“Never judge a record by its cover.” An adage updated for the modern age.
As I came around the corner past the famous Suzunari Gekijo Theatre, made famous for being about as far off Broadway as you can get, and over the old tracks of the now-underground Odakuyu line, where we Shimokitazawans used to wait for sometimes 15 minutes at a time for all the local, semi-express, commuter, and double-decker Romance Car train to pass, and then through the once-iconic-but-now-a-bit-sterilized gate of “Ichi-Ban-Gai”, the “#1 Street”, right in front of Jet Set Records, I spotted a pair of full-sleeve tattoos that seemed to start at the next and go all the way down to the knuckles, inside of which said knuckles was being carried a record store bag.
“Oh my…” I thought to myself, “…a lesser man would judge, but I dare, and indeed implore myself, not to,” as I slowed down… “This should at least be interesting.”
“Gokky” as he introduced himself was a good 4 or 5 inches taller than my 6’ frame. The skin he wore was covered in images of ravenous gnarling creatures, thunderous and flaming deities, skulls and spiderwebs, and for the uninitiated, would no doubt fill one’s heart with a little terror, if it wasn’t for Gokky’s enormous smile, so full of warmth, or his meagerly furrowed brow, calming eyes, unthreatening posture, soft-spoken voice, and just an overall general (forgive me, Gokky) sweetness. “We’ll I’ll be damned,” I thought. “He’s a gentle giant!”
Gokky told me, really to no surprise, that he’s a drummer in various Digital Hardcore, Industrial, and Techno outfits, but as I’ve already told myself, “Don’t judge” and “Don’t assume” because just when I expected him to produce something over-the-top intensely aggressive and probably a completely inaccessible record from his record store bag, he introduced to me to, what is without a sliver of a doubt, the most delicate, tender, emotive, and ephemerally beautiful collection music that I have come across in this project yet. “Exit North” is a modern classical ensemble led by New Wave drummer Steve Jansen (of the band “Japan” fame) and the hauntingly evocative Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist, Thomas Feiner. This music is …triumphant …inspiring …transcendent …cathartic.
I couldn’t seem to find this latest 2023 release “Anyway, Still” streaming online, but I did listen to their 2019 album “Book of Romance and Dust” …on repeat for about 4 hours this morning. Really, I was floored; breathtaking songs. I kinda couldn’t believe it. And from this seeming brute. How far off were my expectations?! If I see this record out there, I am definitely picking it up. Maybe not for everyone but, my goodness, I really mean it when I say to Gokky, THANK YOU, for sharing this treasure of music, and your time and smile with me.
What a gift this project continues to be. Gratitude.
Much, much more Tokyo Record Style on the way 🙂
Exit North – Anyway, Still
Label: Not On Label (Exit North Self-released) – ENV 03, Not On Label (Exit North Self-released) – ENV 03
Format: 2 x Vinyl, 12″, Album
Released: Jul 2023
Genre: Electronic, Rock, Classical
Style: Ambient, Art Rock, Modern Classical, Neo-Classical
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