Zen Visual Kei

I apologize for not being very active lately. Truth be told, I haven’t really been feeling inspired by anything enough that I would want to write about it/review it. Most of what I’ve been listening to this past month has been pretty much the same old stuff. To put it in internet layman’s terms: meh.

So, recently, instead of listening to tons of music, I climbed into the mountains to hear the sound of the birds, and live off the land, miles and miles from the nearest tub of Gatsby Moving Rubber, without a perm in sight…And while I was in retreat…I wish I could say something like “I became enlightened”, but unfortunately my realization was somewhat lesser. I realized that I’ve been kind of snobbish, mostly because I’ve become paranoid in recent days about the creativity involved in the recent Visual Kei (and Jrock at large) releases. Some of them have felt more than a little mainstream, and of late, I’ve been waking up from gloomy nightmares, the word Commercialism…commercialism…commercialism… echoing around the room.

However, thankfully before my threats of KAT-TUN rebellion actually resulted in the buying of best-of albums and switching my banner out for one of Kamenashi Kazuya with his hair knotted up in a pink hair-tie, I started thinking more about where things stand, not in regards to the music industry and commercialistic totalitarianism,  but in regards to being a Visualist, and the listening to music aspect of our fandom. (I made the new banner just in case though!)

Just being annoying...

I like the Japanese word “Hajime” 「始め」 which means “beginning”. What I like about it is the kanji because it’s an extremely common and simple character, 始, but it has multiple parts, which, in my eyes, kind of represents the causes and conditions that need to be in place for anything to “begin”. In Japanese, the phrase meaning “Nice to meet you/How do you do” is “Hajimemashite” 「始めまして」 which means, literally, “it has begun”. I like this sentiment because, unlike “Nice to meet you”, it has a feeling of continuity and progressiveness.

In the same way that a personal relationship has a “it has begun” moment, which then develops and progresses into a “now we’re bros” plateau of mutual acknowledgement, media and music has the same patterning (in fact, most things do). In this case, you’re hearing a song for the first time– that’s the “hajimemashite”. Then, if you liked that song enough to look into it further, you will continue to explore that artist’s works (music, movies, media), to the point that maybe you will even travel to foreign countries to see them perform live (is the personal-relationship equivalent engagement? just kidding).

A while ago I read a book called Zen Guitar, which, you guessed it, applied the concepts of zen to playing guitar. The format of the “method” in this book was that the “student” was supposed to think of playing the guitar in the same way you would practice a martial art. The first thing the author tackled was the “black belt” issue. People wanted to know what it took to become a “black belt”. Sparing you the sentiments about how “one will forever be a student” and all that (he doesn’t spare you, but I will), I did like his comment on the topic. He said (paraphrased, as I can’t remember it verbatim) that “in the way of Zen Guitar there is only one belt: the white belt. The student must always return to white belt, every time. The only way that you can attain a “black belt” is by practicing to such an extent that your white belt becomes soiled, and steadily, blackens from use.”

Now, taking all of this philosophy into consideration and then looking at the actual experience of this developing relationship with the experience of listening to certain music, there is no definite point of fulfillment, is there? And yet we rush (it’s a side-effect of visualist dementia– don’t worry, we all have it) forward as if there’s some sort of finish line, or black belt. Essentially, there isn’t one.  At least I don’t think there is– not for me, anyway. And yet it’s interesting to see how, even with something as circular in nature as the appreciation of music, impatience develops. We obsess over when new material will be released– forgetting that there are still songs on old albums that we haven’t even listened to properly.

Essentially, it’s hard to avoid becoming jaded to something. At first and for a while it’s exciting, but if you do something enough, live it and breathe it enough, it becomes a habit – something done without thinking. Even if new material comes out, are we really as excited about it as we were right when we first started listening to The GazettE? I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, or state that this is just how it is. But for me, at least, Visual Kei and Jrock isn’t just a “phase” or something that I will lose interest in after a while. I would never “break up with it” as it were, just because I’ve hit a flat area. These are the points in ones relationship– with anyone and anything– where it actually starts to take awareness and conscious action to keep something alive, strong, and healthy. When you stop appreciating something properly, the jadedness creeps in, lethargy soon follows, and then who knows what’s next– gangrene, maybe. Or even worse, you find yourself actually checking out DBSK albums on eBay (don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying I’ve done that. Not yet, anyway.).

What I’m going to do about it, to both help refresh my appreciation of Visual Kei, and bring some new material to SG, is go back through all of my albums/singles/DVDs/whatever, many of which are dated from several years ago and haven’t been reviewed (I won’t do repeats) yet. I will do my best to listen to them with a “white belt” ear, and review them. It will definitely help me get back in touch with the older stuff, hopefully it will help newcomers to VK check out some classics, and maybe it will send some of you vets back to your dusty collections. Who knows, right?


Beautiful Buck-Tick is Back

BUCK-TICK and I have a bit of a history, and I used to blog about them quite often, if I remember correctly. They’ve been a bit off my radar for a couple of years though, not sure why, they just kind of drifted away. However, I will always owe, well, everything to this band– not only because they have written and instigated  a few of my favorite Jrock songs of all time, but also because they introduced me to Jrock. Yes, it’s true. (Oh sweet moments of reminiscence…made weird by the creepiness of the band I’m reminiscing about.). BUCK-TICK‘s Dress was the first Jrock song I ever heard, and well, you know where that led. So anyway, this band will always be a special source of nostalgia for me. Oh, not to mention musical appreciation.  Hmm…no, really…they wrote some bloody phenomenal songs. Muma~ The Nightmare is incredible. Terrifying, and not for the faint of heart, but incredible. …Love Me, Just One More Kiss, Romance, Kain…all amazing works of aural-art. I mean, despite being timelessly creepy, and most of their music being totally bizarre, the fact of the matter is that BUCK-TICK is one of the greatest VK bands of all time. It’s that creepiness (unadulterated by any association with what should or shouldn’t be done) and bizarre music that give them their wretched charm, and their immortality with fans.

Video: audio track Umbrella off of Memento Mori (’09). These guys have a timelessly funky, evil style that shows, no matter what they choose to do.

Anyway, wipe away those nostalgic tears. They released an album last year, Memento Mori, and did a nationwide tour to promote it. They’ll make another micro-come-back with a brand-new single, Dokudanjou Beauty. They have also updated their personal style for a slightly more modern look.

Image credit: SR Jrock UK

Gone are the streamlined and strict black suits of last year, and in…the fluffed perm that Gatsby agents are probably paying millions to have these rock-stars wear… I mean really. I thought at least Atsushi Sakurai, god of wearing styles nobody would ever touch with a twenty-foot pole, wouldn’t succumb to the fluffed perm favored recently by GACKT, Ruki (GazettE), Satoshi (girugamesh), and (unfortunately) others. Oh wait, this is a style nobody else would touch with a twenty-foot pole. Except they did.
Dokudanjo Beauty / BUCK-TICK

ANYWAY, wow, I’m really digressing like a mad person here. Well, new single Dokudanjou Beauty is being used as the GALACTICA Season 2 ending theme song. The single will be released in 3 editions, a regular and limited, as well as a super-ultra-limited version for 18000 JPY (around 180.00 USD) that comes with a special selection of figurines– one of each band member. Creepy. Oh, also, the super edition is already sold-out at CDJ. The single comes out March 24th.

On a further note, BT will appear in the March ’10 special edition of the publication Arena 37 C.

Here’s a preview of the brand new PV for Dokudanjou Beauty at Sony Music. (It looks like a bunch of gibberish, I know. Just click the play button, everything is already set for you.)…and the ending for GALACTICA