Music / CD Reviews | LISTENING POST

Diverse compilation delivers a serious message about nuclear power

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Various artists “Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2” (Self-released)

On American hip-hop outfit The Black-Eyed Peas 2005 song “Like That,” guest rapper Talib Kweli delivers the line, “My lyrics get out a split atom like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” It’s intended as bluster, loosely connected to an earlier reference to sake, but feels weird — a terrible incident reduced to hype-up material.

Long-running Japanese experimental group Satanicpornocultshop highlights this absurdity on its contribution to “Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2,” an album featuring electronic artists from across Japan contributing tracks about the “tragedy caused by abuse of nuclear energy.” The unit loop Kweli’s line, while vocal samples ask, “What are you talking about?” or flat out tell him to “Shut up,” as the triggered voice’s anger rises with each instance.

It isn’t the only song on the collection that feels unabashedly political — several feature vocal samples speaking directly about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, while Tea-chi raps about nuclear energy on “Undulation” — but most of the album creates a bleak atmosphere that serves the dual purpose of remembering the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing and capturing the unease surrounding nuclear power in the country today.

Spearheaded by Hiroshima-based producer Crzkny, it also highlights some of the promising young creators in Japan’s juke scene, which surrounds a style of dance music that moves at a frantic pace and often centers on stuttering samples. It’s usually fun fare, but here the genre is transformed into an at-times claustrophobic sound, which is appropriate for the overarching theme.

Tokyo’s AE35 creates menacing party music on “Savage World,” while Saitama’s Iilil’s “Atomic People’s Beginning War” is the collection’s most cacophonous cut, bordering on digital hardcore. What makes the compilation a good listen over 20 tracks, though, is the sonic variety — for all the noise, there’s also Black Ops’ slow-building static swell on “Creep In Hell” and the guitar-centric march of Gnyopix’s “AngerAnguishAnxiety.”

A lot of different sounds are covered on “Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2,” but what makes it a cohesive listen is the unnerving feeling that runs throughout it — and a message many entertainers fail to consider: Nuclear warfare and meltdowns are serious business. (Patrick St. Michel)

“Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2” is available for download at atomicbombcompilation.bandcamp.com/album/atomic-bomb-compilation-vol-2.