Noisy, Determined and Punk as Fuck | Haru Nemuri Live at Clive Bar, SXSW 2023

Noisy, Determined and Punk as Fuck | Haru Nemuri Live at Clive Bar, SXSW 2023

Matt Cruz, Media Librarian

Haru Nemuri stands as one of Japan’s most exciting emerging artists. Exploding onto the scene with 2017’s 春と修羅 (Haru to Shura), Haru and her unique blend of J-rock, noise pop, punk and hip-hop turned heads across the sea and domestically.

Her 2022 follow-up, 春火燎原 (Shunka Ryougen), was an album that was equally as satisfying, integrating a more esoteric approach with art-pop production and shifting structures while still retaining the lightning-strike energy that makes 春と修羅 (Haru to Shura) such a visceral listen.

At SXSW 2023, The Impact had the chance to see Haru perform at Clive Bar, where she put on an explosive and passionate show.

Opening with “Deconstruction,” Haru unleashed the track’s iconic vocalizations, blasting an infectious earworm, perfectly singing “Where is my mind?” She energetically jumped around the stage, completely empowering herself with her own song’s energy. 

After greeting the crowd by proudly exclaiming “What the fuck is up, Austin?” she beamed and expressed gratitude for her opportunity to perform in the USA. Immediately following this, she jumped head first into another of 春火燎原 (Shunka Ryougen)’s most catchy tracks, “Shunrai.” 

With the pummeling drums, she screamed at the crowd with its infectious chorus, “Ai ai ai ai ai,” while the entire crowd screamed back at her. She wore a white Victorian dress reminiscent of the Japanese trend of Lolita fashion. The elegance of the lace created a stark juxtaposition with the brute-force dynamism of her music, almost crowning herself as the queen of the Japanese underground. 

Souzou Suru” followed, with its disjointed violin sample providing for unbelievable energy in the pit. People were dancing all around, with the squelching bass laying an easy rhythm to latch on to. The sparse and minimalist vocals during the song’s first half allowed the instrumental to breathe and become the center of attention.

Haru decided to bring out some friends at the midpoint of her set, inviting Jaguar Jones, SiNNER Moon and Peatle. “ANGRY ANGRY,”  a song she co-wrote with Jones, was written to be a feminist anthem in response to the predation and attempted murder of a Japanese woman by a 36-year-old man. The furious inflection provided by both Haru and Jones created one of the most visceral and emotive performances of her entire showcase, reinforcing an important and essential demand for what should be seen as basic human decency. 

SiNNER Moon and Peatle hopped onto “Who The Fuck Is Burning The Forest?,” adding to the track with their auto-tuned vocals and echoing the song’s important message. The clashing textures were complimented excellently by bit-crushed snares, improving an already ascendent highlight from 火燎原 (Shunka Ryougen). Her vocal delivery approached screaming as the refrain progressed, then devolved into pure anger. 

Who the fuck is burning the forest? /

Who the fuck is burning the forest?

As the showcase began to hit its time limit, Haru had one last track for her audience: the titular “Shunka Ryougen.” This track wove together the past textures of her songs into an explosive finale. The instrumental included vocalizations, noisy guitars, screamed vocals and distant strings — all important pieces that appear across her works. The tender opening utilized her soft vocals before they progressed into cathartic screams against the same instrumental. By showcasing her very own versatility, she found a perfect way to wrap up the performance.

This brilliant showcase of pop experimentation exposed many new listeners to the sounds coming out of Japan, and if anyone can continue to challenge the Japanese pop landscape in such an exciting and inventive way, it is Haru Nemuri.