Pop Playground
J-Pop Will Eat Itself: Piana

n this series, clicksínícuts 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 appetiteÖ

Blue Bell

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. Iím happy to see that Stylus readers were already digginí 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 Pianaís 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 youíve been following this column for a while and listened to some of the tracks, you will probably find this the most digestible of Pianaís tunes. Iíve chosen it because I feel itís just about halfway between the genres of idyllic clicksínícuts 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 Naokoís taking a break. And then when she returns and gives us the chorusÖ well, my tears freeze on my cheeks every time I hear it. Itís a frosty track, and a nostalgic one: Mais ou sont les neiges díantan?

I listened to Pianaís album repeatedly in Japan, and now that I have an mp3 player Iím able to listen to it again. Itís lost nothing. Therefore, despite all the other songs Iíd like to describe, Iím going to close with this one. Although itís 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 wasnít even that long ago. Last summer I was being fanned with peacock feathers by nude Moors, hitting blunts and laughing at Titus Andronicus. Now Iím 20 pounds lighter (Atkins!) and interning at CTV in Ontario.

I feel Iíve learned so much both by writing this series and reading peopleís 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

Log In to Post Comments
Posted 01/13/2005 - 06:53:28 AM by JoshLove:
 Say it ain't so, Francis! I'm gonna miss your column, dude, it was a great source of info on a style of music that I'm just starting to explore. I'm reviewing the new Hamasaki Ayumi record soon, I remember you're not the biggest fan of her music, I'm just hoping I can do the genre half as well as you have. PS - best closing sentence ever.
Posted 01/20/2005 - 09:41:08 AM by badhaircut:
 This is a nice little track. Feels like a cross between Boa (or was it BOA or bOA, I can't recall) and Sigur Ros. At first I was a bit put off by it, but it's so unconcerned with meeting my expectations that I eventually had to give into it on its own terms. It's really a beautiful thing. Much thanks for writing this column and for the recommendations (particularly Origa, which I suppose I didn't need any further introduction to, but now hear in a new light). I think it's as important as ever in 2005 for someone to have an ear to the ground for this stuff. Hopefully this column has a future. One of the things I most look forward to on this site.
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