a drive around the block is statistically insignificant in terms of the overall impact on the climate. That said, when a million turn an ignition key, it moves into the collective realm of statistical, and planetary, significancy. The heat is on.
Interpretation of Timothy Morton
So we just bought carbon credits to offset our trip to Tokyo and Seoul. And it’s an easy thing to do.
From memory, Naomi Klein said in her book This Changes Everything, that a transition away from high-carbon to low-carbon activities is essential for ongoing viability of life on earth. She cites creative endeavours, such as the arts, as being a low-carbon activity to encourage. That’s a nice thing to hear if you make things such as music, it has a feel-good buzz to it, a pat-on-the-back for not launching tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere willy-nilly by being a ‘dirty polluter’.
But then we hop on a plane to go and play random weird tunes elsewhere because we can. Carbon, say hello to the atmosphere. And though it’s highly likely the plane will still have dumped that much carbon without us on board, the fact remains that we are on board, we have added encouragement to the intercontinental flight network [it is an amazing thing!], and we know that the impact of such events collectively cumulate into an unfolding hyperobject called Climate Change. [Again, read or watch Morton’s ideas on Hyperobjects].
How to mitigate such impacts? What’s a personal responsibility in this regard? How to offset the negative impacts of a positive endeavour? Talk to EKOS.
Ekos makes carbon footprint measurement and offsetting accessible for businesses and individuals. Our carbon credits come from our own carbon projects that grow and protect indigenous forest. These projects do more than capture carbon: they reduce erosion, help to clean waterways, improve biodiversity and provide sustainable income for local communities in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. [from website]
Carbon offsetting is easy. This is the second time we’ve used EKOS to help carbon offset our tours and they are super helpful. You can read about the first time in the post, Out of step to not offset. They assist to calculate the impact of flights, trains, taxis and other transportation required. To offset our trip to Tokyo and Seoul we paid approximately NZ$240, that covered all transport as well as any other calculation we were unable to supply.
Carbon offsetting means planting trees. Planting one tree sequesters about one ton once fully grown. One ton is statistically insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However after planting one million trees, and then multiply that further, then it does start to have some statistical, and actual, significance. Let’s plant some shade.
We would encourage all touring act, big and small, to investigate offsetting your projects where possible. There may be local equivalents in the areas where you live. Check it out.
We wrote this last time, seems worth saying again: “We hope other creative practitioners and festival organisers can hook up with a services like Ekos and make reducing their carbon footprint a regular and expected part of creative responsibility and activity. “
Playing at Snails on Friday 16 November in support of the tour act Zaïmph from NYC.
From the AltMusic promo:
Altmusic is proud to announce a nationwide tour for New York psychonaut, Zaïmph.
Zaïmph is the solo project of artist, musician and performer Marcia Bassett. Zaïmph’s recordings and performances shimmer with a dense, dissonant and often unsettling electronic aura, shot through with flashes of meditative beauty. Her preferred sonic toolkit includes prepared guitar, keyboard, cracked drum machines, custom-built noise/drone boxes, processed environmental sounds and tabletop effects.
As a co-founder of Philadelphia’s shambolic psychonauts un, tectonic drone pioneers Double Leopards (with Jon Chapman of Dunedin’s EYE), and the psych-folk drone trio GHQ, Bassett is deeply entwined with the American noise underground, and has mapped regions still only dimly understood by subsequent sonic travellers. From 2003-2008, Bassett joined Matthew Bower in Hototogisu, where her mastery of cacophonous eardrum shred achieved monolithic proportions.
Bassett’s releases have appeared on a variety of independent labels including Hospital Productions, Utech Records, Volcanic Tongue and No Fun. Although Bassett has released a number of recordings on her now retired Heavy Blossom imprint, she continues to showcase Zaïmph and other aesthetically allied projects on Yew, a label she founded in 2012.
“It would be tough to write a history of the last two decades in underground music without including Marcia Bassett … and any angle would have to include Zaïmph, Bassett’s solo project. Through small-run releases on numerous labels including her own, Heavy Blossom), Zaïmph has carved out a unique take on decaying feedback, assaultive fuzz, echoey ambience, and abstract expression.” – Marc Masters, Pitchfork, The Out Door
“…blasting a hole through the flimsy wall that separates ‘dark psychedelic’ and ‘free drone-rock’.” – Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic
:::: NZ TOUR DATES ::::
Wednesday 14th November:
Auckland – Audio Foundation with Rachel Shearer and Rosy Parlane
Friday 16th November:
Palmerston North – Snails – with DSLB and Distance
Saturday 17th November:
Wellington – the Pyramid Club – with Thomas Arbor and Ludus
Friday 23rd November:
Christchurch – Dark Room – with Teen Haters and Scythes
Saturday 24th November:
Dunedin – Blue Oyster Art Project Space – with Ye and Gate
Wednesday 28th November:
Auckland – The Wine Cellar – with Psychick Witch and Astrolabe
The afternoon starts with a snooze. Late show last night, later eating and drinking, early rising to the DMZ then hit the pillow.
Rested, rise and walk to Haroo Spacebus. We saw Kopjanggonggol the other night here and borrowed bits of their drums for the Yogiga show. Now we return here to eat after the StrangeFruits show and tonight it’s our show here. These two venues have been our key visiting points in this area called Hongdae.
All our shows have been in this area. There’s a large Arts University nearby, and the place is cool, a real place to be, fashion central, with us mixed up inside it.
Tonight there’s four acts on the bill. Opening is the spectacular Yukie Sato playing a solo guitar improvisation, all the ‘F’ words, fast, frenetic, funny, furious, full-on then finished. The set started with a hint of a song that asked where the Police were in the room, that then shifted gear to guitar solo played with fingers and then a serving spoon. Switching guitar midway to play one in the shape of an AK47 Yukie added electronic toys in to the mix, a device that instructed NO, a siren that wound into a warning call. Instantly the energy in the room was uplifted. Fabulous!
Next in the left corner is Bong Gyo Lee, master drummer of the Korean hourglass shaped drum called the Changgo. In the right corner on the kit is Kieran locked into a conversational spar. Shifting gear, Bong Gyo moves from Changgo to a gong called a Kkwaenggwari 꽹가리 – the dialogue turns metallic as cymbals dominate, hoots call out from the floor and then the spontaneous piece ends with a tense anticipation.
Third is Mustang Sally, our host Ian-John on harmonica, and Sally on guitar and vocals playing original blues/jug band-styled tunes. Virtuosity from both through the set, and buoyant songs keep the energy up. I’s really nice seeing these in a different context as both played the previous night in a improvised set.
We round the evening off with a full sonic range. Midway through we get sounds coming from the floor as Bong Gyo accompanies us to the sound of the Kkwaenggwari, and Yukie ramps up the siren sounds. We figure our music always sounds better when its full of grins, hooting and hollering along.
We reach wipe-the-paint-off-the-face time of the evening, sitting back and chilling with Makgoelli, Han Joo prepares more food, and a couple more hours slip past before another light night ramble to the backpackers.
We meet up with Ian-John, pack out of Haroo, put the gear back into Yogiga before the show tonight at Bbang. Then it’s onto the trains to some part of town where the most extraordinary street markets are held. Stalls full to the brim with electronics, clothes, repair shops, second hand instruments, stacks and stacks of karaoke equipments, streets on streets of Korean bric a brac.
Lunch, hunt for coffee then more walking to the old emperor’s temple which was nearby where the bus drivers strike was held the other day. We’re told that this area is where a lot of political action happened, passion demonstrations that have changed the political nature of the country. There’s a permanent tent city that’s protesting the way the government has investigated the sinking of the Sewol ferry several years ago in which many school kids died by drowning. There are tents full of photos of the faces of those lost.
Show time. And this one was a bit of a bonus, as Ian-John contacted the bar to see if they could accommodate another act, and yes was the answer. But it’s a scene/crowd Ian-John’s not familiar of so it’s a chance for all of us to see new acts, make new connections perhaps.
Bbang is a the largest bar we’ll play in. It also underground, and about 500 metres up the road from StrangeFruits. Walking around, the area has several other bars and the sound of indie-rock bands sound checking can be heard along the stroll.
First up is Oh Hijung, a solo performer playing atmospheric grooves from a laptop and accompanying equipment.
Next is Pinan, a local four-piece pop group with lead singer on acoustic guitar. Competent songs with a range of dynamics.
We’re on third and possibly are the loudest, and most assertive act of the evening. We see the bar manager/sound guy at the back grooving away. It’s a swift 30 minute set and then it’s over. It’s a lean crowd, one of those shows that’s mostly other bands in the audience, but you should never let that distract you, it’s no reason to perform with any less intensity than if it’s was a completely full room. Its a good thing to learn to respect the efforts others had made to be there. It’s fun.
Fourth is the guitar duo Desert flower, playing to loops and some processing. Large delayed washings of sound reminiscent of Spaceman 3 or guitar shoe-gaze of that era.
The final act Gangnam Songrim play. There’s only three of us left now in the audience. The band plays to us. A MOR rock band, at times with the funkiness of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, at others times hearing grunge influences. It’s a nice set, they speak to us directly, introducing their songs and then delivering with precision.
We catch a train back to the backpackers – spend an hour or so packing for the plane. It’s late when we get to sleep, and it’s not long after when we wake up. Its a long day and night from Seoul to our small home in a valley.
Something we posted to Facebook once we got home:
“Well, we made it back to our tiny house on a hill and unpacked. We’re massively weary, mostly intact and immensely satisfied with our recent jaunt to Tokyo and Seoul. We met many good people along the way, and it’s a privilege to be wrapped up in your warmth and enthusiasm.
Huge shout out to the venues: Aja bar, Rinen and Jam in Tokyo, and Yogiga, Haroo SpaceBus, Strangefruits and Bbang in Seoul.
10/10 for Ian-John who was the lynchpin in making this happen. He was instrumental in hooking us up with Kaori in Tokyo which facilitated those shows happening. Willing networks, based on integrity and interest like interesting music, are a precious thing – to find folk who will help organise shows, accommodation, tolerate dietary requirements and step in at any other needed time is a wonderful thing to behold.
Cheers to all the bands who came and played, all the folk who came to the shows, the people who hung around and ate and drank, and the people who welcomed us in on more quiet times. It was brilliant.
We hope to catch you all again soon, hopefully next August!
till then, take care and thanks again
Early up to catch a bus for a trip planned to visit the DMZ, the infamous strip of land, the Demilitarized Zone, the no-go corridor between North and south Korea. A brochure was lying around the backpackers advertising this ‘tourist’ half-day trip to visit this contested piece of earth. It seemed like a one-off opportunity to access something usually only heard of occasionally in the news.
The bus was full, seems there’s a lot of interest in this excursion. Along the way the tour guide recounts basic history of the Korean war, the US intervention, the 30,000 defectors a year from north to south, the reasons for kilometers and kilometers of barbwire alongside the Han river in preparation for the four stops we will make.
The first stop is Imjingak Park and also the site of the Freedom Bridge, spanning the DMZ [which at it’s widest is 4 kilometres]. This bridge gained fame as the crossover point for the handover of about 12,000 political prisoners at some point in the past. The actual DMZ is a a corridor of browning scrub and bush, snaking between the two countries. It looks like there’s also rice fields but no idea who tends those. There’s a carcass of a destroyed South Korean train engine on display in the park, riddled with bullet holes and broken from explosion from some cross-fired exchange. There are sculptures, concrete and quite brutal – maybe all propaganda art is kitsch? There’s a wall of photos of sadness, of families distraught at the separation forced from the division of land between major political actors. And most bizarrely directly next door to this militarised spectacle is a vast amusement park, full of colour and enjoyment. For the benefit of North Korean binocular watchers I suspect, to reflect on how much fun the South has.
It’s a strange thing to know that it’s a political spectacle, to be deep inside a propaganda event, and be complicit and willing participant in this event. And it’s extremely popular, the are dozens and dozens of buses, full to the brim, and hundreds constantly milling around, taking selfies, checking out the tourist stalls. Becoming cynical would be easy, but there’s no evidence to second-guess the reason why people visit; to commemorate their own divided family? What’s my own motivation to attend this specific place of power on the planet? Intrigue? Voyeurism? An itch to purchase a DMZ chocolate covered soybean at the tourist shop?
Not losing the bus requires focus, finding it is a relief. The next stop is the 3rd Infiltration tunnel. It’s a military space. Buses are stopped at checkpoints and a solider inspects passports before entry. The tunnel, obviously underground, started on the North Korean side and were then discovered by the South, who then drilled down to meet and halt them with machinery. The tunnels from the north were dug by hand and dynamite. Our party descends 350 meters from the south heading north into tight low-ceilinged tunnels. 150-200 metres away from the point where both countries boundaries meet is the closest you can get. It’s a slow, cramped, march in a single file stream of hundreds of people of all ages. A bad time to discover if your brain holds a secret dose of claustrophobia. At times like this I am thankful to the engineers who invented air-ducting shafts. After 20 minutes slouching, walking, hitting hard-hatted heads on the ceiling we reach the end. We’re faced with a solid steal wall with a tiny opening, in which you can see another solid steal wall with a small opening, in which if your lucky you’ll see a 3rd solid steal wall with a small opening. Through the final opening it is reported that you can see the North Korean side of the tunnel. It was invisible to me. Then we turn around and slouch out. Time to locate that bus again.
Third stop in this military zone is the Dora Observatory lookout, a large platform that looks out over the treeless hills of North Korea and to the closest city industrial city on the Northern side of the boarder. In the souvenir shop you can buy rusty 6 inch lengths of barbwire for about 56,000 won, a bit more than $70 NZ dollars – they stay on the shelf.
The final stop is fascinating. The Dorasan Train station. A fully functional station, built relatively recently, with a connecting line from Seoul, through Pyeongyang, all the way to Spain. It’s never been used. The platform is called the Unification Platform, in hopeful anticipation that it will ultimately be opened and used when the current standoff thaws. It seems like things are shifting though, with the recent opening of dialogue between the north and south it is reported that the lines are now being inspected for usability and safety, maybe in anticipation that sooner rather than later, the line will become functional.
It’s a fascinating place, with ticket vendors employed to sell tickets to the current train that won’t arrive.
And that’s it. Tour over. Again the process of finding the bus is a bit like a real life Where’s Wally, but it works out in the end. Back on the road and back to a show. Arrive a bit later than planned as some of the Bus drivers of Seoul’s public transportation infrastructure are on strike and protesting. Just like home.
It a wonderful thing to wake in a new and unknown place, when you are there voluntarily and with willing. And we are both of those things
Our plan is to meet with Motegi, drummer for Goofy18, and to get lunch at a local udon cafe. It’s a short walk to the tiny, beautiful and bustling cafe where we wait in line outside till a table is free. When a space becomes available we find ourselves sitting looking directly into the kitchen where we can watch the kitchen staff all fulfill their role in the assembly of spectacular food. It does not disappoint. Afterwards the plan is an afternoon of slow mooching among the crowds of thousands. So we head back up to Nakano Broadway and meet a few more of Motegi’s friend. We go up and down the levels looking at all manner Manga and anime characters, interspersed with food, fashion and some freaky items. It’s a cool place.
The afternoon concludes and we must prepare for the next show. Soundcheck, or 30 minute rehearsal times as is the expected norm here, are tightly scheduled and ours is at 6pm in a bar in the Waseda district. Our soundcheck is at the end of the schedule as we’re the first band to kick the event off. So we part company with those at the markets and head back to the backpackers to gather all our stuff, then spin through the city towards Waseda to the venue on the trains.
Waseda RiNen is another underground venue. It’s been open about 6 months. We kick off the evening in usual fashion, it’s a nice explosive set. Its hard to gauge if a band like ours often plays at a place like this, but what we offer is enthusiastically received.
Next is Papalion. A psychedelic rock trio playing tight original compositions with a nod to the late 60’s, and at other times it sounds like a strong confident nod to the US band The Meatpuppets…at least thats what we think.
Following is Haiti from Limbo. A larger band, 5-piece, with a harder mid-70’s groove, however the drummer played with the attack of a committed metalhead – all power and mightily solid.
The last act for the evening is Danzetsu-koryu. They sound somewhere between a harder rock and roll monster, The Monkees and late 90’s grunge rock. The singer guitarist plays ballad-folk-like tunes and then collapses in to a wall of hearty riffs, a spritely bass player moves all over the fretboard and a powerhouse of a drummer smacks seven shades of shit out of the skins. Immense Fun! A pleasantly diverse evening of sound. We leave to the sounds of Leonard Cohen droning from the bar PA.
We amble back through midnight Tokyo to find a fast-food joint to eat hot chips on the footpath before rest. Waking to the last day, we collect ourselves and meet with Motegi again for more food before we make our way across town to the last show.
The venue JAM in the area of Nishie-Fuke is flash! Impressive P.A, super helpful stage staff, and the biggest venue to date. We will be the last of five acts.
Opening the evening up is Goofy18, playing to a room of friends. Kaori has been key organiser for this tour, and alongside these shows has orchestrated a battalion of takoyaki cooks for this night. Takoyaki are small round pan-fried balls mostly of octopus, but theres a selection of vegetarian takoy[less]aki as well, to be cooked outside the performance space – popular and delicious. Goofy18 set is hampered by some early technical issues with the bass, but the lack of sound is swiftly remedied and the party begins in full.
Second up is Haigan. A massive band, two guitarists, bass, electronics, drummer, trumpet and two vocals. A loud confrontation assault of improvised death-mental/grindcore/manic escalating wall on wall of noise and howls, screams, roars of vocals. A Boredoms 2.0. Frenetic and never static. It’s an intoxicating tsunami of sounds, except these are ecstatic waves and we feel fully exhilarated afterwards.
Next is the Electric Mongoose U.F.O Factory, a 6-piece unit with two kit drummers, a tap-dancer to add additional percussion, bass, guitar and electronics. A wildly impressive instrumental group playing tight, complex and insanely groovy tunes, the tap-dancer front and centre stage directing time-signatures to the band to respond to immediately, mixing up the 3s, 4s 7s, 5s and more.
NA/DA is forth is the line-up. Drums, gat/vocals, and cello. A darker gothesque brooding set. Trying to find references to describe what they sound like we come up with a reference point somewhere between the Cocteau Twins and Nine Inch Nails, maybe a bit of the repetition of a Philip Glass track, a sniff of Joy Division.
Then our turn. It’s a real pleasure to play on such top quality equipment. We plan a more assertive set given the context of some of the other acts. And it delivers, the new songs are really finding there feet and punch. Encore is also an order of the day, it’s a gleeful end to a short tour of Tokyo. Afterwards we meet loads of folk on the floor, we manage to sell almost all the quota of merch we budgeted for this leg. Then we have beer, and more Takoyaki, and many swift introductions and departures, but with the hopeful conversations that we will meet again mid-next year when we plan to return.
It’s late when we get back to the backpackers. We have to pack before grabbing four hours sleep before heading back to the trains to the airport. We need to be up early to navigate, and hopefully avoid the worst of, the ascend rush hour traffic. Next stop Seoul.
Massive THANKS to Kaori Ogasawara for the fine organizing,and to Motegi Su for sharing the lunch-times with us. We hope to see Goofy18 in NZ one day.
We arrive just before 6am in Haneda airport, Tokyo, after a pretty sleepless trip but adrenaline has it’s own turbo-boosting effect and we’re both excited to be here. It’s nice to get here so early as it give’s us plenty of time to collect our selves and the gear, and to navigate the transport system.
Three trains and we are at Nakano station, a major transport conduit at the heart of the Nakano area, famous for manga animation and the Broadway. The Nakano Broadway is a massive complex of stores selling a million different plastic figurines from various characters of pop culture.
We walk from the train station to the backpackers where we are to camp for three days, ground central. It’s an easy 15 minute walk and a warm welcoming environment. We can check in at 11 but we’re able leave our bags and go and find something to do for a couple of hours.
We go and look for something to eat for breakfast/lunch. We have read about a vegetarian restaurant in the Broadway so go exploring. Nakano Broadway is massive. We walk round and round, past a million Ultra-Man, Godzilla, Totoro replicas hustling amongst a mountain of other items. We find the cafe but it seems closed, the curtain covering the doorway is down but there are people inside, maybe we’re early. We do another lap and when we return the curtain is still drawn. Poking into the curtain to inquire if they are opening, we are surprised to be invited in to what we discover is a cooking class of vegetarian cuisine.
Korbino, it’s a tiny restaurant, seating maybe 10-12 maximum and the class is of local women who have come to learn to cook Vietnamese-styled vegetarian food. It’s a cooking lesson full of laughter, and we are certainly part of the amusement, but it is mutual , warm and friendly. One of the women does wonderfully to translate for all of us there. The restaurant has been here for more than 30 years, and it seems the owner of the restaurant fled Vietnam under difficult circumstances. It’s a sobering moment amongst all the humour. There are tears and then laughter. We are not allowed to pay. An extraordinary introduction to Nakano and a remarkable first taste into this city.
We grab a few hours sleep before meeting Kaori, who has been brilliant in organising our three shows. She is the bass player for local group Goofy 18. Together we head off to the first venue.
Aja LiveBar, the first venue is about 1 kilometre down the road from the backpackers. It’s below the ground level, a tiny space, containing about 12 seats and a small corner seat with a lowered ceiling. It’s gonna be snug. We soundcheck and then go to get food from the 7Eleven down the road. These convenience stores are to be a significant feature of eating while in Tokyo. It super nice to see a couple of folk from Whanganui turn up and party with us.
It’s an evening of two-piece acts. Fudds are first, electric guitar and drums – a thoroughly solid and robust performance of driving guitar and rolling drums.
Goofy18 follow Fudds, this is Kaori’s group, and is a hefty drums/bass unit. Heavy affects on the bass envelop songs that are 1 big part dynamic punk, 1 part pop. Duel vocals with Motegi on the drum who smacks out the rhythms with force!
Next is 5W1H (pronounced Guo-W-Ichi-1) – swings with a harder Radiohead vibe, with less of the angst and more of the funk. It’s very cool with a definite nod to the manic side of local music.
Finally our turn, the first show in Tokyo. Getting changed is a challenge, the venues small, the bathroom smaller, imagine getting dressing in a single-door wardrobe. We do the deed and adrenaline sustains the day, we belt out our set and it’s warmly received with big enthusiasm.
Good friends of ours, Gold Medal Famous, have been in a bit of transition recently, with some moving cities, and an additional change in personal. The self-described Avant garde pop trio have always been enjoyably off the wall and very entertaining in both performance and approach to music making. Prolific is also something they are.
They have a new ep being released soon. However, in a pre-emptive warm-up exercise they encourage anyone interested to remix the first track from the new release.
We did our best to Rammsteinify this ear-worm, this infectiously hooky and hummable tune. And no matter what we threw at it, it remained sweet.
It’s been a fair while since any update. Seems like we took a year off.
So feeling rested, reorientated and recuperated we hit the sticks again, with a bunch of new project.
First a number of shows coming up – Wellington, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Plus we are in the early stages of planning for a much bigger tour at the end of the year.
We have a new look, some new stories and tunes to present to you.
And there are two new solo albums and one remastered album to be released on the bands own label skirted Records. The first is beautiful new atmospheric and acoustic collection of five pieces of sound from DSLB, piped out from bellows over the green pasture of the Manawatu. The album is called TwoHandsTwice.
The second is Haters, Wreckers and other Friends by mr sterile. The most recent collect of random ramblings compiled into one particularly rock collection. Putting the uncomfortable in to the comfort zone. UPDATE: And already these’s a nice wee preliminary review from the Organ Mag in London!
And finally is a new remastering and repackaging of the mr sterile solo album The General Pathetic. More lo-fi and chaotic the album spans the some of the solo sounds from 2005-2012.
Each album is to be assembly by hand, limited to 50 physical pieces only and to be released early April