Saturday, February 12, 2005

Spangle call Lilli line

Spangle call Lilli line at Aoyama Cay. Posted by Hello

In the solar system of my favorite Japanese rock bands, a group named Spangle call Lilli line is a planet that has been shining especially brightly recently. I’ve been spending an enormous amount of time listening to their CDs.

The best way I can think of to describe Spangle call is that they are an experimental rock band. They abandon traditional song structures in favor of a free-flowing style that takes listeners to unexpected places. Yet their songs are enchanting, despite their complex structures, because of the gorgeous melodies out of which they are woven.

Listening to their songs is like swimming in the ocean and finding unusual shapes below, then realizing that the shapes make up something bigger, such as the ruins of a ship. Singer Kana Otsubo’s voice floats like a jellyfish over the sea of melodies.

It’s only recently that I was turned on to Spangle call’s music, and because they haven’t played live for more than a year, so they could focus on recording an album (which is to be released in April), I haven’t had the chance to see them perform. Until tonight.

They played at a place in western Tokyo called Aoyama Cay, which during weekdays is a restaurant and bar, and becomes a performance space on weekends. Several hundred people had come to the Cay, and though there were three other bands playing tonight, I think most had come to see Spangle call Lilli line. The audience members were mainly people in their twenties, and many had the serious air of young intellectuals – I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were lots of grad students and art students in the crowd (there also was an unusually high proportion of bespectacled people).

Spangle call didn’t start their show until about four hours into the event, and some of what preceded their act was, to be candid, to me like sonic torture, the worst sort of experimental music, ugly, self-absorbed and seemingly interminable. So it was a relief when Spangle call’s set started.

They were good, but they didn’t blow me away. All the bands I write about often in these pages (advantage Lucy, Orange Plankton, Plectrum, etc.) have made great albums, but when those bands play live there’s something fresh and wonderful above and beyond the quality of their recorded work. With Spangle call, I didn’t get that feeling. While their playing was awe-inspiringly good at times, it didn’t sound that different to me from what they had done in their albums. Which, to be fair, is still probably an amazing thing, considering how intricate their musical compositions can be. And they had been away from the stage for a while, so they were probably out of practice (one of the guitarists admitted this during the show, and in truth, I think their playing got much more intense as the night progressed). Also, my friend Dr. I was thunderstruck and speechless after the show, so maybe I was just in an ungenerous mood because of all the experimental noise I endured earlier in the evening. In any event, I’ll certainly buy their new album in April, and I will see the band again – they are too attractive a group not to.

To close this post by returning to the metaphor with which I started – don’t the lights above the stage in the photo look a bit planetary?

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