Where the hell did this band even come from? Rocking the so-uncool-they’re-cool image that has served sonic soulmates Polysics so well, 0.8 Byo to Shogeki’s music piles up a violent barrage of cheap drum machines, minimalist guitar lines and batty boy-girl vocal interplay that is somehow twice as heavy as it has any right to be. Their latest release, “Batikaru J.M. Yayayado EP” (“Vertical J.M. Yayayard E.P.”), is no exception.
J.M. is the name of 0.8 Byo to Shogeki’s female “singer and model,” a statuesque ice queen who toys with listeners by affecting a cutesy voice before reverting to the deeply pitched and deeply menacing bark with which she usually navigates the EP’s claustrophobic bluster.
The other vocalist (and main songwriter), Tadaomi Toyama, isn’t much less mental: He loves showing off his nipples/pulling down his trousers in music videos and on stage, his eyes wild with edgy energy. Don’t be fooled by his professed love for The Smiths and Joy Division: His is the blunted aggression of Le Shok and Numbers, themselves second- or third-generation synthpunk bands that mixed riffy guitars, distorted vocals and punchy synthetic elements.
But 0.8 Byo to Shogeki don’t sound exactly like those bands either. Imagine if Bis (the Scottish 1990s band, not the recent J-pop idol group) played digital hardcore, mixing the former’s sense of humor and crappy programming with the latter’s industrial beats and ruthless impact. That’s what you get on “Anata ga Koko ni Ite Hoshii” (“Wish You Were Here”), with its playful coda of “Machu Picchu kiss me / Kiss me chocolate!” proffering false respite before the hyperactive rhythm crashes back in.
And then there’s a sniff of My Bloody Valentine’s “Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)” on “Razania” (“Lasagna”), a downbeat, dreamy tune on which J.M. and Toyama’s half-whispered vocals (translating roughly as “The law of love says to raster me / OK, me alone, follow me”) are as wantonly sensual as they are utterly nightmarish. Like many of their songs, it carries a Middle Eastern vibe that makes it all the more alluring.
Oh yeah, and then the E.P. ends on a pop ballad. Obviously.
Wherever the hell they came from, bands like 0.8 Byo to Shogeki don’t appear very often. Treasure them, or else they’ll probably break your nose.