Thursday, October 31, 2013

King Kong Records Osaka

My research into Osaka’s record shops amounted to a quick Google search whilst simultaneously throwing a few shirts into a suitcase. Organization has never been my strong point and once again it would turn out to be my downfall. The search turned up the Jagged Visions Zine blog and a second hand record shop called King Kong. A shop that by all accounts [well, Jagged Visions anyway] deserves to be at the top of any serious record collectors list. Not that I’m a serious record collector in a rabid Pink Floyd fan way whose life isn’t complete without every version of Dark Side of the Moon [238 according to Discogs since you ask], I’m more of a leisurely afternoon browsing kind of rummager, the kind that likes to be surprised. I like to ‘dig’ as the parlance has now become. Crate dig. And there’s nowhere better to crate dig than in Japan.

There were three nights in Osaka at the beginning of the trip and one night at its very end in which to discover King Kong and those as recommended by Jagged Visions. Armed with my Jagged Visions knowledge I now knew that the Amerika Mura district of Osaka, in which numerous record shops lay, was to be found just north of the very hotel in which we were staying. So after some fitful sleep and numerous cups of strong coffee a map was consulted and the Amerika Mura district was located.

Its warren of gridded streets bear comparison to London’s Camden Town in that there appears to be no end of people wandering around countless shops looking for something to buy that's cutting edge and probably costs a fortune. Fashion victims abound. I saw one chap with odd shoes on and a baseball cap with the word FUCK writ large on its brim in two inch thick white perspex letters. There were Tartan frock coats with holes cut in them and skateboards and whilst it all looked ‘right on’ and ‘free’ and ‘fun loving’ the arms of big business had already made themselves felt in the guise of Red Bull sponsored surfboard painting and Grand Theft Auto XXII promos. At least the record shops were indie. If I could find them.

But I didn't. I consulted the notes I’d made back home and realised I didn’t have an actual address, just something in the nature of 'opposite this' or 'near that'. With Mrs Fisher in tow I knew my time was limited and whilst it was fun watching the fashion victims visit shops like honey bees on overtime there was always going to be the jet lag and a certain lassitude that was never far away.

In the end I gave it up as a bad job and off we trotted to Osaka Castle or was it the Aquarium or the Sky Tower, somewhere on the tube miles away. All was not lost though. During the coming days I would add to my Cornelius collection in Kochi whilst in Takamatsu the Mimosa Bird Jazz cafe would reveal unplayed copies of Coltrane’s Ascension and The Albert Ayler Trio’s Spiritual Unity both in the same box and both for a fiver. Around the corner in a crammed to the roof ‘Voice’ there were boxes of singles including many a Led Zeppelin Jap only 45 which I knew were worth money but for the life of me I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to buy and resell them when I got home. And all the time I was wondering if I’d ever find King Kong records during my last night in Osaka.

And there it was. We passed it by sheer accident. Thirsty and hungry and looking for somewhere to slouch with a few beers and a bowl of noodles for company we passed it right there on the right. Where ever it was. I still don’t know. But after spending a good hour in there and not even scratching the merest surface of a micro surface I can tell you that King Kong is the best second hand record shop I’ve ever been in. It is vast, enormous, ongoing, mind boggling in size and scope and breadth of genre, format, style and content. They even have their own cardboard boxes made up and at the back of the shop piles of them awaited sifting and sorting. Books and t-shirts abound. There was even stuff spilling out into the street. There must have been a bazillion records in there. I saw one person browsing records and couldn’t work out how he’d actually got to where he stood. There were dark corners that you just knew held some hidden gem but there just wasn’t the time. And then Mrs Fisher asks ‘don’t you know these people?’ and waves a flyer about for the recent Sudden Infant/Rudolph show that I missed by a month or so. I felt like an explorer following in the footsteps of those who have gone before me.

I was never going to leave empty handed so I bought one of the first things I saw ‘The World’s Worst Records!’ on Rhino Records with the sick bag still attached all for a 1000 yen [£6.50]. Just about everything I picked up was reasonably priced with the thinking being sell it and shift rather than sit on it forever looking at it gathering dust. I found the noise/experimental box [tucked away in the bottom left hand corner if you’re in a rush] and found two Schimpfluch related releases [got, got]. It was like bumping into old friends. Mrs Fisher found something she liked and I paid for them and the nice lady at the counter slipped a flyer into my bag that if I’d have had on day one would have led me to no less than 15 record shops all within the same area, all of which I failed to locate those two weeks earlier. I reproduce it here to save all further travelers the same trouble.

Having looked at the websites of each one of them I get the feeling that they like to specialize, be it reggae, hip hop, soul, 50’s & 60’s rock ... but I think I found the best one first.

Earlier in the day we ventured south of Namba station into the densely packed streets of Den Den town in search of further obscure Jagged Visions recommendations but found nothing but Tower Records and a quirky beer shop cum cafe. We tried a couple of bottles of pale ale from the Osaka brewery Minoh and deemed it one of the best bottled beers either of us had ever had but at a 1000 Yen a bottle [yes that's £6.50] our thirsts were somewhat tempered. Paying the bill I picked up a flyer that said ‘I Love Craft Beer’. On its reverse was a map showing the whereabouts of a craft beer shop not ten minutes walk from the Sky Tower where Minoh’s full range of beers were there for all to try. I tried to hide my tears as best I could.

1 - Newtone Records

1 - Afro Juice

1 - Rootdown Records

2 - OX -

3 - Waxpend

4 - Sakura Records -

5 - Vinyl Chamber -

5 - Nightbeat Records -

5 - Morpho Records -

5 - Rare Groove -

6 - Voxmusic

6 - Perfect Pitch Records

7 - King Kong

8 - Groovenut Records

Jagged Visions Zine

Friday, October 04, 2013


The Bongoleeros


Super Hagman


Onehotrix Point Never
Cut Hands

Recon Festival
Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds, 26th September

Super Hagman
The Bongoleeros
Vibracathedral Orchestra

Recon Festival
Brudenell/Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds 28th September

I usually post reviews of gigs I’ve attended the day after the show when the mind is fresh and the ears are still ringing but here I make an exception. Four gigs in eight days gave me little time for writing but on the other hand, plenty of time for reflection. Did I really see the Bongoleeros play two venues and a litter strewn Leeds street within the space of twenty five minutes? Did I really see the Sleaford Mods rip up the Kraak in that same space of time? Did I really see William Bennet wiggle his hips, not so much like a fucking eel, but more like your dad at a disco? I saw all of this and more. I saw Mainliner play that most famous of venues the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, a club so steeped in Labour Party history that I felt half naked without my members card. A town so steeped in heavy lesbian activity that the sight of a group of earth mothers with twigs in their hair and their Germain Greer for President badges worn proudly on their frayed dungarees caused not a single stir. To see Steve Stapleton propping the bar up seemed perfectly natural. I would see his one time partner William Bennett the night after but I’d have preferred it if it was Bennett propping the bar up [hardly likely I know but worth the observation] and Stapleton doing the gig but you cant always get what you want. As someone once sang

It got me to thinking about whether I preferred more down to earth venues like pubs, clubs and warehouse spaces or those austere art house caverns like the Howard Assembly Rooms. I’m thinking I know which the artists prefer: a chance to perform before 300 people with a huge back projection, a shit hot sound system, a decent wedge in their expenses paid pocket and kudos on the important music circuit or to rub shoulders with the lumpen proletariat, parading their wares through a house PA whilst being at the mercy of a sound guy whose got a headache and already hates your band whatever you do, in front of, if you’re lucky, 50 punters all the while running the gauntlet of getting ripped off by the promoter and getting home the day after having slept on someones floor for two hours.

There’s no denying the impact of those top end sound systems though. A clarity of sound that you rarely come across outside art spaces and Radio 3 live broadcasts. The arched roof of the Howard Assembly Rooms coupled to that Function One sound system played its part perfectly in reflecting Helm’s performance. And its here that I have to admit that I was in on a freebie courtesy of Helm’s Luke Younger. Its not often I get the chance to swan into venues such as the Leeds Grand and say ‘I’m on the guest list’ but here I was saving myself £12.50 and looking forward to seeing Helm [most of all] and then Cut Hands [curious as to how William Bennett is mutating these days] and Onehotrix Point Never [now forever known as Ten Pint T-rex] and their vintage synth warblings.

Helm played for about 45 minutes. Perhaps 15 minutes too long but still plenty of time for Younger to mix his looped cassettes [I’m guessing - I was near the back] and bring in sounds of a light rhythmic gamelan like nature, street sounds, found sounds maybe, all of which create a super slow ethnic ritual austere bleak industrial ambience, if there exists such a thing. I’m writing this a week after the event so forgive me the lack of detail but it was as if I was listening to [not surprisingly] a Helm record, any number of which I’d heartily recommend to anyone interested in such delicateness. Towards it climax Younger left the stage leaving his equipment to play all on its own. This lasted for about ten minutes during which members of the audience began to look at each other clearly confused. Was he finished? Was he going to come back on? Can I get up and go for a piss now? When it did finally come to an end there was polite, baffled applause. This is good. Cause consternation in your audience. Expect the unexpected. Even in an airy art space.

With hindsight I should have left there and then. Ears still ringing from Mainliner I was in no mood for what came next. Which brings me back to pub versus art venue. I once saw Bennett’s Whitehouse play the Royal Park Cellars, about a couple of miles away from the more austere walls of the Howard Assembly Rooms and it was one of the most exhilarating gigs I’ve ever been to [this has since been qualified by what I later discovered to be some carefully choreographed dramatics] but for sheer volume and presence its memory lives vividly on. I saw Sotos leave the venue with blood pouring from a cut hand [HA!] caused by smashing a beer bottle in what I assumed was genuine anger, the floor was awash with spilt beer, blood, crushed fag ends and the body of a drunk and passed out punter. No doubt Bennett, Best and Sotos made next to bugger all on the gig but it did Whitehouse’s reputation as a force of power electronics a power of good. And here’s Bennett ten years later stood stage centre with his ‘ethno noise’ project Cut Hands. Against a back drop of snakes and the silhouette of a naked woman dancing about as nicked from the intro to Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ its a constant plodding thud of bashing drums of the kind more likely to be found at a Turkish wedding. I swear Bennett had one of those cheap Casio keyboards with the preset sound buttons and every now and again, on a beat, he’d press the cymbal button several times for effect. As it churned relentlessly on Bennett got more and more carried away with himself in one instance putting both hands behind his head and swiveling his hips vigorously to his own beats. I looked around the room and saw nary a nod. My interest was piqued when I realised that what Bennett was actually playing was the slowed down instrumental passages from the last two Whitehouse albums. Maybe. Maybe if I’d seen him play the Kraak in Manchester instead of Smell & Quim on the same night [and the same venue the Sleaford Mods played last week] I’d have enjoyed it more?    

Ten Pint T-Rex’s back drop consisted of some computer generated blobs that made me want to vomit. By now I was considering chewing through my wrists as an alternative form of entertainment but decided to stick it out just to see if it got any worse. It did. Vintage synth was augmented by someone playing a laptop which wasn’t what I was expecting either. Neither was I expecting two minutes of silence between each ‘song’ as Ten Pint T-Rex *1 patched up whatever vintage piece of synth it was he was playing before treating us all to whatever it was it was called. The silences were embarrassing, the sounds being created only marginally interesting, in places, at times, when I was awake and not gnawing on my wrist, I did like some of it. I was glad I hadn’t paid £12.50 to witness it all. I was waiting for them to play ‘Nobody Here’ with the loop as nicked from the Chris De Burgh song Lady in Red but no. If he’d have played that, even for thirty seconds, I’d have forgiven them everything but now Ten Pint T-rex are on Warp or Mego or some other forward thinking label and everythings all fucked to buggery.

Somehow I managed to make it to the end but fled in to the street as soon as it finished. People applauded and some people even cheered. They must know something I don’t. Not only as the Emperor got no clothes he’s waggling his dick in our faces too.

Saturday couldn’t come quick enough. A matinee spot that began in the Brudenell and ended in the Hyde Park Picture House where at 1PM on the last sunny weekend of the year a crowd of people found themselves in a darkened room listening to drones and noises and all things good for the princely sum of five pounds. This five pounds got you to witness Super Hagman, Plurals, Kogumaza, The Bongoleeros and the Vibracathedral Orchestra and it was all as humanly warm and life affirming as the Howard Assembly Rooms hadn’t been. Yes they were both part of the same festival but in terms of enjoyment one might as well have been played in a Stalinist gulag and the other the warm snug of your local.

What remains lodged forever in those frontal lobes is the absurdist drama that is the Bongoleeros. A band that have imagination and costumes and a language all of their own [Dirty Mind, Secret Brain, I Can’t Help Myself, Do you wanna see some dirty drawers?] all songs of one line sang in a lascivious tone with a rapid fire burst of tin can or spazzed out of tune electric guitar for accompaniment. Tin cans, sticks, purple tights pulled over head, horse brasses for necklaces, split crotch pants and a jacket full of Mexican skulls with Hank Williams guitar writ large in paint at the back. They crawl and holler and stomp on guitars, bang a drum, shout, sing, play a Stylophone on the hip, rock guitar style. They do covers of Great Balls of Fire, My Coo-ca-choo and Borstal Break Out all of which consist of the song title sung over and over again. They hand out sticks and cans and we march proudly with them to the Hyde Park Picture House all a-grin making a racket and stopping the traffic as the local kids shout ‘fucking weirdo’s’ at us. But we don’t care because we’re all in the Bongoleeros and the sun is shining and we’re all as happy as happy can be.

When we get there they’re showing ‘The Tales of Peeping Tom Bogal’ which is of course a Bongoleeros film. And then the Vibracathedral Orchestra whose absence is now but a distant memory. Beautiful drones and clatterings all of which we soak up from our comfy Hyde Park seats where we drift in and out of mid afternoon consciousness.

Earlier in the day Hagman became Super Hagman due to the addition of a drummer [last seen playing with Castrato Attack Group in support of Mainliner]. Steadily growing drones of all things electric to which cling rim shots and tumbling drums. The bass drum is hit with a steady thud that increases with intensity as the drone builds so beautifully.

And Pluarls who’ve arrived from Brighton for a delightful set of equally gorgeous drone made with strapping Les Paul and voices and gadgets. And Kogumaza who’ve come from Nottingham and have been in town for about ten minutes before they’re playing their own kind of fuzzed guitar chord chugg which I’m no big fan of to be honest but the days going so swimmingly its like the whole place has been infected with good vibes. There’s Rob Midwich with baby jet lag, there’s Pete Cann filming everything and not breaking his camera. We’re going past the Royal Park Cellars and the take-aways that are just opening and the local garages who appear to be doing a roaring trade mending taxis and the shop that sells onion bhajis and everything is just so damned perfect you never want it to end.