KLUE by GEZAN album cover
Among this year's most biting artistic statements - an ushering in of a new, scarier decade, where revolution may very well be the main theme.
Young Fenimore Lee | April 30, 2020

The revolution of the new decade opens with the current pandemic, as governments across the world struggle to maintain dominance and cultural hegemony while their workers struggle and continue to pass away. In Japan, the current era looks bleak as ever, with PM Shinzō Abe being credited with butchering the COVID-19 response, refusing to acknowledge a national state of emergency until too late. Typical Abe head-in-the-sand stuff, same as ever - Abe’s refusal to apologize for comfort women, the refusal to accept refugees, the other various failures and scandals. “We are for the glory of our nation.” Abe has fallen head-over-heels for his country, and revises history in its name.

“Free refugees right now, right now.” The track “Free Refugees” from Tokyo-based noise rock band GEZAN’s rousing 2020 release, KLUE, opens with the statement repeated over and over again, leading to a ritualistic smattering of drums accelerating towards the explosive guitar distortion and screams that open the next track, “TOKYO.” The explicit political message, made clear and loud on “Free Refugees,” leads to a romantic image of what Tokyo is meant to be: “Tokyo - the first image when saying the word, it’s a cemetery of dreams, gravestones of building, a cloudy sky… But should be the usual way back home walking with you.”

Thus, it is a remarkably personal picture of the political that KLUE offers us. For GEZAN, there is no room for a solely political realm when the problems plaguing the domestic are enough to constitute the need for revolt. “TOKYO” declares that “when first saying the word politics, the face coming to mind first should not be the dirty faces of Abe and Trump, but should be the smiling face of one’s beloved looking at a flower.” “replicant” tells us that “the city of Shibuya has become blinded - hypocrisy with hashtag.” It may be an intensely non-academic perspective, but KLUE never relents in portraying its own inhospitable picture of present and future Japan. “Kunkoku,” or “Admonition,” opens by describing the year 2179 CE, with “a computer buried in the sand, a dead AI, and a boy pissing at them on streets.” (I said it was bleak - I never said it was humorless.)

Screaming for justice in today’s era of political fraud and ineptitude, KLUE thrashes about and refuses to stay within its limits - it shudders and quakes at its own observations. It ranks among this year’s most biting artistic statements: an ushering in of a new, scarier decade, where revolution may very well be the main theme.

The textures that represent the new era of revolt, apparently, include violent guitar feedback and rapid rhythmic screams. Much of the album is noisy and bleary-eyed, with spoken-word monologues hiding behind, as in the title track “KLUE,” with “justice reduced to be a sample and retweeted price of silence.” But while “KLUE” leads into “EXTACY,” a vocal soundscape with yelps and droning lyrics marrying into “Democratia Democratia,” the tracks “Soul Material” and “I” are profoundly different, offering a psychedelic surf rock-esque answer to the questions the rest of the tracks raise. In the track “I,” as the guitar soars through a chromatic rising chord change, MahiTo The People, the vocalist and guitarist of GEZAN, yells that “everything will be well beyond the nights” to quell our fears about this brave new world we approach. But do not worry - “so many many cry before that rainbow.” We will be there soon.

The marriage of this uplifting, anthemic neo-psychedelia and the aggressive, rebellious noise comes together in tracks such as “TOKYO,” with a more typical song structure than tracks such as “AGEHA” but a darker atmosphere than the conventional “Soul Material.” The panting gasps and droning, repetitive spoken nonsense syllables that lie beneath the bass and drums resemble a ritual before a battle. An outpour of blood, sweat, and tears: the beginning of a violent uprising. The relentless emergence of nationalism throughout the world, the miscarriages of justice, the social splintering: they will see their comeuppance to the familiar soundtrack of a wild yelp and air-shattering distortion.

KLUE by GEZAN can be purchased on Bandcamp at jusangatsu.bandcamp.com/album/klue. Please consider supporting artists through direct purchases during the current pandemic.

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Young Fenimore Lee
Pictured: Henry, his pet Jellybone

Young is the child of two Korean musicians and was born and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area. They identify as queer and non-binary. They’re currently going through emocore/screamo essentials, and they love indie rock, indie folk, emo, post-hardcore, and math rock. Feel free to take a look at their rateyourmusic account, their last.fm, and this collage of the 100 albums they consider most personally important.