Always be stay in Japanese heart
March 3, 2011 10:46 PM   Subscribe

"Formed by Rocket Matsu in 1995, Pascals is a fourteen piece acoustic orchestra that makes very unique and original tunes with the pianica, many kinds of toy instruments, violin, cello, banjo, guitar, winds, accordion, and more. The sounds is always seasoned with spirit, wit and humor. And it gives people a feeling of freedom."

— From their MySpace page (with a little english idiom fixification by me).

Their YouTube channel.

Filmographer Vincent Moon has posted his films of their 2009 "Fiume Night 05" performance to his website, via Vimeo:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

For readers of japanese language, their official website.
posted by Rube R. Nekker (3 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I am digging this.
posted by daisystomper at 11:01 PM on March 3, 2011

Fun band.

Over the years I've played in various improvised music situations with one of their cellists, Sakamoto Hiromichi, who is fantastic, and who ends every gig by employing a hand-held electric metal disc sander, which he applies to the metal peg at the bottom of the cello, sending copious sparks flying across the stage and sometimes into the audience. I've had to dodge them on a few occasions.

Always be stay in Japanese heart

Aside from the awkward English misuse (which, honestly, I hardly even notice anymore, after 16 years here in Japan) there is something about the sentiment there that is, well... somewhat questionable. What does the author of this promo blurb mean when he says "Japanese heart"? The music itself is, of course, overtly "European" in its aesthetic, and indeed, they wear the Euoropean influences on their sleeve. And as noted on their MySpace page, they are well-loved in France. So I know it's not the "Japanese-ness" of their music that they are referring to as this "Japanese heart". No, it's something more primal, more... mystical. It's something that one finds very often expressed by Japanese: the taken-for-granted existence of some undeniable Japanese essence, some overarching sensibility that no other nation has. And all too often, the implication is that it is, well, superior.

Now, the fact that bands like Pascals are almost always comprised of such wonderful people, almost always friendly and unassuming and (at least outwardly) humble, means that such assertions of "Japanese-ness" are perhaps less grating than they might be from, say, a German band playing, say, Indonesian gamelan but who make a point of saying "we're keeping this in a German spirit*, ya!". But I find these offhand nods toward that mystically unique Japanese-ness by Japanese people a little tiresome at best, and a little elitist (and/or racist) at worst.

*"spirit" being the closest English equivalent to "heart" as it's popularly used by modern Japanese
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:03 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Existential griddlecake of a comment you have served up there, flapjax! I've literally been chewing on it, lo these last hours ...

Yours is a unique viewpoint, being a foreigner immersed in their culture. I didn't feel the same hegemony from the statement (and please don't let my extreme laziness in selecting a post title influence your thinking unduly). Perhaps because I haven't encountered it with the frequency you have, or perhaps because I don't take it personally, chalking it up to the natural manifestation of the unshakable human ego.

I saw it as more of the usual "Fuck Yeah! Band!" copy you would expect on anyone's publicity page. Despite their appearances in France and the longevity of their project, they do not seem to have much of an international profile or even a record label, placing them (for me, and I could be mistaken,) in the same, D.I.Y. indie freak zone as any struggling musicians pursuing a fringe endeavor I might encounter in California.

I'm afraid I'm no help with regard to debunking the mysticism, either. Here is the amazing true tale of how I came to know that the band Pascals exists:

A couple of days ago, British ex-pat/Brooklynite band Glass Rifle posted a link saying 'Checkitout! Cool podcast!'

So I did, and got no further than the second tune in episode 35 by This Many Boyfriends, the chorus of which I took to be "I don't like you, 'cos you don't like the Pascals."

"Who are these Pascals?" I asked myself, "and why would someone not like them?" And — upon the google-ing and the youtube-ing and whatnot — the vision of an uninhibited, cross-dressing, marraca-waving hula dance perfomed to a mesmirising backdrop of Doors-like lounge music played by invisible, out-of-frame musicians led to further investigation, and thus an fpp was born.

So, as it turns out, the actual lyric was "'Cos you don't like the Pastels."

That a mondegreen could throw such a wildly chaotic yet perfectly structured detour into what should have been a hermetic trifecta of anglophilic noise pop is, for me, the stuff of unicorns, rainbows, and the virgin Mary on a piece of toast.

And, given that this is the current cultural presentation occurring not thirty miles from where I spent my formative years, you can't really blame me, upon encountering these emissaries of childlike wonder and cherishers of the humble, for thinking, "Why, yes. I would like to be-stay in Japanese heart, always!

posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:28 PM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

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