forward to the stage. Sound began resonating as soon

as the guitars got connected. Feedback looped over white noise, broken

by static clicks and background noise as microphones were connected,

effects dialed in, levels checked. The stage was dark except for the

flashlights of the crew and the strobing pulses of two electronic

hand-held toy laser guns. These guns let out eerie and futuristic

whines, blasts, and toy laser gun sounds as they were rubbed along the

frets of guitars, held to pickups, and stuck in front of microphones.

The effect was positively transcendental.

The crowd swayed gently to the mellowness of the whole scene. Imagine:

two in the AM, sixth band up, waves of crumbling feedback, static black

and white noise, over-amplified and fed-back laser gun squeals that

roll smoothly without form or substance. Somewhere after twenty

minutes or an hour you notice a drum beat; not a pounding of incessant

rhythm but a low bass thunder that blends with the rest of the fuzzy

noise, accenting the simple repeating chords, breaking the music into

almost identifiable riffs without losing the seamlessness of the

overlapping sounds. And then once you think you've got the tune, the

lyrics wash under everything, seeping around the random clicks and

whistles, the melodic strumming and thrumming. The words are

poetically Japanese, long and drawled; unhurried, as if they don't care

whether you're listening or not. Occasional English, even more

beautiful in its imperfection, weaves in out. Begging sleep, accosting

love, challenging God and seeming all the time so thoroughly engrossed

on the simple acts of melding together a mosaic of tempo, sound, and

words.

Originally called Dip the Flag, Yamaji Kazuhide (vocals, guitars,

keyboard, electric sitar), Nagata Yasushi (bass, mix), and Nakanishino

Ryuki (drums, percussion, piano) are everything that is right with

three man Japanese alternative. There second offering as The Dip (in

Japanese, just Dip), Love to Sleep, exemplifies the perfection

of their original and immediately recognizable sound. Acoustic guitar

riffs blend into backwards-mixed effects, distortion, and catchy pop

rhythms to make sometimes haunting, always soul-revealing songs. The

CD offers 10 songs, including a brilliant cover of "Dear Prudence," 9

minutes 7 seconds long that simply hangs the grinding distortion and

familiar lyrics in a dark pool of punk energy and gothic effects. In

what I consider an attempt to be more mass-market ready, three of the

songs are entirely in English, although at first listening you wouldn't

know it, so good are these guys at making the words a part of the music

itself.

Don't let all my dark imagery mislead you, if you can keep from nodding

your head or tapping your foot along with "Lust for Life" or "My Sleep

Stays Over You", you're either deaf or unconscious. This is, after

all, Japanese alternative, grouped in the same category as Yellow Junky

Monkey, The Blanky Jet City, and S.O.B. (who have more in common with

grunge and metal than gothic). There is no shortage of baggy pants,

Adidas and Airwalks, and Bitch t-shirts on the bodies of the smiling

teens who rumble themselves counterclockwise in the pit in front of the

stage, occasionally colluding to hurl one another onto the up-stretched

hands of their fellow fans. But, off on the sidelines there is also a

strong contingent of hair-sprayed and tight-pantsed, black and leather

clad new-punks, crossovers from the audiences of Japan's glam-rock

megastars like X Japan and Luna Sea. They're here because, while Dip

is not anywhere near as clean and simple as mainstream rock, these

three guys still appeal to the fashionably hip lost misfits as well as

the skate-punks, skinheads, and college alternates.

While Japanese mainstream pop has a LONG way to go before breaking into

the markets of the West, genuinely talented and interesting bands like

Shonen Knife have shown that Japanese music is not all television star

crossovers singing the themes to their weekly series. Digging through

a monopolized music industry embedded in TV that force-feeds mass

market no-brain cheese-pop and hides true talent under catchy choruses

easily adapted to karaoke (consider, EVERY single released in Japan

comes with a no lyrics version of the song for karaoke practice), it's

good to see a dedicated consortium of various youths from college

students to social misfits support a no excuses hard-core music scene

fighting against 2800 yen CD prices (US$30) and 4000 yen tickets (for

small venues) that manages to continually crank out good, loud,

entertaining stuff.