Part of my ongoing battle with finding new music I like is that too many of the popular artists today are… normal. Social media has narrowed the distance between listeners and artists, and it’s also exposed that many musicians aren’t mysterious, eccentric geniuses, but are actually fairly well-adjusted people who have a passion for music and a strong work ethic. This has been good for people who like music that speaks strongly to their real-life situation, but for me music has always been a means of escape from my sometimes painfully boring life. This might be why I tend to gravitate towards artists that are very different from myself — women, crazy sonic geniuses, aggressive punk rockers, etc.
My craving for this kind of weird escapist music eventually took me away from the US entirely, all the way to Japan, which for years now has been known for a thriving noise-rock scene. My favorite band from there so far is Afrirampo, a duo comprised of Oni on guitar/vocals and Pikachu on drums/vocals. They play a style of rock music that simply doesn’t exist in America, a combination of gleeful Slits-like punk, Sonic Youth noise, poppy intertwining vocal melodies, occasionally nonsense lyrics, and garage rock riffing. They also incorporated some African influences after the two went to Cameroon and lived with pygmy tribes in 2004. Frequently, all of their varied influences were present in a single song, some of which spread over several maniacal minutes.
Afrirampo appeals a lot to me because they’re just so out there compared to the kind of artists you’re likely to be exposed to in the United States, even if you’re a fairly adventurous listener. Nobody sounds like them, or could really even aspire to sound much like them. And while a lot of new music today strikes me as drab, Afrirampo’s music is incredibly exciting and fun. They play with such exuberance that it’s contagious, and it’s hard not to be in a good mood listening to them. A lot of people will surely find their roller-coaster style unlistenable, but nobody can ever call them boring (which I think is the worst thing music can be).
Afrirampo were initially known for their aggressive noise-making tendencies when playing live, but on their albums they display a wider range of sounds, with some quieter ethereal moments and psychedelic passages to go along with the bursts of noise and adrenaline. All of their varied styles coalesced on what I consider to be their magnum opus, the 2010 double album We Are Uchu No Ko, which was released just a month before the band chose to break up. In its 80 minutes, the album seems to have every element of rock music imaginable. It has three songs that stretch over the ten minute mark, and most of disc two is one long piece that is split into five different parts. It’s psychedelic, crazy, and fun, and a perfect introduction to Afrirampo’s unique style.
Most of Afrirampo’s music isn’t available on Spotify or other free sites, but it’s worth seeking out if you enjoy music that is a bit weird. I’ve linked one of my favorite songs by them below.