Asa Chan and Jun Ray – Jun Ray Song Chan

The album Jun Ray Song Chan starts off with Hana, Japanese for flower. The song is nearly similar to Tsuginegi To Ittemita, staccato bursts of Japanese chanting processed electronically. There are two voices, a guy who sounds like he has had his vocal chords reworked with a heavy hammer, and a female voice that brings to mind a stoned J-pop singer. Backed with a melancholy violin melody and paced by the weirdest sounding tabla you will ever hear. And I mean a genuine tabla, not one of those electronic thingummijigs Talvin Singh uses. The combination makes for one very odd listen, especially when the chants are spliced and precisely echoes the tabla player’s flourishes.

Just when I was done with Hana and was about to dismiss the band as a one-trick pony, ‘Preach’ kicks in. Starts off with a brass signature accompanied by squelching sounds. ( Did these people play a trumpet underwater? Man! ) Then the tabla goes mad for quite sometime – forcing me to reduce the volume on my speakers. Surprise, surprise, the squelching sounds turn out to be spoken voices! There is a sudden burst of an acoustic guitar in the proceedings. Where on earth is this song going?

‘Kobana’ begins with a mouth-organ solo, with the same chants from Hana playing in the background, only modified to a high pitch. This song is like a reworked version of the first song, the mouth organ melody being the focus here. A freaking eerie melody at that.

‘Nigatsu’ is the strum of an acoustic guitar in a thunderstorm. More creepy voices, but a more coherent ( and soothing) guitar melody. The more I listen to the chanting voices, the more they sound like chopped syllables from a random conversation. The guitar goes away completely at the end of the song, replaced by a tanpura and a sitar. And electronic phase riffs.

‘Goo Gung Gung’ is probably the most conventional Oriental arrangement. You do realise that the word “conventional” here is relative to the rest of the album? It’s too short for my taste, as is the next track “Kutsu #2”. ( Incidentally ‘Kutsu’ comes at the end of the album. )

The longest track in the album ‘Jippun’is a frenzy of trippy electronic pitchshifting and kanjira ( Yes, Kanjira ) flourishes. At nine minutes and thirty three seconds, it’s like the bastard child of Bjork and Zakir Hussain ODed on ecstasy and came up with this track. Ditto ‘Tabla Bol (Catastrophe)’, the second last song on the album.

And unless I am losing my mind, ‘Kokoni Sachiari’ has the same sample as the beginning of ‘Beat of Passion’ in ARR’s Taal, the breathy whistle that starts BoP. It also has some sexily processed sitar sounds – sitar in an IDM track!! I didn’t think I would see the day.

I had heard ‘Tsuginegi to Ittemita’ about four years ago, and was fortunate enough to come across a complete package of all of Asa Chan and Jun Ray’s albums ( two in all, not counting an EP ). I don’t think these folks are ever going to attain mainstream popularity any time, considering the kind of music they make. ANd there’s not much information about them available online either, so I cannot even find out why so many Indian elements persist in a Japanese band. Do they play these instruments themselves or are they sampled? I am betting on the former, though.

Here’s the video of Hana,in case you are interested.

Also on the playlist:

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy – Johnny Gaddar OST
The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur
Guitar Prasanna – Be the Change


I am a little troubled by AR Rahman’s Jana Gana Mana. Not with the packaging – Times Music has released a beautiful CD+ DVD package, retailing at 399 Rs – but at the fact that the release is actually a RE-release. Everybody, including the Rahman experts seem to be ignoring that. And Rahman himself? The man who cried “foul” when Magnasound rereleased one of his private albums composed for Shubha, touting it as AR Rahman’s first English Language album, the man who went on record and split with a company that had brought out his first albums is happily floating on the publicity machine.

I bought the cassette of Jana Gana Mana in February 2000, in Sangeet Saagar, Hyderabad. Agonised over buying the CD version, which came with a free VCD ( note the technological leap we have taken in the last seven years. VCDs are gone, baby, gone. ), but unfortunately was priced at 500 Rs. Over the years, I would wait for the CD to be released without the VCD, for prices to be slashed, for some kind of sale where I could get it cheaper. But nothing of that sort happened, and I never did get around to buying it.

Will I buy it now? Don’t know really. 399 is still too high, in my opinion. The prices of DVDs are at an all-time low, with Moser-Baer cornering the market, and T-series releasing old favourites at 45 Rs. Even DVD stalwarts like Eros and Shemaroo are offering 99-Rs DVDs in a monsoon-sale offer, although their new offerings are still high-priced. I am betting prices will stabilise at around 150 Rs. Yashraj is the only company that is staying put at 300-plus prices, but who wants to buy YR DVDs anyway?

I believe there have also been a spate of Rahman “singles”. ‘One Love’, which is an ode to the Taj Mahal and features the same song in *shudder* multiple languages, and ‘Pray For Me Brother’, which has a train-wreck of a video. These must be the first ARR albums that I have consciously refused to buy.

I think the best ARR tune in recent times is that new Airtel ad, in which a kid plays in the rain and there is this bouncy melody going on in the background. It lasts for about a minute, but gets me everytime. I am not even sure it’s by ARR, but the voice and the music segue into the familiar Airtel tune and that’s why I think it’s him.

And oh, the DVD of Vishal’s The Blue Umbrella is out. Even before the movie has been released in Hyderabad. Bah!

Also, a fabulous article on 15 Years of AR Rahman.

AR Rahman, Music


Isn’t it irritating when a tune you hear reminds you of another bit of melody from some corner of your musical memory, and inspite of repeated attempts to map the older tune, its just impossible to figure out where it’s from?

This happened to me with ‘Sahana’/’Sahara’, one of the songs in Sivaji, present on the CD in two versions – one by Udit Narayan and Chinmayee ( the lady who sang ‘Tere Bina’ in Guru), and the other by Vijay Yesudas and Gopika Poornima. The opening tune was SO SO familiar when I heard it, but I distinctly remembered hearing the tune on orchestral violins, and a number of times over the last couple of days, I tried humming it to myself to figure out where exactly I had heard it. Was able to pinpoint it to the correct genre, it was definitely from a piece of Indian film music, and knowing Rahman, it was from one of his earlier compositions. That was as far as I got, until just now, the skies opened and I knew what the tune was.

It was the closing theme of Dil Se, a melancholy tune that was my ringtone for a couple of months back in 2003 or thereabouts. It creeped out quite a few people in my office, but I loved it, and even downloaded a proper mp3 version when I could. And that also explains why I didn’t figure out a Rahman tune – background soundtracks are excluded from the RAT ( Rahman Acknowledgement Time) factor. I still win!

The feeling of relief I have now is like the aural version of the experience of having removed a bit of food stuck in your teeth after dinner.


Just when the music of Sivaji: The Boss was on the verge of taking over my life, I found The Best of Apache Indian at Music World today. For those who are interested, its pretty tough to get CDs of the original No Reservations anywhere at a decent price – I had seen a copy in Landmark, Chennai for 525 INR, and some copies at secondspin.com for 3.99$. But I am off secondspin for now, so this album is the only sensible way to go. It collects the representative hits of Apache Indian, the album hits Chok There’, ‘Boom Shaka-Lak’, ‘Arranged Marriage’, the collaborations ‘No Problem’ and ‘Yeh Ladka Hai Allah’, from Asha Bhosle’s Rahul and I. And it’s only 125 INR, and I was megapissed when this went off the market about a month after it came out sometime in 2005 – just after I had made up my mind to buy a copy. So, hoo-ah!

Top Shelf comics is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a major, MAJOR sale. There is a 3$ sale for books like Jose Villarubia/Alan Moore’s The Mirror of Love ( which retails for 20$), Alex Robinson’s Tricked ( ditto), the Blankets soundtrack ( retail price 15$), all the volumes of Bughouse, which selll for 15$ each. GODDAMNIT! It’s a bad, bad time to be an obsessed collector.

And my computer at home is humped. Totally. I think the power supply’s gone bust.


Does not really deserve a title.

Junji Ito is messing with my head.

Junji Ito who? A horror creator from Japan. Known primarily for a series called Uzumaki (Spiral in English, also made into a not-so-good movie) and for Tomie. Tomie. I read scans of this series a couple of years back. Fairly gruesome story about a drop-dead beautiful girl (heh heh heh) named Tomie, who has the power to make people obsess over her, and ultimately, kill her.

Except, Tomie does not stay dead easily. She regenerates, inspite of having been hacked and slashed and dismembered and, in one mega-sicko sequence, being ground to a paste and mixed with Sake. She regenerates, and sometimes, most of the time, actually, she comes back in ways that are extremely distressing to an unsuspecting manga fan who is having his dinner. Take my word for it.

The scans I had read before were from this defunct company called Comicsone, and the translations weren’t too good. Dark Horse comics has taken to reprinting all of Junji Ito’s works in a series called Museum of Horror, and I recently bought volume 2. Excellent stuff, more so because in this volume Ito’s art seems much more polished than the early Tomie stories. Now to find volumes 1 and 3.

You can read a complete Junji Ito horror story right here.

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Gaurav got a bunch of my stuff back from the States. A Sergio Aragones Groo pin-up, a Harry Roland Vampirella painting, a Tony Harris Starman page, and a 2-page Kevin Maguire splash page from Gen-13/Fantastic Four( my first double-page splash! Woo Hoo!). The splash page had some of the most detailed inking I have ever seen, I spent a good half an hour just looking at the intricacies. Apart from the artwork, he got back the complete Hellboy collection, the first three volumes of Lady Snowblood, quite a bit of Ellis – all of which were part of Brady’s collection that I had purchased this year, most of which is still at 2fargon‘s place in the States. I finished the Hellboy volumes sometimes yesterday – started them in the airport the day before. Yes, I was travelling.

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How was the last year for me? Very trippy. Right from Jan 1st, 2006, half of which I spent in Bangalore airport, I seem to have been travelling like mad. I cannot remember more than one or two weekends in the first three months of this year when I was in Hyderabad. None of these trips were too restful, except for a Mumbai trip in April, where I spent three and a half days in invigorating company, and the last week of the year, which was my Back To Basics trip. I nearly ended up spending half of 31st December in an airport too, but I didn’t mind it one bit, nosirreebob.

In case you haven’t been following the LJ too obviously, last year was also the year of Original Art. ( 2004 was the year of The Comic Book, 2005 the year of The DVD ) Technically, I bought my first pieces on 25th December 2005, but in 2006, the acquisition of my first Quitely page broke the 200$-eBay-barrier. I slacked off sometime in the middle of the year, but then I had this life-altering conversation with a friend, sometime in September, about why he is going to collect original comicbook art, and only original art, after he graduates. There was a flash of light, in which I realised how right he was. And from then, there was no looking back.

It was also, in a slighter degree, the year of a near-complete comicbook collection. I bought out a collection from someone in the US, and effectively that has put an end to fervent searches and snipes on eBay. I am contented. For now.

A depressing year, as far as new music goes. Apart from the fact that my sister gifted me an iPod shuffle, there has not been any hallelujah-worthy moment in music for me, this year. (Yes, that’s right, I have become a jaded old fucker. Rape me, my friends. Which reminds me that I waded through Nirvana’s discography sometime back. Excellent rush of happy memories that was. ) No, hold on, let me remember some music-worthy moments from last year…

– The live Zero-7 video that Vasu showed me, that made me go and listen to all of Zero-7 for a couple of days.
– Listening to this band from Nepal called Nepathya, who do rock versions of traditional songs from around the Himalayas. Infectious!
– Rediscovering DJ Krush, who I had heard a little bit of in 2005.
– Siddharth singing ‘Appudo Ippudo’ from Bommarilu, Shreya Ghoshal on the songs of Anukakonda Oka Roju, and, most important of all, ‘Dole Dole’ from Pokiri.
– All the adgy mixes.
– Kailash Kher’s Kailasa, the live DVD as well as the CD.

Hmm, seems like there might be a mixtape in the offing after all…

The first half of the year, I took this rather drastic measure of choosing to ignore ALL blockbuster movies that are released. It was meant to be a one-year abstinence from all things corporate-Hollywood-and-Bollywood-ish, but the idea got chucked somewhere along the way. I did not watch too many movies either ways – probably the fact that Sympathy For Lady Vengeance did not impress me as much early this year has something to do with it. The ones I saw were reruns of the ones I saw before. Repeat viewings rock, don’t they?

About the rest of what went on in my life, well, all of you who know me already know about what’s going on, so do I really need to write it all down? The rest of you will have to make do, I guess.

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Right now, I have in front of me the following – Pride of Baghdad and Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, both hardcover. Genshiken volume 3 – I had bought volumes 4 and 5 yesterday on the last day of the Odyssey sale. DVDs of Pitamaghan, Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu, Anjali, and Jillanu Oru Kaadhal. A neat Hitman page, drawn by John McCrea and inked by Gary Leach, featuring the last appearance of Sixpack, that I picked up from the post office today morning. Ramesh Menon’s Mahabharata is occupying my nightly hours.

Ain’t life grand?