Shojoskip 少女スキップ (Japan): Happy post-gaze

Shojoskip 少女スキップ (Japan): Happy post-gaze

Skipping from band to band on the internet in one of these “let’s discover new music day”, I discovered Shojoskip. These Noise Artists from Tokyo, Japan, caught my attention with something scarce in noise pop, happiness. The feeling that best characterizes their music could be the name of a famous album from an iconic band: sweetness and light.

The more I listened to their work, the more a nice, warm, comfortable feeling crept into me, climaxing with their song “Glory of the snow”, which beauty made me shed a small tear of joy. It is rare to be uplifted that much by music. As you can guess it was impossible not to want to know more about the band and their music.

The comparison game

To start with, it is always fun to play the comparison game with other bands. From the outside, the recipe for Shojoskip could be:

  • Take Mogwai, but instead of raising them in gloomy Scotland, raise them in Tokyo colorful pop culture.
  • Remove 2 mates and put 2 ladies, bringing a nice feminine touch, resulting in a more rounded balance of energies
  • Give them a purpose of infusing happiness and kindness in the shoegaze /post-rock genre they love. Maybe a pinch of Ivy and Asobi Seksu for would do it.
  • Add the fact that they keep their sound simple, not overindulging too much on effects.

And there you have Shojoskip

Our top 3 songs

Glory of the snow

I apologies in advance: I just adore this piece and am very subjective when talking about it. It is a perfect pop song, both in melody and construction. Have this sung by Lush in the 90’s or Blondie in the 80’s and you would have had an eternal hit that would loop through radio, TV and be in everybody's playlist. It is that good.

The verse is uplifting, the chorus powerful. Add some light shoegazing effect, a repeated theme (3 notes played by guitar and voices that are repeated as a hook, giving something easy for the ear to grab). The synth adds an extra touch of lightness. The bass and drums stay very understated in this rich melodic and textured song but are very efficient to bring the rest of the instrument the drive and structure they need.

Light and delight

Same spirit that Glory of the Snow with a more Post-Rock angle and dynamics. Just beauty. To the classical pop song construction the drummer, O-isshi, adds devilishly quick breaks. Kouki keeps a very simple power bass that sustains the song beautifully, with a melodic line on the chorus that shows that the simplicity is a choice, not a lack of inspiration. This song belongs to the drum and bass section for their work. The rest is building on their work, enhancing it. In this, it is almost a Cure-like composition, as many Cure songs are completely built around the bass/drum part. This is the reason I love this song.

Faba beans thought to be abstract.

It is to me, among many other good ones, their post-rock best piece. Guitars start to discuss with one on effect + chords vs one arpeggios. It a perfect example of how Chisito and Takashi make the guitars talk together, changing all the time melodic lines, tones, getting together, then on their own again. It is like and argument.

Slowly they increase intensity both in sound and melodic texture. The soft synth in the background softens the power of guitar increasing giving a soothing touch. Then subside in the dream but bass keeps the song going gently.

The break arrives at minute 5 and the tension that existed disappear and the overall energy increases. It like if harmony is attained. There is almost a sexual feel to it, like a beautiful reconciliation after an argument. It is intense, not violent, like “come back to my place” from Tokyo Shoegazer but a lot sweeter, homely.

When you look at one of their first concert, you can see O-isshi breaking into a huge smile on this last part, a smile of pure joy (Link). He is not the only one feeling this. The listener can too.

This is a very clever piece in its composition and the ever- changing guitar duet makes the whole song not only astute but also beautiful.

Discography

Soramame EP – Jun 2008

1. Azami 4:51
2. Uraraka 4.39
3. Soramame 7:54

Azami. The song begins with a guitar that could remind of a traditional instrument piece. This feeling completely disappears when the verse begins, all in softness, with the voice of Chisito. There, the guitar subsides in a nice reverb arpeggio, giving this part a nice feeling. The melodic articulation with the chorus is beautiful. The round bass line and simple drum in the back gives a nice backbone to the song. It is a simple, though well-crafted song, in composition and textures. A first song that is quite impressive for its simplicity for this first EP. Shojoskip did not try to go all out like many bands but rather concentrate on what their music is about: sweetness and clever crafting.

Uraraka. Very simple and sweet beginning. The great guitar riff that breaks the piece around the middle of the song is a great example of what their music is about: simple guitar sound, post-rock structure added to a pop song. Works very well. Great second song for this starter EP.

Soramame. This where it begins: 2 guitars are talking: Chisito’s sweet 4 note melody versus Takashi indie/reverb riff. It increases in intensity slowly as the song unfold. It is never boring. Think of it as listening 2 people you know talking and enjoying listening to it. It later continues into a post-rock battle. A beautiful and powerful finale to their EP.

The 2 guitars conversation is something they will use, to good effect in their work going forward. It is almost a trademark, and not many bands could boast of having one. This is one of the reasons Shojoskip is to our eyes a great band.

Sweet days and her last kiss – Sept 2008

This is a joint EP with the band "My Dead Girlfriend"

Shojoskip

1. A Wise Old Owl Said "Something Good Will Happen 3:41
2. Nami 9:39
3. Umbrella 3:14
4. Usagi 6:43

My Dead Girlfriend (not reviewed)

1. Sweet Days and Her Last Kiss
2. We Eat in the Subway and Pass Over His Comment in Silence
3. Nou ni Tokeru Asobi
4. Kinoshita Fuyou

A Wise Old Owl Said "Something Good Will Happen. The song’s name, borrowed form a children’s nursery rhyme. The song begins like a 3fold conversation with 2 guitars and the bass. The voices adding a nice pop choir gives a lightness and lo-fi feeling, supplemented by the synth in the back. Some Stereolab influence here maybe, with the band own post Rock feeling. The droning sound in the back

Nami Starts with seaside feeling, seagulls and waves sounds. Then a bass that starts and stops. It reminds me of the bass line of “Gigantic” from the Pixies in the way its constructed into the song. When the drums join, it is done in a powerful but not overwhelming way. The 2 guitars’ riff quicks in and will continue through the song, with some pedal use here and there to change intensity. It is a simple piece, nice to listen and a good guitar loop exercise from Shojoskip.

Umbrella. Repetitive little song, very nice constant with bass/drums leading the way. Guitar and voice are only there for texture. Then the guitar increases energy a little. It is the kind of sound that will be improved again in the LP in construction and texture.

Usagi Atmospheric reverb, soft. The bass is almost clumsy, with the 3rd note of its line almost dissonant.  Chisato’s guitar with shy notes, without effects complement, with a nice droning guitar at the back (full of effect). Then at minute 3, things beginning to get together as both the bass and guitar come together to increase intensity and mellow the dissonant3 note into a nice melody, while the droning guitar increases the pressure. You understand where they are heading when Takashi’s guitar enters with the drum also stepping a notch using more cymbals and snare. This is a good post rock piece, increasing in intensity as time goes by. It does seem to be there to impress your though. It sounds like an intense story that a friend tells you, presenting the naked truth of things rather than resorting to story-telling tricks and embellishing everything. It is maybe due to Chisato’s guitar that keeps a very naked in sound through the piece.

Cosodorokitsune LP – Nov 2012

1. Reciting Dawn After the Bonfire 5:56
2. Glory of the Snow 4:14
3. Kamome 9:38
4. Arisu 6:27
5. Light & Delight 6:27
6. Mitsubachi 3:41
7. Newspaper 4:36
8. Tedukurinotori 4:26
9. Makura 8:12
10. Calmly 5:57
11. Faba Bean Thought to Be Abstract 9:01

Cososdorokitsune is a really good LP. You can also feel that their music has matured since the 2 Eps and that the band has learned many good things in composition and instrumentation.

Reciting dawn after the bonfire. An ethereal background sound and a cracking fire welcome the listener, soon joined by a light guitar from Chisato, as if the fire starts slowly, then rapidly gains in intensity with first the bass and then the drums joining for a nice melodic trio. Takashi’s guitar then join first to tell a little story, then goes into a distorted riff, backed by metal guitar slides with reverb in the background to give power to the fire.

Around minute 3, the song subsides then goes into a pure post-rock intensity drift, while keeping a sweetness in it that makes the whole song lift off nicely, each instrument changing slightly their texturing elements in this finale, which makes is a very well-constructed and enjoyable piece. When the fire runs out, all subsides.

Glory of the snow. You can see our take on this in the section “our 3 favorite Shojoskip songs”. Needless to say, this pop gem in the pinnacle of this LP. At the same time, it would not be that good it the rest was not great too.

Kamome begins like a dream with waves of synth and droning reverb guitars, like waking up from a nap in a warm sunny afternoon. Bass and soft drum give a light backbone to this dream.

About a quarter of the song, the O-isshi’s drumming gets more complex, increasing intensity on its new. The bass adds a few extra notes until the reverb/distorted guitars join. This post-rock recipe works well here as it stays understated, guitar being at the back, creating an exalted atmosphere rather than a “in your face” texture. Then it all breaks in the middle of the song with everybody going stopping what they were doing to go into frenzy mode, a post-rock finale … which is not one as all start again into a something very pop, with a bass changing from playing a note every 4th beat to one every beat giving a real power, and then the verse begins almost 2 third into the song. You have arrived into a great pop song, with the same uplifting feeling than “Glory of the Snow, but with a rawer sound.

This song is maybe the best example of Shojoskip’s cleverness in composition, also incorporating many of the things that make their work so good. It is a perfect blend of post-rock, pop music, and shoegaze, with this uplifting, happy feeling that they know how to convey so well. Feel good song from beginning to end

On Arisu, the 2 guitars are talking. Using a similar timbre and light arpeggio melody, but answering each other. Then the power pop kicks in and the conversation continues but in chords this time before pausing when the voices join. The girls' voice, are just very sweet on this song, light and to the point. As usual O-isshi and Kouki support their comrades, very efficiently. The break, with Takashi’s voice coming in, is the continuation with voices of what the guitar started. This song a is a beautiful poppy piece and a great exercise in conversation and communication.

Light and delight. You can see our take on this in the section “our 3 favorite Shojoskip songs”. It is a clever parallel to Glory of the snow, with a Post Rock take.

Mitsubachi has a dreamy light beginning, like going into a dream with the kick like a heartbeat, adding to the impression. Voice in beginning invites you to drift slowly with them. It is like when the neurons begin to fire up for the dream, and images begin to appear. The guitars for once are completely in the background. The bass is almost not perceptible. Then, the guitars increase slowly in intensity, the male voice does a small choir at the back. It may go up or down from there. But the sleep comes and all subside in the last few notes as the dreamer slips into inconscience.

Newspaper is a more classic construction, a more indie piece with guitar riffs and classical verse/chorus. It does not mean it is not god though. They include elements like the girls' soft voice, crazy guitar (reminding me of some Radiohead pieces) in the background, and pop choirs that keeps the piece surprising and well textured.

Tedukurinotori. It reminds me of Stereolab (which I love), with an upbeat simple guitar (2 notes), very simple sustained bass, and very basic drums. Small synth. The voices are reminiscent of Laetitia Sadier. And like many Stereolab songs, it is an exercise in loop. The chorus though is more powerful and shoegaze guitar orientated, though keeping the simple bass and drums. This duality gels the song very well together. The end is a mix of lo-fi and post-rock. Great piece, very uplifting and a beautiful homage to Stereolab.

Makura. Beginning with the 2 guitars only, bass joining around 1:30 minute, and then the girls begin to sing softly, rapidly going into a polyphonic duo which enhances the song. Around minute 3, a light synth punctuating beats and the drum slowly join in. O-isshi work is very good as it is very progressive. They all join the chorus. From the beginning, it is like if they did not succeed in getting thinks quite together, that it is all over the place. This impression of chaos increases as drums and guitar step a notch with effect and beats. This end is also like a post-rock climax not coming together. All that is intentional of course, and it gives this song something very different, almost like a joke played to post-rocker, but with loads of affection.

Calmly begins by a great indie riff. The simple bass keeps the melody in check, going soft rather than full indie rock adding a great texture and pop feeling. Adding to that Chirito’s voice is soft and calming. The chorus when it arrives enhances the song by propulsing it with a soft female voice singing in quinte. The synth soft line goes against the powerful guitars. Once again the 2 influences soft and strong are there.

Faba beans thought to be abstract is a great end to this excellent LP You can see our take on this in the section “our 3 favorite Shojoskip songs”.

 

Where to buy their music

Soramame EP: iTunes (MP3), Tower records, Disk Union (CD), Spotify (streaming)

Sweet days and her last kiss EP: iTunes (MP3), Tower records, Amazon Jp (CD)

Cosodorokitsune LP: iTunes (MP3)

Links are on their website

They also have t-shirts with their LP on disk Union. You better brush up you Japanese though.

Unfortunately, they are no on Bandcamp. I am trying to convince them to get on this platform to all of you can buy their music in a lossless format. I'll let you know if it succeeds.

 

Next week on Noise Artists

We hope you enjoy discovering ShojoSkip's music as much as we did. Next week, meet the band in an article, and soon we hope, read the interview.

 

Thanks

To James Guppy that is helping with the communication in Japanese with the band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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