n this series, clicks’n’cuts dilettante Francis Henville describes his descent into the netherworld of Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean commercial pop. Track by track, he navigates deeper into the genre, searching for ever-more-toothsome morsels with which to satiate his jaded appetite…
It seems that the time has come for this little slice of Orientalism to come to an abrupt end. I just want to preface the final review by thanking those who followed this column and especially those who offered comments. As my Internet/New Media prof. says: Content is just a catalyst for community. I’m happy to see that Stylus readers were already diggin’ on J-Pop long before this column arrived, and I hope some people had a chance to be introduced to something new. Thanks for all your support!
I have to almost break the rules here and come in a bit of a circle, too. Stylus reviewer Michael Heumann covered Piana’s full-length release on 12k subsidiary Happy Records a while back. His review praised the album but opined that perhaps Piana had gone a bit too far in combining carbohydrate-filled sunshine pop with minimal 0/R-ish twitters. This particular song, found only on the US-released version of the album, uses the least glitchy sounds, and is also easily the greatest single on the album, in terms of songwriting and melody.
So if you’ve been following this column for a while and listened to some of the tracks, you will probably find this the most digestible of Piana’s tunes. I’ve chosen it because I feel it’s just about halfway between the genres of idyllic clicks’n’cuts and J-pop.
Beginning with a clarinet chorale, Piana drops some unprocessed acoustic guitar and drums into the track. Synth sounds underpin the work as vocalist Naoko begins to coo the irresistibly plaintive verse melody.
The overall effect of the piece is icily cold and brilliant. A distillation of desire frozen in liquid nitrogen. Over a repeating chordal figure appear synth melodies and glitchy tones, playing swelling melodies when Naoko’s taking a break. And then when she returns and gives us the chorus… well, my tears freeze on my cheeks every time I hear it. It’s a frosty track, and a nostalgic one: Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?
I listened to Piana’s album repeatedly in Japan, and now that I have an mp3 player I’m able to listen to it again. It’s lost nothing. Therefore, despite all the other songs I’d like to describe, I’m going to close with this one. Although it’s the last song in the series, it could have also been the first. An atrophied preface, as Old Bull Lee would say.
My life has changed drastically since I began this column, which wasn’t even that long ago. Last summer I was being fanned with peacock feathers by nude Moors, hitting blunts and laughing at Titus Andronicus. Now I’m 20 pounds lighter (Atkins!) and interning at CTV in Ontario.
I feel I’ve learned so much both by writing this series and reading people’s responses to it. Perhaps, like a vampire in a Malice Mizer song, the series will be reanimated someday. Till then? Off I fuck.
By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2005-01-13