Japan 3.11.11: A Benefit Album

Released by Polyvinyl Record Company

11th March, 2011: the Tōhoku earthquake strikes Japan, resulting in a catastrophic tsunami hitting the pacific coastline of Japan killing over 15,000 people and leaving entire towns absolutely devastated. The earthquake also caused another crisis in the form of the continually unraveling nuclear disaster of the Fukushima power plant. Many people are still left without homes or amenities as they slowly try to rebuild their lives. But I don’t need to tell you all of this, really…because anyone with half a brain-cell would have been following the devastating news from Japan as it happened.

In a show of good-form, Polyvinyl Record Company has decided to put together a compilation of PV and non-PV artists in order to help the tireless aid operations that are continuing throughout Japan. 100% of the profits from this record will go to the American Red Cross to help with the relief effort in Japan.

Some of the songs on this compilation are direct from the studio, others were selected carefully by each artist from their archives, including unreleased and demo material as well as exclusive remixes.

Well-loved PV artists feature here, which is a delight.

Everyone’s favourite nutters Deerhoof kick things off with an astounding live version of ‘Giga Dance’ (from 2004’s Milk Man) and their energy is just as ferocious as ever. Asobi Seksu offer up ‘Vicious Bears’ in their typical otherworldly-rock style.

Xiu Xiu proffer an acoustic version of ‘Hyunhye’s Theme’ (from 2009’s Dear God, I Hate Myself) which is a serious and solemn diversion from their usual avante-garde rock.

Of Montreal’s ‘Sex Karma’ (from 2010’s frantic False Priest) gets remixed by St.Vincent, resulting in a totally weird and dreamy track. Norweigan synthpop-ians CasioKids give us ‘London Zoo’ (from 2011’s Aabenbaringen over aaskammen) which sees ethereal soundscapes and pop undertones featuring heavily.

The only downer for me is Shugo Tokumaru’s cover of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ It’s just too twee for my tastes. I’m a one-sugar in my cup of tea kinda gal, thanks.

The Kinsella family (Tim, Mike and Nate) also feature heavily on this record with tracks from Birthmark, Owen and an original demo from Joan of Arc. Their distinctive sound is inimitable and wonderful.

The non-PV bands on the comp consist of some pretty revered musicians  – Efterklang get ‘Alike’ (from 2010’s wonderful Magic Chairs) remixed by Danish electronica producer Opiate, who has also worked on Björk’s 2001 album Vespertine. The result is simply breathtaking.

David Bazan (formerly of Pedro the Lion) offers up ‘American Flags’ which was a track originally meant to coincide with the 2008 presidential elections in theUSA. ‘American Flags’ is a brilliantly written rock song with a catchy chorus and a brooding bassline.

Perhaps most exciting thing about this compilation are the lesser-known bands that are featured here. For example, Japanese band ‘toe’ play instrumental post/math-rock, with extremely precise drumming and melodic rhythms interwoven across the track. I love it.

Some local bands from Champaign-Urbana, Tulsa (PV’s hometown) and San Francisco offered up tracks for the comp too, as well as offering to put on benefit shows in their areas. These tracks from Alright, Lizard Socks and Common Loon (amongst others), oddly enough, turn out to be the highlights of the record for me. Common Loon close the record with ‘A Moment in Energy Transfers’ which is, for me, the best track on the comp. Think dreamy post-rock with rousing vocals and melodic harmonies, as well as booming drums. An appropriately anthemic and uplifting way to finish the record.

The compilation itself is very well put together – like a finessed mix-tape, it’s obvious that a lot of thought and care has gone into selecting the tracks and the ordering of the songs, to make sure the energy flows through this record into a coherent whole. Plus, the red vinyl looks awesome.

There are only 2000 copies of the Deluxe LP, in a luscious red vinyl. It is $24 for the double vinyl & MP3 download, and $10 just for the MP3 download. If you’re interested, check the links section below.

Viva Japan!

Buy the record here
Stream here

And just because I like them, check out Common Loon

Pix: Courtesy of Polyvinyl Record Company

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