REVIEW: MACHINONE - Tokyo (Flau)
Unless you grew up in a major metropolitan area, the whole “lure of the big city” thing is one of the most reliable, even predictable coming-of-age narratives. In terms of rapid urbanization and the emergence of megacities, the stats seem to reflect it as well.
It’s a common cultural trope - think: the restrictive, stifling small town, village, farm, rural area or even mid-sized city and how it gives rise to the the young & aspirational who want, or hope or are driven by a need to leave the nest, break free, take the big step towards self-actualization, reinvention, escape, start a new chapter, the journey of a thousand miles begins with “I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world!” and fill-in-the-blank etc etc etc.
Example/tangent: My mom left a small Manitoba farming town called Winkler for the bright lights and vibrant buzz of —uhh, swingin’ 1960s Winnipeg.
Growing up, I saw my large pockets of my own generation join the annual mass exodus from Winnipeg to bigger, buzzier Canadian cities with more distractions and cultural amenities. Cities like Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto lured them away from their two-horse hometown and we watched, sometimes with dry “told ya, you owe me 5 bucks” glee when the boomerang effect brought some of the previous years’ escapees back and dumped ‘em in a snowbank.
My turn came when my love for the coastal landscape and my educational pursuits led me-twice- to Vancouver, a largely transient city where everyone was from somewhere else. Before I moved on for Japan, it seemed like every third Emily Carr artskool grad made the running post-graduate swan-dive toward toward Berlin. Talkin’ ‘bout my gentrifica—-er, generation.
TL/DR: Either you stay, or you go, and all of this was brought to mind while listening to Tokyo, by Machinone. According to the one-sheet:
"6 years ago, machinone (Daizo Kato) from Tohoku, moved to the west side of Tokyo, and opened a new chapter of his life. During these 6 years, he has been drawn to the fascinating surroundings of the town he stayed – a wonderful mix of modernization from the current time and nostalgic vestiges of the urban past. his debut album “Tokyo” is a collection of machinone’s delicate sketches of the town."
It’s a tidy little bit of narrative to carry with you through this collection of gentle acoustic work: instead of depicting the somewhat tired cliché of hypermodern Tokyo full of noise, bustle, neon wackiness and giant plasma screens barking Exile and AKB 48 everywhere you look Kato/Machinone seems intent on picturing the small magic found in daily ordinariness of backstreets and smaller neighbourhoods instead of the famous “must-see” districts (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku etc).
There’s a distinctly wistful sense to the proceedings: everything is self-consciously gentle and small- almost twee- but relaxed, kind of like browsing around in a zakka shop. With no grand gestures, and an atmosphere is more saudade than sad, there’s a sense of imagined nostalgia, evoking the poetics of place and location, similar in feel to the films of Naoko Ogigami (Kamome Shokudo, Megane) and Kana Matsumoto (Tokyo Oasis, Mother Water). Tracks like “Vihrea” and “Flower Stamp” perfectly capture the sound of Japan’s ura-dori: the tableau-like backstreets full of century-plus old houses and closed, abandoned or repurposed Showa-era shops and machiya.
It’s fitting that they have a cinematic, almost utilitarian feel: they could easily accompany a short film or a documentary showing us the nooks and crannies of his town, and if there’s any reflection of the big city with all its noise and bluster, then it’s coming from an interior POV, perhaps a score for a smalltown transplant swimming in the sea of concrete and people, a little lonely, a little homesick, not quite alienated and happy in the better future they left home for, all viewed from the inside out.
Source: SoundCloud / _flau