Pop Music

“It’s midnight, there’s no one here. The machines break down and start talking to each other.”

Eduardo Paolozzi

I’ve always appreciated the idea of “slow preparation, fast execution,” but I think this little project may have taken the idea a little too literally. Some of the music in the album ‘NEW CLEAR VISION’ by SITHA (Satoshi Yorimoto, Yoko Kaixuka, 005HARRY) is almost 15 years old. The opportunity to record their first proper album certainly gave rise to some speed and urgency, even though the full album took a full year to achieve. Releasing it on a day like today (3/25) with all the twists and turns makes it more memorable, that’s for sure. As such, I find it hard to know how best to describe it without falling foul of what’s going on around us.

I’ve noticed musicians hold back from releasing new music, at least in its physical form. Others press ahead. There is a bemused confusion to how best experience these things collectively — physically or at a distance; buffered and streamed? Run to the shops sans-face mask (can’t buy them for love or money) or download and consume safely behind curtains or closed doors? There is no easy answer, for now at least.

Music publishers think the same. Should you resist sharing that url and risk waiting for that first listen on something you can hold in your hand? Again, hard to say. The CD is far from perfect. While not the direct source of problems pressing the CD, printing became something of an issue, giving me no shortage of sleepless nights or nightmares, causing the printer (or perhaps it was me) to loose all grip on reality. The sleeve artwork finally traveled the width and breadth of Japan to resolve questions ‘we’ already had answers for. Even then, there was still the odd mistake. Nevertheless, a big debt of gratitude is owed to Kentaro Hatanaka and Tomofumi Yoshida (Fukuoka Design Team) for all their care and attention to the bitter end.

So what of the title? And songs themselves? On the surface, there seems to be a lot going on. Trying to classify the album as either Pop, J-Pop, Alternative, New wave or Neo Punk would be a complete waste of time. For me, one song represents them all. 「都市に咆哮」Toshi ni houkou. The city roars. By and large, Pop is a by-product of city life and ‘Toshi’ may well be the most pop-like of songs. At it’s heart, Pop language is Observation, as if framed from behind bars (think Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’ or Taeko Ohnuki’s ‘Silent Screamer’) while at the other end of the album, techno is the sound those bars being prised open; think LFO’s ‘Bloom’. Somewhere between the two, a sound exists of sudden attack and hasty retreat – what compels anyone to live in a city is beyond me and yet here I am. But that experience, of always running into (or running away from) problem after problem describes much more. It’s understanding the edge of things and how they rub up each other the wrong way. If I had to choose one word to describe NEW CLEAR VISION it would be Pop, with all the contradictions, politics, throw-away gestures and casual confrontation thrown in for good measure.

Photographer @osamukanemura shot all three members of SITHA on top of an old hotel, deep in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area, now home to a plethora of Host bars. The city, Osamu says “has completely forgotten its past and can only live in the present.” Pictures expose it “like a broken dam pouring into every corner.” There is something to love about the idea that listening (or watching) music slowly build is not dissimilar to watching something give into great pressure, exploding with all the energy that comes from years of listening and observing. 

It’s not pretty and sometimes makes for an uncomfortable sounding album but listening to NEW CLEAR VISION is an experience that cannot easily be dismissed. I still like to think of it as a Pop record, albeit aggressive and life-affirming. With all the problems and set backs making NEW CLEAR VISION, that listening experience sums up its origins and making the experience far from predictable.