Noise at Bears in Osaka

On Sunday night (98-11-28) we took the train to Osaka to see some bands at Bears, the club Mason Jones suggested I check out a year ago. He'd told me Bears is at least part owned or operated by one of the guys in the Boredoms. This is only the second concert I've been to in Japan, and I must admit, I'm quite amazed at how small a space people will call a club. Bears had a tiny stage, and then a room maybe 16 feet by 16 feet for the audience to sit in. The audience was made up of maybe 25 people. Looking at the schedule, Bears appears to have a number of bands listed for almost every day of the month.

The lineup was Masonna, N.P., Third Organ, and one other band whose name was in Japanese lettering and I couldn't read. I'm realizing now that N.P. is just the name that I saw on the tiny calendar on the club's wall, and may very well be initials for a longer name. (If anyone can tell me who was who here, aside from Masonna and the Sons of God, please email me! Thanks...)

We arrived as the first act was on. Immediately after finding a place on the floor to sit down, I inserted ear plugs. Though it appeared most people were not using earplugs, I don't know how they could have gotten away without them. The noise was very very loud. The first band was screetching Merzbow-style noise, staticy feedback noise-pain. I wish I had my camera, the couple creating the sound were picturesque. There was so much cigarette smoke in this tiny room it was as if there were smoke machines going on, things looked wispy and foggy. This was the major unpleasant aspect of the whole experience, but it certainly added to the visuals. The two sat at a desk, the european looking guy's face strikingly blue with the glow of the laptop in front of him. He was nodding his head to some rhythm he was able to detect in the noise. There was some sporadic electric sounding pulsing that was probabably what he was in sync with. He lit a cigarette as he noodled with his computer. His partner was playing with a quantity of effects pedals, and the buttons and switches she manipulated appeared to actually be having an effect on the noise that we were listening to. Fine droning pulsating grinding stuff. I wished I'd seen the whole act, it's not too often I see anyone physically rocking out to the sound of noise-pain music.

Next on was a long haired Asian guy with guitar, and more than 5 effects pedals. A wall of noise, not unlike the first band created appeared, perhaps with some samples in it for continuity. The musician would spasm and hit his guitar strings, or do some high pitched picking of his guitar strings. The guitar bleating was only barely audible over the the landscape of the noise. He occasionally approached the microphone and his mouth moved, but only when he was really yelling did any sound make it above the general din. Physical spasms, guitar whacking, guitar played with teeth, etc. Overall, interesting and cool sounds happened despite somewhat pretentious body language, and lack of what looked to be intended vocals.

Third, two guys appeared with silvery metal rakes with pickups attached to them. As in, the rakes you'd use to rake grass. One raking guy looked like one of those tall long grey haired people with faded jeans that you can't decide if they're a hippie, or just a computer nerd who hasn't noticed his physical appearance for the last 20 years. His partner looked like KZSU's former music director Steve, slightly balding with some boots any skinhead would be proud to wear. (Hey, has anyone seen Steve lately??) The rakes at first moved really slowly, like the giant deep sea crabs I'd seen in the Osaka aquarium last year. Thunderous slow rumbling soundscapes. The two guys moved them around like they were really alive little creatures, picking their way over snags in the stage carpet. The rakes picked up speed, clanking around, running into each other, and generally making a really interesting din, while at the same time being interesting to watch. It was intense. The rakes started out brand new, but at the end when the musicians left the rakes on stage and walked off, you could see they'd taken a beating, the tines were all bent up. I guess they must go through two rakes per show... [Thanks to Matt Exile for tracking down further info these folks. The two guys with rakes are The Sons of God, and they're from Sweden. Matt's friend Jeff says, "Apparently they were touring with another abstract noise unit called En'tarct. They played a show in Tokyo then hastily arranged a show at Bears asking Masonna if they could perform."]

Before the last act of Masonna, some English speaking gaijin behind us got very excited about the music played between acts - Silver Apples...

The super thin long haired Asian guy wearing bell bottom pants, 60's boots, and wide collared shirt took as long to set up his effects pedals and mike as he took to perform. He applied wires to his pants, and it appeared his small bag of metal objects had pickups attached to effect the noisescape. If you thought the guy with the guitar earlier was spasming, Masonna completely out-did him. He shrieked into the microphone, and then threw himself across the room, onto the floor, against the wall, etc. Ambient noise and static were the background to his frantic vocal outbursts. For his finale he ran up the wall, fell, and got off stage. I wasn't sure if he'd hurt himself, or he was just done. Very tension and angst filled performance. I wonder what drugs he takes to end up that skinny. He was one skinny guy.

(by Stefan, KZSU Program Guide, Winter 1999)

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