By Benjamin Shapiro
We filmed this feature in Sendai, Japan, the capital city of the Miyagi Prefecture. Our cameras caught Japanese noise rockers 2UP just 13 days prior to the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Northern Japan. The damage had a catastrophic effect on Sendai. We were lucky enough to capture some sweeping shots of the Sendai Harbor, and the surrounding landscape.
In the most recent episode of Picture Perfect, photographer Donald Weber explains the difference between pictures of phenomena, and pictures about phenomena. What started as images of 2UP became images about Sendai, and the devastating effect that the Tōhoku earthquake had on the city. For further information, see Weber expound on the Great East Japan Earthquake on last week’s episode of Picture Perfect.
Japan’s love affair with noise music is many decades old. This national interest in discordance goes at least as far back as 1967, the year that seminal Japanoise avant-gardists Les Rallizes Dénudés formed. In the mid-nineties that interest mainstreamed into the massive, cross-cultural impact of Acid Mothers Temple. Contemporary Japanese rockers take cacophony in stride, and it’s from this wizened climate that Tokyo’s 2UP emerges.
2UP plays a blend of noise, experimental rock, and thrash that recalls the breathless attack of Osaka’s Jellyroll Rockheads. Like the Rockheads, 2UP favors super short song formats: most of their tunes clock in under two minutes, and some are under thirty seconds long. The disconnected call-and-response interplay smacks of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, who in turn took their inspiration from free jazz.
This Tokyo duo remains fully committed to their creative habit. Singer and guitarist Tetsunori Tawaraya currently plays with the San Diego band Dmonstrations, involves himself in the Japanese experimental art scene, paints, and creates comics. Drummer Keiichi Nakano, on the other hand, is a minor legend in the Japanese thrash scene from his days as the bassist for Total Fury.
Behind Tawaraya’s shredded, hardcore punk-style vocals and Nakano’s lunatic drumming, the curious listener can hear a sound tornado that requires remarkable skill. The songs sport fascinating structures considering the tiny parcels of time allotted. Fascinating polyrhythms emerge, making 2UP sound like a sextet, not a duo. Like an ice cream sundae topped with pretzels, M&Ms, olives, and lox, they play with exotic, crazy flavors you’d never expect to work. Sure it’s a mess. Sometimes that’s part of the idea.
-By Alex Dunbar