After one-and-a-half months in this city, I still hadn’t seen anything particularly impressive. It seemed as though everywhere I turned, I was assaulted (in more ways than are proper to repeat) by a lot of electro-trash. Or electro-pop. Or electro-punk. The number of suffixes was truly horrifying in its implication. Surely there had to be something else… the entire city couldn’t REALLY survive on this nonsense, could it?
Just as it looked like all hope was lost in a deafening whirl of tuneless singing and cheap keyboards, I saw that the 3rd Japanese New Music Festival was about to manifest itself in the tiny Ausland. Finally! Here was some evidence that this city wasn’t just subsisting on an IV drip of mediocrity.
I stepped into Ausland with just enough time to settle myself against the wall. The club was soon packed, marking this particular evening as something of a rarity — being punctual actually paid off.
With much in the way of cheering, Zuvi Zuva X took the stage. This was the first of five projects, all of which were performed by the same three people in different combinations. By no means a serious act, Zuvi Zuva X was still entertaining, and certainly demonstrated some technical skill. The three performed a capella songs with meaningless lyrics, all of which demonstrated the formidable vocal capabilities of that evening’s Holy Trinity: Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), Makoto Kawabata (Acid Mothers Temple) and, in particular, Atsushi Tsuyama (Omoide Hatoba), whose throat singing was a definite, guttural highlight.
Kawabata then left the stage, and Akaten (‘comic everyday’) played around with wine and contact microphones. The latter were mounted on a plastic vegetable grater, a toothbrush, scissors, and the zippers on some fanny packs (we’ll let the Australians laugh at that last one). Thanks to electronic manipulation, this became a surprisingly loud — even aggressive — abuse of everyday objects. They did what they promised, and it was fun, but I wanted something more substantial. I was really waiting for…
Ruins. Or at least, a Ruin. Yoshida was all alone this time (the bassist, Sasaki, was injured). This didn’t seem to deter Yoshida though, who simply pounded away alongside prepared bass tracks. He was impressive — truly impressive. It’s a rare pleasure to see someone actually ‘attack’ the music he or she is playing, and Yoshida unleashed an incredible assault. It was deafening; a gigantic percussive roar. He succeeded in drowning out his own vocals, despite the fact that the drums were not (at least not visibly) miked. If Sasaki had been there, what could have happened…?
Yoshida took a much-deserved break for Zoffy, while Kawabata and Tsuyama strapped on a pair of guitars. First came a brilliant short instrumental piece, and then ‘a very famous song’. What followed was a wet and glistening mutilation of ‘Smoke on the Water’ that was far better than the original song deserved. Tsuyama sang it the way it should be sung — without the verses (mostly), and as aggressive as everyone knows they really want it to be. Zoffy was pleased… the audience was pleased… and so it was time for Acid Mothers Temple (mode HHH).
For the fifth time that evening, the audience were given a warm ‘welcome to Japanese New Music Festival’. Once again, all three were on stage. Away they went, ripping holes in eardrums and who knows what else. The three took off in a series of miniscule explosions. Real psychedelia. Being anywhere near Kawabata became dangerous, as he, clearly now the dominant party, sent his entire body into the rhythms. Guitar describing huge circles in the air, microphone colliding with the wall… then the floor… then his boot. Tsuyama sang (well, he at least opened his mouth), but it was largely lost in the inferno. Yoshida slammed furiously away, but much of his sound was lost as well, save for the odd crack of his snare drum and copper splash of his cymbals. There they were, pulsing, pulsing, tearing, and oh… but then, it stopped. Just like that. The demand for an encore was thankfully met (who knows what the crowd would have done with all that unresolved tension?), and again they threw themselves at their instruments. It was wonderful, but unfortunately short. It didn’t feel as much like the main course as it could have, but I suppose we had to be reasonable — they did have to be on the road again, after all.
P.S. For those of you who missed out this time, it would likely be worth your while to take in Yoshida’s duo with Satoko Fujii (November 9th, Quasimodo) as a part of JazzFest Berlin 2003.