Listening/reading log #9 (June 2020)

If you feel like we’re living in a TV drama about an alternate history timeline, I do too. In which case I’d ask why I’m stuck playing the role I am, but that’s probably my fault for making poor life decisions. At least no matter what happens, short of the world actually ending in an apocalypse, we’ll be able to listen to music and read blogs, and that’s what I’ll be covering in this post as usual.

Ege Bamyasi (Can, 1972)

Highlights: Sing Swan Song, Vitamin C, Spoon

Maybe Can is a weird name for a band, and maybe a can of okra makes for a weird album cover, but this is absolutely one of my favorite albums ever. Can was a German band with an amazing rhythm section and a Japanese singer who sang bizarre nonsense lyrics. The effect is really striking on their best albums like Ege Bamyasi. I could have put most of the songs up in the highlights list really; they’re that good, though it’s a bit hard for me to explain why aside from saying… they’re good. I’m a pretty useless reviewer as it turns out.

This is another album that doesn’t feel like it means anything at all (though I could be wrong, maybe it’s really just about okra?) but that doesn’t matter when it’s so memorable and hypnotic. Very good music for studying because of those beats, though Damo Suzuki’s yelling can maybe be distracting sometimes. Tago Mago and Future Days are also great albums by Can to check out.

Touhou Explosive Jazz 7 (Tokyo Active NEETs, 2014)

Highlights: 六十年目の東方裁判, フラワリングナイト 〜紅霧夜華2014

I’ve already written about Tokyo Active NEETs once before, specifically a review of album #6 in this series, but they’re still one of my favorite doujin music groups out there. Active NEETs are a jazz ensemble that plays a lot of music derived from the Touhou Project series of shmups, already known for its excellent BGM.

And they totally do it justice. Just like 6, Touhou Explosive Jazz 7 is energetic, catchy, and full of great takes on songs this time from the game Touhou 9: Phantasmagoria of Flower View. Active NEETs also put up a lot of great videos on Youtube — be sure to check out the links above, the first of which is a live studio recording of one of the pieces from the album, and the second of which is an MMD animation of characters from the game in a band playing the various parts. Makes a little more sense if you’re familiar with the series (for example, the guy dancing around with a sack over his head, and two sort of friend/rival characters Reimu and Marisa cutting each other off during their performance in the animation) but they can still be enjoyed without knowing anything about Touhou, just like the music itself.

Close to the Edge (Yes, 1972)

Hightlights: Close to the Edge, And You And I

And finally, another repeat artist because I guess I’m getting lazy. Close to the Edge was one of those mind-blowing albums for me when I was young, though I discovered it thirty years after it came out, so I can only imagine the effect it had back then. Yes’ music sometimes gets accused of being weird and emotionally detached, and I think this album is part of why some people feel that way — some of it is very strange stuff, and the lyrics on it are seemingly 100% meaningless even though they do feel like they’re supposed to be about something. It also only features three songs, and the first one lasts 18 minutes.

But it’s also almost all just as catchy as good pop music, and with the added bonus of being played by astoundingly great musicians. If something is boring the shit out of me, I’ll stop trying to listen to it, but Close to the Edge holds a lot of energy and excitement. “Close to the Edge” is still one of my favorite songs ever, and the other two have some fine moments as well, though I do think the quality drops off in the closer. Even so, it’s still a great album. I also want to highlight this 8-bit version of the title track made by a guy on Youtube with the name EvangelionUnit06, because it’s also fantastic.

And now, the featured posts:

Let’s Get It On: Why Sex Scenes In Video Games Is One Experience I Can Live Without (simpleek) — Right out of the gate featuring a post about sex of course. Simpleek sets out an argument for why game developers might hold off on putting sex scenes into video games at least until the technology improves.

The Evolution of My Views on the CGDCT Genre & The Dangers of Positivism (I drink and watch anime) — Overly enthusiastic fans can sometimes raise expectations for their favorite works a whole lot, maybe too much. In this post, Irina explores how this has affected her experience with the “cute girls doing cute things” anime genre.

Visual Novel Theatre: Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan (Lost to the Aether) — Aether continues his look into visual novels with a review of a VN about a dopey weeb visiting Japan for the first time, where he’s unexpectedly hosted by two cute sisters, and it sounds like embarrassing situations also occur as a result. Who would have guessed such a thing would happen in a visual novel?

System Mastery is my Jam (Frostilyte Writes) — A game with mechanics that are harder to master can lead to a more fulfilling experience. Frostilyte explores this idea by contrasting indie games Dicey Dungeons and One Step from Eden.

12 Random Japan School Life Tidbits (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Yomu, who’s currently teaching at a school in Japan, gives some real examples of Japanese school life and how it’s both similar to and different from what we’ve seen in anime and games.

MOTHER Gallery at Shibuya PARCO (Resurface to Reality) — Those who are into the Mother series should read browsercrasher’s post about a Mother-related gallery exhibit in Japan. When things open up again, we should push for video game-related public exhibits here in the States.

Mega Man 5 (Extra Life) — I never got around to playing Mega Man 5, but Red Metal’s review of the game got me interested in it. It’s always amazed me how they were able to take the series all the way to six entries on the NES anyway.

The Vita’s Not Dead Yet! Three Reasons Why You Should Still Own A PS Vita In 2020! (Down the Otaku Rabbit Hole!) — From loplopbunny, a post about why the Vita is still a system worth owning even after the recent Persona 4 Golden release on Steam. I got a lot of use out of my Vita, so I don’t agree with the many people I’ve heard say it “didn’t have any games.” For a complete argument, check out loplopbunny’s post.

Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 – Part 1: Welp…. (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — It was rough to see the SAC_2045 series on Netflix. I really like the character designer (I’ve even written about one of his artbooks here, really a great artist) and the original Stand Alone Complex was excellent. But read Scott’s review to find out where and how this new series went.

That’s it for June. I have a lot lined up this month, including more of those short “summer cleaning” reviews, an extra-long game review, and another massive commentary/analysis/series of complaints, so I hope you look forward to those. Until then.

13 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #9 (June 2020)

  1. Thank you for the shout-out. 🙂

    I always try to go through these posts while working because I enjoy having new music to listen to while I work. I’ll read about the artist, open a tab to the music you’ve included, do some work while the music plays, and then jump back and continue reading once I’ve exhausted the recommendations. I opened a tab for Sing Swan Song and then forgot to check back for over an hour. Holy moly. You were not kidding when you said it was hypnotic and easy to listen to in the background. Youtube’s autoplay kept feeding me more and it was all fantastic. I’m making a mental note of Can for future reference (though I wish the name was a little more unique as it’d be easier to remember that way).

    Don’t have much to say on NEETs, but it was high energy and very enjoyable.

    Close to the Edge. Holy moly (again).
    I think I’ve said it before, but I believe we have a very similar taste in music. Though admittedly you’re much better at finding new tracks of interest than I am hahah.

    • No problem! And I’m happy you’ve been liking the music so far. It definitely sounds like we have similar taste. I’m always up for new stuff to listen to as well — some of these really are just albums I’m digging up back from my younger years and relistening to.

      Can was a real revelation for me when I found out about them. I got through a few all-nighters with them and coffee basically. I agree that their name could be more unique, though. At least most of the album titles are a bit weird.

  2. Ege Bamyasi and Close to the Edge are incredible albums, alright. Those are some nice picks. When it comes to Can’s best albums, I tend to switch back and forth between Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago, but I don’t think you could go wrong with either (or Future Days, for that matter). Fragile by Yes is good too; it’s pretty cool how “Roundabout” got a new lease on life after it featured in Jojo. Funny how the music critics claim prog is dead, but considering that “Roundabout” rose to memehood and likely exposed a new generation to prog, I think Yes and other bands like them got the final laugh in the end.

    And thanks for the shout! It wouldn’t be a bad idea to marathon the Mega Man classic series, though Mega Man 5 is not a game I would purchase by itself.

    • Those three seem to be the best regarded Can albums, and I’d definitely agree with that. I really like Fragile as well, yeah — Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, Heart of the Sunrise are all amazing. I bet Jojo got some new people into Yes and maybe the prog thing in general. Just proves that good music, and good art in general, lasts beyond trends like that.

      Definitely! It might be a good time to take on classic Mega Man, though I might head back to Sonic before that. I’ve been playing Sonic Adventure 2 lately after a long long time, and though I still basically like that game the more silly/frustrating parts make me think about going back to the old Genesis days again.

  3. As always, thanks for the shout out! And thanks for the referrals to a bunch of other interesting posts there, too. That’s a lot of good content other people wrote, that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

    • Certainly! I’m happy I started this end-of-month post series for that reason, and also so I could have a place to go on about all kinds of music without breaking the weeb game/anime theme I have going too much.

  4. Pingback: The Super Happy Love Award – Frostilyte Writes

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