This article appeared in gOintment On The Souls Of Our Shoesh zine, issue 10. 


Nagisa Nite


Strung out, tortured, fractured, melancholic blues folk; Nagisa Ni te is wrangled, off-key, throttled music that is hopelessly endearing.  The male and female vocalist of Nagisa Ni te (means "at the shore") can neither sing properly nor play their guitars very well (well, actually, he usually can), but as any one of their tuneless songs have more emotion than other artists muster in their entire careers this is actually no insult to the band I love them! 

I first encountered Nagisa Nite when I discovered that they were on a free charity concert bill with Aube playing in Ashiya, a town just next to mine in the Osaka-Kyoto urban sprawl.  Cycling distance away and it was free.  I had been into Aubefs strange noise feedback generation ever since I heard the spooky gG-Radiationh split cassette (with crap British ganti-arth gimprovisationalh gnihilisth group Smell and Quim) some time before, and considered Aube a reclusive Japanese noise genius a free Aube gig and only cycling distance from home, what more convincing did I need?  It was actually a proposition so tempting that even my usually-reluctant wife agreed to go, making it our first live show together in many years. 

        Arriving at the venue we were a bit surprised to find that it was a tea salon, with some information tables set up taking contact info and distributing charity pamphlets, and a few people sitting in tea room chairs, the big windows letting in a lot of light that reflected off the well-waxed hardwood floor.  It was more Versailles than CBGB, that was for sure.  We got charity information brochures, were given a free CD featuring music from the acts that were going to perform (bonus!) and made a donation.  As we took our places, I noticed my friends Bill and Eddie from RRAHRRR angst thunder duo Coa sitting in the neatly arranged comfy high-backed chairs and waved to them. 

The manager started off the afternoon of music by saying something about the charity benefit for the Kobe earthquake. Dressed in a suit and with mad scientist hair, he spoke in a nasal gMasterpiece Theaterh voice and set up a bizarre atmosphere.  Aube came up first and played some tweaky space music on an old analog sequencer.  It made us feel like we were floating in a vacuum.  Next was Naoki Zushi, who got onstage with his guitar and sang some pretty songs.  He was followed by Nagisa Nite, the act that left us gasping with a sense of having discovered something profound, surprising, and unusual. 

Nagisa Nite is Shibayama Shinji and Takeda Masako.  She came onstage, perched on a chair, adjusted a microphone, put a guitar in place, fiddled with some equipment that seemed to all be near falling over and delicately balanced prcariously in a space just a bit too small for it all.  In fact, they had squeezed themselves into only a third of the large stage.  As Masako stumbled about, Takeda-san seemed to be following her, picking up after the potential mess of her clumsiness.  It was the first demonstration of his obvious strong love for her, the rest of which comes out in the songs themselves and the beautiful pictures of Masako that are on all of the covers of each of their four CDs and on the picture discs inside.  But that was all to come later. 

In their set they performed a few whimsical songs, none of them instantly appealing until for their last number they played gthe True Sun/ the True World,h a long and winding strumming song that seemed to go on endlessly.  It was also endlessly sweet, like heavenly nectar, and we didnft want it to stop.  The music was contrasted by the breaks between songs, when the two stumbled about the stage readying their instruments, among them a theremin that was hardly used at all.  The couplefs stage dynamic was also psychologically fascinating Masako would strum clumsily on a guitar, the microphone nowhere near her face; Shibayama would be singing and picking skillfully at his 12-string and singing in his strong voice, notice that Masako was somewhat amiss, fix her mic and help her find the right cord while hardly missing a beat himself.  Masako seemed to barely know how to hold her guitar and had a hard time singing in tune.  It was hard to decide which of them had the greatest musical effect.  Certainly they contrasted each other nearly perfectly and played brilliantly off of one another.  Whether this was intentional or design by accident I didnft know, but I hoped for the latter; what I did know was that I had a new mission in life to find out more about this band and to get all of their CDs. 

The band have four CDs released.  The most accessible is their recent gFeel,h the best is the two-CD set gthe True World,h the weakest is the live release gthe True Sun,h and the spottiest is the prototypical first release gOn The Love Beach.h  At their most experimental the group seems to be trying to recreate various moments from the Velvet Undergroundfs gHeroin,h at their most sentimental they verge on reinterpreting Neil Youngfs mellowest ballads, something that is most evident on their first album with the song gMe, On The Beach.h  Nagisa Ni te sing only in Japanese, but all of their Blues Interactions-released CDs come with booklets that print their Japanese lyrics with English translations, a pretty little essay by Shibayama in English and Japanese, as well as Masakofs strange sketches of dogs and odd humanoid creatures.  The lyrics to the songs are short, imagistic, and tenderly romantic.  The shortest is gWonder,h on gthe True World,h which consists of only the lyrics gMalo, Kumao, the dogs.h  gResth has only four lines, other songs have six or seven lines in the lyrics.  Wow.  Shibayama approaches a near-precise way of describing his band and their releases in his essay where he writes:  "From the beginning our methods were stiff, but although we have gradually found ways to enjoy ourselves, we seem to remain as clumsy as ever.  The four records we have released as Nagisa Ni te are each in their own ways stiff and imperfect in form.  But our most fervent wish is that perhaps some listeners will hear in them a feeling similar to that you get when recalling dreams that oddly stick in the mind, or when seeing the wind raising tiny ripples on the surface of the water."

        The bandfs latest release is gFeel,h Blues Interactions 2001, balances lyrical duties between Shibayama and Masako just as it balances pretty ballads and tight pop structures with strange experimental moods sometimes all within the same song!  The opening song is a sweet little thing that is hacked apart by first a sudden, howling, squeaky guitar solo, and then just as suddenly the organ gives way to peculiar burbling organ sounds.  Two songs are such strong pop songs that they sound oddly similar, perhaps because they are both sung energetically by Shibayama-san.  Duets like gSpeed of Fishh go on endlessly, with elongated strum-out and gseaweed guitarh solo by Boredoms guitarist Yamamoto Seiichi and English vocals by one Tim Barnes.  The oddest songs are sung by Masako, such as the oddly distant voice and guitar tune gPihoh and the one-guitar-cord-strum gSong For Malo.h  It doesnft get much simpler than that. 

gThe True World,h Blues Interactions 2000, is a two-CD set dominated by the opening songs of each CD "the True World" and "the True Sun" respectively.  Essentially versions of the same endless song (over 25 minutes combined!), this is a recorded version of the 23-minute live version they offered on the gOrbital Confluenceh CD and the piece they often perform live.  Dominated by a simple riff, often repeated and so elemental that it will never truly leave your brain, the guitar picks up and subsides like the moodiest Pink Floyd song, and the male and female vocals intertwine like ivy.  Other songs on the CDs are mute, silent pieces that can at times be barely noticed, at other times fill the room with vibrating off-key harmonies and sad groovy vibes.  Each of the discs has a picture of a dog on them presumable one of them is Malo, the other Kumao. 

Released just before gthe True World,h but probably impossible to find, is the gOrbital Confluenceh CD (Neurec, 2000) with music by Auge, Nagisa Nite, and Naoki Zushi.  Aube presents his concert of the Yamazaki Salon charity live concert of 1999, in this case 25 minutes of manipulated samples from the creaking hall in Chuo-in in Kyoto.  This ancient building is installed with floor-boards that are specifically designed to be creaky as a security device to reveal intruders.  Aube samples it and manipulates it so that it sounds like crickets, echoes, distortion, heartbeats, bells, approaching behemoths, insects scurrying, and static.  It tells its own musical story - not very enticing, exciting, or captivating... but interesting.  As usual with Aube, the sounds are layered, complex, and bizarre.  Nagisa Ni te and Naoki Zushi both offer two songs each from a concert in Nanba Bears recorded with the same three back-up musicians, giving a full sound to their turgid folk songs.  They are beautiful, relaxing, couldn't be slower, and hit the nail on the head each time.  The two Nagisa Nite songs are a classic version of gthe True Sun/The True World,h and may be their best recorded version of this song suite in a full-flowing 23 minute continuous version.  The first Naoki Zushi song sounds somewhat like a Nagisa Ni te song, while the spare last track is solo, and was originally recorded in 1981 (and finally mixed in 2000!). 

Nagisa Nitefs gThe True Sunh (Blues Interactions, 2000) is a live recording recorded in July 1997 in Tokyo, and as with most live recordings it will be of interest to fans only.  Although the recording is pretty good (you can hear cars driving by outside the club), the in-between song banter is listless and dull, not to mention long, needless and barely decipherable (and all in Japanese).  The music is interesting mostly to hear very different versions of some of their best songs, i.e. songs recorded stunningly with the bandfs male vocalist Shibayama are now given an experimental treatment with the bandfs female vocalist Masako notable ghMe, On The Beachh from the first studio release, gOn the Love Beachh and gthe True Sunh from gthe True World.h  In other words, the first studio album was mostly his, the second live album is mostly hers.  Of the nine songs on the CD, five appear on other albums, three only appear here, and one appears on the latest release in a different version and sans a few lyrics.  gMorning Glory,h a 7.5 minute song on gFeelh is given the full twelve-minute treatment here, with an added coda, and called gMorning Glory River.h  gMy Story,h gGentle Japanese,h and gMysterium Conjunctionsh are also beautiful songs that donft appear on other studio albums.  A lot of Nagisa Nitefs live charm lies in the listless, haphazard, lazy, sloppy manner in which they perform their gorgeous songs (missed notes, broken beats, warts and all), all of which is represented here, although the effect is a little different at a live show it has a strange, gentle charm, whereas on CD it could come off as crappy and unprofessional. 

Nagisa Nite gOn The Love Beachh Blues Interactions The bandfs first release begins with a bang and one of their best songs, gMe, On The Beach,h a Neil Young flavored ditty that is soft, hard, wry, instantly hummable, and full of heart-wrenching agony.  Near the end it explodes briefly in feedback confusion, before lulling out with great acoustic guitar work.  The songs on this album are as strong as you must expect from this incredible band, but are rougher and at times a little wonky in their experimenting with quirky guitar sounds.  A sixties presence/influence is also very near the surface.  Somewhat dominated by Shibayama-sanfs male vocals, Takeda Masako mostly just has backing presence.  Her vocals are the somewhat unbalanced, enchanting force that drives later Nagisa Nite albums and are missed here in retrospect.  It is good that her role came to grow.  Amazingly, the bandfs self-titled song gNagisa Niteh doesnft have any lyrics.  It is followed by the anthemic gThey,h which is also enhanced by Zushi Naokifs spiraling guitar.  Wow!  Altogether a very interesting, eclectic release, full of great sounds and uncompromising experimentation.  Great folk songs, nostalgia, sweet autumn music.  The CD packaging of this CD, as with all Nagisa Nite releases, is to a point on card stock case with a CD in a slip jacket, a booklet of Japanese and English lyrics, the CDs have nice personal pictures printed on them. 

        Last year we received a postcard in the mail announcing the next charity show at the Yamamura Salon in Ashiya, again with the same bands.  The photo on the postcard had been taken the year before, August 2000, when we saw them first.  This year we told all of our friends about it, urging them to come out, only now the panicky urgency was not to see Aube as it had been before, but to see Nagisa Nite!  Two friends came out, amateur musicians both, and they were clearly inspired by Nagisa Nite whom they had known nothing about previously.  Again the same stage dynamic, with Shibayama-san looking after Masako as much as he could, she strumming a single cord on the 12-string like she had just picked up a guitar the day before, singing off key but with incredible poignancy.  Again, it was really something.  Went to talk to Nakajima-san, the Aube mastermind, and bought a CD-R of the previous yearfs analog concert bloops and blurps on analogue equipment!  Talked briefly with Masako and asked her to sign my gthe True Worldh CD, where she drew a little Nagisa Ni te/ Teletubby-like creature.  She clearly seemed to be drifting around in space, somewhere on another world.  In the past year I met the guitarist for local techno-rock wonders Music Start Against Young Assault who said that he once worked part-time in the same video store as Masako, said that she was always a little odd.  Back then she was in a somewhat goth-influenced band called "Yakeppachi no Maria" that was somewhat dark and psychadelic.  Atsushifs other band Jesus Fever later played at the Club Quattro in Osaka with Nagisa Nite and of course I had to go see them play.  This time I was surprised that they were playing with Masako on drums!  I guess shefs a drummer too.  What a band.