Monday, February 06, 2006

Kuki Kodan At Shibuya Quattro

Kuki Kodan is an unusual band. A Japanese indie pop group that’s been around since 1997, they have a decent following even though they’ve never released a single big hit album. In fact, they seem opposed to the very concept of hit records: many of their past works are limited issue tapes, LPs and CDs, putting a ceiling on the amount of their recordings they can sell, and making it hard for new fans (like me) to find their old stuff. They of course also don’t have any singles that climbed the charts. And they hardly ever play live.

Even so, or maybe partly because they perform live so infrequently, and no fan therefore wants to miss a rare gig, several hundred people showed up at the Shibuya Quattro to see Kuki Kodan (it’s pronounced something like ‘Kooky Koh Dunn’ and means ‘public corporation of air’). It’s easy to tell who the Kuki Kodan fans are in the crowds of Shibuya. Like the music they enjoy, these people are mild-mannered and unpretentious. They look like they just came from a knitwear exhibition. Or had some tea at a patisserie/café. They might have studied foreign literature in school; they certainly read lots of European authors in translation. Kuki Kodan is what they listen to late at night in their apartments, quietly, surrounded by their photography books, small art objects and European posters, thinking about the day that passed and the future they wish for.

Mellow-out music that appeals to people like these is what Kuki Kodan plays, and they lived up to their relaxed reputation at the Quattro. Yukari Yamazaki, the singer, sat in a chair throughout the show, facing the audience diagonally. As she sang she occasionally lifted her arm slowly, or turned to face the crowd; dancing or making the beat wasn’t for her.

They did about five songs, and then took a 15-minute break. Yamazaki told the audience she ate an egg sandwich during the recess, but missed out on the tuna sandwich. One of her band-mates said he’d buy her a tuna sandwich later; so let’s focus on the show for now. And so it went for a couple of hours. Was this show worth a fairly expensive 3,500 yen? It was. In some of their songs, Yamazaki was able to evoke the joy, sadness and colors of everyday life with her unforced but emotional singing, and I got a better feeling for what all the hardcore Kuki-heads saw in this band.

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