Shima33 – Disgraceful.
As with most releases by Shima33, Disgraceful. is abject melancholia expressed as music. This eight-track album was originally released as a semi-official addition to TKX Vault (then known as Tokyo Exchange) in November 2015; the Dream Catalogue imprint further facilitated Disgraceful. in artwork design and promotion.1 It’s a somewhat collaborative work: Shima33 credits HKE (as Hong Kong Express), the vaporwave subreddit, Nick Bertke, Alan Watts, and “The Lads” for “support [and] brainstorming”.2 No longer available through TKX Vault, Disgraceful. is currently published through Shima33’s personal Bandcamp page sans the track “Melancholy in a Bottle”.
The album’s general flow is that of ambient drone music akin to contemporaries 2047, Kamokata, and Keito Shimuguchi. More than any other Shima33 release, Disgraceful. is best viewed as a single composition of approximately one half-hour that just so happens to be split into eight tracks (seven if acquired through Shima33’s page). Each track is relatively similar in progression to those around it: long stretches of digitized keyboard washes with occasional moments of clarity when new movements are introduced within the longer tracks. Samples of canned train recordings that announce each new station give the impression of Shima33 taking a train to nowhere, as if numb from the aftermath of the emotional event described in the accompanying quote: “You never do anything, and you never should, because everything you do, you ruin.”
The main criticism with Disgraceful. is that it loses itself in the melancholy almost as much as it acknowledges it. That’s a potentially confusing statement, so let me clarify: there’s a difference between recognizing the effects of emotional pain and wallowing in them. Disgraceful. is so concerned with impressing upon the listener a feeling of emotional devastation that it rarely rises above it in a self-aware capacity or in a sense of moving forward from such devastation. It may have been Shima33’s desire to paint that singular moment of crystallized pain, but even those moments are by no means static in their experience. The emo track titles don’t help this interpretation, especially the egregious “I Realized That the People I’d Known All My Life, My Family and Friends, Were All Like Strange Little Islands”.
Disgraceful. focuses so hard on being numb,3 it ends up being torpid. Drone music can be a hard genre to avoid such an accidental consequence anyway. Unlike Shima33’s train, this album does not really go anywhere; it’s so driven to express that instant of pain, it forgets the emotional depth and need to move on that accompanies such pain.
1. Static Railway – (4:30)
2. The Last Time I Saw Her – (2:55)
3. Faceless People, Nameless Land – (6:42)
4. Melancholy in a Bottle – (9:19)
5. Churning – (4:14)
6. God, Do You Hear My Voice – (2:55)
7. The Sheer Emptiness of It All – (2:58)
8. I Realized That the People I’d Known All My Life, My Family and Friends, Were All Like Strange Little Islands. – (4:14)
1… according to Shima33’s Bandcamp page.
3♫ I can’t feel you there ♫