I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Aprils -- ASTRO

Well, when I first saw the unveiling of the Tamotsu Shimada(シマダタモツ)-designed official logo for Expo 2025 in Osaka the other day, I just had to unleash a few snarks. My first thoughts were that: 1) it was a failed cruller, 2) someone had a bright idea of remaking "The Human Centipede" into a moe anime, and 3) it was another failed medical experiment from "Made in Abyss".

From Wikipedia

However, I didn't spit out a "BLEAUGH!" here. Instead, I remarked "Ah, naruhodo!" because I remember that the 1970 Expo in the same Japanese metropolis had quite a few bizarre but interesting art works such as The Tower of the Sun by the late avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto(岡本太郎).

From French Wikipedia

Also, the logo from Expo '70 was the above picture so I can speculate that Shimada must have wanted to combine the bizarre and the similar to create this new logo called Inochi no Kagayaki-kun(いのちの輝きくん...The Bright Light of Life) for the 2025 version. Pop culture has apparently gone nuts with it and you can even take a look at some of the nuttiness at "Know Your Meme".

Now, Expo '70 is just one of the examples in my head when I think of what I probably had thought as a kid growing up in the 1970s when it came to the future. If I apply this to television shows and movies, I will come up with "Rollerball", "Logan's Run" and "Space: 1999". So, there is all that sleek white plastic everywhere and silent running automobiles (read what I just did there?) and boxy computer terminals.

That is what Japanese indies Futurepop group The Aprils(エイプリルズ)were going for when they were created early in the 2000s. According to their J-Wiki article, the band led by vocalist/guitarist Kentaro Imai(イマイ ケンタロウ)rushed for that aesthetic surrounding 1970s global expositions and retro-future sensations. I first mentioned The Aprils when I wrote up the article for fellow Futurepop group SUPERCAR's "Yumegiwa Last Boy" a week ago.

The genesis for The Aprils occurred as a music club, E.L.L.,  at Tsukuba University (whose city was also a site for an Expo in 1985) in the late 1990s. Going into the 2000s, Imai was the only vocalist but then in 2002, he participated in a compilation album "Usagi Chance Superstar!vol.0001"(ウサギチャンスーパースター!vol.0001...Rabbit Chance Superstar!)in which he did a cover version of Taeko Ohnuki's (大貫妙子)"Metropolitan Museum"(メトロポリタン美術館)which brought in co-vocalist Miho Iguchi(イグチ ミホ)who also mans the bass and synthesizer. There have been some lineup changes over the years but currently, Imai and Iguchi are joined by drummer Yuuki Shotokuji(ショトクジ ユウキ)and video guy Norihisa Nakama(ナカマ ノリヒサ)along with a few support members.

"ASTRO" is the title track from The Aprils' debut album from June 2003. Written and composed by Imai, the all-English song about sweet and silent seas, snow, sky and stars melodically conjures up memories of American band DEVO. Overall, "ASTRO" feels like the future is beckoning us to come on over and join it in a world-encompassing atmosphere of hope and glory (HAL9000 would be proud). The official music video also tries to bring in that 1970s retro-future feeling with the white grid room, the PET computer and what looks like the "Space Invaders" monsters.

Up to now according to their discography, The Aprils have released four singles and seven original albums including their 2017 "ASTRO + Early Works" which has the tracks from the original album plus some extras.

P.S. Ahhh...speaking of Expo '70, you can take a gander at the kayo that has represented that world's fair, "Sekai no Kuni Kara Konnichiwa" (世界の国からこんにちは)by the late great Haruo Minami(三波春夫).

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