‘Sudden Fictions’ with Bo Ningen
The London-based Japanese experimental psych-rock band's 2020 album journeys through divergent timelines and possibilities.
Artwork for ‘Sudden Fictions’ (2020). Courtesy of Alcopop! Records
Released by Alcopop! in June 2020, each track of Sudden Fictions —the fourth album by enigmatic Japanese noise-rock band Bo Ningen— hosts new worlds to be discovered. Having already left a mark on the international live music circuit with their explosive performances, Sudden Fictions pieces together ever yet unprecedented elements to leave a distinct aura.
Inspired by the magic realist literature of Jorges Luis Borges, Sudden Fictions is in fact composed like a conceptual exercise, accessing alternative timelines with rock music in order to confront its own limitations. While at times minimal, other times chaotic, and always staggeringly beautiful, far beyond a simple statement of impeccable instrumental skill, their soundscapes bridge together fragments of disparate influences to manifest temporary fictions. As musicians with more than a decade of releasing and touring, with this album they reinvent the many cross-cultural encounters made in their career, and in exploring a temporality that exists outside of given reality they confront their own specific contexts as artists.
Heavy Rock Catharsis
Each from different prefectures across Japan, the members of Bo Ningen (‘Stick Man’ in Japanese) came together in Hackney Road Studios by magnetic forces, wherein relentless 12-hour jam sessions shaped their deafening instrumentation style, with shockingly complicated riffs and effect-doused chaos. As well as their distinct stage presences—with their long black hair and wearing their mothers’ dresses—the band have been vehemently followed for their unparalleled performances. Their music bears the esoteric knowledge of Japan’s heavy psych-rock legacy, an underground lineage traceable through groups like Les Rallizes Denudes and Flower Travellin’ Band, or figures like Boredom’s EYE or CAN’s Damo Suzuki. Meanwhile the band constantly play with expectations through their many projects—live scorings of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, collaborations with Japanese producers such as Foodman, spin-off acts delving into the world of Japanese rap, and a regular radio show on NTS that introduces musical oddities.
Given the porousness of their stylistic approach, Sudden Fictions unfolds like mutations of obscured historical moments. The first track, ‘You Make a Mark like a Calf Branding’ chants in deconstructed rhythms and dissonant bursts, alongside a monochromatic guitar and analogue synth. ‘Silenced’ oscillates between dreamy folk verse and metallic chorus, bursting in cacophony in ‘Zankoku.’ As a collaboration that pays homage to dub’s influences on British rock culture, the fifth track ‘Minimal’ features Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream: the result is as ethereal as it is heavy.
Sudden Fictions essentially sings about the complexity of history through a rock band, and highlights the relationship of identity to historical trace. Guitarist Kohhei Matsuda explains in the press release, ‘If this apparent history of music has its root somewhere, and that root leads to a present where rock bands are being pushed away, we thought we could dig deep enough to the root, and re-write the present.’ An unknown future emerges for all.
An experimental video for ‘Minimal’ with Bobby Gillespie by Italo-Australian video artist Rebecca Salvadori can be viewed below.
Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘You Make a Mark Like a Calf Branding’ (2020) Single from ‘Sudden Fictions.’ Courtesy of Alcopop! Records
‘Minimal - feat. Bobby Gillespie’ (2020) Single from ‘Sudden Fictions’. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records
‘Zankoku’ (2020). Single from ‘Sudden Fictions.’ Courtesy of Alcopop! Records
‘B.C’ (2020). Single from ‘Sudden Fictions’, which also features a remix by Foodman. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘Yura Yura Kaeru’ - Single released 2021. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘4 Seconds to Ascension’ - Single released 2021. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘Bo Ningen’ (2021) An album that re-imagines the band's 2010 debut album. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘Bo Ningen’ (2010) the self-titled debut. Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘III’ (2014). Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
‘Line on the Wall’ (2012). Courtesy of Alcopop! Records.
The Taboo-Breaking Erotica of Toshio Saeki
The master of the 1970s Japanese avant-garde reimagined his most iconic artworks for a limited box set with silkscreen artist Fumie Taniyama.
‘Hana-bi’, Takeshi Kitano's Coup d'Eclat
In this film, the director addresses death from a new angle, inspired by the motorbike accident that almost cost him his life.
When Ronin de Goede Met the Yakuza's Tattoo Artist
The series of photographs 'Asakusa' plunges the audience into the world of Japanese tattoo art and its links with the criminal universe.
‘Shinjuku Boys’, Stories from a Transgender Host Club
A 1995 documentary film interviews ‘onabe’ hosts, transitioning men who entertain female clients in Tokyo’s nightlife.
The Surreal World of Icelandic Twins
The series ‘Eagle and Raven’ by photographer Ariko Inaoka allows its audience to spend seven summers in the daily lives of two sisters.