M.A.Z.E.

Reviews

M.A.Z.E. II LP

It’s been nearly two years since we last heard from the Japanese band M.A.Z.E., and while they are clearly the same quirky post-punk-ish outfit from that last release, this latest LP is a much more manic affair. Their last 12” was composed of sparse tracks built around rubbery bass lines and minimalist chicken scratch rhythm guitar that served as a backdrop for the vocalist’s KLEENEX-ish yelp. While Eriko still brings that same energy here, she takes a bit of a backseat to the guitar, which has become the star of the show. Most songs are built around hot, circus-y licks with a borderline synth sound that might give the LP more of a new wave-y vibe were they not played at such a frenzied pace. Overall, this LP sounds decidedly more punk than anything they’ve put out thus far. The blown-out beginning of “311” could even be mistaken for TEENGENERATE until the vocals kick in and they shift into an odd post-punk rhythm. And that’s kind of the defining trait of this unique LP—a song starts, they seemingly settle into a groove, shift into a weirder variation of that groove, shift again, then start a new song after doing that for a minute and twenty seconds. It’s great!

M.A.Z.E. / Nicfit split EP

A split 7” featuring two songs each from two representatives of Japan’s contemporary post-punk underground, NICFIT from Nagoya and M.A.Z.E. from Tokyo. NICFIT has been around since 2009, which is long enough that they still technically have a Myspace page, and while they may or may not have lifted their name from a SONIC YOUTH (cover) song, they’ve definitely picked up on some of their arty, free-noise guitar damage. It’s not full-on screwdrivers in strings, though; there’s also a pull toward the whiplash energy of Dangerhouse-era L.A. punk that was a little more apparent on some of their earlier releases (they covered SUBURBAN LAWNS on a 2014 EP), and plenty of nods to the freaked-out flailings of the more transparently No Wave-inspired Load Records bands. On the flip, M.A.Z.E. builds a ramshackle bridge between Japan and the US Midwest, bashing out wound-up, halting rhythms citing the same ’80s oddball DIY/punky new wave references that have been central to the Lumpy Records brand—a label that, not surprisingly, put out a M.A.Z.E. 12” not long after this 7” surfaced last year. Props to both bands for avoiding the always risky “uneven quality of sides” pitfall inherent to the split single format.

M.A.Z.E. M.A.Z.E. 12″

Sparse and wiry sounds from Japan that are completely liberatory and free in their simplicity, like a modern-day continuation of the coloring-outside-the-lines approach of countless girl-centered punk geniuses from KLEENEX to the NIXE to NEO BOYS—trebly minimalist guitar, rubbery bass lines, perfectly stripped-down drumming, and ecstatically joyous vocals. “Join the LCD” zig-zags into some more angular, choppy start/stop rhythms without losing its playfulness and melody, and “She Left This Town” even reminds me of bands like CHIN CHIN that existed in that transitional period between early ‘80s UK DIY and the dawn of C86, drawing equally from spiky post-punk and shambling, jangly pop. Short and sweet (six songs in under twelve minutes); highly recommended if this one escaped your radar when it appeared last year!