Podcast 104: Shibaura Sound System

Our next podcast comes from Elliot Bernard and Guy Bingley, two our friends from London who co-run the Shibaura Sound System party. They play Japanese only records there, so the mix for us is not an exception. We decided to talk with boys here about concept of the party, “accidental bangers”, trips to Japan and their plans. Btw mark your calendars – guys just confirmed the party with Chee Shimizu on 9th of June in London!

Guys tell about your parties, is it dance music events or more easy-listening? Tell also about the last Shibaura events and what are your plans about it?

Elliot: We usually try to set a mood with ambient/new age music (a habit we’ve caught from how Guy and his other crew Customs set up their parties) and then build it up towards things with some dancefloor potential – it is a party! Before our first event about a year ago, it was a total unknown. We had little clue of whether people would come down and no clear idea of how we could piece everything together. But from the start many people came through, we realized it brought together people who were interested in Japanese music for various reasons (e.g. the ambient stuff, the boogie stuff, or just Japanese culture in general for instance). It’s a very nice and mixed crowd.

Shibaura Sound System party with La Mamies Theo

What’s really exciting for us is that we had never heard most of these records played out in clubs, so a lot of the time we’re unsure about how some of these songs will go down and when it works, it’s a very rewarding feeling (and slightly underwhelming when it falls flat). Although a lot of this music wasn’t intended for the dancefloor, they are so well produced and the records are so well pressed that when they’re played out on a loud soundsystem and at the right moment, they can sing!!

Regarding our plans, we first started this when the opportunity presented itself through a series of coincidences and saw it as a nice way to put some people onto an era of music we’re interested in – we’ll see where it goes naturally.

Some Japanese records are extra expensive – are you interested in owning such “diggers classics” everybody wants? Does the hype ruin the charm of the record itself for you?

Guy: Sometimes a record just totally gets to you and you can’t shake it off. I had that with the Wonder City Orchestra Information LP, which I guess is a kind of “diggers classic”, and I had to just keep searching and searching until I could find it (at a not-quite-so-crazy price). Of course if you were to find these kinds of records out in the wild at a normal price, your eyes would pop out of your head and you’d buy them, no doubt. But DJing with the records you also have to be aware that if it’s selling for stupid money that probably means lots of other people have been playing it. You kind of owe it to an audience to surprise them. Maybe better to spend your energy finding and making new classics.

Elliot, you were recently in Japan, tell some memorable moments from the trip

Elliot: The whole trip was memorable in general. I think one of the nicest things when you’re travelling and you’re into music and records today is that you connect with all these people online who share a quite niche but strong interest in certain aspects of music and culture, and then you finally meet them in real life on the other side of the planet and get to experience a city in a much more personal way (e.g. going to the pub). So s/o to Dubby, Jérôme, Alix and Sora-san, thanks for showing us around!

Some of the highlights included Chee’s Organic Music anniversary party at Forest Limit where he played an ambient set to a packed room with field recordings of birds and rivers he was layering on top of his records (which has influenced the way we try to start our parties in London), the atmosphere in hidden moody jazz cafes, and of course, the food.

Chee Shimizu said recently, the current hype about Japanese music “will be over in two years”, what do you think about it?

Guy: Well first of all Chee is the master, so you have to respect his opinion! Fashion always goes in cycles. But in terms of the digging – there’ll always be more to find. As people shift focus more towards the late 80s and 90s stuff from Japan, there will be all kinds of music on CD (for one thing) that no one’s discovered yet, particularly given the CD culture Japan had. But if you look at the early/ mid-80s, it does seem that Japan had a pretty rare concentration of geniuses at work and collaborating at that moment in time. We’re lucky that collectors and stores have been so impressive and keeping things in good condition. So unlike in lots of other parts of the world, there’s not such a high chance of amazing records being lost for good without a trace.

Tell about one last record that amazed you.

Guy: It’s not a rare record but the track 幻惑 by Taeko Ohnuki on her Signifie LP (last track in this mix) totally amazed me when we played it a couple of parties back. It’s one of these productions that sounds quite sweet and poppy but really comes alive on a proper system. The bassline was so punchy, I think it really caught people off guard (especially after the intro). Accidental banger!

Elliot: This one: The Carmets – Flying Woman (off their album called California Surfer).

Are just you two playing on Shibaura parties? Who’s also collecting interesting Japanese stuff in London?

Elliot: There’s the both of us plus Arthur and Théo who live in Paris and a few other friends who help us with our dodgy DIY stage design. Sometimes we’ll ask a friend if they want to play with us (thanks Ali, Anu, Alix!). In London, we’re aware of Japan Blues, Jiro, our friend Adam Oko who you might know from their shows on NTS – I’m sure there are many more silent collectors around though.

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Tags: Japanese_finest

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