Welcome to our 4th O!susume broadcast, and the first guest post! This one is dedicated to the band Kinoko Teikoku (きのこ帝国). Enjoy Erin’s take on this indie band from the late 00’s.
Broadcast 4: Kinoko Teikoku
佐藤千亜妃 (Chiaki Sato) (vocals, guitar)
A-chan (あーちゃん) (guitar)
Taniguchi Shigeaki (谷口滋昭) (bass)
Nishimura “Kon” (西村”コン”) (drums)
Point of Origin
Who are they?
Kinoko Teikoku was a band characterized as indie rock, shoegaze, dream pop, and post-rock.
After delving deeper into the Japanese indie scene back in 2015, I happened upon a one-person initiative called Next Music From Tokyo. Thanks to Steven Tanaka, the guy behind the website and Canadian tour series, I was introduced to Kinoko Teikoku, a band that seemed to already have a dedicated following outside of Japan in the shoegaze scene. I had never listened to shoegaze before, and while I’ve enjoyed a few other shoegaze bands since, no artist has quite stuck with me like Kinoko Teikoku.
Kinoko Teikoku is one of my favorite bands for so many reasons—they have immersive surrounding instrumentals, and they give us background textures that meld into the music seamlessly. They beautifully incorporate dynamics into their songs, creating emotional highs and lows with pleasant melodies included. And my favorite part of their music is the timbre of Chiaki Sato’s vocals that expertly play with emotion; she can express deep heart-wrenching melancholy as well as soar into ethereal and dreamy refrains.
For a little bit of context, shoegaze is an experimental rock genre with an emphasis on experimentation with guitar feedback, reverb, distortion and effects, as well as an overall play on texture and volume. Shoegaze had its origins around the late 80s and early 90s in Britain and Ireland, which later spread to the United States, and ultimately around the world. The genre got its name based on early criticism of the way that the guitarists would gaze at their shoes while focusing on their effects pedals, rather than focusing on giving a lively show.
Dream pop emerged as another experimental rock genre around the same time, characterized by pop melodies and sonic textures, with an emphasis on the atmospheric immersion experienced by the listener. Both dream pop and shoegaze have similar overlapping qualities, so they are sometimes mentioned together, and Kinoko Teikoku gives a little of both in their music.
Kinoko Teikoku began when shoegaze started to become bigger in Japan in the mid 2000s, clearly inspired by early shoegaze as well as Japanese indie bands such as Number Girl (see Kinoko Teikoku’s song “Girl Meets NUMBER GIRL”).
I’ve always been drawn to atmospheric music and unique vocals, and Kinoko Teikoku gives the whole experience. Originally under Daizawa Records, a subsidiary of the Japanese indie record label UK Project, Kinoko Teikoku released what I think is one of their best pieces of recorded music with Uzu ni Naru (2012).
My introduction and I think many people’s introduction to Kinoko Teikoku might be the first track on the album, an emotional masterpiece called, “WHIRLPOOL.” Its slow but effusive wall of instrumentals and soothing vocals takes you into the band’s grasp and shows you just what Kinoko Teikoku is all about. The whole mini album perfectly showcases how Chiaki Sato can enhance the instrumentals with her deep and affective vocals that you can just feel, regardless of any language barrier.
With some songs reaching a more upbeat disposition and some pulling you into a slow but purposeful anguish, Sato’s vocals work in tandem with the instrumental environment to reach into different emotional landscapes; her distressed whispers can easily morph into clear yet resonant peaks while the background distortion and feedback expand into clear melodies when needed.
Under Daizawa Records, Kinoko Teikoku also released Eureka (2013), a full length album that solidified the band’s popularity with shoegaze fans around the world. That same year they also released my go-to musical recording from them called Long Goodbye (2013). Although it has only 5 tracks, this EP has a special place in my heart, and it also has one of the first music videos from them that I saw.
海と花束 (Umi to Hanataba) is the second track on the EP, with a fairly straightforward music video to set the tone of the song. Parallelling shoegaze’s tendency to center music instead of themselves, this minimalistic indie-style video really seems to be the modus operandi of the band’s handful of music videos they’ve released in their musical career. It’s clear that their songs are center stage and the videos are there to hold your attention and emphasize their musicality in some way.
Even so, this simple video is interesting enough, with the band looking effortlessly cool playing in a room that opens up to something more; an ocean view that’s almost past sunset, along with members holding a bouquet of flowers in a melancholic mood throughout. While the music video from this EP is a great introduction to their early style of music, I really think Kinoko Teikoku shines when you listen to each album as a whole, and I recommend listening to the whole 5 songs together after watching this music video.
While their next album Fake World Wonderland (2014) was still under Daizawa Records, the album was the beginning of the band’s move away from shoegaze into a more pop-rock mainstream indie sound.
東京 (Tokyo) brings us to the part in their discography where they tilt more towards post-rock and less dream pop; but still Kinoko Teikoku is able to translate a specific feeling into the album in an artistically pleasing way. Infused with nostalgia and longing, the video takes us into a room with a woman lying on a couch, presumably on a hot summer day in Tokyo. Of course we also go back and forth with the band playing on top of a building, which is another indie music video must, and goes perfectly with the Tokyo feeling as a whole.
After Fake Fake Wonderland, Kinoko Teikoku signed with EMI and released Neko to Allergy (2015), Ai no Yukue (2016) and Time Lapse (2018), all of which can be considered less and less shoegaze or dream pop, and more and more true indie-rock/ post-rock—but still beautiful nonetheless. It’s worth it to note that not everyone enjoyed their stylistic changes with their newer albums, but I still think it’s worth it to check them out to see how you feel.
Time Lapse is my go-to album when I want to listen to something I know I love, and I don’t necessarily want to hit those heart-wrenching emotions that Eureka, Uzu ni Naru and Long Goodbye hold.
In 金木犀の夜 (Kinmokusei no Yoru), the band is playing in the periphery at a party with the protagonist of the video in a blue strappy dress with some sort of interesting long-sleeved shirt underneath with a piece of classical artwork printed on it. She goes on to express the sentimentality of the song in the corner of the room while the party goes on—including some make-out sessions between random party-goers. At the end of the video she walks up to the roof to meet the sunrise, and perhaps to face and accept whatever she was ruminating about at the party. Yet another intentional music video, capturing a simple concept held within Kinoko Teikoku’s artistry that’s hard not to appreciate, even in its simplicity.
After Time Lapse, Kinoko Teikoku announced their disbandment in 2019. The bassist, Taniguchi Shigeaki, apparently asked to leave the band to take over his family’s business after feeling a sense of accomplishment in their 10 years together after his 30th birthday. Chiaki Sato, the singer, guitarist and songwriter for Kinoko Teikoku continues on her solo career after her first EP SickSickSickSick released in 2018. Her solo career leans into the direction that Kinoko Teikoku seemed to be transitioning towards all along with a more label-friendly sound now in the indie pop genre with some electronic experimentation incorporated. Her vocals are the reason that I love Kinoko Teikoku so much, so it’s nice to see her doing her own thing, with room to experiment more with her personal style. The drummer of Kinoko Teikoku, Nishimura Kon, is now involved with an indie rock band called add (アド). I’ll put their links down below, but I don’t know much about them yet since they are still pretty new.
I really think that Kinoko Teikoku had a great 10 years of artistry, and I’m sure I will be listening to their music for years to come. After you listen to the three music videos I mentioned above, I would recommend trying to listen to one of their earlier albums from start to finish. Kinoko Teikoku gives a whole artistic experience with each album, and I love the way each song goes together.
While Kinoko Teikoku had somewhat of a style change throughout their 10 years, I love that their artistry was able to translate emotionally to people around the world. I think that it helped some fans of shoegaze have a starting point to get more into other Japanese music and I’m excited to see what’s next for the scene.
Kinoko Teikoku Social Media Links
Next Music From Tokyo:
Article about Kinoko Teikoku’s career: http://musojapan.com/2019/05/28/a-farewell-to-kinoko-teikoku/
Another article about Kinoko Teikoku’s career: http://a-to-jconnections.com/music/you-should-be-listening-to-kinoko-teikoku?fbclid=IwAR1bqO7xANGG2sx8kmu3fXmTjv-cbEj0d7PnYnFwC6jieDms0-KXpSCF-UA
About their hiatus:
Daizawa Records: https://www.discogs.com/label/179510-Daizawa-Records
Video about shoegaze: https://youtu.be/avakrGPxGa8
The two bands listed at 6:47 in Japanese are Yuragi (揺らぎ) and Tokyo Shoegazer (東京酒吐座).
A blog about shoegaze and a bit about Japanese shoegaze origins: https://sadmothmadcity.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-definitive-history-of-shoegaze-by.html
If you like Kinoko Teikoku you might also like:
- chou chou merged syrups.
- Number Girl
- MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS
- Hammer Head Shark
- Tokyo Shoegazer
- THE NOVEMBERS
Introduction to Japanese shoegaze: https://jmusiccentral.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/15-japanese-shoegaze-albums-to-get-you-into-shoegaze/
More recent Japanese Shoegaze to check out: http://musojapan.com/2021/02/06/the-best-japanese-shoegaze-and-dream-pop-releases-of-2020/
My personal favorite tracks from Kinoko Teikoku in a playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0DXh0cIXyi1zArHsRRCyUt?si=b9619d3b207d4638
Where are they now?
Chiaki Sato (佐藤千亜妃)
Vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for Kinoko Teikoku who now has a solo career. Check out her social media:
Nishimura Kon (西村”コン”)
Drummer for Kinoko Teikoku who is now in a band called add (アド). Here’s his personal twitter: https://twitter.com/nishimurakon
add’s social media:
Twitter : https://twitter.com/addofficial3
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/add_band_of…
Guitarist for Kinoko Teikoku. I’m not sure what A-chan has in store for the future, but here’s her twitter so you can find out: https://twitter.com/a_chanjai
Taniguchi Shigeaki (谷口滋昭)
Bassist for Kinoko Teikoku. He is somewhere presumably working for his family’s business. 🙂