Thursday, 6 October 2016

Japanese Crust vs The World (part 1): Macrofarge / Euthanasia "Reality Crisis" split flexi 7'', 1989

In this day and age when the medium matters as much - if not more so - as the content, it appears rather difficult to see a flexi for what it once was. The habits related to listening and indeed consuming music have changed drastically and have literalised the medium. A record is now just that, a record. As if the object needed to become irrelevant for it to actually find its real essence back as an object. Bluntly put, people who buy records don't necessarily love music, they often just love records that they will not listen to, as the music will usually be enjoyed in mp3's through computers or other devices. Ironically, the more the object becomes unnecessary and useless the more it becomes collectable and fetishized, no longer a means to an end (the music), but the end itself. In that light, a flexi from the 80's, maybe even more than a tape, is a strong reminder of what used to be the medium's role before: a vessel.

I don't really like flexis. They freak me out. I have heard so many scare stories about flexis getting unlistenable, proverbially "beyond fucked", with time that I usually think long and hard before buying one. According to old-timers, the original idea and the major advantage of a flexi was that it was very cheap to do and that, despite its fragility, its very low weight implied lower shipping costs as well, which made it easier to send around, especially abroad. From this perspective, the flexi can be seen as the ultimate DIY punk record in accordance with the idea of the legendary "Network of friends". But still, I have largely remained unconvinced, probably because the relevance of the flexi went extinct well before my time (if memory serves, only Active Minds flexis were still readily available when I started looming ominously around distro tables) and the ones that were still coming out were usually "tribute flexis" that referred to a flexi golden age without caring much for the original usefulness of the particular medium. And almost always, they were Japanese punk-styled records, so that, to this day, whenever I hear "flexi", I just know it is going to be the Battle of the Nerds if I want to get a copy. And if the flexi is a 6" or a 8'', blood will be shed and death threats uttered. And if it is a one-sided 8'' flexi... then God help us all.



Flexis are indissociable from the 80's Japanese punk scene. The amount of flexis released in that decade is truly breath-taking, probably for reasons of reducing costs and of convenience I mentioned above that made sense given the geographical position of the country, or even perhaps because of domestic shipping costs as well. The staggering number of Japanese flexis is reflected in MCR Company's discography. Even just a quick look reveals that, out of the first 30 releases of the label, 14 were flexis (and a good portion of them were single-sided... we really had it coming). Unsurprisingly, the compilation I mentioned in the introduction to this series, "Must Get to the Power of the Defence For...", to me the first genuine Japanese crust record, was a flexi. And today's record, released six months afterwards, in December, 1989, was also a flexi: the split between Macrofarge and Euthanasia. It proved to be MCR's 24th record, right between a compilation VHS (!) that included bands from the Nagoya-area (of course, the three bands from "Must Get to the Power", namely SDS, Atrocity Exhibition and Naüsea, are on it) and the first Fuck Geez Lp.

I would be lying if I said I knew a lot about Macrofarge. In fact, they are a little bit of a mystery to me and the internet doesn't seem to be that well acquainted with this Tokyo band either... Yes, you are perfectly right in assuming we are going to have a wild guess session here. Macrofarge were a late 80's/early 90's band, probably active between 1988 and 1991. Apart from this split with Euthanasia, the band appeared on two MCR compilation Lp's, 1990's "革命 Best Run Fast" (with Asbestos, DONDON and Juntess among others) and 1991's brilliant "I will take no orders from anyone!!" (with SDS, DONDON, Mess and Assfort, who were actually the first Japanese hardcore band I ever heard when I was about 18... you can imagine how baffled I was). Before these, Macrofarge appeared on a Souzui Records tape, compiled by Yoshikawa - from DONDON - in 1989, entitled "Kiss my ass". Yes, it was the follow-up to "Suck my dick" and included most of the aforementioned usual suspects from Tokyo. The first Macrofarge recording however might be a 1988 demo tape called "Stop your nonsense", about which I found close to no information so I'd rather be cautious here (especially since the song titles don't fit with any of the subsequent ones). Finally, the band self-released three live tapes in 1991, that I have sadly never heard.



On the face of these bits of intelligence, Macrofarge should be seen as just one of so many Japanese hardcore bands active in Tokyo at the time, a mere side note in the grand book of Japanese punk-rock. But there is this thing that makes them crucially relevant in the frame of this series: they were the first "Peaceville sound" band in Japan. While it doesn't really show much on the "Stop your nonsense" 1988 demo (although the groovy bass lines gave away what was to come), which was still by and large strongly rooted in Japanese hardcore, Macrofarge's following recordings are obvious and spectacular early examples of Doom-worship. Keeping in mind that the three songs from the split were recorded in July, 1989, it was a very early instance of Doom-type scandicrust that predated even Hiatus. The three tracks are perfect takes on "Bury the debt", with over-the-top gruff vocals, classic Discharge-by-way-of-Sweden heavy crusty guitar riff, a roaring bass sound and a simple, but highly effective, drumming that is perhaps an ideal blueprint for the genre. Doom's is undeniably a popular, beloved sound in the Japanese crust scene and, as bands like Abraham Cross, Warcry or Scene Death Terror (to give a current example) can attest, I am prone to think that Japanese crusties probably got Doom differently than the rest, more essentially perhaps. I don't know how Macrofarge are regarded today over there, but from an outsider's perspective, they clearly pioneered the gruff sound of Doom and Sore Throat (of course, both bands' Japanese legacies are closely tied and the opening riff of "Reality crisis" could have been lifted from "Unhindered by talent") that would be so influential in Osaka a few years later, whereas SDS were significantly working on Antisect's proto-crust sound. Fascinating band. Obviously, Macrofarge still had a Japanese hardcore background that shone through at times in some of the chorus and in the overall frantic energy (more so on the "I will no orders from anyone!!" songs), but for the time, they were amazingly close to what they wanted to achieve. The production on these three songs is fantastic as well, heavy and punishing yet highlighting the relentless simplicity and aggression of the songwriting. They were recorded at Our House Studio in Tokyo, where classic records from Bastard and Death Side were also captured, so you know it is bound to be really good sound-wise.



Visually, Macrofarge also borrowed from the classic antiwar imagery that permeated 80's anarcho bands and the cover referred to the Tiananmen massacres that took place just one month before the recording. The singers grunts in English but the lyrics are only translated in Japanese on the cover so I am only guessing (thanks to the cheesy little drawings) that the topics covered are war, the media and nuclear weapons. Direct references (apart from the riffs) don't abound but are still solid. "The dream come true" hints at Doom's "A dream to come true" while the mention of "The dark side of society..." may be a nod toward Hellbastard's "Dark side". And there has been at least one band that openly referred and paid tribute to Macrofarge ten years after: Reality Crisis (though I have only just made the connection really...). Following the split of the band, I know that the drummer Chara joined force with Kuro from Acid and Kawaguchi from Sicilian Blood to form Liberate, but that's about it. And Discogs tells me that Chara also did some backing vocals on a Juntess Ep, so that may indicate that Macrofarge were somehow close to bands like Juntess, Acid or indeed DONDON (with the Souzui Rec connection). Wild guesses, I told you. The only thing I have absolutely not even started to figure out about the band is the rather intriguing name... Macrofarge? I really am clueless...



On the flip side are Euthanasia, a Finnish hardcore band from the mid/late 80's that I am not familiar with. I must say they are quite enjoyable, very much on the punkier side of the Finnish hardcore spectrum, like Bastards meet Asta Kask or something (the second song form the split has that kind of singalong quality to it). The real gem on their side is the first song however, "Martat Pois Bingoista", a genuine vintage ripper reminiscent of the best bands of the suomipunk genre. The production is fitting as well, very angry and energetic with that chaotic bass sound, and like with most Finnish bands, there is always a rough-yet-catchy tune that you can hum. Euthanasia did an Ep before the flexi, "Ölöriefot Putkosessa Kemoryölöt Kabinessa" in 1987, and also a tape the following year, "Ämpäri Päässä Pyöränkumia Pumppaa". A double-cd discography of the band was released in 2009 as well.    






     

9 comments:

  1. I had a weird dream about flexi LP.:)

    "Finally, the band self-released three live tapes in 1991, that I have sadly never heard".
    These records is not really rare in digital formats.

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    1. Really? I couldn't find them anywhere... I would love to hear them if you know where :)

      A flexi Lp sounds like a very sloppy thing though...

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  2. Nice to get a good rip of this. Thank you. - ZM

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  4. Some interesting Macrofarge trivia, there is an unreleased studio EP that was supposed to come out on a Japanese (living in America) label and it never happened. Right now the band is working on reissuing a discography CD. But this has been in the works for several years, so who knows what stage it is at.

    The band is definitely highly revered in the Japanese scene as t-shirts are still kept in print from time to time by a member of the old Osaka crust scene, and original early 90s t-shirts have fetched between $50-100 on Japanese auction sites.

    Macrofarge also apparently had caught the eye of overseas crusties as the Disrupt - Smash Divisions 7" artwork features a punk with a Macrofarge logo on his jacket. I've always found it interesting as along with Misery, and Deformed Conscience, Disrupt is one of the most liked and respected American crust band.

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    1. Thanks a lot for the info about Macrofarge. I do hope the idea of a discography cd hasn't fallen through.
      Cheers
      Romain

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