In the early 90s, Frenchmen Michel
Sanchez and Eric Mouquet wrote the book on ethno-tribal electronica.
Their innovative fusion of African Pygmy voices with state-of-the-art
rhythms on the smash hit Sweet Lullaby remains
one of electronicas defining tracks.
Ten years on, at a time when the genre has been beaten to
death, it may be critically uncool to hype their upcoming
show. But despite the explosion of like-minded acts and the
fact that their musical experimentation is now firmly ensconced
in electronica, Deep Forest have shown a determination to
continue innovating, and that means that this weeks
dates at the Shibuya Kokaido are likely to be rewarding.
|Young shimauta vocalist
Chitose Hajime joins Deep Forest at the Shibuya Kokaido
Another reason to look forward to them is that the shows
will also feature an appearance by one of Japans most
talked-about singers of 2002, traditional Okinawan-style vocalist
Chitose Hajime, who made her international debut on Deep Forests
recent album, Music Detected (Epic).
While hewing to the basic formula of ethnic vocals
matched to soaring synth lines and dance-friendly beats, Music
Detected marked a change in direction for the French duo.
The major innovation was the use of live drums and guitars,
giving the album more backbone than much of Deep Forests
previous work. As electronic producers have reached the limits
of what samplers and sequencers can do, many are, like Deep
Forest, increasingly returning to live recording.
I use less and less MIDI, Mouquet said in a recent
online interview, referring to the Musical Instrument Digital
Interface that has been the backbone of electronica producers
systems for the last two decades. I [now] make a lot
of sound recordings...This technique is really different,
and I think is an evolution from what we did on Deep Forest
With vibrant electronica and world music scenes, Japan has
always been a hotbed of support for Deep Forest. Meanwhile,
throughout the 90s, the country was also engaged in
a rediscovery of its own ethnic roots. Part of this process
was a renewal of interest in traditional Japanese folk music.
From the mournful Okinawan shimauta to the muscular sounds
of northern Japans tsugaru shamisen, a new generation
of youth imbibed the sounds of their grandparents and began
to reinterpret them for themselves.
Young vocalist Chitose Hajime, who graduated from a school
that had four students on the island of Amami Oshima, north
of the main Okinawan chain, sings popular songs with the loose
vibrato and plaintive tones of Okinawan shimauta. The 24-year-old
came to the attention of Deep Forest after the unlikely success
of her 2002 album, Hainumikaze, and was asked by them to participate
in the recording of Music Detected.
The upcoming concerts will present the first chance for listeners
in Japan to hear the results of their collaboration in a live
Deep Forest play Shibuya Kokaido
on February 12-13. See listings for details.