As anyone who's taken the time to peek underneath the glossy,
corporate exterior of the Japanese music scene knows, the
country boasts more than its share of unconventional musical
viewpoints. Often, these left-field acts find an audience
abroad before they are accepted here. Bands such as the Boredoms
and Shonen Knife come to mind.
Another act that, like Shonen Knife, have been upending stereotypes
abroad of what Japanese women are supposed to look and sound
like are eX-Girl, the female trio who have been making a splash
overseas in recent years. Now the band launch a regular event
in Tokyo to re-introduce themselves to a domestic audience
and, says bassist/vocalist Kirilola, to showcase other non-mainstream
acts, "regardless of genre."
"Resonance" kicks off on Wednesday at live house
Doors in Hatsudai near Shinjuku with a number of acts that
operate beyond the confines of comfortable musical boundaries.
Kokoo, for example, are part of a movement underway to bring
traditional Japanese instruments into the 21st century. Founded
by shakuhachi (bamboo flute) virtuoso Akikazu Nakamura, the
group also includes koto (Japanese harp) players Michiyo Yagi
and Maki Isogai. By incorporating rock (including a Jimi Hendrix
cover), jazz and avant-garde music, Kokoo have delivered a
slap in the face to the rigid world of traditional Japanese
Percussionist Steve Eto, meanwhile, is the son of a koto master,
but grew up in largely in the US, where he imbibed the experimental
currents of New York's downtown music scene. A recent Tokyo
concert featuring Steve and younger brother Leonard, a taiko
(Japanese drum) player who was once a member of Kodo, contrasted
the elder Eto's tongue-in-cheek bangings on automobile parts,
trash cans and other modern detritus with the younger Eto's
impassioned taiko rhythms.
Also in the lineup are Hoppinmo, which Kirilola describes
as a "creepy show of the fast keyboard-playing competition
between Hoppy Kamiyama and Jinmo." Kamiyama is known
as something of a Svengali of Japan's experimental rock scene
(as well as its most notorious cross-dresser), working both
as musician in a wide variety of contexts and as producer
(most recently of eX-Girl). The challenging piano compositions
on his most recent album, Juice and Tremolo, may give some
indication as to what to expect on Wednesday.
eX-Girl themselves defy description, although fan Mike Patton
(ex-Faith No More), took a pretty good shot at it when he
called them, "a beautiful example of information overload.
Jagged three-part vocal harmonies, adventurous arrangements,
and songs that hook you like the sucker that you are. Take
all of these treats, wrap it in an ultra-bright technicolor
live show with surreal homemade costumes, and you've got the
sensation of being strapped in an out-of-control carnival
Since forming in 1997, eX-Girl have brought their eccentric,
frog-based esthetic ("We like to play with a giant
'Frog King' on stage," says Kirilola,
and, "the staff at Doors are always kind, they love
Frog King.") to the West, establishing themselves not
merely as another oddities act from Japan, but as the anti-idoru.
While commercial success has been elusive, they have built
a loyal following through exhaustive self-promotion and a
resourceful, DIY ethic. Kirilola says that a new album is
due out in the fall (featuring the song "Resonance")
with a European tour to follow.
Wildcards on the lineup are Ken Samurai, a comedian who regularly
opens for eX-Girl, and DJ Big Brother Balboa, who eX-Girl's
Kirilola says plays, "unique unknown music he found in
unexplored caves around the world."
Resonance takes place at Hatsudai
Doors on September 17. See concert listings for details.