Japanese New Music Festival

at Summerhall

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A bizarre evening of unpredictable and fascinating Japanese music

Image of Japanese New Music Festival

Sometimes it can be a rewarding experience to go to a gig with no idea what is about to happen. The Japanese New Music Festival is billed as an event from three musicians performing the music of eight different bands over the course of the evening (not exactly your typical set up for a music festival). The three musicians in question are Tatsuya Yoshida (from the band Ruins), Atsushi Tsuyama and Makoto Kawabata (both from psychedelic rockers Acid Mothers Temple). Soon after the doors open, the trio take to the stage and the audience brace themselves for something completely different.

All three members signal the start of the show with the announcement: “Welcome to the Japanese New Music Festival,” jumping straight into Project 1 –  Acid Mothers Temple SWR. This section of the concert is a psychedelic, jazz-inspired jam session. It’s a loud, brash, energetic and pulsating opening to the festival of Japanese music. As the gig continues, there are definite signs that this is not a typical rock concert or festival. Early on, the trio pause during a song, fall to the ground and then continue playing the song as they rise to their feet. This strange sense of humour carries on through the set until it reaches an apex, at which point the audience witness a composition that involves the band attaching a microphone to the fly of their trousers. The musicians then continue to pull the zip up and down to form a unique musical accompaniment to what is fundamentally comprised of two Japanese men jumping up and down on stage with massive smiles on their faces. The use of atypical objects to present their music continues with the introduction of scissors, an egg slicer and a digital camera. This section has more in common with performance and Fluxus art and is both imaginative and very, very bizarre.

The Ruins Alone section allows drummer Tatsuya Yoshida to shine, reminding the audience that the show is not just about creating erratic performance art, but showcasing the best of new Japanese music. Yoshida plays along to electronically looped sounds to create powerful, brash and heavy beats that showcase a raw and exceptional talent.

The major problem with the format of the Japanese New Music Festival is that there is no real flow to the set. We jump from jazz, to folk, to performing songs on egg slicers, to a cover of Smoke on The Water in the style of Captain Beefheart, which then blends into the style of Bob Dylan. On the flip side, the show is thoroughly unpredictable, very difficult to categorise and a totally unique experience. The other musical projects the trio present are Akaten, Zoffy, Zubi Zuva X, Psyche Bugyo, Atsushi Tsuyama Solo and Makoto Kawabata Solo; each one of them different, distinctive, original and unpredictably entertaining.