Japan’s musical metaphoric writing.
With their loud booming guitar melodies and their transitional vocals, the Cabs have left an impact on a lesser known scene to the Far East.
Being at the forefront of technological advancement Japan’s music scene can be very much stereotyped. A small glimpse into ‘J-pop’ you will find very pink and bright girl groups and eye-candy boy groups, yet much like Korea there has always been an underlying creativity beyond these huge entertainment company formed groups. Japan’s indie scene has been around for a long time with bands formed in 2007 still releasing music to this year but like other indie groups their members are a part of other bands at the same time.
Indie groups in the UK tend to be focused on youth pains and hopeless love songs, but to the Far East much like a Murakami novel they sing in metaphors that displace the artist from the ones they love or about the world they inhabit in their dreams. From the outside looking in these words can seem confusing to understand, but music has no true language other than sound and the pain you can hear in the voice of the singers paints the world for you.
The Cabs are one of these groups. They parted ways in 2013 but their music still talks today, loud, proud and unique. Using a mix of “math rock” and indie sounds to sing their troubles with love and drifting apart, characterised by some emo tones that come through with screams. Their full album “再生の風景” (Landscape of reproduction) topping off at 43 on Oricon’s chart database in 2013. The music it’s self is experimental in sounds, which numerous western artists have experimented with, most notably “emo rappers,” both the late Lil Peep and XXXTentacion used emo/rock sounds to characterise their sound and talk their pains over the instrumentals but for the Cabs, the music looks to be their pains. During the vocals are regularly drowned out by the loud strumming of the guitar, at which Kunimitsu Takahashi screams his vocals, trying to be heard over the melody, but is still beaten. Speaking in metaphors but also performing in metaphors takes an interesting view on the music. Takahashi in Anschluss screams are heard far into the song but they are very inaudible, they fight with the instrumental to be heard and can be but at that point his screams are indecipherable so he fades away again. Anschluss is a microcosm to the painful songs that speak of loneliness and drifting away, much like Dazai’s novel “No Longer Human”. The protagonist in the song drifts away from his love and because he means nothing, he no longer feels human.
Indie music has taken a rise in the current world, especially in the western world, groups like the 1975 and smaller groups gain a massive following. Yet, artists in the east tend to not get the massive following like in the west, only recently have we seen groups like Hyukoh (featured on the DAZED 100) in Korea gain international success but what are for these lesser known artists?
Kunimitsu Takahashi, has gone on to gain some huge success international, having multiple of his solo songs be used in the anime adaptations of Tokyo Ghoul. österreich, his new alias, has released numerous experimental and metaphoric songs with 無能(inability) featured as the intro to season two of Tokyo Ghoul, partnering with Ai Kamano of the group ハイスイノナサ(Haisuinonasa). Kamano sings of a dream, where she lived in a dystopian world, “We drank up the paint, and the colors of the rainbow changed.” Influences of the Cabs can be seen throughout the music, the metaphoric lyrics that build the world around us, then come crashing down with the realisation that the world in the dream is artificial. Kamano and the instrumental are played at the same volume, showing her voice can be heard in the dream and is not hidden. It’s almost magical to hear the voice become one with the music rather than singing over it, Kamano’s vocal range does add to the heavenly aspect of the song, but yet the demonic lyrics of lighting themselves on fire parallel providing a deeper meaning.
The Cabs and Takahashi have seemingly created a style that brings together the wondrous works of Dazai, Murakami and Numerous other Japanese writers and harmonised their work with music. It’s gripping and pulls you in to hear more, even if you can’t speak Japanese, it relates to your emotions through tone and expresses deeper ideals in human life.