Seiichi Yamamoto is a name that always attracts attention, in Japan as well as around the rest of the world. He was one of the Boredoms, and his band Rovo has been exceptionally popular in Japan. So it was no surprise that the Orange Court had a decent-sized crowd gathered for the opening slot at noon on Saturday for PARA, Yamamoto's latest group of talented improvisers.
Yamamoto formed PARA with Mana "China" Nishiura (Shonen Knife, DMBQ, who sadly died in a car accident three years ago) but the group that took the stage today included guitar, drums, bass, and two synth players. The sound was immediately distinct, as the only instrument that wasn't making unusual sounds was the bass, low and thick like he should have been playing in a modern jazz fusion band. The guitar rarely sounded like a guitar, except for the moments when Yamamoto turned off the pedal treatments to improvise a quick solo before returning to the strange, wonky grooves.
The music was "wonky" mostly because the instruments all sounded so strange. The songs themselves were pure improv jam, the Yamamoto way. A melody line and a syncopated percussive rhythm would begin most songs (or, if not, they would appear eventually) and this would become the backbone of the tune, repeated over and over again, but growing slowly as alterations to the rhythm or shifts in the tonal qualities crept into the playing. As a result, each song changed as it progressed, so the songs repeated refrains without sounding repetitive. Within each song structure, however, would be solo sections, ambient breakdowns full of chimey, dreamy waves of noise, strange squelchy keyboard and guitar fills, and even a little Framptonesque with that strange guitar/microphone synthesizer thingy that I don't know the name of. Except in PARA's hands, the guitar didn't sound like it was talking, unless it was speaking in an alien language.
Though PARA's set was particularly based on a groove, the audience managed to bounce and sway through these jams, obviously appreciative of the PARA sound. Throughout most of the set the band was silent, leaving the music to do the talking. Or the guitar, if you spoke space language. Which, after this set, I'm thinking Yamamoto probably does.
photos by Nozomi Wachi
Reported by James Tennant (2008.07.26 / 15:19)