Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Soundtrack for a bicycle ride

An acquaintance of mine invited me to see her band play at the Kyoto nightclub Metro.  I was here last autumn and was fairly blown away by the band I saw, so I had high hopes.

Her band, ni-hao (ニーハオ), is a crazy, all-girl experimental punk band.  I haven't seen such energy and chaos on stage since...uh, high school?  Four girls, including two drummer/singers in shorts and color-coded soccer socks making an unholy and cheerful racket.  They've got their own sound which does not really invite comparisons.  They call it "cheer punk" which seems a good description because it is not unlike the chanting you hear on a football terrace, albeit way more explosive, or even the call-and-response patterns found in jazz and other African-American music.

Ni-hao was followed by a band on the other side of the musical spectrum.  If ni-hao were a thunder storm filling Metros small stage with their brash, avant-garde punk, the electro duo, Emerald Four were a soft, spring shower.  Strange, but cool to have two totally different bands on the same bill.

I was skeptical when I saw the MacBook come out on a little table.  I got ready to leave.  A simple tonal melody over spartan beats floated out of the computer.  Then the singer, a cute girl with a Jean Seberg crop, began singing.  Her breathy, far-away voice sounded like it was coming down through the mist in the nearby Higashiyama mountains.  There was a wonderful melancholia to their music that drifted out of the club speakers.  It seemed to me somehow quintessentially Japanese, almost a musical expression of some Buddhist concept.  Of course I had no idea what the lovely elfin singer was singing about as she wandered around the stage as if slightly lost.  But the dreamy, ethereal sound made me think of that most Japanese concept - wabi sabi.  Emerald Four makes bright, cinematic music for riding a bicycle along the river on a sunny afternoon.

Emerald Four "Love Labyrinth"

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