Jun Okada, Yuki Kawana, miette-one, 33 Insanity's Vertebra - The Pipeline, London

The latest Japan Underground gig to hit The Pipeline has come around pretty quickly, and with four artists lined up it's probably their biggest show yet. The main hook on such a dismal, rainy evening was the gathering of predominantly female singers, ready to bring a wide variety of sunshine pop and hard rock for what turned out to be quite an unpredictable show.

London-based singer/songwriter Jun Okada took to the stage first, with acoustic guitar in tow. A pleasant voice carried a fairly straightforward set of soothing songs, with brief moments of chatting and a special offering of Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A-Team’, which seemed to go down well enough. A confident little performance and a nice precursor to what the rest of the evening would bring.

An evidently tired Yuki Kawana followed, announcing that she’d arrived in London just hours earlier. Yuki, the keyboardist for five-piece outfit Yucca, has been compared to the likes of Sonic Youth, The Pixies and The Velvet Underground, through the alternative rock style of her solo project. There’s certainly shades of the U.S. indie scene in her sound but her odd idiosyncrasies makes her music a little unique; defying audience expectations with a mix of what appeared to be a deliberately stilted delivery at times (though hard to say for sure as she admitted she didn't even have time to finalize her setlist) and laidback humour.

And her time on stage wouldn’t end there as she joined musician miette-one for what was undoubtedly the strangest performance of the evening. miette-one is the side project of indie label manager Sayuri Hashimoto, a wee French pop-inspired lass, whose experimental digital style oozes cuteness. The set underwent a lengthy changeover as both performers set up their respective instruments, which ranged from keyboard kazoo to the iPad. In wanting to be playful in-between her short plinky plonk numbers the softly spoken Sayuri - who is simply an anime character brought to life - decided that she’d like to play games and interact with the crowd. A few rounds of Jankenpyon (rock, paper, scissors) determined who would take home badges, coasters and copies of her latest CD and her lack of English bearing little significance in winning over many in attendance. Adorable stuff.

Continuing in slightly surreal fashion it was then time for hard rock band 33Insanity’sVertebra to arrive, marking a complete shift in tone for what had been a fairly sedate evening up to this point. Nozomi quickly proved that she wasn’t just good looks; a screeching force fronted the Nagoya-based band but a voice that also has enough heart to allow for some finer moments. Piercing shredding from Yoshihisa and Ryota made for some solo highlights and it was particularly great to see a strong synergy between Ryota and bassist Ryo, who bounced off each other with excellent timing. Having been together for barely eight months, 33Insanity’sVertebra seems to be doing remarkably well for itself, and judging from the album - which was given away at the end of their performance - there’s a substantial amount of promise here.

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Tags j-pop
Category Live Review

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