The Virgins

the virgins
The Virgins sound, to me, like the band that big record labels are looking for when they go hunting for the "Next Big Thing." The groups sounds like a funkier version of the Strokes or lo-fi Rapture meets garage. I dunno ... it's something like that, though, and boy is it right on.

The quartet hails from NYC, so they're practically made to be signed to Atlantic or something. There's something so cute and sweet about their naive, yet poignant melodies and hooks. Loose enough to pull in garage fans, melodic and sweet enough to pull in teen girls and tender hipsters, and smart enough to pull in the critics. The Virgins have hit something spectacular; a fantastic "next step" for the music of New York, and on top of it all, it's terribly accessible.

Check out their MySpace page ...
the Virgins - Rich Girls

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The Number

the number
How happy I am to have found The Number, a duo, residing in Japan, comprised of Samon Takahashi and Tsuyoshi Abe.
I finished listening to their free EP, Small EP, which is offered through the spectacular Creation Centre ... and it's really, really great.

Their sound brings to mind both the Books and Shogu Tokumaru: sparse, minimalist beeps, clicks, loops combined with an organic, folky aesthetic. It's intense, a little confusing in its Phillip Glass-esque repetitious qualities, but just really ... pleasing and exciting!

Okay ... let me listen to this three or four more times. Download the full thing yourself or else just grab a few tracks here ...
The Number - Two Boats
The Number - Dissonance
The Number - Morning Music Refills
The Number - You

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Whacked Out

conan and the mockasins
I recently came across a few totally bizarre, befuddling bands, and man do you all need to hear these guys.

Goose is a club group, but that's an understatement of how talented and creative these guys are. This is old skool funk mixed with a few parts of DFA and 90s techno saints like Orbital. It's like listening to James Brown remixes through a high-speed fan or something ... sputtering and bouncing all over the place. Get down to it over at their MySpace page.
Oh, and nicely designed art, eh? It's like Bauhaus meets Saville or something ... these guys are immersed in roots, that's for certain.

I'm continually impressed by France's musical output. From what I understand, they're experiencing some sort of punk revival there now (uh ... they never really had had it, sorry Plastic ... ), and I guess Fancy is a good case in point. They're not really punk per se -- more like 80s cock rock if anything -- but there's a similar aesthetic there. Loud, brash, almost irritatingly ignorant and dumb, but hey, I like that stuff, and the mixture makes it all the more cool. Check it out at their MySpace page.

The high point of this post is Conan & the Mockasins, a twisted-sounding lo-fi pop group from London. It's like Captain Beefheart meets the Beatles meets any K Records musicians. The mildly demented voice doesn't turn me off, the raggedy drumming keeps me interesting, and the uber-start-stop structure draws me in. A band of contradictions, to say the least, but terribly awesome. Hype them hype them! Head on over to their MySpace page as well!
Goose - Bring It On
Conan & the Mockasins - There Goes Tane
Conan & the Mockasins - Blues
Conan & the Mockasins - Naughty Holidays

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Kiiiiiii at SXSW

Man was I excited to hear that Kiiiiiii, the quirky-isn't-a-good-enough-descriptor Japanese duo, would be making the voyage across the Pacific to play SXSW next month.

I've no idea what their live show in Texas will entail, and I've even less of an idea of what the response will be to it (when I saw them in Osaka last year, the crowd seemed to be more interested in playing along with the band, indulging them almost, than taking them too seriously), but I know for certain that they'll leave a dent.

Marxy was kind enough to send me their DVD entitled Gold & SIlver, reaffirming in my mind that whoever ends up going to see the band perform will be blown away.
Kiiiiiii has an unnatural fascination with a few things as far as I can tell. Firstly, Michael Jackson, secondly, Sesame Street and all like shows/artifacts of American childhood, and thirdly, those Fisher Price rainbow-colored keyboards.

While one of the girls (either U.T. or Lakin) screams cracked-out renditions of children's songs and bangs merrily away at her keyboard, the other does a sort of hardcore spazz out on toy drums.
It's truly phenomenal to see these girls and just proves to me more that Americans acts need more gusto, more guts, and less of an urge to shoot for cool and hip. The Kiiiiiii girls achieved the latter by becoming the antithesis, and I'll never forget 'em.

So go off and buy the DVD, and while you're at it, check out some YouTube clips and their two blogs.

Enjoy it as much as I did!
Kiiiiiii - 4 Little Joeys (DJ Codomo Remix)

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New Envelopes

smoke in the desert
It's been almost a half a year since I interviewed Envelopes, but now it finally appears that their forthcoming LP, Here Comes the Wind is truly in the works.
The groups sounds a little more comfortable with their instruments, playing more complex hooks and melodies and all, but their still simple and pretty raw. Oh, and there are errors about and the whole production is pretty lo-fi and lackadaisical.
But isn't that the reason we love them so?

It looks like they'll be releasing a single soon, and you can hear two new tracks from it on their MySpace page.
Or just download a sample of the whole "Smoke In the Desert" MP3 here! Definitely not something worth missing ... can't wait to see the completed record!
Envelopes - Smoke In the Desert

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Modest Mouse, Not Sunk

modest mouse
The general sentiment, it seems, towards the new Modest Mouse album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, is that it's nothing new, a recycling of what made Modest Mouse so spectacular back in the '90s, and what led them to mainstream success with The Moon and Antarctica and Good News For People Who Love Bad News. This one is sort of like a hybrid, I guess, of the best watered down.

I disagree, man! I'm really digging the album. More than ever, it's got spectacular pacing. It climaxes, the winds up, it winds down, whatever: it's consistent throughout. Marr's added guitar lines fill out the melodies like never before, and Brock's become more comfortable with alternating between spastic, shouts and semi-sweet, melodious singing.

The band's tight, and that's a big plus in my mind, and the band seems comfortable with where they've arrived at, and that's really excellent! Yeah, it's not the old stuff, but this was the perfect step to take after the previous two LPs ...

Anyway, listen to some new stuff!
Modest Mouse - March Into the Sea
Modest Mouse - We've Got Everything

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hot! hot! hot!
I've noticed that it's rare for me to write about American bands these days! For some reason, I seem to have drifted over to England ... which I'm glad to have done, certainly, but certainly, I should be representing people here a little more, yeah!?

There seems to be this movement of well, a lot of shitty 8-bit-meets-electroclash-meets-punk or something in New York. Too many bands with cruddy singers singing about cruddy topics and just presenting themselves in a sort of boring manner, even though I guess their aesthetic implies the opposite (rashness, spontaneity, abruptness ... you get the idea).

Anyway, there are a few "gems" in there, I think, if you're willing to get a little bit of a beating to the eardrums ...
Neon Music is one such band. This stuff is really jagged and biting, but man would it be cool to dance to this stuff. Sounds to me like New Order being chopped and screwed by like, the Sex Pistols ... no, Throbbing Gristle. There's absolutely an industrial edge to this music, and I hope that's intentional, as that was one scene that never really made it into the revival circuit ... They've a MySpace, of course ...

To get an idea of the other groups I'm talking about from this especially loose "scene," head on over to ... Chicken Xpress. I really, really hope these guys got together yesterday, recorded the song at 1.30 AM, and disbanded at two once the singer broke a beer bottle on the synth dude's head. Or something. Baffling and therefore intriguing, reagrdless ...

I guess this post will have to cover some foreign ground ... I forgot to mention Hot! Hot! Hot! the other day when I was writing about Norway. This group's so totally worth it, though. It's like, really phat electro disco house or something ... I can't quite place a finger on it, but imagine Isolée and Lindstrøm and those guys listening to it and really digging it.

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Next Level, Vol. 1 No. 2

next level
Frankly, I got a little tired of looking at Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2, so I finalized it today, and now it's up for all of you to read!
The problem we were experiencing was actually a "good" one in that we're really excited to add more content, get more people contributing, etc. But hey, we'll save the "next level" of all that for the next issue ... you'll be able to easier chart the development of the magazine now.

Anyway, once again, if you'd like to contribute or help in any way, shape, or form, e-mail me.
Also as usual ... spread the word! Send this to your friends, share it, whatever ... the goal here is, as usual, to foster a community.

Thanks for reading ... until next time ...
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2 (alternative link)

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New Muck

lost penguin
Whatever you want to call it -- Nu Rave, whatever -- and whomever you want to apply the moniker to (just Klaxons and their group or others as well? ... Crystal Castles and that crew), some of the music included in the loose categorization of Nu Rave is pretty damn cool. For me, a lot of it seems like a second go 'round for dance-punk. Crystal Castles eliminated guitars, but pumped up the dance aspect of the style, Klaxons fiddled around with vocals and synth lines more, but also maintained a high level of dancy-ness.

Anyway, I recently came across some other groups that I'm at least pairing up with the likes of these Nu Ravers.

Lost Penguin is a little more electro-clashy than anything I've heard from the Nu Rave scene, but man can you groove to this stuff, and certainly, it's got the aesthetic of Nu Rave (bright neon colors, cut-and-paste graphics). Maybe I'm being delusional and making connections that don't exist ... maybe these guys are just Punk with a bit of the B-52s blended in the mix. Head off to their MySpace page. Man does that Charleigh Blue have some vocal chops.

Definitely, though, Dreamburger is the S. African equivalent of Crystal Castles. Sounds like 8-Bit dance to me, but this stuff is -- believe it or not -- more spastic, harsher, and jagged. If you're up for a bit of a beating to the eardrums, these are the guys for you.

And since I wrote so much about Crystal Castles here, how about a new CC track (found at Missing Toof)?
Crystal Castles - Black Fag
Lost Penguin - Mr. Whippy
Dreamburger - apocALypseWOW
Dreamburger - Ultimate Shame Fest

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new young pony club
There's always been a special place in my heart for singles bands like New Young Pony Club, the U.K. based second-wave-of-dance-punk group. The newest single is The Bomb, and not only is it ... uh ... bomb, but it features remixes by the Teenagers and Phones. An excellent line-up, indeed ...
Check out some additional track at their MySpace page, or just download the latest here! Enjoy.
New Young Pony Club - The Bomb

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Every Conversation

Escalator Records has this recently-created imprint called Every Conversation Records. Yeah, weird name, right? But it's a nice little label specializing in 7" releases. So far, they've done only international stuff (and I think it'll stay that way), and the two most recent releases (EVERY002 & EVERY003) have been really spectacular ...

Pacific! is a Gothenburg-based duo that plays what they loosely describe as "classic rock," but what I think has more of a likeness to like, the instrumentals of Air fused with the Beach Boys. This stuff is slow to develop, but when it gets there, you realize how densely layered and beautiful the songs are ... really cool stuff, these Pacific! dudes.

Now, this Norwegian, Ungdomskulen is the more baffling of the Every Conversation Records signees ... this trio is incredibly dense, almost to the level of like, metal. But on a closer listen, there's true depth to this stuff ... the drummer sounds like he's got a background in jazz, which makes the rhythm interesting continually, and the other guys create these melodies that have, all at once, the dance qualities of like, Datarock, and the atmospheric, kraut rock-y attributes of like, Sereena Maneesh.
Sound interesting? Well, check out their MySpace page, anyway ...
Ungdomskulen - I'm On Top

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the work
As the name of this post ought to imply, I've three new bands to tell you all about. An international flavor here ... these groups represent the U.K. and Norway (a place I rarely write about, but certainly also a place more than worth discussing and delving further into).

The Work is a Norwegian electro duo signed to the stellar Powerblytt! label. Apparently, the band's pretty close with Norway's crowning electro princess, Annie. And indeed, they've a lot in common. The Work are, if anything, more toned down and reserved, though ... subtleties a muck, these guys know how to work your quite, mellow state up into a energetic I-want-to-dance-all-night-long state.
You must listen to them ... wait for that album.

London's Young Turks recall to mind the Postcard-revival crew (i.e. Vinvent Vincent and the Villains), but with a garage-edge to them. They're not as crisp and clean as Orange Juice or Aztec Camera or anything, but absolutely just as melodic and sweet ... if anything, their humble sincerity enchants me more, and I love them for that. More material, please?

Lastly ... Some Body (man, I'm going MySpace crazy here).
I really like this group ... clearly, these guys are into the Cure (or else the vocal style is just coincidentally uncannily similar). Unlike the Cure, though, Some Body's got this level of cuteness to their stuff ... lo-fi synths, cheap keyboard lines, a light reggae beat every once in a while ...
In short, they're a tremendous amount of fun, and that's an advantage that most don't have.
Some Body - Oceana (demo)
Some Body - Send It (demo)

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Cut Copy, "Hearts On Fire"

cut copt
Just the other day I was wondering about when Cut Copy was going to release another album! It's been a few years since their debut, and while the remixes and random DJ sets have kept my interest sparked, I need some more substantial ... substance there!

Anyway, "Hearts On Fire" was just released on their MySpace page a little while ago. It sounds a bit more New Order-y (in absolutely a good way) than their previous stuff, a little more massive and layered and ... sharp, but certainly, these are the same guys.

Check it out!
Cut Copy - Hearts On Fire

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Gay Against You Interview (Part 2 of 2)

gay against you
(6) What plans do you have for the future of the band? Upcoming
releases, tours, collaborations ...

JOE: we’re touring the U.K. and hopefully Europe in June! Please see our MySpace page for details of shows and help us out with dates if you can. we’ve got a bunch of new material that is very slowly coming together right now - a collaborative DVD with the artist ghost_stories, entitled ‘bogus totem summer’ and a split tape with the awesome chico y chico, entitled “The Wimpy Pumps,” out on Undereducated Records in the U.K. and P.E.A.R.L. in the U.S., plus a fulll-length on Adaadat soon. Check them out! I want to release a new Germlin album soon also: I’ve started doing solo shows again after a long break,
which is great. We’ve done a bunch of remixes for other artists too although most haven’t seen the light of day - one for Shit Disco, one for we are the physics, one for Klaxons, one for the matchsticks....next is Digiki I think, then Bruno and Michel are smiling.

LACH: Lots to do!!! I have a Yoko, Oh No! album which has been about a year in the making which is featuring collaborative tracks with Silverlink, team brick Le Couteau Jaune and others. I have also been making clothes and have become quite addicted to sewing stuff to other stuff.

(7) How did you two meet? Lach goes by YOKO, OH NO!, and Joe goes by GERMLIN, and both of you have -- to some extent -- individually released stuff under those monikers. So tell me where that stuff stands now ... are YOKO OH NO! and GERMLIN continuing side-projects of sorts or is that all over now?

LACH: Joe and I met in school when we were 16 or something and have been in a collection of ridiculous bands (Smart Arse Tiger, the Albinos, Saigon High Chair Pirates) this one being the pinnacle as yet.

JOE: And our solo stuff is brewing under, not finished. I know I personally have a whole lot more I want to do under the Germlin name but I also have records under the name “Mightey” and “Co Ags” and more.

(8) You’re from Glasgow, a place that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention in the States. What kind of stuff’s happening up there, musically, and can you give us some recommendations, point us in a good direction?

LACH: Glasgow is a funny place, we don’t go down very well here, it’s a bit serious. There are some great acts though: Molly’s Seafoods, the Royal We, Dannananakroyd and Dolby Anol to mention a few (the ones I can think of right now).

JOE: I like Park Attack, Nuts and Seeds Nights, Christ ‘zine. Yeah, I don’t think we’re very at home musically in Glasgow but it’s probably for the best. Because everything here is so insular, you get a kind of microcosmic music scene, where bands and artists can be huge but only within the boundaries of Glasgow. Some “legendary Glasgow bands” only seem to exist in the city itself and sort of disappear once they leave.

(9) I ask this -- sometimes fruitlessly -- to most bands I interview, but it’s interesting sometimes ... what kind of musical background do you come from? Or maybe the better question to ask here is how did you get interested to begin with? Any records that changed your lives/perspectives or such?

JOE: I started learning piano at the age of about 7 I think. I’m classically trained to a fairly high standard on both piano and saxophone and I’d like to think I could bash out a tune on most instruments put in front of me, if fairly amateurishly.

LACH: I’m not from a particularly musical background I tried to learn the bagpipes when I was a kid but I was useless. When I was 12 my teacher made me a mix tape with loads of techno on it (the Grid, Orbital, Underworld Tinman etc...) before that I just listened to what my parents liked, (Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkle). When I met Joe he made me learn guitar so I could play in his band and introduced me to loads of music.

JOE: I think the thing that changed the way I saw music, rather than a record as such, was discovering that people could make music without a band, or loads of instruments or whatever. I have to thank my high school music department for letting me potter around with an old Amstrad and Cubase for days on end! Being able to make music electronically totally changed my perspective and freed up the creative process for me, massively.

(0) How do you guys makes these songs!? They’re so spastic and chaotic, it’s hard to imagine that there’s some sort of procedure involved in the creation of them.

LACH: There’s no procedure really, we bought this program from an old man. Every nite we fire it up, input the variables and set the constants, then leave it running while we sleep and when we wake up in the morning it’s produced a song! Mostly they are rubbish but occasionally it comes up with an album worthy track.

JOE: sometimes I talk to the machine in a vague and probably egotistical hope of influencing its decision but this has so far proved to be fruitless, it does exactly what it wants.

(1) I guess I'll leave it there for now. I wish you two the best of luck. You've certainly made something intriguing and compelling, in all its crazy, noizy glory. I hope it all ends up where you want it. Again, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

LACH: No sweat, what's our score?

JOE: can i just say peace to all the children and animals of the world please?
Gay Against You - Bicentennial Nuggets

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Gay Against You Interview (Part 1 of 2)

gay against you
Glasgow's Gay Against You is (I hope) the best and most important of the Hardcore/Happy Hardcore bands from the UK. The duo certainly stands for the most in terms of developing scenes on the other side of the pond, and -- in my humble opinion -- has the most artistic and creative potential behind their work. That's to say, I guess, that they don't ever end up bugging me as so many energetic/hyper hardcore groups do.
Just the way in which they responded to all of my questions in this interview reflects their style and sound ... read on for their story before they explode!

(1) Hey guys ... thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me! I definitely feel like you've a unique and creative style, so I'm glad to be able to do this interview with you before you're completely booked.

JOE: We like doing interviews over email because you can't tell we are lying because you can't tell that we look to the side or scratch or cough whenever you ask us a question.

LACH: Also we can rework our answers and are not just blurting out the first thing we think of, so it makes us seem cooler.

(2) I guess my first questions will be the simplest. I'm curious to know ... where you got the name, Gay Against You. It's bizarre, and I cannot figure out any reference, so please, explain it to us!

JOE: I love that people have come up with all kinds of apocrypha and theories as to our name - it's really great that everyone has their own take on its connotations etc. - we don't want to tell anyone they are wrong, it's completely open to interpretation! The name was a mishearing of something my girlfriend Emma said, possibly the name of a special tea. People so far have described the name as: a challenge to homophobia, a piss take of another semi-well known band name, an attempt at a silly acronym, a sort of "fuck you" to everyone else (I like that one!) and many more. Keep them coming please!

LACH: We don’t even really remember how it happened...it’s a funny name because I have always thought that the best band names are the ones that sound offensive but actually don’t mean anything and this one fits the bill almost perfectly!

(3) People have described your music with a wide array of descriptors. You're generally "unpredictable," but definitely edging on hardcore and noise, always resulting in a "big, happy mess." Additionally, there's been mention of parallels between your sound and others like Atari Teenage Riot, Les Savy Fav, and DEVO. So how would you describe your music and what would you say you're shooting for sonically with the band?

LACH: Hmmmm, it’s kind of difficult, our records are, I think, very poppy but our live performance is totally shambolic and all over the place. I like that people might see us live and be surprised by our records and vice versa. I always hate going to gigs and watching people just get up and play their songs like they would rather be anywhere else and expect me to care.

JOE: I think a lot of people get the idea from our live shows that we are untrained and untalented musicians, yet I would hope the same people would at least be able to appreciate (if not necessarily like...) the musicality of our composed work. The other criticism we seem to get regularly is that our songs have no structure. Again, this isn't true; it's just that the structure we use generally dispenses with the constant repetition involved in most pop music. We see it as sort of “condensed pop” - like all the good bits you'd expect, except all happening only once, rather than ad infinitum. This is also why our songs are so short I guess. We shoot for making records that we would enjoy and we hope others would enjoy.

(4) Since I'm not from/living in the U.K., it's always hard for me to get a realistic idea of the music community over there. I do, however, get the impression that a lot of stuff happens in clusters, phases. There are a bunch of bands that jump on some stylistic bandwagon, and then hype and such builds from there. Would you say this applies to you (if it's true at all)?

LACH: Yeah! that's true to some extent but I think that its mainly to do with the way the commercial industry over here watches for scenes that reach critical mass of popularity, then sign all the bands involved and package it as the new thing, i.e. new rave. So it kind of looks like there are lots of bands hopping on a wagon but really they probably all were doing their own separate thing at the same time. Around here the music scene is pretty incestuous with lots of bands swapping members and mostly being friends, so it is hardly surprising that they all sound similar.

Joe: I think Lachlann is right, the NME etc. have this terrible addiction to claiming they invented every new trendy type of music and to refute their claims, they cobble together a load of stuff which is in someway linked (generally image wise actually, rather than musically!!!) and then called it whatever they have come up with. I think in reality things are much more fragmented. I think we jumped on the bandwagon of "we haven't been in a band for a long time, let's form our own one, since we live together already and see what happens." When you have that as an agenda, there's not really much that can go wrong!

(5) Tell me a little bit about ADAADAT Records, the label that released your record, Muscle Milk ... what sort of relationship do you have with the label, and how did you get connected with it?

JOE: I set up a show in Glasgow for Adaadat at the end of 2004. Me and some friends used to run an overambitious and rarely successful club night and the Adaadat showcase was one of the few events we actually managed to pull off. It turned out the two guys behind the label, Bjorn Hatleskog and Angus Keith are both Scottish also. After playing that night, we became firm
friends and we've done a bunch of stuff together since. I released an album under the name “Germlin” with them also and Lach has contributed tracks as "Yoko, oh no!" all the artists involved with Adaadat are pretty great! Hello to Edmund OMMM, Dan 100,000,000, Alex Silverlink, Topgear in Singapore and Ove-chan in Osaka!

LACH: Angus is naming his first born child after me! Bjorn defends himself with loafs of bread.
Gay Against You - Dear Diary

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More Danes (AKA, Rum Rum Rum!)

Every once in a while, I think it invaluable to post about a record label, as the great ones tend to sometimes be more important as a whole than the sum of their bands.
Factory records relied on one band, really (Joy Divions), I think Modular puts too much emphasis on Wolf Mother and the Presets, I think Ed Banger values Uffie too highly ... but the cool thing about all of those labels (and more!) is that, in the end, they actually end up being ... really great! They stand for something, are major proponents for a movement of action, and that I really dig.

The Danish label, Rumraket is one such label. Man, these Danes are popping up all over the place ...
Rumraket was Grizzly Bear's first label, and, truthfully, a lot of their stuff sounds sort of like Grizzly Bear. This sort of contemplative, massive wash of sound from which melodies and rhythms slowing churn up from under. It's sort of a magical quality ... how songs so muddled and complexly layered can yield such gorgeous tunes.

This Japanese dude, Kama Aina is a standout ... so is the Icelandic Amiina ... in fact, they're all stellar.
Check it all out! Start at Rumraket's MySpace page!
Kama Aina - Hotaru
Taxi, Taxi! - To Hide This Way (MySpace Demo)
Taxi, Taxi! - Old Big Trees (MySpace Demo)

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