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.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.