Friendship International Vol. 5 – Jul/Aug 2019
Posted: by The Editor
Friendship International is a tribute to the emo and alternative music throughout Asia: a monthly round-up of the best new releases from across the Pacific, and deep dives into the labels, distros, and DIY scenes that are giving birth to this explosion.
Friends: it’s been too long. Life got in the way, and I found a lot of ways to burn out on my way from work to bed. But do not fear: I am constitutionally incapable of giving up my insane spreadsheets-within-spreadsheets of all the new music out of Asia. I have a massive backlog of music I’m deeply excited to share with y’all, so we’re going to be doing two big recap volumes: volume 5 (this one) will cover July and August, while volume 6 (later this month) will cover September/October.
Vol. 5 covers our widest range of heavy music yet: skramz, youth crew, straight edge, raw punk, straight up mosh shit, etc. Other notable trends include: shoegaze and post rock influences being mashed into everything, post-punk and goth vibes, and emo that pulls from revival bands and classic second wave bands alike.
Friendship International Forever.
Piri Reis/sto cosi cosi – Malaysia/Japan
ffo: Ampere, Orchid, pg.99
It’s time to stop comparing Japanese screamo bands to Envy. The legendary unit has been in action since 1992, and through numerous lineup changes, they’ve been consistently responsible for some of the most fun and interesting screamo and post-hardcore of the last two and a half decades. Their shadow looms long over Japanese hardcore, and no matter which skramz-adjacent band rises to the level of international attention, (Heaven In Her Arms, zdzis law, sans visage, etc.), they inevitably get compared to and ranked against Envy. And the problem is not that these bands share nothing with Envy—some of them directly point to Envy as an inspiration—but the idea that Japanese screamo is a “style,” like San Deigo screamo or 625 Thrashcore powerviolence, it too simplistic. I do this same rant all the time, so I won’t belabor it, but the scenes in all the large Asian countries are as massive and diverse as anything in the states, and bands overseas deserve better than to be lumped with their closest marquee name compatriot.
To that point: the first comparisons I thought of when listening to this split between Piri Reis (Malaysia) and sto cosi cosi (Japan) were classic skramz and emoviolence acts like Orchid or pg.99, but those are the first names that come to mind for me as a kid raised on those bands. However, in an interview with Rezine, Piri Reis listed their influences entirely as European screamo bands: Kaospilot, Tristan Tzara, La Quiete, Louise Cyphre, June Paik. Screamo kids love to debate specific genre tags, trace thin lines of causality between bands, and otherwise split hairs in inane ways that all passionate fans of niche music are familiar with. But we’re often wrong, and we’re missing the point.
Rather than list comparisons and string together adjectives, I’m gonna urge you to listen to it without trying to place it in the pantheon of scramz gawds. This is a reissue of the split originally co-released by Endless / Nameless Collective and Satire Records in 2016, but it’s the first time the split is available in the states (through Larry Records in New York). This record is one of the most powerful, exhilarating pieces of hardcore I’ve hard all year. It deserves to be heard, full stop.
NYAI – Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
ffo: Teenage Fanclub, Superchunk, Deerhoof
At first blush, NYAI has a lot in common with that huge population of well-produced pop-rock bands in Japan. They play sticky sweet powerpop with the enthusiasm of a hyperactive children’s cartoon. Almost every vocal melody is doubled by the band’s two singers, broken up only by neon guitar solos. The album’s A side is wall-to-wall memorable choruses. However, it’s tracks like “Spicy beans” that really establish the power of NYAI’s pop. Angular, discordant guitars jab between twitchy bass runs like a fractured “El Scorcho” that keeps breaking further down. It reminds of how Deerhoof strips a song for parts and makes an implausibly catchy Frankensong with it. NYAI avoids the glassy cheeriness of their peers because they’re not afraid to play with the structure.
The fact that “Spicy beans” is immediately followed by “Circular saw,” a perfect sunny slice of powerpop, doesn’t make the album feel disjointed—they’re just flexing their range. And to be clear: they have the range. There’s something here for fans of all the Super’s: Superchunk, Superdrag, and Supergrass.
Death By Fungi – Mumbai, India
Die in Bombay (8/5/19)
ffo: Converge, Strongarm, Verse
This record marks the first time that powerhouse hardcore band Death By Fungi sing in a mixture of English and Hindi; when asked about it by Rolling Stone India, guitarist Vrishank Walia Menon said, “We’re writing it in Hindi because when we fight with each other, we fight in Hindi.” Vrishank, who wrote the majority of the lyrics for the album, goes on to say that their music seems like fight music to him. There’s no more apt way to put the spirit of the band’s newest record, Die in Bombay. This is the first record to feature Tabish Khidir on vocals, who previously was in doom metal band Dirge, and the band seems wound a little tighter. They’re clearly trying to get something off their chest. The lyrics explore the violence in Bombay that the band grew up around, and the guilt of feeling complicit in the youth culture of violence and bullying. “I have turned into what I have hated” says Khidir on one song, “a silent witness.” Die in Bombay is the band’s attempt at a corrective, putting a voice to what they watched go on around them. The music is fittingly chaotic, hinting at Botch and Converge influences. This record is born of the desire for change, but you can hear how difficult it is to maintain hope on the title track: “If you live in Bombay / You die in Bombay / Move to Mumbai / You die in Mumbai.”
The Mind is a Terrible Thing – Manila, Philippines
Mother Night (8/18/19)
ffo: You Blew It!, Everyone Everywhere, Joie De Vivre
The Mind Is A Terrible Thing is an emo revival band that missed their rightful billing in Sterogum articles alongside the likes of You Blew It! and Dads. They have song titles just begging for Tumblr reblogs: “Troll the Respawn, Jeremy!”, “Space Course: Horse to Horse,” “Bros Before (Actual) Bros.” They have guitars that jangle and twinkle. On the winkingly titled “Original Composition,” singer Rhys Trillanes yells, “Are you that oblivious!” in a way that would have caused a full Philly basement of kids to rush the mic. They wouldn’t have replaced Algernon in the pantheon, but they sure as shit would have toured with them. Also, we can call them The Mind Is, which is sick.
The band recently tweeted that their streaming data only showed one U.S. listener (who they correctly guessed was me). Friends? That’s insane. Mother Night fits like the warm hug of a frayed hoodie, and hopefully whatever refugee camps of music blogs outlive the steaming era remember it that way.
FLUSH!! – Seoul, South Korea
Change With a Shout (8/2/19)
ffo: Bane, Verse, Mindset
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total pushover for youth crew. If the back of your shirt has a photo of the band bracketed by lyrics in varsity font, if you have more than one song about the importance of friendship and sticking together, if you are deeply invested in “getting free,” then I probably own your 7”. I know well enough not to push my obsession on other people; for the most part, if you are someone willing to call yourself a youth crew fan, then you’ve already heard all the same records I have.
But FLUSH!! is different, man. They sing in a mixture of Korean and English about straight edge, sticking together, moving forward, getting free, etc., but they sound like they fucking mean it. They play fast, loud, and they never belabor the point. They give you the good shit and get out. We’ve seen evidence of the continued vitality of metalcore (SYSC) and nu-metal (Vein). All youth crew is missing is a spokesperson who can make a convincing argument that there’s still some meat on the bones.
FLUSH!! is my pick. Book it.
OTHER NEW AND NOTABLE
alvin – Sendai, Japan
ffo: Unwound, Drive Like Jehu, Quicksand
Surly post-hardcore full of shifting rhythms and vocals that go from distressed keening to frantic screams. The guitars are huge and nasty, in places building tension with the patience of Slint, while elsewhere churning in punishing fashion. There’s all kinds of touchstones from early 90s emo and post-hardcore (I’ll put cash down that at least one band member owns a Drive Like Jehu shirt they wear all the time), but the urgency of execution results in something that isn’t a direct homage to any one band, but becomes an inspired repurposing of a sound that we don’t get much of these days. The real star here is the rhythm section: the drums sound titanic and the bass is downright sinister.
Best of Luck – Malaysia
Demo (2019) (7/5/19)
ffo: Times New Viking, No Age, Japanther
Best of Luck plays fuzzy, blown-out garage/indie rock, but when that second guitar lick hits at 0:36 of “See Yourself,” it becomes clear that the band has smart pop sensibilities, tucking little micro-riffs into the corners of their noisy, driving tunes. The little faux-surf part at the end of “See Yourself” seals the deal. This sound feels all but dead in the U.S. at this point, lo-fi curios that resurface as we scrape for albums to cover in our Best of the Decade lists, but Best of Luck makes me feel like we put the nails in the coffin too soon.
C.L.A.W. – Singapore
Absolute Control (8/1/19)
ffo: C.H.E.W., G.L.O.S.S., DARE
It’s completely unclear to me why C.L.A.W. isn’t already a huge band. Their mix of surly, mosh-friendly hardcore and frantic punk—not to mention vocalist Sally’s authoritative bark—has me going the fuck off at my desk; I can’t imagine how wild their live shows are. They’ve got the urgency of contemporary acts like Gouge Away and C.H.E.W., their sound nods to classic 90s hardcore, and they’re not afraid to bring the nasty riff back but slower.
HWANZA – Seoul, South Korea
ffo: Getting your ass beat in a basement
South Korea’s heavy music scene is wild right now. There are bands covering the entire spectrum of punk and hardcore that all seem to be egging each other on. Hwanza is possibly the best of the bunch, a blast of gruff punk with muscle. From the production to the barked vocals, it sounds like getting your ass beat in a basement. If that’s your thing, this will be your shit.
In Space – Singapore
In Space EP (7/7/19)
ffo: Boy Pablo, Rex Orange County, Turnover
In Space’s debut EP is a charming collection of the singer-songwriter’s output so far. These bedroom dreampop ballads are surely catchy enough to find purchase with fans of those bands like Boy Pablo and Turnover that sound equally at home at an Emo Night or over the speakers in a Target. Chill is a lifestyle.
kinoue64 – Japan
ffo: Shoegaze through a kaleidoscope
kinoue64 takes the pieces of instrumental shoegaze and reforms them using the principles of math rock, resulting in something constantly burbling and shifting. The EP explores different time signatures and textures, ecstatic guitar needling through walls of fuzz and driving bass. I say “explore,” corny as it may be, because their sound has a real sense of bright-eyed, playful discovery. On 716, the songs are busy and cacophonous, but too colorful and warm to be anything other than inviting. kinoue64 has a massive sound that is finally finding its footing.
The Kitches – Seoul, South Korea
WHAT ARE YOU NOW? (8/31/19)
ffo: A circle pit of motorcycles
This whole column could have been hardcore from Korea this time, and I would not have run out of things to write about. The Kitches play classic D-beat punk: all flanged guitars and circle pits. A throwback that earns its spot in 2019 by being absolutely relentless.
LELAKIDIVJVNGTANDVK – Jakarta, Indonesia
RISAU EP 2019 (8/20/19)
ffo: Joy Division, Bauhaus, Modern English
Asia is having a a real post-punk moment right now: more and more bands are churning out dark, urgent, reverb-soaked tunes that reference the classics without becoming full Ian Curtis worship. My primary takeaway is how fast and danceable most of it is, but rather than waste space on my musings, let me direct you to the great recap over at Unite Asia of Asia’s summer of post-punk. Risau EP is moody and funky, atmospheric and catchy, and their vocalist was made for this genre. An undeniable set of tunes for even the most chain-and-eyeliner-laden to shimmy along to.
Lindenwood – Manila, Philippines
Die With Me (8/14/19)
ffo: Hot Water Music, Future Teens, The Menzingers
Lindenwood plays upbeat emo and driving beardpunk, but not both at the same time. The band has two different singers, and the four song EP alternates between tracks fronted by each vocalist. Although it doesn’t sound quite like two different bands, there’s two distinctly aesthetics at play, and for my money? “Sins” and “Medicine Box” have the most to offer. Whichever approach you’re into, it’s all boisterous and fun enough to merit repeat listens.
Nerve Passenger – Shanghai, China
ffo: Long Distance Calling, The Mercury Program, God Is An Astronaut
China loves its post rock. When I was living in Guangzhou, the genre was so popular that almost all instrumental guitar bands were claiming it, no matter what they sounded like. Nerve Passenger, however, is the real deal, patient and spacey post rock with occasional vocals and lots of lush guitars. The band follows more of a shoegaze template to structuring their long songs, preferring a steady, droning groove to the big crescendos of your Explosions in the Sky or what have you. They give everything a lot of room to breathe, resulting in a glistening slow burn of an album.
PictoShaft – Tokyo, Japan
cactus manner (8/1/19)
ffo: PENS+, The Pillows, Remo Drive
PictoShaft is a weird, fun band. It’s ostensibly J-rock in its sunny, singsong choruses, but the verses are a rush of jittery riffs that feel super fresh. The record feels a little as if one of the zippier emo revival bands threw out their setlist and tried resoundtracking FLCL. I’m curious what happens next for this band: it could go a lot of different directions, but it’s a fun journey.
Salt of Life – Kyoto, Japan
A to Z (8/29/19)
ffo: The Ataris, Spraynard, Such Gold
Scrappy punk/pop-punk that feels like it has some orgcore and easycore in its blood, but leans into a rush of straight-ahead pop hooks. A total FEST band. Good times rock and roll tunes.
sedai – Tokyo, Japan
ffo: Rainer Maria, Texas is the Reason, Mineral
sedai has been churning out top-tier emo tunes for awhile now, but “Hanabi(花火)“ is the biggest and best they’ve ever sounded. The most arresting thing about this song is that it is clears the five minute mark, something I have no patience for these days, but every second of the song pulls you breathlessly forward into the next. It’s a five minute long song that I routinely play three or four times in a row. Also, it provides the most satisfying air drumming experience of 2019. sedai play J-rock in the 90s-00s style: loud alt rock with triumphant major-key choruses. On many songs, “Hanabi(花火)” in particular, there are clear parallels with emo’s second wave. You can hear plenty of The Power of Failing in both the chiming, twinkly interludes and the snarling riffs that pile up on top of each other. This is the first single from their upcoming four song EP, Formula, which will probably already have been announced by the time this column comes out. I don’t think there’s a record I’m looking forward to more in the remaining days of 2019. An essential Japanese alternative band in a scene with no shortage of them, and must-listen for anyone longing for a taste of pre-revival emo.
Strip Joint – Japan
Like a Storm (7/31/19)
ffo: If Archy Marshall was in the Gothic Archies, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart for jocks
Strip Joint is a phenomenal, out-of-nowhere band for me: I haven’t heard anything approximating their arch indie pop in a long time, anchored by the dour melodies of their singer, running from post-punk to nearly-twee indie rock in two songs. Like a Storm is a two-song debut that says more about the possibilities for this band than most full-lengths, and one just stacked with unexpected hooks.
xMovex – Batangas City, Philippines
Our time with you (8/17/19)
ffo: The First Step, Ten Yard Fight, Mouthpiece
Straight edge youth crew, this time from the Philippines. xMovex have all the bounce and chest-banging righteous indignation of In My Eyes and Better Than A Thousand, but there’s all these diversions into sludgier riffs or thrash rhythms on this record. Our time with you sounds like it was written and recorded in a weekend, in a good way. A fun side project from the members of xFortressx.
Noy Cua – Ilagan City, Philippines
kapit lang, sinta (7/2/19)
ffo: Envy on the Coast acoustic session
Noy Cua plays what sounds like would be atmospheric indie rock, but for the primary instrument: a nylon string guitar. The finger-picking lends an unexpectedly soft texture to the floaty tunes that drift between Owen-style confessionals and lilting pop.
The Traveling Theory/Turn For Our – Seoul, South Korea
things we ever know (8/14/19)
ffo: Shed by Title Fight/Always the Hard Way by Terror
The Traveling Theory’s raspy yelling and big-ass beautiful guitar riffs have a lot in common with the magic Title Fight captured on one of their most aggressive records, Shed. They a little emo with their melodic hardcore, and they detour into Transit-esque pop punk on the acoustic-driven “NeonLights.” Turn For Our, on the other hand, is straight-up chuggy tough guy moshcore. It’s the soundtrack to banging your fist against your basketball jersey. If you’re looking for something loud to two step to, Turn For Our is exactly the place you should turn.
YKCM – Tokyo, Japan
ffo: Boys Night Out, Hot Rod Circuit, The Movielife
It’s frequently tagged as “melodic hardcore” in Japan, but you probably know it as the flavor of pop-punk that grew out of The Movielife and Saves the Day’s prettier albums, the big guitars and soaring choruses that would eventually evolve into Warped Tour-core classics like Cartel’s Chroma. However, YKCM still has the riff-heavy, guitar-forward approach of their punk ancestors. A catchy, highly likable debut.
You Can Never Control Who You Fall In Love With – Kuantan, Malaysia
S/T Demo (7/12/19)
ffo: Dillinger Escape Plan, Orchid, Portrayal of Guilt
YCNCWYFILW is the side project of Mashimierul of Singular and Cantilever fame, and his new trio churns out 5 songs of high-order violence in 4 minutes, blistering buzzsaw grind that sounds like it was recorded in a storage unit in hell. It’s an auditory mugging, each noted choked out from the guitars like they’re being shaken down in an alley. It could have been just another brutal footnote in Mashimierul’s long career; instead, it ranks among some of his most exhilarating work. An unexpected standout.
2D Foil – Beijing, China
: – D Foil (7/19/19)
ffo: : – D
Hazy, ethereal shoegaze. The guitars alternate between bright, clean strums and heavy fuzz, drums crashing in the distance, male and female voices swirling around one another. The band really shines when their pop chops come through like on “Inspire,” but they cover a lot of ground: by the record’s the end, the band ditches the fuzz for programmed drums and gentles waves of synths.
Keegan Bradford | @franziamom
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