Archive for the ‘Boom Boom Satellites’ Category

Save Me Japanese Nu-Jazz Rock Rap Fusion

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

What the fuck do I say?

This is the year that just keeps on shitting. The President of the United States of America is a recluse who sits behind his phone, tweeting out racist propaganda to encourage ethnic cleansing, while the GOP work in the middle of the night to pass criminal “tax” codes that work to dismantle health care and destroy the global climate. The rest of the world needs to pass economic sanctions on the US for human rights violations.  The citizens of America to brush up on their carpentry skills and build some motherfucking guillotines. I feel like that’s the only way that things are going to get any better at all.

In the meantime here’s a 16-year-old song that perfectly defines how I feel right this minute.

Boom Boom Satellites (Featuring Chuck D)
Your Reality’s A Fantasy But Your Fantasy is Killing Me (Coldcut V.Steinski Going Under Mix)
Light My Fire (Live At Fuji Rock)
It’s been a bit over a year since we lost Michiyuki Kawashima to brain cancer and to be honest, I had to take a break from the group’s music for a bit. Some of it, especially Shine Like a Billion Suns and their final EP, just made me too emotional. I strongly associate Boom Boom Satellites with some of my greatest moments in my life, from the Moby concert I went to on my 20th birthday where they were the opening act, to my first visit to Japan where I gorged on their music while traveling the side streets of the city that would eventually become my home.

For me, Boom Boom Satellites are an encapsulation of every kind of music I’ve ever liked. Part hard rock, dub, big beat, synthpop, hip-hop and even progressive rock. They did it all and they did it all well.

I like all their albums, but the one I’ve probably re-visited the least is their 2001 sophomore effort Umbra. It definitely qualifies as a “difficult second album” with diversions into downbeat electronica and even some jazz that are honestly hard to digest at times.

The album does have a standout shoulda-been classic though, “Your Reality’s A Fantasy But Your Fantasy is Killing Me.” Rad live drums and programmed beats accompany guitar noise and dissonant sax. It’s cyberpunk jazz serving as a backdrop for a viscous rap by none other than Chuck motherfucking D. Segueing from nearly nonsensical word association to blistering verses attacking white liberals who want to pretend everything is okay alongside black leaders who aren’t trying hard enough, it’s even more fucking relevant and brutal now than it was when it first came out.

Umbra is not available in the states, but the song is. You can get it on the 19972016-19972007 Remastered greatest hits collection, which is available on most digital storefronts. I recommend that entire album, it’s a fantastic, epic-length introduction to a band everyone needs to recognize.

Another album that isn’t on iTunes is the group’s Remixed compilation, which features a fantastic remix of the track by Coldcut, which is the version I’m sharing here tonight.

From what I can tell, there are no live recordings of the track, but it was often incorporated into the group’s live performances of another track called “Light My Fire,” where they would take the beats and heavy guitars of that song and play Chuck’s rap over them. The combination worked wonderfully, and the fierce nature of the group’s always intense live shows made the rhymes by Chuck sound even more brutal.

Annoyingly, no live version of “Light My Fire” ever made it to a proper BBS live album. However, it made it to plenty of their live DVDs, all of which I’ve ripped and converted to MP3s. The live version I’m sharing tonight is from the group’s 2005 Fuji Rock performance. It’s rad as shit.

In the interests of my own mental health, my next post might be nothing but Japanese new age/ambient music and I apologize in advance.


Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Today marks the release of Lay Your Hands On Me, the final release from Boom Boom Satellites. In case you missed the horrible news (which received next-to-zero press in Western media), the group had to disband earlier this year due to another brain tumor relapse suffered by lead singer/guitarist Michiyuki Kawashima, which has sadly left him partially paralyzed.

I wrote about it on my other blog, how tragic this news is and how upset it has made me, and I encourage you to go read that. This post is like a part 2 of that.

I’m used to liking bands that no one else care about. I guess it’s my thing. And I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve come to accept that the bands I like, the bands who I think should stand head and shoulders above the rest and reign supreme as pop gods the world over, that they’re all doomed for second-tier status or less. I get it. The music business is tough, random and evil. Cream rarely rises

But fuck, man. Boom Boom Satellites? They should’ve been huge. They should’ve been the first Japanese rock act to break international. And definitely the first Japanese rock band to break into the states. They sing in English. Their music (especially their later stuff) is tailor-made for the mainstream, designed to kick a stadium’s ass. They sound 100% original, but still accessible and fun. There’s no pretension, no reason to issue a warning with the recommendation i.e. “they take a bit getting used to, but…”. One minute into their 2006 masterpiece On, and the opening track “Kick It Out” commences a full-throttle assault on your senses, pounding you to pieces with a wholly unique combination of balls-to-the-wall rock and frenetic electronic beats that should’ve had people all around the world buying the album in droves.

Why not? Why the fuck didn’t they take? Their first album was released in the states and probably did decent enough. I remember seeing the videos for it on MTV and they even toured with Moby. But for whatever reason that was it, their second album was never released in the states, and only a few since have been, and then only digitally. Maybe the band didn’t wan to put in the effort to breakthrough overseas. Maybe the label (which won’t even stream their videos on YouTube in the states) didn’t want to devote the resources. It’s hard to say.

I would guess that the band had it sights on breaking through into the states as recently as 2010, when the attempted to remix “Kick It Out” to appeal to a Western audience. This, of course, means that it was a complete disaster, featuring vocals by B-level former child star and wannabe club singer Tahj Mowry and even a disastrous rap by Flo Rida, which is phoned in and lazy even by his low standards. That monstrosity rightfully tanked and probably dashed any future plans for American domination.

Yet another thing I can hate Flo Rida for. Great.

But what really tears my heart apart is that more people didn’t get to see the group live. As I said in my other post, Boom Boom Satellites live was a revelation. A lightening bolt of pure energy. Just totally non-stop, always on and ready to kick ass. Every time I was fortunate enough to see them, whether as an opening act, as part of a festival line-up or as headliners to their own gig, they fucking owned the stage.

While their Japanese label has made it inexplicably impossible to watch their videos proper on YouTube, thankfully many fans have uploaded live concert footage, much of it taken from the multitudes of live releases the band put out over of the years. I cannot implore you enough, go on YouTube and check those clips out. This user has quite a few on his YouTube page, all of which I recommend.

Then, if you like what you hear, please please please please buy what you can. Their new EP is on iTunes! You can buy it! You should do that! You can also get their greatest hits on iTunes in the states. I recommend starting there (it’s the only way you can get the real version of “Kick It Out” in the states. If you dig that, then move onto Embrace, their 2013 release, followed by their 2007 album Exposed. Their 1999 debut is also available digitally in the states, I recommend that last. It’s a great record, but it is not indicative of their more recent or live sound. However, if you dig 90s electronica, it’s a stunning example of that.

After that, if you want more and can afford it, then bite the bullet and pay the import prices for the rest of their stuff. The one that’s most worth the dough is On, that’s where you’ll find “Kick It Out” and 11 other high-velocity rock tracks that will refuse to let you take a breather for its 50 minute running time. From there, I suggest moving to the follow-up To The Loveless, which is very similar to On, and then skipping ahead to their final full-length Shine Like A Billion Suns (the albums between To The Loveless and this one are on iTunes). Shine is a bit more sedate than the albums that preceded it, but in it’s more mellow groove there’s a beauty that you can’t find on their other albums.

From there I recommend their least accessible full-length releases, the insane jazz/dub hybrid 2001 album Umbra, and its follow-up, 2002’s Photon, which is good meeting point between their more experimental sound from the album before that and the mainstream rock that followed.

Finally, go after their EPs, Joyride and Push Eject. Both are early releases by the group (the former actually being their debut) so they’re more in the dub and electronic arena than the rock one, but they’re still solid. I also obviously recommend their live releases, Experienced and Experienced II.

You should buy their music, it’s in print. That’s why I’m sharing anything from their records proper tonight. I’m only sharing audio rips from video releases that are well out-of-print, or from Blu-rays that go for over $100 online. That seems like the right thing to do. Not only that, these tracks are my favorites from the group, the ones I think of when I remember them, and I feel are the best representation of their amazing live shows.

Boom Boom Satellites are over. Let’s not let them get forgotten.

Back On My Feet 
Dress Like An Angel
Kick It Out
Dig The New Breed
Easy Action
Rise And Fall


Disco Funk Techno Beats

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Country disco, Japanese synth-pop and 90s hip-hop. I’m not going to be satisfied until I can somehow mish-mash jazz, classical, digital hardcore and calypso on this blog.

Dolly Parton
Baby I’m Burning (Disco Mix)
This song has an undeniable groove that is catchy as hell. I wish more disco crossover tracks from the 70s were this good.

The fact that none of the gay clubs I’ve been to have ever played this song really piss me off, I bet this was the shit back in the day. Makes me wish gay clubs in Tokyo had throwback nights. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good Rihanna and Lady Gaga when I’m in the club, but would it kill a place to kick it old school once in a while and play some Donna Summer, Thelma Houston or Slyvester? I have a feeling that I went up to the DJ at my local club and dropped a request for “Do You Wanna Funk,” the single-greatest Hi-NRG track of all-time, he’d give me a look like I asked him to play Bach.

Basically what I’m saying is you punk kids and your music.

I Like The City
I posted a track by these guys a few months back, here’s the other one I have. The Targets were a Japanese synth-pop act in the early 80s who released one album and then promptly vanished off the face of the Earth. The two members credited on Discogs apparently never released anything ever again, and the album has never even been reprinted on CD. The only reason I have two songs by them at all is because they were on a a compilation I got. The vocals here aren’t great, I know that, but the proto-acid sequencer backbeat is totally radical and sounds like nothing else from that era.

Ken Ishii
Echo Exit (Boom Boom Satellites remix)
In case you missed the absolutely horrible news, Boom Boom Satellites are no more, their lead singer being forced to retire due to complications resulting from surgery to remove a brain tumor.

This news completely devastated me. I wrote a brief thing about it on my other site and I don’t have much more to say about it at the moment. I do plan on putting something else together soon though, hopefully to coincide with the release date of their upcoming (final) release, which is due out on the 22nd.

Until then, I thought I’d share this track they remixed, which is by Japanese electronic artist Ken Ishii, a totally rad Japanese DJ and producer who has been laying down dope techno in Japan for over 20 years. Gamers might know him thank to his work on the soundtrack to the seminal rhythm game/acid trip Rez. If you’re a fan of hard techno with a Detroit edge, you’ll probably dig damn near everything he’s ever put out. This track is from a CD single I picked up last night at the greatest record store in Tokyo. A place I’ll tell you more about when I finish my record store guide, which should be sometime next month.

Naughty By Nature
O.P.P. (Ultamix Remix)
O.P.P. (Charming Radio Mix)
O.P.P. (DBM Remix)
O.P.P. (Out Of Mind Version)
Yeah. You know me. Actually no, fuck that. I love my boyfriend.

One thing I never noticed about this song until today is at one point the crowd refrain shouts that “everyone in this party” is down with O.P.P. That means, unless I’m mistaken as to what O.P.P. actually is, that everyone in that party is up for cheating on their significant other or fucking someone else’s significant other. Damn skippy indeed.

Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom…..Boom

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Oi what a shitball week last week was.

Still not entirely over Bowie’s passing. A few days ago my boyfriend came over and we watched highlights from the Best of Bowie DVD set. I was doing okay until I played “Life On Mars” and, just like I thought I would, I lost it for a bit. Never actually got emotional over a celebrity’s death before. It felt weird. I’m glad I never besmirched anyone for mourning the loss of a celebrity before. At least, I don’t think I ever did. Shit, I used to be right prick, so I won’t rule it out.

I’ll probably post some more Bowie this week or the next. But I’ve been pretty much drowning myself in Bowie since his passing, so I thought I’d mix things up tonight.

Boom Boom Satellites
Dub Me Crazy (Ver.02)
Bike Ride To The Moon
Low Blow (Instrumental)
Here you go, obscure remixes of songs you don’t know by a Japanese band you’ve never heard of. And I wonder why more people don’t read this blog anymore.

One thing about Bowie’s passing that struck me was how in line I was with the feelings of those I knew. We were all fucked up by the news. I feel that rarely happens this day and age. I almost never feel like I’m connecting on a pop culture level with the masses, let alone anyone I know. And I’m not saying that as a “boy people sure do like dumb shit these days” kind of thing (although sometimes I do feel that way), I’m more saying it in regards to the fact that media is more fragmented than ever before. In addition, my tastes these days tend to skew to hyper-obscure shit that doesn’t even score me cool kid hipster points.

Well, if anyone out there does dig on Boom Boom Satellites, I hope they enjoy these remixes. BBM is easily one of my top five favorite groups who are currently making music. Their insane blend of hyperactive rock music, pulse-pounding electronica, and the occasional foray into acid jazz (not that often, just enough to make it interesting) is still unlike anything I’ve heard in recent memory. If you enjoy these tunes, check out To The Loveless or On. Both are wonderful records.

Living On Video (’85 Big Mix)
Living On Video (Dub Mix)
There are approximately 8,504,321,459 remixes of this song, give or take a million. So I may have posted these before. Or they may be available legally under different names. It’s so hard to tell with b-grade dance acts like this, who seem to lease, sell or rent their back catalog to the highest bidder on a moment’s notice.

I first posted a remix to this track nine years ago. Which is another reminder to you all that I’ve been doing this blog for 10 years come this March. I’d like to do something to celebrate. Haven’t figured out what that might be though. So if anyone out there wants to drop a suggestion it would be appreciated. Be reminded that while I would enjoy reposting some old material, some of it is lost and/or of such bad quality that doing so might be impossible.

I also plan on purging my sidebar of dead links soon. So that’s something.

Boom Boom Satellites and Tokyo Bliss

Friday, April 5th, 2013

I was glad to see that my last post on Boom Boom Satellites exposed the group to people who may not have heard of them otherwise. Like I said in that post, if you really like the group, I suggest you seek out their records. Some of their albums are available on iTunes and Amazon, and there’s even a US-targeted Greatest Hits called Over and Over that you can pick up too.

In case that last post didn’t sell you on the group, I’m going to try one more time. Like I said in my previous post about the group, I’m not comfortable sharing any of their complete albums even if they aren’t available in the states. I believe that they’re going to be released here someday, and I don’t want to cannibalize those sales. So instead I’m going to share five choice cuts, five great songs by Boom Boom Satellites that you can’t get in America. If these awesome tunes can’t convince you that Boom Boom Satellites aren’t a band worth getting into, then I’m done with you.

Boom Boom Satellites
Rise And Fall
This is from Full of Elevating Pleasures, the band’s 2005 album, and the last that had any kind of experimental or abstract feeling to it. I bet the fans who love their early work saw this as the album where things fell apart, I feel it as the album where things really came together. They were still experimenting with their sound, but they were taking those ideas and concepts and plugging them into a more conventional pop structure. “Rise And Fall” showcases this the  most. While most of BBS’ work more mainstream work is heavily rooted in guitars, this song is built almost entirely on drums and it creates and explosive and manic feeling that is unique and powerful. I love it.

9 Doors Empire
Both of these songs are from On, their 2005 follow-up to Full of Elevating Pleasures. This is when BBS stopped being an experimental electronic band with rock influences and became a full-on electronic/rock band. These are ready-made stadium anthems, designed to get audiences’ blood pumping and feet moving. These songs are proof that a band can change their sound to appeal to more mainstream audiences and not lose what makes them unique in the process. Does this stuff sound like early BBS? Not really, but it has that essence of their earlier work. And it really rocks.

Caught In The Sun
These are both from To The Loveless, their 2010 record, and their last album that isn’t available in America. I feel that these two tracks best foretold the sound the band would move forward to with their latest record Embrace, much more layered and diverse. On is almost nothing but fast-paced rock, excellent but somewhat exhausting. These songs show the band’s ability to let their music breathe, embracing the quiet moments more so that when they explode into a frenzy of drums and feedback it sounds even more amazing.

Damn I love this band…

…allow me to indulge for a bit…

I spent much of my time in Tokyo walking the streets of the city with my headphones on. Walking around the streets and alleyways late at night, listening to Embrace, it made the city come alive.

Near the end of my trip I would make it a nightly ritual to get on a train near midnight, right before most lines shut down, and travel as far away from my hotel as  I was comfortable with. Then I would put on my headphones, crank some Boom Boom Satellites and start the walk back. Sometimes it would take hours. I didn’t care. Between the beautiful sights of that magnificent city and the music that was pulsing through my ears, I didn’t care. To me, the Boom Boom Satellites are a soundtrack to those nights, the best nights of my trip, some of the most peaceful and perfect nights of my life.

When I close my eyes now and listen to their music, it’s almost like I’m transported back there. Back to the bright lights of Shibuya, the parks of Ueno, and the amazing skyscrapers of Shinjuku. It’s a bittersweet feeling in many ways because it just makes me long to return to that city. But that’s impossible for now, and since my memories and these songs are the closest thing I got, they’ll have to do.

So yeah, for me Boom Boom Satellites represent a very specific time and place, a time and place where I was more happy and relaxed than I’ve ever been. So I guess I’m a bit biased when I say they’re one of the greatest bands on earth.


Boom Boom Room

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I’ve pretty much been listening to Boom Boom Satellites every single day since I got back from Japan in January. Before then I only had their 1999 debut album Out Loud (their only CD to get a proper release in the states), so I guess I’ve been going on a binge of their entire back catalog to make up for lost time.

Since I’ve been diving into their back catalog I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why they’ve failed to gain any kind of foothold in the states. And after listening to all of their albums multiple times over, I think I’ve managed to pin down their lack of success in the West to one thing: jazz.

Allow me to elaborate.

Boom Boom Satellites’ first album, Out Loud, was released in the states not soon after it came out in Japan. It was even given a fairly big push by their American distributor Epic. They went on tour with Moby, and were even commissioned for some pretty big remix jobs. I think a lot of people had the band pegged to break through because that album was the perfect crossover record; very much like an “electronica” album of the era, but with a very heavy, very guitar-focused rock sound as well.

But if the band gained any momentum off of Out Loud, they probably squandered it completely with their next two albums. Their second album, 2001’s Umbra, is the poster child for the stereotypical “difficult sophomore album.” While a fine record, it’s all over the place, with the band taking detours into hip-hop, drum and bass, and even some trip-hop. It’s not the kind of album that one can just pick up and listen to.

And things got even less accessible with their third record, Photon, as it found the band diving head first into the oh so dangerous waters of acid jazz with crazy, free-flowing horns and rambling drums taking  hold on about half of the album’s tracks. It’s interesting, to be sure, but jazz fusion electronica isn’t exactly a crossover genre that the masses are eager to eat up. It’s a shame too, because while the album as a whole is pretty out there, two of the band’s most intense and powerful tracks, “Dress Like An Angel” and “Light My Fire” are buried alongside the freeform jazz freakouts.

Since then, the band has all but completely discarded their jazzier and more experimental side, opting instead for a more electronic-rock sound that could best be described a s heavier, more frantic version of Garbage. Their follow-up to Umbra, 2006’s On, opens with “Kick It Out,” an obvious ready-made single designed exclusively to be a radio megahit if there ever was on. It was a massive smash for the band in Japan, but by then I think the jazz had done its damage. American record labels probably stopped calling, and anyone who had heard of the group during their brief run for success in the states had probably forgotten about them. Even I forgot about them for a long time, and I saw them live once!

And it’s a damn shame, because while they’re not as experimental or complex as they used to be, ever since 2006’s On they’ve been doing nothing but cranking out one solid electronic-influenced rock banger after another. Exposed (2007), To The Loveless (2010) and their recent release Embrace are all amazing works that combine electronic dance music and hard-rocking guitars better than anyone else on the planet. They’ve simply taken their unique sound to a whole new level. Sure, it’s lacking some of the spontaneity and experimental nature of their early work, but it’s infinitely more accessible, and damn it, there’s nothing wrong with creating music for the masses.

Only three proper Boom Boom Satellites are available digitally in the states: Out Loud, Embrace and Exposed. I recommend starting with Embrace, but Over and Over, a 2010 greatest hits compilation made specifically for American audiences, is also available, and that’s probably a good start for those looking to find out more about the band.

Even though the majority of their stuff is out of print in America, I don’t want to just post all of it. I do feel like it’s just a matter of time before they do make it here, at least digitally if nothing else.  But I did want to share something special, something that both die-hard Boom Boom Satellites fans and newcomers to the group would appreciate, and I think I found it.

Boom Boom Satellites (Live At Shibuya O-East)
All In A Day
Back On My Feet
Kick It Out
Light My Fire
Dress Like An Angel
When Boom Boom Satellites excellent 2010 album To The Loveless was first released, it came in a special edition that included a live DVD. Above is an audio rip of that concert. I chose to share this for two reasons. One, it’s an excellent mini-setlist that shows off both the electronic and rock sides of the group perfectly. Two, it also shows how damn awesome their live show is. As great as the studio versions of “Kick It Out” and “Dress Like An Angel” are, they cannot hold a candle to these live cuts, especially with “Kick It Out.” Holy shit. It’s crazy. If I ever get to hear that song live in person I think my heart will explode. Fucking incredible.

Play Video Games Be Happy. Also, listen to rad remixes of awesome tunes.

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Do you live in the greater Pittsburgh area?

Do you like video games?

Do you ever wish there was a place where you could buy vintage and import games at affordable prices and play classic arcade games on giant 99″ projection screens?

Then I got the place for you, the Penn Hills Game Exchange, an awesome video game store/arcade in, duh, Penn Hills, PA.

It’s a new store that a couple of my friends just opened, and it’s totally rad. You should check it out. Tell them I sent you. That way when I come in they can reward me with free candy.

Now that I got the plugging out of the way, here’s an incredibly eclectic assortment of electronic music.

Boom Boom Satellites
Push Eject (Howie B Remix)
4 A Moment of Silence
4 A Moment of Silence (Trapezoid Mix by Jack Dangers for Meat Beat Manifesto)
I plan on writing something a bit more in-depth on Boom Boom Satellites sometime in the future. For now I’ll just say that they’re one of my favorite Japanese bands, and I’ve been somewhat of a fan of theirs ever since I saw them open for Moby in 1999. However, it’s not easy to be a fan of the Boom Boom Satellites if you live in America, as almost none of their albums have been given a physical release in the states, and a few aren’t even available on Amazon MP3 or iTunes. That’s why I went all out when I was in Japan and I bought every single Boom Boom Satellites album I could find, giving myself a complete discography of their studio albums; one of their live releases, and a CD single for “Broken Mirror” which was apparently in a Gundam soundtrack (yo, the Japanese love Gundam, for real).

But these remixes are from none of the albums or singles I bought in Japan. Nope, I got these off of a 12″ single that I bought right here in Pittsburgh. Funny how that works.

The Future Sound of London
Snake Hips
The Future Sound of London have done a hell of a job of making sure all their 12″ singles, remixes and other assorted oddities are in-print and easy to snag on various digital services. And good on them, it’s nice to see a band actually understand that if you make  music available, people might buy it. Makes finding a track for me to share a real pain in the ass though. I bought a few FSOL singles in Japan, and this extended mix of “Snake Hips” is the only one that I am sure isn’t on a CD or digital release that you can find in America. The album version from ISDN is about five minutes long, but this version taken from a 12″ single is about eight and a half minutes long. Not surprisingly, it’s still weird.

The Folk Implosion
Natural One (Unkle Mix)
Natural One (Unkle Instrumental)
As the 2000s progress, I find myself more and more often identifying certain pop culture artifacts from the 1990s as “90s as shit.” My Saturday Morning Cartoons covers compilation: that’s 90s as shit. Space Jam: incredibly 90s as shit. Anything with Seth Green where you watch it now and go “holy shit, Seth Green is in this?”: also 90s as shit.

This right here, a song by Lou Barlow from a controversial Miramax film (Kids, a vomit of a film if there ever was one) that was in turn remixed by Unkle, one of the greatest flash-in-the-pan acts of the decade, and a poster child for mid-90s “electronica,” is some real  “90s and shit” shit. It’s also some really good shit, so check them out.