Embed Instagram Post Code Generator

Friday, August 08, 2008

Watching Kahimi Karie (and Rei Harakami) live at Liquidroom

[Unrelated note: I found out that KURUS was on TV again yesterday. Ming Jin is currently in Australia for the Brisbane International Film Festival, where KURUS ('Days of the Turquoise Sky' to the foreigners) is screening. Interested to know what the Aussies think about the film.]

Kahimi Karie
Kahimi Karie

I went to the Liquidroom at Ebisu for one of their 4th year anniversary events on Wednesday night, a live performance by Kahimi Karie and the electronic musician Rei Harakami. I first read about this from Japan Times two weeks ago, and immediately decided to go even though ticket price is a little steep.

I have written about Kahimi Karie before, two years ago. I first knew about her back in 2004 when I listened to her album, Trapeziste, by accident. And during my VERY first attempt at video editing (also in 2004), I used her cover of Habanera as the background music.

(My first attempt at video editing. It's a mashup video using snippets of my teenage love Hiro, the films Casshern and Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. Despite being my first try, I already displayed some flair for editing)

So I guess it's very fitting that the first live gig I would ever attend in Japan would be Kahimi Karie's. In fact, when I discovered a BOOKOFF shop near my place in Mejiro not long after I came to Tokyo, the first thing I did was sweep away every single Kahimi Karie CD they had on their shelf. There wasn't that many, so I ended up emptying that section. Here are my Kahimi Karie CDs!

My Kahimi Karie CDs

The funny thing is that I've never listened to any of her post-Trapeziste work, everything I got are her older stuff, including those that were released in the 90s. So I've missed out on 5 years worth of Kahimi Karie songs! (and she's actually quite prolific!)

Anyway, I went to Liquidroom alone because no one I know knew who she was, or were interested in electronica music. It's really quite similar to the situation I faced when Caroline Lufkin came to Malaysia last year, I asked many to go with me, none of them bothered, guess electronica really ain't for the masses. Liquidroom is sort of like KLPac in Tokyo, but limited only to music performances, mostly the indie and jazz stuff.

Liquidroom at Ebisu
Liquidroom at Ebisu

I was well-prepared, bringing along my camcorder and camera with me, eager to share with everyone the wondrous sight and sound I knew I was going to experience at the performance. To my consternation, there was a 'no photography or video allowed' sign at the front door. I was mildly disappointed, but then I understood that some things are more special if a particular experience belonged only to yourself and no one else.

There weren't any seats in the performance room, just railings for some to lean forward to. I made my way near the stage, and found myself standing almost at the second row. Waiting for the performance to begin. A short-haired Japanese girl stood next to me, wearing pink shirt with stripes, holding a plastic cup. She was starting to rock out at the music they were playing at the speakers as we were waiting, swaying a little, head slowly bopping left and right. She came alone as well, but was in her own world. I found myself a little intrigued by her, and drew an image of her in my mind's scrapbook so that I could bring that into future films. A young woman attending a gig by herself, dancing, lost in her own world.

Takashi Wada opened for Harakami and Karie, playing computer-synthesized sounds on his laptop. His gig went on for half an hour, and towards the end, he attempted to show some showmanship by blowing bubbles into the crowd, unfortunately, after 3-4 bubbles, I think he ran out of soup water.

Kahimi Karie came in later with instrumentalist Yoshihide Otomo (he's the founder of the New Jazz Ensemble, who experiments with turntables and other electronics, but he was playing only the guitar that night); and former Sonic Youth guitarist Jim O'Rourke. Looking totally casual with her white blouse and jeans as she took a seat between the other two men, I was already excited as heck. It was awesome that I was standing probably at most only ten feet from them.

Her unique whispery vocals took on a little more weight at the live performance compared to what I've heard in her albums, and I went batshit when she started reciting something in French from a piece of paper. She performed her newer works, none of which I really recognize, except for 'Muhlifein', which I heard before on Youtube.


Unfortunately, I was unable to understand most of what she was saying when she spoke to the crowd. I think she said something about them rehearsing only 3 hours before the performance, but I might be wrong. Some of her stuff, like Muhlifein, were pretty hypnotic, and I noticed how some people around me had their eyes closed, losing themselves completely into the music. I didn't do the same, I preferred paying attention to each of the three on the stage. She didn't sing Furaibo though.

One thing that surprised me was that Kahimi Karie didn't actually perform together with Rei Harakami as the Japan Times article had written. She left with Otomo and O'Rourke once they finished their performance, before Harakami came in. I was a little bummed out. I didn't know anything about Harakami until I read the article and started looking for his works on Youtube. Here are some of his stuff:

Iris Elephants


It was comical watching him enter the stage. Wearing only T-shirt and shorts, his hair totally unkempt. Some audiences were laughing when he walked, some girls behind me were crying "KAWAIII!" and then bursting into giggling fits too. He introduced himself by mimicking Kahimi Karie's whispery way of talking, eliciting more laughter.

After that, he played and mixed using a hard disc recorder. It wasn't long before everyone gradually found themselves drowning completely into his music and his sick beats. Electronica music can be rather indescribable when being experienced live. Every time Harakami spoke, everyone laughed, I think he probably had a great sense of humour, it's just too bad I couldn't understand what he was saying either. I think he's rather playful, at one time even ending his own music abruptly as it was building up into insane volume levels. (something like this: booom boooom BOOOOOOM BOOOODOOOOOOO- *sudden cut off* "Ahhh... hai.")

I'm interested in seeing Harakami perform with Akiko Yano (together, their group is called 'yanokami', she sings, he mixes). In case you want to see how he looks like, check out the two videos below.

Night Train Home by yanokami

Sayonara by yanokami

After the performance ended, the short-haired girl in pink shirt with stripes disappeared into the crowd, I think she was trying find a place to get rid of the plastic cup she was holding the whole time. I shuffled my way out of Liquidroom and into the night. I knew it would be another sleepless and endless night. Back to dealing with next Tuesday's THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA press screening again, back to firing a barrage of mails to Ming Jin and the Greenlight Pictures interns, back to making Chinese translations of the press kits. And then, in my mind, I washed these thoughts away with the songs of Kahimi Karie.