Shibusashirazu Orchestra

Shibusashirazu Orchestra

Wikipedia describes this week’s weird band as a “free jazz orchestra,” which is a little like saying that Fight Club was a movie about making soap. Meet the Shibusashirazu Orchestra, and let’s all appreciate, once again, how exponentially more batshit crazy the Japanese are capable of making anything, even something as already batshit crazy as free jazz.

Shibusashirazu, which apparently translates to something like, “don’t be cool,” was founded in 1988 by a guy named Daisuke Fuwa, who outside of Shibusashirazu seems like a perfectly nice, unassuming jazz bassist who makes music like this. Fuwa assembled a group of his fellow jazz musicians to perform music for an avant-garde theater troupe called Hakken no Kai, and that somehow morphed into the insanity that is the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.

Since then, the band has continued to tour all over Japan and Europe with a rotating cast of some 20 to 30 musicians and performers, the most striking of which are the near-naked butoh dancers, covered in white body paint and writhing, climbing the scaffolding and engaging in general freakery. There are also video projections, giant balloon creatures, live action painters and enough all-around sensory overload to make Cirque du Soleil look like C-SPAN.

For awhile, we were starting to think Shibusashirazu only had one song, because every single YouTube video seemed to feature the same giant horn-fueled jam session with the same 14-note refrain that sounds vaguely like the hero’s theme from some ’60s martial arts movie. But eventually we were able to figure out that they have, in fact, released eight albums’ worth of material—some of which even just sounds like conventional modern jazz. It’s almost weirder in a way to watch those eerie butoh dancers gesticulating to a nice Kenny Kirkland-style piano solo.

Oddly, two readers (thanks, Sam and Giovanni!) suggested we add Shibusashirazu to the Weird List within a week of each other—and they both forwarded the same video, which features a particularly over-the-top version of that signature 14-note jam session, taken from a 2002 festival in Fuji. So we present it here for your enjoyment. This is really one of those videos where, just when you think it can’t get any nuttier, it does. Our two favorite parts are the giant mylar balloon dragon and the Caucasian dude at the 2:12 mark shaking his head at the camera in disbelief. Oh, and the dancers dressed like a swarm of bees. And the…oh, just watch it.



Autopsy Report of Drowned Shrimp

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If there was a Weird Band Olympics, Japan would rack up medals like some monster combination of Chinese swimmers, Norwegian skiers and U.S. men’s basketball players. Every time we think we’ve found the musical pinnacle of Japanese weirdness, somebody points us to another band that makes the other ones look like Air Supply.

So with that, we give you a band from Osaka called Oboreta Ebi No Kenshi Houkokusyo, which translates to “Autopsy Report of Drowned Shrimp” or possibly “The Autopsy Report of a Drowned Shrimp” or maybe even “An Autopsy Report of Shrimp Drowning.” They’re seven(ish)-member experimental jazz/funk band who dress up in giant shrimp masks with light-up eyes and play long, droney jam sessions that sorta sound like The Residents meets Primus meets a Japanese horror movie soundtrack. Their leader, who seems to be known as Boss Shrimp, plays something called a Kydd bass, which looks like a Chapman Stick but is really just a super stripped-down upright bass mounted on a tripod. He’s like a Japanese Les Claypool with that thing, only he’s wearing a giant fucking shrimp mask.

And that’s pretty much all we know about them. There’s virtually no English about these guys on the web. We did manage to track down their official website, which is all in Japanese, and with the help of Google translator, we got this description of the band:

Shrimp head, human body. Identity … is a mystery. Multi-group leader Art [Phantom], led by shrimp drowned. Participate in a number of musicians and performers in Japan has been revamped to human shrimp. The number of members is unspecified.

From what heavy music such as music monster movie, anime cartoon comical things like run around rapidly, its means of expression are diverse techno innocent.

All members, wearing a mask – a very elaborate shrimp. Difference, protean, infinite variety and musical instruments also configure the number of members in each performance. Live, called the “Report” and has a reputation to produce three-dimensional that you take full advantage of the floor and other seats as well as stage, exclamation from celebrities from various fields, there are many voices of praise.

All clear? Good.

Fortunately, you don’t need a translator to enjoy videos of the Drowned Shrimp in action. As you’ll see from the clips below, their live show is pretty insane. If anyone knows anything else about these guys, please tell us, because they seriously might be our new favorite band. Big ups to reader Oscar for turning us on to them. You’re right, Oscar…it doesn’t get any weirder than this:


The Mutaytor


Burning Man certainly has no shortage of weird bands, but the grandaddy of all weird Burner bands has to be Mutaytor, an ever-evolving burlesque troupe/electronic jam band/glorified drum circle that’s been making the rounds for at least a decade now. Once upon a time, they were basically just one dude drumming and another dude twirling knobs on one of those little synthesizers that makes that “eeh-eeh-eeh” sound that was really popular with bands like Prodigy and Chemical Borthers back in the nineties. But at some point, it evolved (sorry, mutated) into more of a full band project, with lots of instruments besides drums played by, y’know, actual musicians. (Including—and this is probably my favorite part—the former bass player from Oingo Boingo.)

These days, a typical Mutaytor show includes burlesque dancers, acrobats, aerielists, a horn section, hula hoopers, Chinese dragons and (venue permitting) lots of fire.  Somebody give this band a residency in Vegas, already!


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