Otoboke Beaver Releases "Super Champon" On Vinyl
Japan's queens of punk release on vinyl their "masterpiece of chaos music"
Kyoto’s four-piece, all-female, Japanese punk sensation Otoboke Beaver are probably the most talented live band I have witnessed in years. My favourite rhythm section in punk rock? No doubt about it, with Hiro-Chan’s bass effortlessly interlocking with the incredible drumming of Kahokiss. Is Kahokiss the best drummer I have ever seen? No question - she can stop and start on a pinhead and hammer out multiple time-signatures in one song at a tempo and force that challenges my heart medication. Is Accorinrin the most uncompromising frontwoman in punk? Probably, but she can still hold the audience in startled fascination. The unhinged guitar frenzy of Yoyoyoshie adds a frantic, abrasive top note to the wildness blasting out all around her. If you want to experience this extraordinary energy, it requires you to take yourself and your ear plugs to their live shows, where, at the moment, they are slaying every crowd they confront. I saw them twice before COVID in the Centre For Contemporary Arts (CCA), a small arts venue in Glasgow, with 300 or so other dazed and ecstatic souls. Such is the dazzling quality and potency of their shows that recent gigs have filled bigger North American venues and large European festivals. The musical brilliance of this band almost levitates beyond mere songs and into a form of performance art.
Their new LP Super Champon (Damnably, 2022) follows from the brilliantly emphatic Itekoma Hits (Damnably, 2018). The earlier release was a solid slab of raging, thrashing stop-start mayhem. Super Champon shows real evolution in the composition, recording and performance of these new songs. There is a renewed effort to augment the declarative vocal presence of Accorinrin with some colourful harmonising and appealing vocal themes. At first, I wondered if these vocal additions seemed too ornamental, but after the third listen, I realised I was wrong. These little day-glo ripples of backing vocals and chorusing are another confounding and amusing aspect of the Otoboke Beaver sound. Oh, you think we’re pretty, do you? PUNCH.
Accorinrin delivers the lyrics in a staccato yelp, channeling rage, desperation and affront. Themes and phrases are repeated with a manic urgency, expressing unrepentant female outrage— “I am not maternal”, “I won’t dish out salads”, “dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction”. The confrontational sonic force of the musicians and the murderous fury of the vocalist are refreshingly direct, and quite at odds with their neat appearance and colourful patterned dresses—an invitation for anyone at their peril to underestimate them. Impudent threats are delivered with unquestionable, if comic, intent— when Accorinrin says she’s going to put yakitori into your mailbox, she is not delivering a takeaway meal. The accompanying screams conjure the feeling of sliding, Alice-In-Wonderland-style, into a distorted world. The overflowing frustration of “shut up, I don’t know what you mean” is bratty and yet relatable—I mean, we’ve all thought it, haven’t we?
Every song is a frantic, full-throttle sprint - the speed, precision and rhythmic inventiveness of Kahokiss’s magnificent drumming is breathtaking, full of slamming emphasis and brutal directness. When Kahokiss takes her seat onstage, she looks like she is waiting for a job interview at a bank; suddenly, she is thrashing her drum kit as though it insulted her mother. Just when you imagine a song like “Yakitori” is reaching a breathless conclusion, these maniacs play the final two verses at double speed, just to show you they can. On “Pardon?”, it seems unlikely that the directive to shut up can be announced any faster—wrong again. “Leave me alone, no, stay with me” is dizzying, and perfectly distills the blitz of hardcore punk into a psychotic demand. Each song whizzes past at a feverish tempo, switching time signature in a handbrake turn, slamming to a sudden halt, blasting forward immediately at an even more punishing pace. I struggle to understand how such dazzling compositional leaps are possible; it is even harder to imagine how these songs can be played so fast, so tight, at 100% force, every time.
How, then, can mere recording equipment and physical reproduction formats capture this blazing, thundering assault?
Not with unqualified success, I would have to say. I have been listening to Super Champon via Bandcamp ever since it was released before the summer. My long-awaited vinyl copy eventually arrived in November, a sumptuous peach disc in a primary-colour gatefold sleeve. I feel the pressing lacks depth; there is a void somewhere in Hiro-Chan’s majestic, gritty bass guitar. The top end, a sonic field dominated by the suffering cymbals of Kahokiss’s drumkit and the violently punished guitar of Yoyoyoshie, comes over too brash and a bit thin. Bandcamp’s digital files present a quite different sonic balance, with a satisfyingly chunky slab of bass and enough space in the higher frequencies to allow the squealing gang-vocals to sit perfectly in the mix. I did not feel fatigued by listening to the digital versions of this most uncompromising recording, but the vinyl is a strain on the ear at times. To me, on the digital files, the mix is good, the recording quality is great, and the format does not get in the way of transmitting the power or manic thrills of these breakneck songs. This suggests that in transcription or pressing to vinyl, some of the potency, musicality and recording quality has been diminished. This is a pity, as the album deserves to be heard at its best. Pressing is by GZ Media and on the plus side, the playing surface is not affected by much noise, and a full-colour lyric sheet augments the cheerful, glossy packaging (note: most of the lyrics are written in Japanese). Other vinyl variants (purple, violet) may sound different, but I cannot comment on those.
Otoboke Beaver have summed up this record by saying “our music is genreless … we hope that it will be our masterpiece of chaos music!” I feel that is a perfect description - but perhaps listening on a variety of formats will be the best way to really feel the chaos.
2022-12-15 12:50:38 AM
Silk Dome Mid wrote:
I can only assume that Dawes has never seen Billy Cobham.