Archive for February, 2008

雪国

Posted in Japan News on February 16, 2008 by joeki2000

This is a report from my trip to the 新潟県 (Niigata-Ken) and 新潟市 (Niigata City).

I left 松本together with Yang by local train. The lady at the tourist information center had told us it would take only 3 to 4 hours to Niigata City. Apparently she didn’t do her homework ; it took us about  6 hours.  First we travelled to 長野、then to 長岡 and finally to 新潟. Though the journey took a considerable amount of time, it was well worth it. 新潟県 is famous for its snow in the winter, and there was a lot of it. Several meters had fallen in the Southern part of the 県. Which of course made for some beautiful scenery. Part of the journey also took us a long the 日本海側 (Japanese Sea coast). The sight of the Sea was more than welcome after being in the mountains for so long.

We arrived in Niigata City ( a city of 812.000 residents, the largest on the 日本海側) a little bit later as expected, so we settled for finding our 旅館 (ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn) and dinner for the day.
The next days where filled with sightseeing. Among others, I visited the 日本海タワー (which offers a view over Niigata city and the coastline);  白山神社 and  公園 which was just across from our ryokan ;  the House of Northern Culture (I snuk in for free heheh) ; the famous exposition/music hall called Ryuutopia ; Next 21, the tallest building in the city and a hyper modern shopping center etc. From a distance we also saw the Big Swan stadium where J-League team Albirex Niigata plays its games (it also hosted a few World cup 2002 games) . Bandai bridge, the symbol of the city, was not impressive at all.  In May this city is hosting the G8 by the way.

The most interesting thing we saw was by far the 弥彦神社 (Yahiko Jinja ), rumored to be the most beautiful in the prefecture. It was snowing very hard that day so there were almost no people there. This provided a real relaxing atmosphere.  We also tasted some Niigata delicatessens ; sushi, sashimi and of course Sake.
The road home was long and exhausting but I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery again, so I didn’t really mind.

It was a good and relatively cheap trip. The ryokan by the way was very comfortable.  On the other hand, Niigata city, Japans 16th largest overall, was relatively dead. Parts of the city seemed in decay and not economically viable. On the other hand , some districts were blooming with business. All in all, I wouldn’t like to live there though. But having the Sea close by and loads of snow is nice I think.

On other news, my cousin is planning a Japan trip the end of March, so I will be accompanying him. This means Ill take it easy until he comes and relax and study a bit here in 松本. I will be visiting 長野 in the coming days though so ill make a report about that later.

Greetings.

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Envy – Abyssal EP

Posted in Review on February 11, 2008 by joeki2000

The first musical feat. of the year has been accomplished.
This is, for me at least, the first unmissable release of the year.
Envy are a Japanese band mixing a lot of styles like post rock and hardcore. They alternate beautifully spoken vocals with harsh screaming. Their previous full length “Insomniac Doze” was pretty solid, but with this new EP “Abyssal”  they recaptured my attention. Especially the opening track “A Road of Winds the water Builds” is strikingly beautiful. I also have a weak spot for this band because they sing in Japanese.  Anyway, I’m not going to do a full review, here is a good review of the record itself. There’s something in this band for everyone, that’s why I just felt compelled to mention this.

Envy’s myspace : http://www.myspace.com/officialenvy

They are playing a big festival later this month with Explosions in the sky. I might attend.

The Angelic Process – …And your blood is full of Honey

Posted in Review on February 5, 2008 by joeki2000

 

Another review pulled from under the dust ! :

The Angelic Process are a drone/ambient two-piece that have been playing this style since 1999.Compared to other bands in the genre there is a little less to hold on to when listening to their albums. Noise is more important than the droning guitar rhythms. So it requires a little more effort from the listener to get through the album.

The vocals are mostly female and are reminiscent of acts like..well I don’t know actually. “Evanescence” came to my mind. But they are usually distorted or processed. The drums are minimalistic and back in the mix, but this fits the style very well. A good example of this is opening track “Worried Man”.
As stated it’s a little harder to find the melodies but they are certainly there between the walls of distortion. The music has a very dense and organic feel to it, like a magma flow. Though the vocals are certainly above average, the amount of processing applied to them in some songs is just over the top for me. This is the case in “The Ruined Life of someone Better”. The vocal melody is rather good, but almost impossible to distill. Too bad because the second half of the song is really one of the best parts of the album. This also because there is just a little more rhythm in this part provided by the more upfront droning guitars and the reduced layers of noise.
“Hang him Higher” also contains more elements for the listener to grab on to. The pounding percussion reminded me of industrial acts like Godflesh.
There are two intermezzo’s in the album (“Mouvements”) which work quite well and fit within the flow of the album. The standout track is the tittle track, avoiding extreme distortion and maintaining a solid beat.

For now The Angelic Process are not yet ready to dethrone Nadja as kings of the ambient/doom genre. However since their debut in 1999 they have done nothing but grow and I expect good things to come from this band in the future.

Decaying Sun, July 2006
Written 10/09/2007

February 3rd Update

Posted in Japan News on February 3, 2008 by joeki2000

It’s been a while again, but I decided to do another Japan related update.

Classes have now officially ended. On Friday we attended the final presentation of the students returning home after one semester (all Koreans). It was interesting, but getting up at 9 a.m. after slacking for more than a week was painful.
I stuck to a steady diet of watching Sopranos with a beer and a bag of chips ’till about 4 a.m. everyday. Then slept ’till late in the afternoon, got up do some work and repeat. If you haven’t watched “The Sopranos” yet : I strongly advise you do : it’s the best series ever.
Since I didn’t really do anything these last 2 weeks, there’s not that much interesting to tell.  But last week Jonathan and his girlfriend Mayuko came to Matsumoto. We did a hike up in the mountains but unfortunately didn’t get all the way to the top. It’s also been snowing pretty hard. 2 weeks ago about 20cm fell. And today and last night, about the same amount has fallen and since I like snow, I’m pretty happy about it. Though it’s not very easy to get around in 20cm of snow.
So 2 weeks ago I also took some neat pictures of the Castle covered in snow. I should really get round to uploading those.

I also received my grades for the Japanese language classes. All results were between around 85% and 95% so I was pretty happy about that. But I had the impression they didn’t want to fail anyone because the oral exam was….well pretty damn easy. Next week I’ll get my certificate with the final overall score on it (A+,A-,B+ etc…) but I’m happy with a B anyway.

This last weekend I hung out at Kuwara. It’s a record shop during the day and at night it’s like a club. It’s pretty cosy and reminds of youth clubs in Belgium.

Thursday there’s a “Sayonara” party for the students returning to their country (a pretty lame party since you have to bring your own food and drinks…) so my plans of leaving for Niigata have been delayed by a few days. But I’m considering departing during the coming weekend (maybe Saturday…). Be in Niigata for about a small week. Come back here and keep everyone updated and then hopefully we can set up a free sleeping place in Osaka and visit Kansai for the first time later this month. In the beginning of march I well go down to Tokyo once more to hang out with Tim and if there’s still some time (or shall we say money left) I’ll do something aswell in the second half of March.

I also received a bit of homework and should really get started on my bachelor paper, so I guess I’ll be able to fill up the two months. That was it for now.