Friday, April 07, 2006

Yunn & Yuyake Lamp, At Yoyogi Gauss

Yunn and Yuyake Lamp is the piano pop band formerly known as Orange Plankton, minus pianist Yuki. I was a devoted fan of Orange Plankton, but had missed the first couple of shows of Yunn, and finally got an opportunity to see them at a tiny new club called the Yoyogi Gauss.

One of the cool things about Orange Plankton was it had not one, but two girls who took center stage at shows: Yumi, the singer, and Yuki on piano. Watching the two interact musically was always an electric experience. But with Yuki gone, the spotlight was squarely on Yumi, and it revealed what a powerful presence she is, by herself, on stage: I’ve seen hundreds of bands in Tokyo, but in very few are there vocalists whose presence is magnetic like this soft-voiced and petite woman. She seems to breathe in the music around her and exhale it in the form of song.

They played all new songs, which sounded a little more rock compared with Orange Plankton's pop, and in most Yumi played the piano, though I got the sense that she wouldn't mind leaving the confining space of the keyboard and piano stool to dance the expanse of the stage.

The two skilled musicians in the rhythm section, bassist Tsuji and Tamarou on drums, had let their hair grow long enough to tie in ponytails, a new look that reminded me of old Japanese artisans. My non-drug-induced vision was of Tsuji and Tamarou as sculptors of Buddhist statues and Yumi their artistic inspiration, a glowing, golden Idol.

This is band I’ll be following—you can listen to some of Yunn’s song samples here (Yunn is Yumi’s nickname) and a couple of Orange Plankton’s songs are now on the playlist of Japan Live Radio.


I went to Yunn’s after-show celebration at a nearby izakaya(a Japanese bistro), and there found out that, by coincidence, four friends of the band, who didn't know each other before meeting each other through Orange Plankton, are from the big northern island of Hokkaido. Like most Hokkaido people, they all have beautifully white skin (you might think the Japanese are homogenous, but they aren’t really—people in Hokkaido look quite different from darker complexioned folks in the southern island of Okinawa, for example). They were also free spirits in that way people from lands with lots of open space are, and they insisted that fish tasted better in Hokkaido than in Tokyo. I like that sort of mild, good-humored regional chauvinism you encounter often in Japan.

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