11/21 SOI and Sugar
Welcome back to the final night of the SOI Music Festival: SOI Rock Night. This time the floor is packed with both the common and the famous. In fact, Sean Lennon is close enough for me to take a good snapshot with my camera-phone and when I go to the back of the club to get some air I see Yuka Honda arrive wearing a dangly antenna headband.
It is so packed that Cornelius (wearing the same hat, scarf, and black outfit that I saw him in at the animation night...and the Merzbow concert last March...and the televised Ryuichi Sakamoto performance. Perhaps he only has one pair of clothes?) must physically push past me to get to the cool kids spot on the other side of the venue. I get my revenge, however, when I
So, from the beginning, the first band was:
Bear-garden: Bear-garden is the sort of ambient rock music I would have running in the background while I write a site update (currently IBOPA). I had neither heard nor heard of them before and rumor has it that this was their first live performance. I wouldn’t call them boring but I think generic is a good word to describe them. In fact, that’s about the only description I can think of... They didn’t move much during the performance so there’s not a lot to write about there either. About mid-way through their set I left to buy a drink. I guess you could call them drink-buying music. Nice name though.
Following them is:
Death of a Salesman: DoaS is an up-and-coming rock group out of Bangkok. Artist-come-Beethoven caricature Wisut Ponnimit from SOI Visual Night used to be their drummer until he moved to Japan but that didn’t seem to affect them that much. They defied my attempts to categorize them during the performance; I would be just about to call them the Cure when they would break out a Pixies-esque textured guitar line or just rock it up like it was 1973.
Regardless of whom they sound like, they performed splendidly. The joy of a rock band is that there’s always a ton of people on stage to entertain the eye and DoaS illustrated this marvelously. Sure the guitarist could have been a little more active but the singer made up for it by being boisterous and silly and getting the audience to dance around for the first time that night. And when the music swells and the band is into it, great things happen (are you hearing me Spank Happy?). Next up is:
The Photo Sticker Machine: If you’ve seen the movie “Last Life in the Universe” (and really, if you haven’t why not?) you’ve heard Photo Sticker Machine; I can’t confirm this anywhere but I’m pretty sure they performed the dreamy bossa nova song playing over the closing credits. However, I must be remembering the concert completely wrong now because I remember them playing demure rock. Their female lead singer had quite a voice and the music wasn’t half bad but I have to admit that at that point in the show I wanted a little more pep. This sounds suspect as well but for some reason I remember them breaking out the electric guitars about halfway through the set and playing a little more riff-heavy rock. The reason I remember this is because I do remember thinking about Evanescence towards the end. Sometimes, at the end of a chorus I would rap along “I can’t wake up!”
After Photo Sticker Machine concluded there was a brief, three-song set by Pod, the Takenaka Naoto-like lead singer of Thailand’s Modern Dog. Supporting him was a super-group of Shibuya-kei talent: Yumiko Ono from Buffalo Daughter and Yuka Honda and Sean Lennon formerly of Cibo Matto (who are currently working with Modern Dog on their latests album). I was, however, too awed at this line up and could not collect myself enough by the end of the three songs to form an opinion of the set. Guess I’ll have to get the new Modern Dog album.
Closing off the night was:
Buffalo Daughter: Just as soy sauce and sugar are crucial elements to Japanese cuisine, so Sugar Yoshinoya and the rest of Buffalo Daughter turn out to be essential to the Soi Music Festival. After their intriguingly bizarre, intimate and all too brief concert at Milk and massive, distant performance at Shibuya’s AX, the Soi performance is both my third and favorite BD concert.
At the end Sugar, in what I’m pretty sure is a bird costume, eggs the audience on, asking them, in English, if they want to rock, while she plays with a plastic bird. The audience willingly indulges her with an enthusiastic ”yes”...but is denied! for the time being by Sugar who toys with them further, confirming “are you sure you want to rock?” with the frequency of a Windows program. Eventually Buffalo Daughter obliges the audience, launching into “Li303ve,” rocking the dance floor and bringing a close to the third and final day of the Soi Music Festival.
Congratulations and otsukares go to Jiro Endo and Kazuhiro Kimura for throwing the festival. I hear they lost money on the tickets so next year make sure to see the show. Besides, I’d rather see more great concerts like these than be able to make the horrible “Soi un perdedor” pun.
11/14 SOI Gets Saucy
Szkandelous Dan here to bring you part two of my three part series on the SOI Music Festival. This time around we join the festival at its new venue, Aoyama’s Cay for the second evening, SOI Electro Night. Despite the larger theater the crowd is thicker than at SuperDeluxe. Now, despite the density of the audience, the number of famous people has dropped drastically and the likes of Cornelius (and his back) are nowhere to be found. However, this proves to be a mistake because this is by far the best night of the series. I, myself, show up at the very end of the first band, Stylish Nonsense’s set so I will start the review from the second band who is...
Cliquetpar: A Thai electronic artist distributed in Japan over Nobukazu Takemura’s Childisc label. After previewing a couple of his tracks last year I stashed him squarely in the Aphex Twin set of buzzing snare rushes over otherwise light music. Tonight he destroys this label with massive, danceable beats, and twinkling, lingering synth arpeggios. He plays a brand of matured electronic music that embraces both the intelligent, glitchy art eletronica and it’s mass produced, for-the-love-of-the-rave techno antithesis. For their power to make dancing feel less like an act of dumb sexual reproduction I see artists like Cliquetpar and Japan’s Hifana paving the way to the future of electronic music.
Which is to say nothing of the stage show, which is superb. Cliquetpar’s sole member Ban thrashes away behind a computer towards the right of the stage. On the other side of the stage Childisc vixen Suzueri slinkily sings while Toshiaki Sudoh from Melt Banana plays live drums in the back. Ban’s convulsions (the movements remind me that Ban wants to start a heavy metal band) are tempered by Eri’s glides, meanwhile Sudoh churns away to (impressively) keep up with the rapid beat. The crowd dances along feverishly, and somehow all of Tokyo is in balance. Cliquetpar is followed by...
Futon: If Cliquetpar is the future of electronic music, Futon is the raunchy cyberpunk cacophony of the future circa 1982. This unfortunately puts them one rung up the musical respect ladder from bands like Romanporsche though they overcome this with their charismatic live performances. The first lightning-like notes of their starter song “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog ” (an electro-pop cover of Iggy Pop) suck the audience up to the stage. Futon, like Cliquetpar, has seen the benefits of time. The irritating mix on the album version of “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog ” has been smoothed out and their expanded set list has allowed them to abandon silly tracks like “Fuck Machine ” (or, “Fax Machine” when I can’t get it out of my head).
Live they rock. I mean flat out rock. The beat drives fast and harsh like a drunken high school student, like a rejected pace-maker hooked up to the body of new wave. Gene Futon wears a dress with bleach blond hair and croons like he’s actually becoming Annie Lennox. Momo Futon joins him front and center to add bass to the vocal track and completely seduce the audience with her drunken soccer mom wail. Towards stage right is Bee Futon who breaks from playing coolly on the synths to lend his strung-out chipmunk voice to “Bangkok Chemist ” and “U Mean Nothing 2 Me. ” Finally Dave Futon on stage left channels David Bowie and gets Momus while bouncing around like a retard with a fake guitar.
I joke, but am completely taken in by their performance. Their combination of gritty retro-future post-city chic and amoral electro-pop fills up the audience, expands them to bursting and leaves them a hollowed out shell when they leave. Their final number “Tokyo Sunset” lifts everyone up to the stratosphere; then detonates to bring oft-foretold cyberpunk destruction to the residents of Tokyo. Gary Numan turns in his grave-like bed and never before have I wanted a blue mohawk and boombox so bad. “Sorry about me being so hardcore,” indeed.
Spank Happy: Futon leaves the stage for the final act of the evening, a Japanese dance-pop duo led by Japanese underground wiz Naruyoshi Kikuchi. Spank Happy, however, does not learn from the strengths of Futon, and for their distinguished work in singing apathetically to a background track played directly off of a CD I present them with the evenings first and only Romanporsche award.
Which is not to say they were bad. After the double strength sonic attack of Cliquetpar and Futon, likely the best thing for the crowd was an unobtrusive stage show and basic dance music. But, as live performances go Spank Happy left me wanting. Towards the left, on an otherwise dead stage the female singer releases her vocals completely tense and unmoving. Meanwhile, Mr. Kikuchi, with his jacket unbuttoned and collar undone, oozes the aura of late night while perpetually starting to dance, lending his vocals when needed or stopping the CD at the end of the song. I made this animated GIF:
Put on some techno and that’s about what the performance was like. Without sound or context I would have thought they were a couple breaking up.
So the second evening ends with the crowd dancing, the bass thumping and the Futon level at critical. Stay tuned for the final installment, evening three: SOI Rock Night. And remember, “Fax machine, she’s got a low ping.”
11/5 Earth Shaking Rock
Braving the shaking earth and static trains, this week I went to Tokyo for the SOI Music Festival! I can only think music right now so talk of anime and massive earthquakes beneath my house will have to wait until next time.
The festival was three nights of Japanese-Thai collaboration in both visual media and music. I’ll break it down day-by-day with commentary though I will not be reinstating the Futon rating from my somehow notorious New Years concert review as Futon appeared at the festival. Also, since this is turning into quite a long review and I need to balance a bunch of other things at work, I’m going to post reviews of each day separately, as soon as I complete them.
Evening 1 -SOI Visual Night: The small room at SuperDeluxe was packed with people, a surprising number of which were some combination of famous and/or friends of festival planners Endo-san and Kimura. I was chatting with Ban from Thai electronic band Cliquetpar when my friend Kei pointed out Banana Yoshimoto sitting on the floor towards the center of the room. I move to gesture in the direction I think she is pointing but Yumiko Ono from Buffalo Daughter and Cornelius move right in front of me, obscuring my view (I say this as though I wasn’t frantically emailing my friends to tell them that I was standing right next to Cornelius!). I wonder if perhaps Ms. Ono is paying me back for blinding her at the UA/BD show at Milk a couple of years ago. However, I got my revenge later when I cut in front of them to assist Kei with video camera duty, causing Cornelius and Ono-san to change places.
Banana Yoshimoto is there to see the first act, Wisut Ponnimit, a comic artist from Thailand who will be designing the cover of her next book. The last time I saw Wisut he stood in front of a crowd of maybe 200 people and drew every single person on a gigantic sheet of paper while a band by the name of the Tennis Courts wobbled along in the background. This time it’s just Wisut, his animation, and a piano. While his animation dashes across the room Wisut bangs out melodies sweet and violent on the piano like a Bugs Bunny cartoon caricature of Beethoven. By the end the crowd is floored with admiration. No one stirs except for Ms. Yoshimoto who must now dash off to some unknown authorial duty.
Next comes Konkrit, a major fashion photographer in Thailand. Tonight he plays a number of photographic slides to the sounds of Tul and Pam playing surreptitiously crouched in front of the piano. The photos are of shapes, lines: the naked human body but photographed so close that you can’t associate the forms with the shape of humanity. The music is soft and melancholic guitar riffs matched in tone to the blacks and beiges of the photos. While the presentation is entertaining, I feel as though I’ve heard the idea before.
After Konkrit comes Wit Pimkanchanapong, said to be the top graphic designer in Thailand and occasional advertising artist for the likes of Honda Motors. I’ve been looking to his performance since seeing the flyer he designed for the Soi Music Festival. However, I get distracted by the live accompaniment of New York-resident Japanese electronic artist Hanumand who (or possibly Wit himself) is playing a bell live, seemingly in conjunction to the movement of the images, over an otherwise electronic score.
Soon Thai words dance through his hypnotizing graphics to the frenetic electronic music. The images move too fast to contemplate; instead each bounces off your head leaving a small divot that will grow into a gaping hole by the end of the show. I wonder if I have been brainwashed.
The night closes with the Saliva Bastards, a rock band from Thailand. The play a simple 60’s-era California garage rock that has the audience bouncing. I think to myself that they sound like Urge Overkill (but every new indie band wants to be Urge Overkill) with Weezer harmonies. Then I think about how much the members of Urge Overkill bear a strange physical resemblance to the members of Hanson. Then the guy next to me says that the great thing about Saliva Bastards is that they are simple, never thinking too much like a Japanese band would. So then I stop thinking and bounce along with the crowd until the end of the show.
Stay tuned in for next time when I cover the Soi Muisic Festival, Night 2 -SOI Electro Night featuring Cliquetpar, Futon, and Spank Happy!
All works this site copyright D. Szkoropad, 2001-2003 unless stated otherwise. This means don’t steal it or I’ll tell your mother on you. Domo-kun copyright NHK.