Punk Records - Gauze

For those unaware of Japanese hardcore, Gauze is one of the most blunt and bitchin' bands you could hope to find.

22 February 2012, 4:30pm

A few installments ago, I wrote about Japanese hardcore legends Judgement. Gauze is a much longer-running and (relatively) more prolific group, with their first compilation tracks appearing in 1982. They’ve released five albums through 2007, though it should be noted that these "albums" never run more than twenty minutes in length.

When I was first getting into hardcore, Gauze was the only Japanese band that anyone knew about. Hilariously, almost every Japanese record reviewed in Maximum Rocknroll would be compared to Gauze, however crazily dissimilar they sounded.

In fact, Gauze is a terrible frame of reference, because they don’t really sound like anyone else. The only comparable group is maybe Infest, not so much because they sound identical, but the frantic pacing and outlandish vocals share a "sensibility," as they say. Almost all other fast, decidedly unmelodic hardcore runs together, but these two bands are crisp without being over-technical, catchy without sacrificing speed, and aggressively raging without any trace of metal attitude.

Gauze isn’t an ideal "gateway" band into Japanese punk. One could trace the various members and side-projects of Death Side, in much the same way that a jazz novice can move outward from Miles Davis' sidemen—but Gauze’s is a closed universe. Their influences are obscure to me, even now, and their aesthetic, while baffling, is less over-the-top than, say, G.I.S.M.'s., who once threw an x-ray of a blowjob on an album cover.

Gauze was well known for reasons that made a lot of sense before the internet. Not because they were accessible, musically, but because they had a record on an American label, Prank Records. In 1996, Gauze "toured" the US, playing a handful of shows in far-apart cities, and recorded a six-song EP while on our beauteous shores.

Even in Japan, where their live sets are essentially "workshops" for new material, Gauze plays rarely. For their 25th anniversary show, they recreated each album meticulously, switching to antiquated instruments and equipment in order to perfectly recreate a sound. This is cutesy when the Cure does it, but strangely moving when Gauze (only slightly younger than the Cure) blast through 50 songs in a single night.

Gauze's idea of hardcore is not sophisticated. It is a blunt instrument. There are no guitar solos, no frills: simply high-speed, tuneless ranting. Unlike much Japanese hardcore, it is not "big." Gauze blows you away, not with 200 Marshall stacks and a fuck ton of dry ice, but through expertly honed riffs and pneumatic precision. The simple goal appears not to be so much to entertain the audience as to outlast and overload them. In the great tradition of punk's antagonism towards its audience, this may be the most subtle and cruel approach of all.


Previously - Italian Shotgun Massacre