« A fragment of Japan’s ‘Ghosts’ washed up 14 years later, on Tricky’s first single, ‘Aftermath’. Here it wasn’t sampled, but cited, by Tricky’s mentor, fellow Bristolian Mark Stewart. In the background of the track’s loping-shanty rhythms, you can hear Stewart speak-sing the lines ‘just when I thought I was winning, just when I thought I could not be stopped…‘ The use of the Japan reference and the presence of Stewart – a major figure in Bristol postpunk since his time with The Pop Group in the 1970s – were already powerful clues that Tricky’s positioning as a ‘trip-hop’ artist was reductive and misleading. Too often, the label trip-hop would be applied to what was in effect a black music with the ‘blackness’ muted or excised (hip-hop without rap).  »

« On the face of it, Tricky’s ra(s)p could be heard as the British answer to hip-hop, but, on a more subterranean level, what he was also taking up and renewing were strands in postpunk and art pop. Tricky counts postpunk acts like Blondie, The Banshees, The Cure (‘the last great pop band, I think’, he says) as his precursors. It’s not as simple as opposing this lineage to the soul, funk and dub references which were so obvious in Tricky’s earliest music. Postpunk and art pop had already drawn substantially upon funk and dub. ‘I grew up in a white ghetto,’ Tricky said when I interviewed him in 2008. ‘My Dad’s Jamaican, my grandmother is white. When I was growing up, till I was about 16, everything was normal. When I moved to an ethnic ghetto, I had friends there and my friends would say, “Why do you hang out with those skinhead guys, the white guys?” and my skinhead friends were like, “Why you hanging out with those black guys?” I couldn’t get it, I couldn’t understand it. I could always go to both worlds, I could go to a reggae club and then a white club and not even notice it because my family is all different colours, different shades. So at Christmas, you got a white person, black person, African looking person, Asian looking person…we didn’t notice it, my family are colour blind. But all of a sudden things started moving around, learning bad habits, people whispering to you, like, “Why you hanging around with those white guys?” These are kids I grew up with since five years old, the guys I grew up with saying “why you hanging out with those black guys?” Then I see The Specials on TV, these white and black guys getting together.»

« When Maxinquaye was released in 1995, Tricky was immediately anointed as the voice of a mute, depoliticised generation, the wounded prophet who absorbed and transmitted a decade’s psychic pollution. The extent of this adulation can be gauged by the origin of the name Nearly God: a German journalist had asked him ‘what’s it like to be God? Well, nearly God?’ Instead of taking up his assigned role as the imp of the perverse in 90s mainstream pop, though, Tricky sidled off into the sidelines, a half-forgotten figure. »

« On Maxinquaye,’ Ian Penman wrote in his landmark March 1995 essay for The Wire magazine, ‘Tricky sounds like ghosts from another solar system’. The spectrality of Tricky’s music, the way it refused to step up or represent, the way it slurred between lucidity and inarticulacy, made for a sharp contrast with the multicoloured brashness of what Penman called ‘the Face- cover/Talkin Loud/Jazzie B nexus of groovy One World vibery’. What’s so significant about the version of multiculturalism that Tricky and Goldie proffered was its refusal of earnestness and worthiness. Theirs was not a music that petitioned for inclusion in any kind of ordinariness. Instead, it revelled in its otherworld- liness, its science-fictional glamour. Like art pop’s first pioneer, Bowie, it was about identification with the alien, where the alien stood in for the technologically new and the cognitively strange – and ultimately for forms of social relations that were as yet only faintly imaginable. Bowie was by no means the first to make this identification: loving the alien was a gesture that self-mytholo-gizing black magi – Kodwo Eshun’s ‘sonic fictional’ canon of Lee Perry, George Clinton, Sun Ra – had made long before Bowie first did it. Identifying with the alien – not so much speaking for the alien as letting the alien speak through you – was what gave 20th century popular music much of its political charge. Identification with the alien meant the possibility of an escape from identity, into other subjectivities, other worlds.
There was also identification with the android. ‘Aftermath’ includes a sample of dialogue from Blade Runner: ‘I’ll tell you about my mother’, the anti-Oedipal taunt that the replicant Leon throws at his interrogator-tormentor before killing him. ‘Is it merely coincidence that the Sylvian quote and the Blade Runner lift converge in the same song?’, Penman asks. »

« Ghosts’…Replicants? Electricity has made us all angels. Technology (from psycho-analysis to surveillance) has made us all ghosts. The replicant (‘YOUR EYES RESEMBLE MINE…‘) is a speaking void. The scary thing about ‘Aftermath’ is that it suggests that nowadays WE ALL ARE. Speaking voids, made up only of scraps and citations… contaminated by other people’s memories…adrift… »

« When I met Tricky in 2008, he referred unbidden to the line from ‘Aftermath’ that Penman picks up on here. ’My first lyric ever on a song was ‘your eyes resemble mine, you’ll see as no others can’. I never had any kids then, so what am I talking about? Who am I talking about? [My daughter] Maisie wasn’t born. My mother used to write poetry but in her time she couldn’t have done anything with that, there wasn’t any opportunity. It’s almost like she killed herself to give me the opportunity, my lyrics, I can never understand why I write as a female; I think I’ve got my Mum’s talent, I’m her vehicle. So I need a woman to sing that. »

« When I first heard Burial a decade later, I would immediately reach for Tricky’s first album Maxinquaye as a point of comparison. It wasn’t only the use of vinyl crackle, so much a signature of both Maxinquaye and Burial, that suggested the affinity. It was also the prevailing mood, the way suffocating sadness and mumbling melancholy bled into lovelorn eroticism and dreamspeech. Both records feel like emotional states transformed into landscapes, but where Burial’s music conjures urban scenes under Blade Runner perma-drizzle, Maxinquaye feels as if it is taking place in a desert as delirial and Daliesque as the initiatory space that the characters pass through in Nic Roeg’s Walkabout: the land is scorched, cracked and barren, but there are occasional bursts of verdant lushness (on the queasily erotic ‘Abbaon Fat Tracks’, for instance, we could have strayed into the ruined pastoral of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden). »

« Your eyes resemble mine…’ From the very beginning, speaking in his dead mother’s voice, a semi-benign Norman Bates, Tricky was conscious of his (dis)possession by female spectres. With his predilection for cosmetics and cross-dressing, he looked like one of the last vestiges of the glam impulse in British pop: his gender ambivalence a welcome antidote to Britpop’s lumpen laddishness. It’s clear that gender indeterminacy is no pantomime mummery for him, but something that goes right to the core of his music. Saying that Tricky ‘writes from a female point of view’ fails to capture the uncanniness of what he does, since he also induces women to sing from what seems to be a male perspective. »

« I like putting women in a male role, to have the woman play the strength and the man be the weak. I was brought up, one of my uncles was in jail for 30 years and the other for 15 years. I didn’t see my dad, I was brought up by my grandmother and my auntie so I’ve seen my grandmother fight in the street. I’ve seen my auntie and my grandmother have fistfights, I’ve seen my grandmother grab my auntie’s arm and close it in the door and break her arm fighting over meat. So I see women as tough. They fed me, they clothed me, my grandmother taught me to steal, my auntie taught me to fight, she sent me to boxing when I was 15. If men go to war, you stand in one field, I stand in another, we shoot each other, but what’s the hardest is when you are at home and you gotta listen to kids cry and you gotta feed ‘em. That’s tough, I’ve seen no men around, I’ve seen my uncle go jail for seven years, then ten years, my other uncle; my Dad never rang. Women keep it together, keep the food on the table, defend us, defend the children, like if anyone fucked with us they would be down the school. I’ve never seen men do that for me, I’ve never seen men there for me like that. All I know is women. »

« Gender doesn’t dissolve here into some bland unisex mush; instead it resolves into an unstable space in which subjectivity is continually sliding from male to female voice. It is an art of splitting which is also an art of doubling. Through the women who sing for/as him, Tricky becomes less than one, a split subject that can never be restored to wholeness. Yet their voicing of his incompleteness also makes him more than one, a double in search of a lost other half it will never recover. Either way, what Tricky unsettles – both as a vocalist and as a writer/ producer who coaxes singing from an Other – is the idea of the voice as a rock solid guarantor of presence and identity. His own weakened, recessed voice, all those croaks, mumbles and murmurs, has always suggested a presence that was barely there, something supplementary rather than centred. But the main – usually female – voice on his songs also sounds absented and abstracted. What the voices of his female singers – flat, drained, destitute of ordinary affective cadences – most resemble is the sound of a medium, a voice being spoken by something else. »

[My gawd, i’m almost quoting the whole chapter (not nearly), stopping there…]

— Fisher, Mark. « Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. »


Japan was one of the earliest countries to widely adopt phones that could access the internet. But a funny thing has happened there: sales of smartphones have taken a dive. Instead, Japanese consumers are flocking to older styles of cellphone — like the venerable flip-phone.

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, sales of what have been dubbed “gara-kei,” a catchall term for the style of simple screen-keypad cellphone popular before the iPhone, are rising for the first time in seven years. About half of people with cellphone contracts in Japan use gara-kei, which means “Galapagos phone” — a nod to how they have evolved for a peculiarly Japanese market.  The phones can have email and basic internet access, with many using the old-school flip design.

Sales of gara-kei increased 5.7 percent over 2014, with smartphone sales, by contrast, falling for a second straight year. The big question, of course, is why.


Forbes’ Jake Adelstein, a veteran Japan correspondent, thinks price is part of the story. But he also proposes two other possible explanations. First, Japan has a low birth rate and a large elderly population. Older people might be less likely to use fancy smartphone features as opposed to simple calling and texting, so as the country ages, smartphone use may decline.


According to Gartner, a leading market research firm, smartphones sales shot up worldwide in 2014. But in December 2014, the firm reported that western Europe was an exception: smartphone sales were down by 5.2 percent, and had declined for three straight quarters. That’s pretty consistent with Adelstein’s theory: if the decline in smartphone use is about aging populations and fatigue with smartphones’ most annoying features, then western Europe is the next logical place to look after Japan.


 Two is better than one

While contract renewals may have made up the bulk of the increased demand for flip phones, there’s also a segment of Japanese consumers buying flip phones as a second mobile device.

Take 41-year-old professor Antonio Formacion, for example, who recently purchased a Sharp flip phone to supplement his Samsung Galaxy 5 device.

Having two phones – one for voice and the other for data – works out much cheaper, Formacion said.

“I’m now using two phones. One flip phone from Softbank that has a monthly bill of 2,000 yen which includes unlimited calls to any phone in Japan. And the second phone a Galaxy S5 for data only for 980 yen a month. Previously I was averaging around 9,000 yen a month on my iPhone 5,“ he said.

Formacion says having two phones makes him feel more secure: “I know that important calls will reach me even though my smart phone is already dead.”


For those of you who don’t remember, once upon a time Japan was the world leader in mobile phones. Long before the iPhone, Japanese cell phones had already been surfing the net for years. Japanese telecommunications giant NTT Docomo released a mobile Internet surfing service called i-mode in 1999 that were accessed by cell phones that were way advanced beyond their time. While Japanese people were playing games, surfing the web, and even watching television on sleek flip phones, their counterparts in the United States were still making calls and punching out texts on tiny screens.


The old style Japanese phones are now referred to as ガラケイ(garakei)—a compound word from Galapagos and 携帯電話 (keitai denwa) aka mobile phone. They were dubbed Galapagos phones because of how comparable they were to life on the isolated Galapagos Islands. Like garakei in Japan, the animals and the flora on the Galapagos were unique to the island and couldn’t be found anywhere else.



// At the times I used to be envious of Japanese phones and networks (and never understood why it never arrived to Europe), that permitted them to browse a strange curious phone enabled ‘net and send/receive emails. There was this whole strange cellphone culture there. (with its novels for reading on cellphones, etc.)

Not too long ago i even tried to find a cool model of flip-phone to use here…
I would still be up for a cool flip-phone design with which i could browse the net even basically, read twitter, maybe listen to my music (although there are now cheap MP3 walkmans that can take 32 or 64gb of music on a microSD card and read every format. I bought one recently for 25€ and changed the firmware). And as for the photos, well, i don’t mind the super lower res photos sometimes, i even like the super low res photos in some way, and if i really want to take photos i have a hundred cameras at disposal.

Tokyo Cyberpunk; Kairo, Avalon





As Carl Gustav Horn has pointed out, in sharp contrast to The Matrix, which offers the “Gnostic revelation of a life revealed to be a dream, to be escaped into reality,” for Oshii “there is no difference between dreams and reality, and escape is a concept without referent; a wish that is a waste of time, for… there is no outside.” Indeed, Oshii has gone out of his way to distinguish Avalon from Hollywood films about virtual reality, such as The Matrix, which always reinstate the metaphysics of reality in the end: “Hollywood films about reality always end with a return to the real world. However, because those real worlds exist inside film, they themselves are lies. Reality is a questionable thing. I didn’t want to do a movie where the characters returned to reality. The reality we experience is an illusion inside the heart of each individual…. For me personally, Ash’s imaginary world is not really any different from what i conceive as my real world. I don’t make any clear distinction.“

— Tokyo Cyberpunk, Consensual hallucinations and the phantoms of electronic presence, “Welcome to Class Real”


When Kawashima returns to the computer lab to consult Harue further, she shows him a computer-generated model of social interaction. Harue advices Kawashima not to stare it too long, explaining that if two dots get too close to one another, they die, but if they get too far apart, they are drawn closer. Back at Kawashima’s apartment, Harue sugests that, like the computer simulation, humans may try to connect, but they do not really connect, living separately: “Each of us is living in a disconnected manner [Hitori hitori barabara ni ikiteiru].”
Later, in her apartement, Harue continues this line of conversation, offering strong social commentary on the disintegration of the Japanese familly structure, by telling Kawashima that she feels “no connection [kankei nai]” since she is always alone. The fact that we barely see any traces of familly in the entire film (the only exception being a brief scene involving Michi’s mother who scolds her for making no attempt to contact her father, despite living in the same city) underscores the lack of connection felt by the characters. In this scene, framing and composition are used to good effect to underscore the gulf that seperates Harue from Kawashima. As is the case in many of his films, Kurosawa uses doorframes and window frames to differentiate the spaces inhabited by his characters and to emphasize “the isolation of his characters, their distance from one another.” Harue continues her reflections on the death of the social by telling Kawashima that she fears one might be all alone in death, just as one is essentially alone in life. The possibility that nothing changes in death, that one is always alone, wether in life or death, Harue finds the most terrifying ideal of all. Harue Wonders if the eternal now of loneliness—this incessant isolation and sollipsism in life and death—is what it means to be a ghost. […] Harue points to all the solitary Internet users appearing like digital monads via Webcam on the array of computers monitors situated around her apartement and asks how they are different from ghosts: “Are they really alive?” she asks. She concludes that people and ghosts are the same, whether dead or alive. In her view, the plethora of aimless, isolated Internet users demonstrates that ghosts are not just a metaphor for the dead, they are also a metaphor for the loss of human connection, for the desperate attempt to make contact but the eternal impossibility of fully doing so. When Harue looks at the ghostlike, solitary individuals who appear like empty shells via Webcam on the “Would you like to see meet a ghost?“ Web site, it is clear that she also sees herself reflected on the screen.

In interviews, the director has suggested that, in addition to their lack of connection, ghosts are also distinguished by their lack of emotion: “i’ve never seen a ghost [yurei] first-hand, but i don’t believe that ghosts are full of hatred or resentement or anger. They’re commonly portrayed to be filled with emotion, but i think that ghosts are beings that lack human emotion and personality. They’re human-like, but all the emotional elements of a normal person are missing. They’re empty shells. That’s what scares me when it comes to ghosts.” In this way, Kurosawa offers of conception of “yurei” (ghosts, specters, apparitions, or phantoms) that is worlds away from the representation of ghosts as “evil spirits” purveyed in Hollywood.
Harue does not believe that ghosts are setting out to kill people  because they would simply create more ghosts. Instead she suggests that ghosts may be trying to make peple immortal “by quietly trapping them in their own loneliness.” The fact that Harue later commits suicide in the film right before Kawashima’s eyes underscores the nihilistic feelings of isolation and lack of connectin that she expresses in this scene.
The electronic circuit (kairo) is not only a metaphor in the film for the technological means by which ghosts pass into the world of the living but also an allegory for our loss of connection with one another in an increasingly technological world. However, rather than simply offering a retread of Nakata Hideo’s Ringu (1998), Kurosawa raises techno-horror to another level by underscoring its sociological subtexts, situating the narrative of Kairo in terms of a social disorder known as hikikomori (literally, a combination of “pull away” and “seclude onself”) that is plaguing contemporary Japanese society.

Those affecter by the disorder often cut off communication not only with the outside world but also with familly members, even going so far as to eat meals alone in their darkened rooms. When Harue tells Kawashima that she feels no connection to her familly and that she is “living in a disconnected manner [barabara ni iketeiru],” broken apart from others, she uses the language and expressions of a hikikomori.
And Japanese novelist Murakami Ryu, who has written a novel and numerous essays about the problem of hikikomori, agrees:

So maybe Japan’s socially withdrawn kids are a harbinger of a new way of life, one forged by the vast changes in the country has undergone in recent years. Japanese society is caught in a paradox: it is concerned with the increase of socially withdrawn kids, while at thte same time it applauds the gizmos like the new Sony PlayStation, which comes equipped with an internet terminal and a DVD player. Technology like that has made it possible to produce animated movies and graphics, as well as conduct commercial transactions, without ever stepping outside the house. It inevitably fixes people in their individual space. In this information society, none of us can be free from being somewhat socially withdrawn…. “Socially withdrawn” people find it extremely painful to communicate with the outside world, and thus they turn to the tools that bring virtual reality in their closed rooms.
Although it is too simplistic to suggest that technology alone is to blame for the current plight of the hikikomori, there is no question that the “the TV’s and computers and videogames that hikimori rely on to fill out the tedious hours” are serious enablers of their self-imposed seclusion.
Hikikomori experts have speculated that modern Japanese society has sown the seeds of its own social disorders in many ways, due to a compounding of multiple factors. First, Japanese working conditions have effectively cut off a father from inteacting with his child, thereby creating the conditions for codependency with the mother (know as amae). Second, Japanese society puts extreme pressure on young people to succeed academically and perpetuate the status quoi. Third, the recession that has plagued the Japanese economy since the 1990s has undercut the expectations of lifetime employment most commonly associated with postindustrial ideals of Japan’s status quoi. Whatever its causes, the silent epidemic of social withdrawal is wreaking havoc on the social fabric of Japanese society and creating a “lost generation” of shut-ins that will place enormous stress on Japan’s health and welfare systems in the years ahead.

— Tokyo Cyberpunk, Consensual Hallucinations and the Phantoms of Electronic Presence in Kairo and Avalon, Letting In Ghosts, Shutting Out The Sun