Sunday, July 12, 2009

You Should Have A Band Like Yuyake Lamp In Your Life

I went to see a show in Kyoto, in a part of town away from the temples and tourists, at a cafe on a big street that could have been on any city in Japan. From the cafe's window you could see the auto parts shop Autobacs; just down the street was a Jusco supermaket; this was an ordinary man's Kyoto. I was in a strange town again to see Yuyake Lamp on the road.

When this band was called Orange Plankton, I followed them way down south to Nagasaki and Okinawa. When they quit and then were reborn as Yuyake Lamp, I crossed a sea to see them play in Taiwan. And it's a rare thing for me to miss them in Tokyo.

In other words, I'm a devoted fan. Maybe you haven't heard of them—they've released a number of albums and done a lot of shows, but have never really hit the big time. Their membership has dwindled over the years, so that now it's basically just vocalist Yunn and whichever musician accompanies her. But in my mind they are one of Japan's great bands. Their piano pop melodies are always catchy and memorable. The lyrics are pure poetry, and about everything from love and friendship to our planet's precambrian era and the wonders of the human body. Above all, though, there's the vocals of Yunn—with her high, almost child-like voice, she has this way of bringing to life the words she sings.

Here's a video of a show she and flutist Kopan did at a Shinto shrine somewhere (it's pretty good but it shows so little of what a great Yuyake Lamp show is like...):

For a select few, Yuyake Lamp's music seems to have the ability to stimulate a nerve that controls the tear ducts. Someone at their Sendai show, part of their current national tour, commented that the joy of seeing them again and the emotion of the music caused her to cry. A friend I saw after their Tokyo gig said she was in tears from the first song to the last. I also felt the water well up at the first song of that show, when they played a tune called “Nami Wo Nuu Kaze Yo Te Yo” from the album Yuyake Ballad, a rarely-performed classic that I like to think of as extraterrestrially inspired, because it's hard to imagine such a strange, slow, beautiful music being germinated in the human mind...

Having said all this, if you do give Yuyake Lamp a listen and the music doesn't do it for you, that's okay. Tastes differ. But what I want to say is, you should have a band like Yuyake Lamp in your life. If you are alone in thinking a band or musician is genius, you are right, ignore the others. If a band's music makes you happy, it's the right thing. And that's the sort of band Yuyake Lamp is for me.

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