Tokyo-Based Experimentalist Noah Releases Fashion-Inspired Étoile EP

Étoile, the latest EP from Japanese musician Noah, is comprised of only three tracks and clocks in at just 12 minutes. Yet, the Hokkaido-born, Tokyo-based artist has packed in an album’s-worth of emotion that unfolds like a film score.

One of her influences in making this EP, out October 27 via Flau Records, was music for fashion shows. Noah considered how the music would sound as models walked down the runway while she was working on the transitions between tracks. 

Noah says that she did think of the transitions between songs in making the album. “I was wondering ‘Is this combination effective if used in an actual fashion show?’ Because there are various possibilities if so,” she explains in an email interview. 

“It’s a lot of fun to think about the composition,” says Noah. “I’m very interested in music which you enjoy with the visuals like you might see at a fashion show, versus a mix more suitable for dancing.” She adds that the atmosphere of Étoile, as well as making music that works well with video or live visuals, is something that she would like to further pursue.

One of Noah’s early influences is Readymade FC and she was particularly inspired by a Dior Homme fashion show from 2002 that used the French producer’s music. More recently, she’s looked to the work of brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. “They are not only elegant, but also deep and powerful. A mixture of tradition and new things,” she says. Noah has an appreciation for such juxtapositions. “I like the nuances with exquisite margins created by combinations. I feel that some of those things are what I want to express,” she says. 

That attention to both the classic and contemporary is evident on Étoile. She makes use of chorus-style vocals on the album. “The chorus helped build a more mysterious and romantic worldview. I tried to sing like an opera to create an old-fashioned atmosphere,” she says. 

She collaborated with designer Yuto Sugaya on the cover. “He was very intuitive and understood what I wanted to do and reflected it in the best way,” she says. In the process of working on the cover, Noah showed Sugaya Flexion, Readymade FC’s music for that nearly 20-year-old Dior Homme fashion show that influenced her. “He took the avant-garde spirit that was transmitted from the CD and made it into a beautiful shape,” she says.

In the end, Noah says that the individual songs that comprise Étoile weren’t terribly difficult to make. “I was in a state of accepting what I can and cannot do, so I think I was able to demonstrate my ability to be honest without overdoing it,” she says. “In fact, the working time was also very short. It took only a few months, including the completion of the three songs. This is a very short period for me.”

However, Étoile did come out of a time of creative challenges and revelations for Noah. “As I continued to work as an artist, it was getting more and more painful when I realized that I was pursuing my ideals and seeking results. I wasn’t motivated and even though I love music so much, I wasn’t able to enjoy it,” she says. 

“I’ve had a few years of wondering why I’m a boring person, why I’m not happy with myself, and I was feeling like I was getting lost in a maze with no exit,” Noah explains. “About two years ago, I started meditating and studying the spiritual world deeply, and gradually I realized that my heart was being left behind.”

She continues, “I faced myself thoroughly and I got to know myself little by little. Sometimes it was very painful to face the side that I didn’t want to see. Though I’m still in the process, gradually I learned to relax and take it easy. This isn’t just about behavior – the noisy voice gradually calmed down. I took a long time to rebuild the wobbling foundation.”

Part of Noah’s process has been to acknowledge and accept the myriad emotions that she experiences. “I was thinking that I was just a happy and fun person before, but I found hidden anger and sadness deep inside of me. I didn’t avoid those feelings this time because I learned that it is part of an identity, an important thing that shapes people, and that it is not bad at all,” she says. “I also learned that human thoughts and concepts can be both good and bad, so I began to love and accept my light and darkness. From there, Étoile was born when I wrote a song without hesitation.”

She adds, “I loved myself in the past when I was struggling, and it was an important time, and for it I am grateful.”

Follow Noah on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Boris Connects Pandemic-Torn World With Subversive Metal on Latest Album ‘No’

The latest album from Tokyo-based experimental rock band Boris is simply titled NO, a word that sums up the ethos of the metal aesthetic that pervades it, as well as the sentiments behind the songs. With the coronavirus pandemic leading members Takeshi, Wata, and Atsuo to question everything about their culture, they decided to create an album dedicated to the theme of skepticism and societal subversion, and independently released it via Bandcamp earlier this month.

“We’d observe the different events, news, people’s words, actions,” Takeshi told Audiofemme through translator Kasumi Billington. “Those directly impacted us. In these kinds of critical situations, culture always loses power and is even left behind. What can we do as artists? What do we do? What kind of music can be played in any situation, and can be delivered? The production proceeded as we questioned these types of doubts.”

The word “no” is meant to express rejection of the societal mores and ideals one grows up with — an idea expressed in the song “Non Blood Lore,” a term the band created for mythologies and ideologies stemming from wider culture rather than family.

“We’re always slaves to our unconscious,” Takeshi explains. “We accept what we see and hear without questioning, we interpret things conveniently, and we become paralyzed by unreasonable things. We eventually forget what it means, and even forget how to think. It’s an abominable system. We unconsciously decide everything and follow it. The first step to getting free will is to deny your unconscious thoughts. We point with NO toward that system: ‘What did I feel? Did I think this myself? Did I choose to, and take action myself?’ We get to live by questioning and denying yourself first.”

The need to think for oneself is even more important in today’s political climate, where people are bombarded with information and ideas online and in the media, he adds. “People are chased by various anxieties, fear, doubts, and hatred, turning into chaos. In that situation, rather than blindly following the information, we need to think and judge for ourselves. The answer is not given; you must derive your own.”

This is why the band decided not to publish the lyrics for NO. “Our work doesn’t give answers to the listeners, but we’d rather it become material such as values and aesthetic sense that guides you to the answer,” says Takeshi.

The 11-track collection includes a variety of experimental sounds falling within multiple genres. The opening track, “Genesis,” exudes a doom metal style, with strong, ominous, sometimes discordant guitar riffs and drums that repeat and gradually speed up. Other songs on the LP, like “Anti-Gone,” “Non Blood Lore,” and “Temple of Hatred,” follow more of a punk aesthetic, with dramatic guitar and shouting vocals. “Lust” spotlights the band’s use of electronic effects, with almost drowned-out vocals.

Boris also recorded a cover of Japanese hardcore punk band Gudon’s “Fundamental Error” after the band’s ex-bassist Guy came to a show of theirs in Hiroshima. This was exciting for Takeshi, as Outo was a favorite hardcore punk band of his as a teen.

Finally, the album closes with “Interlude,” where Wata almost whispers against dark, mellow synths and slow-paced cymbals. The track’s title suggests that the end of NO is merely a transition into more music to come.

Based on the band’s history, there very likely is. Boris has been releasing music since 1996, and NO marks their 27th album, not counting albums recorded in collaboration with others, which include Japanese noise artist Merzbow, Seattle black metal duo Sunn O))), The Cult frontman Ian Astbury, and Japanese noise metal band Endon. Currently, Takeshi plays guitar and bass, Wata does guitar and Echo, Atsuo is in charge of percussion and electronics, and all three contribute vocals.

Despite its message of rebellion and resistance, NO is ultimately intended to unite a world that’s physically divided. Takeshi hopes it can help people make something good out of the negativity currently in the atmosphere and validate people’s emotions, the way hardcore and thrash metal did for him when he was younger.

“In this current messed up world, people have sunk in hatred and sorrow,” he says. “We hope that for those who listen to this album, their negative feelings reflect like a mirror, and reflect in another direction into something positive. That’s the possibility that extreme music has.”

It sounds heady, but the band practices what they preach. With their planned two-month U.S. tour canceled, Boris is in the process of recording about four albums’ worth of music at the moment – a positive, healing process born of a negative situation. “All we can do is create,” says Takeshi. “Artists must all be in a similar situation. We’re hoping that from this adversity, we can create great music.”

Follow Boris on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.


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POP ETC got the night started right at Terminal 5, opening for The Wombats.

The band, formerly known as The Morning Benders, consists of brothers Chris (vocals, guitar), Jon Chu (synth), and Julian Harmon (drums).

After playing a new track called “Vice” off their upcoming album, Chris thanked New Yorkers for having a bit more fun with the music. The band just toured in Japan, where, he said, “it was so silent that you could hear a pin drop in between songs.”

Still, while I was having a good time, I felt like I was getting dirty looks for dancing. I am a huge fan of The Wombats, but in my experience at their shows, it doesn’t seem like anyone comes to dance around.

The band’s charm certainly helped get the energy up a little, with Chris complimenting the “attractive audience” on our hair, calling us “well-groomed.” They seem like such a sweet group of guys.

I have to admit that prior to seeing them live, I was hardly impressed by their self-titled first album. As a whole, the sound was almost overwhelmingly electronic for an indie band, crossing the line of being overproduced. It was great to see songs from POP ETC like “Keep It For Your Own” translate better into a live performance.

Judging by tracks like “Bad Break” and “Vice,” whatever changes the band has gone through in the last few years has taken them in a new direction, and they’re sounding more like early Depeche Mode, which works much better.

Their follow-up album, entitled Souvenir, will be released on January 29, 2016.

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All photos by Tim Toda for AudioFemme.