The sound of a shamisen is unusually sharp and exact, even in the world of plucked string instruments. Each hit stands out, as isolate as the twang of a banjo. Portable as guitars, they’re popular with Japanese folk musicians. On Artificial Lover’s Nava, Oouchi Kazunori gives his shamisen a vortex presence, large and central, distorting the sound electronically, fraying it, cutting into it, or putting it at the bottom of a canyon of other noises, adding clicks and crunches, bird caws, turning this small instrument into the core of a massive filling of space, with vocal drone loops, industrial pounding, spasms, twitching, then swings off into a fragment of Bizet’s Carmen. And I don’t think it’s unusual among Japanese underground musicians, these moments of jokey-seeming calm, torn apart by train wrecks. The neat shamisen is invaded by its opposite, a splattering orgasm, but the invasion is not totally serious, asCarmen floats through, the violence is invaded by whimsy.
"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…READ the article