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Ian Martin
Ian Martin is a freelance writer covering music and pop culture. He has been active in the Tokyo music scene as an indie event organiser, DJ and label owner since 2004 and has been contributing to The Japan Times music page for almost as long.
For Ian Martin's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 31, 2018
Kate Sikora carves out a space in Tokyo's indie scene
Kate Sikora is an odd sort of import.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 4, 2017
Supercar's 'Three Out Change!!' may be the most stunning debut in Japanese rock history
The years 1997 and 1998 were a watershed in Japanese music. It was the dizzying peak that marked the point between the relentlessly climbing music sales that preceded and the mostly unbroken decline that followed. It also saw the 21st century begin to take shape, with artists such as Hikaru Utada, Ayumi Hamasaki and Morning Musume bursting onto the scene with their first chart hits.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 30, 2017
Triple reissue offers a chance to review Yoko Ono's output from the 1970s
The ongoing project to rerelease Yoko Ono's full catalog of 11 albums, which began in late 2016, has now reached its second stage with the release of a trilogy of early-1970s albums — taking in "Fly" (1971), "Approximately Infinite Universe" and "Feeling the Space" (both 1973) — that embody a series of tensions.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Mar 26, 2017
Music's shifting tides reveal a hunger for artistry in Japan
Music is often characterized over-simplistically as a battle between rock and pop, seriousness and fun, but the two are always in an ever-shifting balance. With this column coming to the end of its six-year run, it feels timely to cast a look back — and perhaps also a hopeful eye forward — over the changing state of music in Japan.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Feb 26, 2017
Music venue Three tries to up its numbers
Tokyo's independent live music scene has always been somewhat dysfunctional.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Jan 29, 2017
Happier times in the era of Tetsuya Komuro
A 58-year-old Japanese man with a dyed blond mullet in a thick, woolly sweater hunches over a series of a dozen keyboards. With a casual confidence his fingers trip through a few bright, up-tempo chords. There's something familiar about the sound — a nostalgia tinged with just a hint of guilty pleasure. His music sounded cheesy even back when it was cool. But admit it, you kind of miss it now ... this sound from a more optimistic time.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Dec 25, 2016
The best of Japanese indie in 2016
While the J-pop mainstream seemed in 2016 to have finally and irreversibly consummated the awkward courtship of streaming technology, the year was business as usual for the basement-dwellers of the indie and underground scenes. And as usual, the result was a raft of terrific records that hardly anyone will ever hear.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Nov 27, 2016
A reading list for Japan's music scene
Sometime in the spring of 2014, a friend of mine who works for a small publishing company asked if I would write a book about the Japanese music scene for him.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Oct 30, 2016
Mama's Tattoo event pushes women to write new narratives
Deep in Tokyo's indie music hub of Shimokitazawa, the twin venues of Three and Basement Bar often play host to some of the most diverse and offbeat expressions of Japan's underground music culture.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Sep 25, 2016
Hikaru Utada and the iconic women of Japanese pop who came before her
In an age where anyone and (it often seems) everyone can be an idol, it takes something special to be an icon.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 7, 2016
Injecting a little music into Japanese politics
"Let's not put politics into music."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Jul 24, 2016
Yumi Ito of The Peanuts was a muse to both moth and men
I learned of the death of Yumi Ito, the last remaining member of 1960s pop duo The Peanuts, while battling a giant moth that had found its way into my apartment.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 26, 2016
Afrirampo leads 'Zero Generation' into adulthood
Anarchic, anything-goes garage-punk band Afrirampo is defined first and foremost by feelings: The feelings that drive the duo as artists and the feelings they evoke in audiences. As the band returns to the live circuit after a six-year absence, guitarist Mayumi "Oni" Saeki is acutely aware of how the feeling of the band has both changed and remained constant since before her and drummer Mineko "Pika" Azuma's extended hiatus.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Jun 26, 2016
Wrapping up a musical trip across Japan
When I first embarked on my attempt to visit every prefecture in Japan and learn about the local indie music scene in each one, the idea that I would be able to draw any meaningful generalizations from the adventure seemed ludicrous. The music scene of Tokyo alone is an incomprehensible mess, so how would I even begin to sort through an entire country's worth of information and find any sort of clear story?
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
May 29, 2016
The dream of the '90s is alive in Kansai
A big part of Japanese music's wild overseas image is defined by groundbreaking artists from the Kansai area.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Apr 24, 2016
Kyushu's music scene takes care of its own
When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, I was at home in my apartment in Tokyo. The ground lurched, the walls shuddered and my CDs began flinging themselves from the shelves.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Mar 27, 2016
Indie music finds a novel way to survive in Kyushu
We are living through the dying days of the CD format. It clings to life here and there, but its usefulness as a medium for transmitting music is pretty much over. What remains is a sort of meta-existence, where the value of a physical music format lies purely in the tactile physicality of the object at the moment of an exchange — before it gets ripped to your computer.
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Feb 28, 2016
Icy Kanazawa, sunny Naha: A tale of two live scenes
I have been traveling around the country since September meeting people involved in different independent music scenes in such places as Hokkaido, and Iwate and Saitama prefectures. After taking a break over winter, I resumed my travels this month and headed to the contrasting environments of icy Ishikawa Prefecture and sunny Okinawa.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 7, 2016
Melt-Banana, The Fin among acts at gig set in old bathhouse
"To get the community onboard with the show, we made some flyers with photos of us on that make us look like cult leaders," she says. "We were trying to look as wholesome as possible, which didn't really work too well."
CULTURE / Music / STRANGE BOUTIQUE
Jan 24, 2016
Afrirampo reunion may save 2016
While 2016 kicked off for most of the music world with David Bowie tricking hundreds of thousands of people into buying a jazz-prog concept album about death, the message from the heart of J-pop was loud and clear: "DO NOT WORRY, NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE."

Longform

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In disaster-prone Japan, some communities consider major moves