Saturday, June 25, 2005

Orange Plankton, Solo

Singer Yumi of Orange Plankton. Posted by Hello

A couple minutes’ walk from Koenji train station in Tokyo, in an alley filled with pastel-colored girlie bars, is Club Roots, a brand-new music live house. Here, pop band Orange Plankton did a solo show, one of their first in a while.

The building that houses Club Roots is quite extraordinary. It’s an Okinawa-themed building. On the first floor is an “Okinawa steakhouse”, while above it is a regular Okinawan food restaurant, and the third floor is home to an Okinawan culture center, where events such as karate demonstrations will be held. Club Roots itself will feature Okinawan musicians, and will serve Orion beer and awamori, the island’s alcoholic drinks of choice. The creation of a building like this is a reflection of the current Okinawa fad sweeping Japan, but the facilities look interesting and I’ll likely visit it again.

Orange Plankton’s show started dramatically, with first only the drummer, Tamarou, appearing on stage and doing a solo, then the bassist Tsuji joining him and doing a duet, the pianist Yuki next making it a trio, and finally the singer Yumi appearing on stage to begin the songs. An acoustic guitarist played with the band at one point, and a violinist also later joined them. It was surprising how good the quartet sounded with the addition of guitar and violin sounds. I felt that Orange Plankton songs would probably sound good in a variety of arrangements because the original musical compositions are so strong and appealing.

All in all, it was a very satisfying hour and a half of music. I was surprised to turn around during the show to find that the tiny club was packed. The only not-quite gripe I had about the show is that the stage was too small for Yumi to move around much. This band deserves a much bigger stage.

Orange Plankton at Club Roots. Posted by Hello

After the show, talking over drinks with a friend, I tried to explain what might be called the Orange Plankton dilemma. The problem for them is, the music they play is unlike any of the number of fad Japanese musical genres, meaning that they won’t automatically get fans of those genres to boost their popularity in the short run. But because they are making their own sound (which is very pop, but with a feeling also of jazz, rock and even classical) and it’s good and original, little by little they will likely attract a following. I feel those people will stick around longer with the band than fans of passing musical fads.

Once Orange Plankton gets in your blood, they seem to be there for good. I read a message on their Internet bulletin board from a guy who saw the band for the first time during their Okinawa show. It has a breathless tone, but I can understand how he feels. He is himself a singer who’s been discouraged by lack of success, but when he heard the band, “it felt like something warm, like a small bright gentle light was entering me,” and that “although I’ve heard many different types of music, this sort of sensation was really a first for me and I didn’t know how to describe it in words.” He goes on to talk about “the warmth that enveloped the audience in an instant, and a singing voice that seems to reach like a light to the end of the universe.”

I wouldn’t quite describe Orange Plankton’s music in those terms, but I do think his words provide good evidence you should try to see this band live if possible.

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