Flags – Breathless

IMME Records IMME-1001

Second only to Pizzicato Five, Flags was my favorite Shibuya-kei band
back in the rosy days of ’96-’97. Produced by Tetsutaro Sakurai, they were his side project to Cosa Nostra, and featured five girls of different looks and personalities that he used to sing his Todd Rundgren- and Laura Nyro- inspired pop. There was Harry, the spooky, arty one; Aki, the girly one; Maria, the one who sounded like Kahimi Karie; Emiko, the earthy, fun one; and Rio, the slightly older, glamorous one. Or that’s how they seemed to me.
After buying all four of their releases and all six of their singles, I had given up on even finding their rare CD-ROM mini-album combo from 1996, let alone being able to afford it (Japanese collector prices being astronomical). Imagine how I almost choked on my Raisin Bran when I saw this at Tokyo Recohan for something like $7. It was a no-brainer.
I was slightly disappointed to find out that the six songs here are not new, despite the titles I’ve never heard of. They are actually all remixed versions of the songs found on their second album MOR from a month before, with English lyrics instead of Japanese. Some sound like demos–all the sounds I know are in place, but they don’t fit together as well. “Wonderland,” the English version of their best song “Nowhereland” (a song I so loved that I ripped off the title for my movie), is awkward and blocky, one take short of being brilliant (it’s interesting to compare and contrast, of course). It’s like those albums you discover only in your dreams–it sounds like them, but something’s quite off.

The QuickTime movies that accompany the songs are the usual bland Japanese promo variety, with usually one or two set-ups and no imagination of what to do for the entire 5 minutes. Only “Wonderland” gets any sort of treatment, with the band vogue-ing and being subjected to several digital effects. The dancing doesn’t suit the music, though. Mostly the videos prove what I always thought, based on the very few publicity photos I have seen of them: Emiko (left) is the cutie (she also has the best voice). After their 1997 album Cream they vanished into the ether.

Is This Thing Recording?

When I was a kid, one of my most valuable possessions was a Sears mono cassette recorder, on which friends and myself made hours and hours of ridiculous skits and other shenanigans. I thought the thrill of hearing your own voice would have been lost to the camcorder generation, but apparently PC owners with MusicMatch Jukebox software have something called “Mic in Track,” the ability to hook a mike up and record straight to mp3. Possibly these people don’t know that their efforts are also downloadable from Kazaa if they save everything in their shared folder. Ah-ha….
Check out the audio verite at Stark Effect – mic in track.
Discovered at Boing Boing

Music Animation Machine

Call it synchronicity or two great minds thinking alike, but I was checking out this site by Edward Tufte on the same day that Scott Rosenberg blogged it in Salon. Hmm, maybe it was because my friend Jon Crow had been there before me and then told me about it all. Ahhhh. I see.
Anyway, Edward Tufte is the “Da Vinci of data,” as his press blurb says, a statistician who also thinks long and hard about the graphical representation of data. There’s a lot of depth to the site, place to go explore, and I’m a sucker for graphs.
Perusing the site led me to a link to The Music Animation Machine, created by Stephen Malinowsky. There’s a few videos you can download, a cross between Oskar Fischinger and the Atari 2600. The graphical representation of pitch and time creates patterns that scroll horizontally and can add to a greater understanding of music composition. They’re also great to watch. Highly recommended!