now front coverSonically speaking, there’s an awful lot going on here. It's like a bowl of musical ramen.

For those not in the know (that’d be most of us) Masami Kawaguchi is a underground legend in Japan, playing with a string of bands (Miminikoto, Haino Keiji's Aihiyo) and touring the USA and Europe numerous times. He sings, plays guitar and occasionally holds down the bottom end on bass.

There is an Australian connection: Tokyo-based Masami toured and recorded with Penny Ikinger and Deniz Tek in Japan a few years ago. He plays guitar in Penny's latest album. His solo record, the quirky and earthy "The Mad Guitar Sings”, came out in Australia a year or more ago, and he played some solo shows. 

He’s playing in Australia (Melbourne, actually) in August-September, backed by members of Rocket Science and Fraudband. There are solo gigs in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Details at the end of the review.

As you can tell, Masami does a lot of collaborating and formed his own New Rock Syndicate in 2008; this album is the fruit of his recent labours. He has another 10 to his name, if you want to go digging...

“Now” runs the full musical gamut, from amped-up molten psychedelia to Died Pretty/REM-style pop and radio-friendly rockers. Masami sings in his native tongue so I can’t tell you jot about the lyrical content, but the music is deep ’n’ dark soundscapes. Its sense of variety is a strength and an occasional weakness.  

“Rockin’ In Outer Space” is a heavy-duty instrumental with Masami’s delay-deluged slide guitar tearing holes in the mix. “Blues In Haze” is a dust-dry blues refrain set to a stark acoustic backing. Unlike a lot of traditional blues songs, it manages to sound optimistic towards the end. Maybe it’s a comment on the Japanese economy? I have a yen to ask (sorry). 

“10 Years Ago” is furious, squalling guitar rock that’ll hit a (power) chord with most of you. You don’t need a grasp of the lyrics to feel its “Free Dirt”-era Died Pretty magnificence. Just when you think you have a handle on “Now”, along comes “The Sound Of The Bell”. If this isn’t a fresh sprout that grew from a seed from the Velvet Underground tree, my middle name is “Nico”. It’s delicacy wouldn’t be out of place among the quieter moments of the Banana album.

As you might guess, closing song “Dan Dan 2” confounds with its jarring metallic stomp and lava-like, distorted guitar attack. Masami San’s vocal sounds positively sanguine among the flurried fretwork of this one. Has your mind melted yet?


Buy it

Masami Kawaguchi solo
Lazy Bones, Marrickville, NSW
- Aug 23
The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
- Aug 24
Thornbury Bowls Club, VIC
- Aug 25

New Rock Syndicate
(feat Masami Kawaguchi)
+ Eat Man
The Post Office Hotel,
Coburg, VIC - Aug 30
+ The Wax Eaters
Two Floors, Belgrave. VIC
- Sep 1
The Spotted Mallard, VIC
- Sep 2
"Monday Night Mass"
@ Northcote Social Club
- Sep 3