kyoto underground

08Mar06

On Sunday the 5th I took the train up to Kyoto to meet Akita-san for the Town and Country concert at Metro, a club that showcases lots of interesting experimental music. As it turns out, we ended up spending the entire evening underground, which suited me just fine. Since the show wasn’t going to start until 8:00, we went to Café Independents, a basement-level, European-style café with a soft green glow from street-level box planters that sit framed in high, ceiling-level windows set in chipping textured brick walls that resemble an abstract impressionist canvas. If you walk through the café, which is quite spacious, you will find yourself in a small shop packed floor to ceiling with, as Akita put it, “underground music.” Parallax Records may be tiny — tiny as in dwarf pony tiny — but it’s a fantastic shop for all of your avant-rock, post-rock, minimalist, experimental, improvisational, electronic, and bossa nova needs. For myself, at least, these are needs that run deep.

Metro, where Akita’s friend Mizuuchi-san joined us, also turns out to be underground, literally just down the stairs from the Keihan Marutamachi No. 2 subway exit. Metro is a small space, but totally great — it has a nice open stage, friendly staff, and a great sound system that’s actually kept at a listenable and sane volume level. Two groups played — first Tape, an electro-acoustic trio from Sweden that produced a lovely, dreamy texture of drone with crystalline melodic lines and circulating rhythmic variations, and then Town and Country. Unlike Tape, Town and Country, a Chicago-based quartet, use only traditional acoustic instruments — zither, harmonium, mbira, handbells, acoustic bass, viola, and the like. Their sound, which includes drone-style singing and chanting, as well as some throat singing, “much like lace fabric, is rich in detail, strong, and beautiful” (from the Thrill Jockey website). For this concert they set up a spinning, glowing, tube of light at the front of the stage that created a softly evanescent ambiance that wrapped itself around the room while they played. The set they played was a lush texture palace of involving harmonic strings and wavelets, drones and chimes, and rhythmic rope sculpture. Often categorized as “Front Porch Minimalism,” Town and Country’s sound envelopes, and brings you in, and creates a single space of mellow consciousness cocoon. In fact, watching Town and Country felt a bit like sitting cross-legged on the front porch and listening to gloriously strange music on an old tube radio together with your favorite friends.

Town and Country playing at Club Metro in Kyoto, illuminated by a levitating, glowing, tube of light.

Jim Dorling of Town and Country, playing at Club Metro in Kyoto.

Akita and Mizuuchi, waiting in the metro after the Town and Country show.

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