Jamie's Blog

The ramblings of a programmer with a little too much time on his hands

Category: Music

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer

Music Suggestions – Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer

Previously when I’ve written about music suggestions, I’ve recommended bands based on an entire album, based on an interesting take on a genre or based on a single track. This time, I want to recommend Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer for no other reason than I think he’s ace.

Can Explain What This Chap Hop Thing Is All About?

Imagine if hip-hop had been invented during in the Victorian era.

Is it alright that I’m a little bit scared?

It’s a bit like that, but with a lot more cricket.

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer is a self proclaimed Chap-Hop Superstar. Back in 2007 he released a song called “A Piece of My Mind” which was about the, then new, UK ban on smoking in public places and was an open letter to (again, then) Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

… It was also a hip-hop song performed entirely in received pronunciation.

Or, as some folks call it, “that posh accent from Downton, innit Bruv”

Topics for his songs include (to name a few):

  • Philosophy (with his track “Guy Debord”),
  • The state of the music industry (“Brit School” and “The Crack Song”),
  • Sartorial and etiquette matters (“Hail The Chap”, “Beats,  Rhymes and Manners” and “Brushed Tweed in the Hour of Chaos”)
  • Love and Relationships (“Lady C’, “Sherry Monocle”, “Curtsey For Me”, “A Throughly Modern Breakup”)
  • The history of his beloved Hip-Hop (“I Invented Hip-Hop”,, “Hip-Hop Was to Blame After All”)
  • And even a few covers of classic songs (“Chap-Hop History” and “Songs for Acid Edward”).

All of this (and more) showing his wit, wisdom and ability to write rhymes about, seemingly, anything.

Including comparing the current UK political landscape to the classic British Sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin in the first track of 2016’s There’s a Rumpus Going On.

Long Players

There have been six Chap-Hop albums from Mr B at the time of writing, with one having been released a few months before this article was written.

You’ll see why I specified Chap-Hop in a moment.

  • Flattery Not Included (2008)
  • I Say (2010)
  • The Tweed Album (2012)
  • Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop (2013)
  • Mr. B’s Christmas Album (2015)
  • There’s a Rumpus Going On (2016)

I would definitely recommend all of the above but if I had to pick just one for the new listener, then I would recommend “I Say” from 2010.

In fact, I’m listening to it while writing this blog post.

It has enough catchy tunes on there (with minimal back and forward references) to keep anyone coming back.

Definitely check out his newest album, too.

Just listened to Hermitage Shanks, as I proof read that part.

The reason I specifically mentioned Chap-Hop earlier is because Mr B has also released an “Acid Ragtime” album under the name Mr B the Gentleman Selector – Acid Ragtime: Chapstep Volume One (2014)

It was first publicly played, in its entirety, during a Thursday Night Show web-cast.

What is Acid Ragtime? Imagine early 90’s acid rave music, but built around samples of Noel Coward and other early British film stars.

He has also released two mini long players on BandCamp, under the name “The Major“. Both are quite short, at 6 tracks long, and labelled as “Terribly English Electronica”.

Did I mention that he writes and produces all of these himself?

Pretty cool, eh?

Rivalries

There have been a few knockers along the way

… you know, do-baders. Haters, as it were

As with all Hip-Hop legends, Mr B has had his fair share of rivalries. Mr B is no exception to that, having had a public rivalry with fellow Chap-Hop artist Professor Elemental.

The difference between Mr. B and the more famous Hip-Hop rivalries, is that the one between Mr. B and Professor Elemental was settled via “The Duel” (a track on Elemental’s 2012 album Father of Invention).

Where Does One Start With Chap-Hop?

I would say that you should start at the beginning, if only so that you can witness the greatness that is Chap-Hop History:

In fact, why not just head over to Mr. B’s YouTube channel and give them all a watch? It’s jolly good fun.

I have to admit that my favourite track with a video has to be ‘ Just Like a Chap’:

Keen readers will recognise where the header image for this blog post came from.

Social Stuff

Being a modern musical act means that you’re expected to keep in contact with your fans on Social Media, and Mr. B is no exception to this. He’s quite active on Facebook and Twitter, replying to messages with fans and posting images from his live shows. There’s a blog over on Tumblr and some demos and recordings over on his SoundCloud (including a short series of podcasts), MixCloud and BandCamp pages, too.

With all that going on it’s a small wonder how he finds the time to record new material, let alone go on tour, but he does both very regularly.

Final Thoughts

Seriously you should totally check out Mr. B’s stuff, even if you’re not a fan of Hip-Hop. There’s a set covers of classic UK rave and acid tracks:

And one of the only acceptable Christmas songs to be recorded (the other being Jonathan Coulton’s Chrion Beta Prime):

Definitely give some of his stuff a listen, go see one of his live shows (he’s exceedingly good live), or just catch him playing one of his Gentleman Selector gigs (usually radio broadcasts). You wont regret it.

Music Suggestions – Jazzin’ Park

This post is going to contain some Japanese characters. If they don’t display correctly for you, don’t worry too much, I’ll be putting Latin readings of the characters after each set of them. Although, you might want to look into enabling Asian characters in your browser and Operating System.

Previously when I’ve written about music suggestions, I’ve recommended bands based on their entire body of workbased on an interesting take on a genre or based on a single track. Today, however, I’m going to recommend some music based on an album.

Jazzin’ Park

Jazzin’ Park is the name of a pair of Japanese artists: Kurihara Satoru (栗原暁) Kubota Shingo (久保田真悟) who are signed to the Konami record label. They write and produce music across many genres, including: House, Rap, Hip-Ho, Jazz and Nu-Jazz.

Kuriahara is a DJ, Composer, Producer and singer; Kubota is a Guitarist, Producer, Composer and Vocalist. They have been working together, as Jazzin’ Park, since around 2006 and, as is often the case with Japanese house music artists, they quite often collaborate with singers and rappers.

We Are Together

In 2007 We Are Together was released, containing one remixed song with completely new lyrics: Long Time Ago was originally released on their first album (Jazzin’ Park, released in 2006) with Japanese vocals provided by Arlie. The version on We Are Together is a remix with English vocals provided by Stephanie Cooke.

We Are Together has a Latin/Nu Jazz flavour to it, rather than it just being standard House music. Betraying it’s December release, it’s always felt (at least to me) a very summery album; the tracks Perfect Blue and Summer Love feeling like they should have been big club hits during the summer of 2008.

The album contains a cover of the song You Are (originally by Niteflyte, a Disco band from the 1970’s, famous for their hit “If You Want It”). Perfect Blue was used as the opening theme for the anime Dreadnought – The Resonance; Prism and Dream Bird were used as the opening and closing themes (respectively) for 12人の優しい殺し屋 side R (a 38 part radio drama broadcast from April 2008 to March 2009).

Summer Love/Long Time Ago/Troubled Hands

By far, my favourite section of the album (if it can be split into sections?) is the trifecta of Summer Love, Long Time Ago and Troubled Hands.

Summer Love is a song that reeks of early 90s slow RnB (and that’s not a bad thing); from it’s opening electric piano line which is complimented by the bass line, all the way to the falsetto repeats of “Summer Love” at the end of the song.

Long Time Ago is a fantastic House remix of a Latin-eqsue Nu Jazz hit from the previous year. The re-recorded English lyrics seem to fit better with the new sound. The original Japanese lyrics are very good, and the performance is great, but it wouldn’t have fit with the slightly punchier sound that the remix goes with – which has more of an American house music feel to it.

Which leads me to Troubled Hands. Troubled Hands is a perfect example, in my opinion, of how to combine hip-hop and the sound of a jazz trio. It has a fantastic sound, and the rapping is mixed at the perfect volume to compliment the music. Skahlah (of Life Penciled Crew) performed the rap, which is about the mediocrity of modern life, the modern work ethic and the irony involved in it all:

Mired in the mediocrity,

Enough to get by fine,

But not enough to exercise authority,

Mired in mediocrity,

I’m working a 9 to 5,

But the bank close at 3,

Man, it’s irony.

And so

I would definitely recommend this album, and Jazzin’ Park in general, based on these three tracks alone. I’ll leave an embedded YouTube link below, give it a listen and leave a comment or something.

Here’s a link to Jazzin’ Park’s official website, should anyone be interested enough to want to find out more: [LINK]

Izumi Sakai

Music Suggestions – Zard – Yureru Omoi

This post is going to contain some Japanese characters. If they don’t display correctly for you, don’t worry too much, I’ll be putting Latin readings of the characters after each set of them. Although, you might want to look into enabling Asian characters in your browser and Operating System.

I’ll also refer to Japanese people by their given names (not the traditional Japanese order) for ease of reading by those not used to reading about Japanese people

Previously when I’ve written about music suggestions, I’ve recommended bands based on their entire body of work or based on an interesting take on a genre. Today, however, I’m going to recommend some music based on a single track.

Zard

In the beginning, Zard where a 4 person pop/rock band comprised of: Izumi Sakai, Fumihito Machida, Hiroyasu Hoshi, Kosuke Michikura, and Kimitaka Ikezawa. Their first single, “Goodbye My Loneliness” was quite successful reaching number 9 in the Oricon charts.

Although Izumi stayed constant the other members of the band came and went over the years. Izumi being a professional model, she became the centre piece for the band’s music videos which often had a dark or moody feel to them.

 

Makenaide – 負けないで

In the early 90’s Japan was hit by an economic crisis: the Nikkei 225 had dropped in value by one third by the end of the 1980’s. This was preceded by a period of high land value and low interest rates, which lead to more lending and spending. The Bank of Japan saw this as unsustainable, so they raised the interest rates quite sharply. This lead to the economic bubble bursting which lead to the stock market crashing, thus the sharp drop in value of the Nikkei 225.

The Diet attempted to save the banks by funnelling money into them, but this gave rose to so called “Zombie Banks”. Zombie Banks were losing money at the same rate that they were making it. Pretty soon big businesses became affected by the crash; many corporations instigated large layoffs to their workers, joined with other corporations, or both.

Side note: if you are interested in learning about this period of time, the Japanese call it 失われた10年 (Ushinawareta Jūnen – “The Lost Decade”). There is a very interesting Wikipedia article about it here: [LINK]

On January 25th,1993 Zard released 負けないで (Makenaide – “Don’t Lose”), an exceptionally inspiring song. It spoke of not giving up on one’s goals. Here is a translation of part of the chorus:

負けないで もう少し
最後まで 走り抜けて

Don’t give up, keep running,
To the end, just a little more

This was precisely the message that the Japanese people needed and, almost as if to prove it, the Japanese bought 1.8 million copies of the single, hitting number 1 on the Oricon charts. It even became the unofficial anthem of the Lost Decade.

I’ll embed a YouTube video of the song here so that you can hear it for yourself.

Izumi had said, during an interview with Music Station that 負けないで was:

 A song to encourage men taking examinations

But many Japanese people have said that it helped them to deal with a multitude of things from bullying to drug abuse, and cheating spouses to crippling debt. Such was the power of this song.

Yureru Omoi – 揺れる想い

Zard’s next single, 揺れる想い (Yureru Omoi – “Shifting Feelings”) was equally as successful. Zard then released their next album, also titled 揺れる想い which sold 2 million copies. In 1993, no one outsold Zard in Japan. Such was the power of the message of 負けないで. It has become Zard’s biggest hit; one that is still requested on radio shows to this day.

Izumi Sakai

In June 2006 Izumi was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Treatment was swift and appeared to work. However, later that year the cancer was found to have spread to her lungs. She began seeking treatment at Keigo university hospital in April 2007.

There are charming stories of Izumi singing 負けないで as a way to boost the morale of her fellow patients when they would lose hope.

In the early hours the 26th of May, 2007, Izumi was found by an emergency exit at the bottom of a stair case. She was unconscious and rushed to the emergency room. She never regained consciousness and died the next day, due to complications brought on by her head injuries.

The police investigation concluded that Izumi had gone for a midnight stroll around the hospital, tripped on the rather slippery stairs, and lost consciousness when she hit the bottom of the stair case. Because of the rather unusual nature of the accident, the police originally thought that the cause of her death was suicide, but it was concluded that it had been an accident.

Post Izumi’s death

When the news of her death broke, many TV stations put on memorials. Shortly after her wake there was a public memorial; fans were encouraged to attend and leave messages for Izumi in guest books surrounded by flowers. Many prominent Japanese celebrities, sports stars and fellow musicians left messages about how Izumi had changed their lives.

Zard had released 11 studio albums (the earliest released in 1991, and the last released in 2005) and 45 singles at the time of Izumi’s death. Her music had taken her all over the world, and made her very famous. You could say that she had a very, very successful career.

You could say that Zard had an enormous affect on the Japanese people. Which is one of the reasons why 負けないで is one of my favourite songs (and by extension 揺れる想い is one of my favourite albums) and why you should listen to it.

While you’re here, I’d recommend taking a look at an old post I wrote on June 5th, 2011 about this very song (and one that sounds just like it).

Until next time, be safe,

J

Sources for this post:

Original screen capture of the cached version of Choke Sleeper's bio page

Music Suggestions – Choke Sleeper

Unlike the previous post in this series, this post probably wont contain that many Japanese characters. However, if the characters I do include don’t display correctly for you, don’t worry too much, I’ll be putting Latin readings of the characters after each set of them. Although, you might want to look into enabling Asian characters in your browser and Operating System.

Today’s recommendation is another Japanese band. However, they guys are not pop based. In fact, these guys describe themselves as “Alternative/J-Rock”. I’d say that they’re more “Rock meets Rap” but not in the sense of Linkin Park, more like Dragon Ash or Orange Range (without the plagiarism, obviously. [LINK] to an example).

Choke Sleeper

Believe you me, searching for information about these guys is difficult. And it’s all because they share their name with a martial arts manoeuvre. This means that I wont be able to link to a wikipedia article, like I did in my post about Rin’. I will, however leave a link to their MySpace page here [LINK]. That’s right, they have a MySpace page – not many people that I know still use that service. In fact, that’s where I first heard of them.

Oh, by the way, their website has been down for a while. So, I’m pulling the information for this post from the cached version on The Way Back Machine. An excellent web service offered by archive.org.

I think it was Cho who first contacted me, back in 2005.  I was still at university, and had a MySpace account. I’d put up on there that I was interested in Japan, Japanese music and had listed some of my favourite bands. One day, out of the blue, I got a message from Choke Sleeper asking me if I’d check out their music. I did, and the rest is history.

Except for the bit about me emailing them… in Japanese. And them responding in (slightly broken) English. They even invited me to one of their shows. Unfortunately, they were only touring in Yokohama at the time (and I was studying at Hull, UK).

The first song of theirs that I ever heard was “Ground and Sky”, which is embedded above (I could only find a live version. It’s a little different from the CD version, especially in the middle). It was as soon as that song had finished that I decided to buy their album (at that time, they only had one full CD – “Oneway Cruisin”). Even if you’re not a fan of Ground and Sky, I’d give the album a try, if only for “Tequilla”, which is an amazing song about getting drunk with friends.

Members of the Band

Because there’s not very much information about the band available on The Internet, I’m translating the Biography part of their website as cached in July 2011 [LINK]. But I’ll also leave any image capture of it here, in case it goes down.

Original screen capture of the cached version of Choke Sleeper's bio page

Original screen capture of the cached version of Choke Sleeper’s bio page

Formed in Yokohama in 1997. They tried to create their own musical genre. They’ve mainly played at live venues, like Summer Sonic, X-Trail Jam (at the Tokyo Dome), Multiplex, etc. and at large festivals. Since they formed, they’ve released a two full albums, several EPs and singles (including Stay and Other Side Story)

The last entry on their website states that they’d be playing at The Game 8th anniversary show on the 8th of May 2010. They’re website went dark after the 2nd July 2011. It’s a shame, really. They’re a great band, so great that I’m tempted to re-activate my MySpace account (because these things are never truly deleted) just so that I can try and catch up with them.

I’ll leave an embed of their last single here. Do check them out, they’re amazing.

Peace,

J

Rin group photo

Music Suggestions – Rin’

This post is probably going to contain some Japanese characters. If they don’t display correctly for you, don’t worry too much, I’ll be putting Latin readings of the characters after each set of them. Although, you might want to look into enabling Asian characters in your browser and Operating System.

An idea came to me this morning:

I have a pretty big collection of music, and it’s pretty wide ranging in terms of genre. How about if I put up a post about a favourite track, with a short biography about the band?

Today’s suggestion is Rin’

紫のゆかり、ふたたび (Murusaki no Yukari, Futatabi)

Regardless of your stance on music, you need to listen to this track. It’s by Rin’, a group of traditional Japanese musicians who graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts back in 2003.

They play a whole bunch of instruments (including my favourite, the Samisen) but in a more contemporary style. This track is the opener for their final album (released in 2007),  「源氏ノスタルジー」(“Genji Nostalgia”) and it’s called 「紫のゆかり、ふたたび」(“Murusaki no Yukari, futatabi”). Enjoy

That’s how 「源氏ノスタルジー 」(“Genji Nostalgia”) opens, and it doesn’t shy away any after that. The track is named after the famous Japanese writer 紫 式部 (Murasaki Shikubu) who wrote,what is considered by most to be, the first Japanese epic tale 「源氏物語」(“The Tale of Genji“). The album is also named after the book.

All of their albums where released in Japan, except for “Inland Sea” which saw a European release. However, Inland Sea didn’t do so well in Europe they’re musical style has it’s own niche (think House music meets traditional Japanese music and you’re almost home).

I, personally prefer源氏ノスタルジー 」(“Genji Nostalgia”) and 「時空」”Jiku” (those who are fans of the anime Samurai Seven will recognise 「普遍」”Fuhen” as the theme song).

Rin’

The band’s name comes from the English word “Ring”; which in Japanese is 和 (pronounced “Wa”). 和 means both “Ring” and “Japanese Style”, which is the goal of the band – to create a ring or circle of music.

All three members of Rin'

(Left to Right) Chie Arai, Mana Yoshinaga and Tomoca Nagasu (image taken from Avex Tracks, no infringement intended)

Chie and Mana both play the Koto, Sangen, and Jushichi-gen (a 17 stringed koto), and Tomoca plays Biwa and Shakuhachi (click the names of the instruments for images of them).

The official logo for the band (seen below) contains both the English word “Rin” and a Japanese character which can be read as “Rin”

The official logo of Rin'

Image taken from Wikipedia, no copyright infringements intented

Obviously, the characters that make up the word “Rin” can be seen by anyone who can read the Latin character set. However, the whole logo (minus the box it is in) is the following character:

The Kanji character for Rin

This is the Kanji character for Rin, used by the band as part of their official logo

On the 13th of February 2009, Rin’ released a statement on their website saying that they had disbanded. Their reason for disbanding was that they had achieved everything that they set out to achieve as a band.

If you get a chance, I would definitely check this band out. I’ll guarantee that you’ll like what you hear.

じゃあね (Until next time),

J