courtesy of the artist
Japanese '70s psychedelic-rock legends Flower Travellin' Band recently reunited and played SXSW this past week.
I've been going to Japan for years. My passport is filled with the stamps that Narita airport customs officers carefully placed alongside the garbled imprints left by officials in the EU. I used to leave Japan with bags full of vinyl — "bringing the soldiers home" as DJ Shadow once said. The records weren't always cheap, but they were plentiful. The country's shops seemed to stock an inexhaustible supply of esoteric treasures –- from the all-Serge Gainsbourg boutique I once stumbled upon in Shinjuku, to the little stall I found in Harajuku, overflowing with colorful 45s in an array that would make the nearby Bathing Ape store blush.
Now, the going is harder. Japanese dealers hawk their wares on eBay, ensuring that deadstock of Lou Ragland Conveyer LPs fetch a worthy 100,000 yen. While the downturn has been delayed — Tower Records still thrives in Japan — Japan's music industry is slowing like everywhere else, and the used record store has become an early victim.
That's not to say there aren't gems to find. On a recent tour of Japan with Madlib and J.Rocc I happened upon these pleasant finds. Still, there's something sad about showing up at the airport knowing I won't have to pay an overage charge due to the heavy stacks of black plastic swelling my luggage.