Plant Cell (Japan): Flowergaze? Beautiful organic Shoegaze
The city mouse and the country mouse may as well be the title of this month artists' reviews.
Plant Cell is a Japanese band that could be the cousin of Shojoskip, the noise artists of May 2017. Their music are very alike in many ways. While Shojoskip’s music is urban, Plant Cell’s is inspired by nature itself.
The first time I saw their Bandcamp webpage, it reminded me stepping into a garden shop and seeing all the colorful flower seeds packets on display. These small sonic seeds then grew on to become beautiful flowers to the point that I listen almost daily some of their songs.
They called their first LP Flowergaze? it is among the best-fitting titles I have ever come across.
In his 2016 guide to Japanese Shoegaze (Muso), Matthew Bedford described very accurately their music:
“Their sound is deep, thickly-layered, and raw and they're right at the forefront of new Japanese bands balancing out the country's pop-heavy scene with a heavy dose of swirling noise”
I am happy as well not to be the only one liking their music. DKFM has been featuring their music regularly over the past while; Shogazer Sanctuary too.
In this article, you will discover their music and be able to listen to it with the proposed links.
Next week, meet the band with their presentation and an interview. We hope you enjoy their music and getting to know them as much as I did.
The comparison game
To start with, it is always fun to play the comparison game with other bands. From the outside, the recipe for Plant Cell could be:
- Take the lo-fi art of loop that Stereolab has developed and their capacity to fill the void with small tweaks of their melodies and textures.
- Add some shoegaze type guitars and reverb in the process with a Japanese scene sound, similar to Shojoskip or My dead Girlfriend
- Add a 90’s My Bloody Valentine mix, where everything is compressed together, and the voice is part of the texture rather than being at the forefront of the songs
- Then take everything outside, in the wild, and let it float away through hills, lakes, forests.
Stir together: here is a recipe for Plant Cell.
Why we Like them so much
- They know how to do a loop: often using two chords approach in their songs, plant cell have learned to craft their loops beautifully. While many bands make loops sounds quite boring after a while, plant cell managed to sculpt them so well that we ask more and more of them.
- Their music is organic: it is no surprise that their theme is nature. When you listen to the band’s songs carefully, there is a unity and a texture in their melodies and progression that seems very natural. The mix has also something to do with it. It includes a 90’s touch, where all the different tracks are compressed together. This adds to the feeling of cohesiveness and deepness of their music.
- They have succeeded in making a very consistent graphic and sonic universe: Inspired by nature in their pieces (you’ll discover more in their interview later this month), their videos, covers, names, are all nature themed. It gives their work a great sense of consistency with which the listener/spectator can get familiar with very quickly.
- They make great music
Our top 3 songs
NOISE ARTISTS' 3 favorite songs are:
Landscape of green lakeside feat.Liélla tells a great story. It starts with a very menacing loop. Imagine being lost in the wild, Then Leila’s voice appeases you while you are sitting near the lake. Maybe the Lady of the Lake is there to help you find your way.
The menacing loop comes back, but violins pads have been added, which soften it beautifully, and the menacing feeling seems to subside. When the Lady of the Lake sings again, all in the sudden you are free, you have found your way. Your departure is sustained by the song going in a double beat, with ethereal voices saying farewell and good luck to you.
Conifer. This song is not on the LP, or on Bandcamp for that matter. Nevertheless, they created a music video to go with this song. It starts very slowly with a heavy distorted guitar. It feels like walking in a forest on a sunny day, right after a heavy rainfall. You feel the mud (the heavy distorted guitar), the drop of water falling here and there from the late rain (folk guitar treble), the wind in the leaves (synth pads). And again this drum/bass duo that roots you in the earth. Eriko’s voice in the far is haunting. It is like hearing elves singing, walking toward them, never being able to reach them. I have listened to this song many time while jogging in the forest and it created a perfect atmosphere, me running, Eriko’s voice fleeing, Plant Cell’s music complimenting perfectly the scenery.
Snow and Luculia (which is a genus of flowering plants currently found from the Himalayas to southern China) could be their anthem song. Very positive, it makes you want to tap your feet. It is one of the rare songs where both Sato and Eriko sing. Like a snowman meeting a Yuki-onna (雪女) and singing their love. No chance of the snow woman to melt in her bath this time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuki-onna). It is maybe the closest song in terms of sound and composition to the indie Japanese scene (i.e. plastic girl in closet, my dead girlfriend).
Originally there was no EP or LP as such. Their songs are proposed individually to the listener.
In March 2017, the band put several songs on Bandcamp in an LP format with their beautiful title, Flowergaze?
Flowergaze? – January 2017
- Cyan 5:10
- Marguerite 4:34
- Spirit who dwells on or in a mountain and forest 5:25
- Landscape of green lakeside feat.Liélla: 6:51
- Wind & Wing (Chinese word version) 5:24
- Magenta 3:32
- Snow and Luculia 6:05
- Jungfrau blizzard 6:31
- Holy shrine of sky 6:32
- Xi ling xia – 5:42
Landscape of green lakeside and Snow and Luculia are described in the previous section (or 3 favorite songs)
Cyan a greenish-blue color, like the beautiful lagoon in the image above. This is almost a power pop song, dipped into a mix of Shoegaze sound and loop structure. It has a very positive feeling to it which makes it a great song to begin Flowergaze? The two chords song is Stereolab-like in its composition, with the added value of beautiful reverb instruments sculpting the sound.
Marguerite is the French name for a common, simple and beautiful flower: the Daisy. This is a sweet song. The clear arpeggio guitar gives it a lightness, like the wind going through a field of marguerites on a sunny day. The double beats verse that is included, the multilayered vocals texture, the synth reverberated pads all add to this feeling of a multitude and welcome to this field of thousands of beautiful marguerites.
Spirit who dwells on or in a mountain and forest has a very positive feeling to it. Arpeggio guitars are more present on the piece, as opposed to heavy reverberating guitars, giving it a lighter texture. Eriko’s repeating ethereal melodies adds to the lightness of the feeling. It is a very enjoyable jangle pop piece.
Wind & Wing (Chinese word version) is a nice pop piece with a pretty melody. This is a song you can whistle to, sing to quite easily. Maybe their hit song, as it is more accessible to people that would like other genres. It is a bit like Shojoskip’s “Glory of the snow”. It makes you want to sing along.
Magenta is a color that is purplish-red like the Pentecost flower in the image above. The band seems to communicate a feeling of warmth through this piece, with high bpm compared to other songs, a bit like trying to increase the wavelength of their music (Magenta is on the high wavelength side of light). This is accentuated by the fact that this is their shortest song. Very enjoyable.
Wikipedia tells us that:
“The Jungfrau (german name for the astrological virgin sign), at 4,158 meters (13,642 ft) is one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps”
As a result, it is not surprising that Jungfrau blizzard is a dark song: imagine being on a high summit. The ominous heavy bass and faraway synth pads create a menacing atmosphere. When you dive into the song, you can feel being in a blizzard, covered with snow, battered by the wind. The faraway voice of Eriko is like a Banshee taunting you, mocking you, daring you to find a way out of this white inferno. Another great song.
Holy shrine of Sky brings you in the world of Sylphs. This holy Shrine is where all winds reside: breeze, tornadoes, gusts. The song will bring you through all of them. The background pads are the softer elements, always present and chaotic in nature, the other instruments change constantly rhythm, textures and melodies line, adding some gentle chaos to the piece. This is difficult to picture the wind but Plant Cell did superbly on this song. It is like meeting the Sylphs in their home and being part of their family, like Wismerhill, son of the devil and the winds, the main character of the novels “the black moon chronicles” graphic novels.
Xi ling xia (Xiling Gorge is a canyon (gorge) on the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) in Hubei province, China) begins as a nice jangle pop song, mixing a guitar and synth pad. Then all other instrument hit you
Other songs – Various dates
- Conifer 7:14
- Kjosfossen elf 6:07
- Thundercloud 5:15 (SoundCloud)
- Queen of the night 4:22 (SoundCloud)
- Nebula (Soundcloud) 4:23
- Indi blue 4:30 (SoundCloud)
- Wheatfield 6:33 (Spotify, iTunes)
- Fall 7:40 (Spotify, iTunes)
Kjosfossen is a waterfall located in Aurland municipality in Sogn Og Fjordane county, Norway. The waterfall is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway. Its total fall is around 225 meters Well, Plant Cell added some Nordic mythology in the landscape of their music. Eriko and Sato sing together in unison. Makes us think of a storytelling near the fire on a snowy day. You can almost imagine yourself in a Viking longhouse listening to the storyteller.
I could not stop noticing that Kjosfossen elf starts with the same chords than “close my eyes” from Ride. Of course, the take and the song are completely different. This is a great homage to one of the ancestors of Shoegaze.
Nebula, Plant Cell's latest release, is its first trip in space, and is worth lending an ear.
We will let you listen to the other songs and get into their stories on you own. It will be easy. They are beautifully crafted.
Plant Cell also made covers of artists like:
- Ringo Deathstar (https://soundcloud.com/plantcell/kaleidoscope2),
- Stone roses: https://theblogthatcelebratesitself.bandcamp.com/track/plant-cell-elephant-stone-the-stone-roses
- Slowdive: https://theblogthatcelebratesitself.bandcamp.com/track/plant-cell-shine
It is refreshing that they apply their own unique sound in these covers and did not try to replicate the original songs
Where to buy their music
Most of their music is on Bandcamp: https://plantcelljapan.bandcamp.com
They just release their CD on amazon Japan if you prefer the physical version.
3 other songs, Queen of the night, Indi Blue, Thundercloud can be listened to on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/plantcell
And you can find 2 other, wheatfield and Fall, on:
Next week in Noise Artists
After getting to know Plan Cell's music, meet the band with a post including a presentation and an interview.
A big thank you to:
- Plant Cell, for their music and for being very proactive and kind over the whole collaboration.
- Matthew Bedford from Muso Japan for his permission to quote his articles