Posted on 2013/07/27 14:27
  • Live Report
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Maeno Kenta strolled onto the stage at the Field of Heaven on Saturday afternoon well after the Soaplanders — Jim O’Rourke (guitar), Eiko Ishibashi (keyboards), Sudoh Toshiaki (bass) and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto (drums) — had taken up position behind their instruments and seemed a little taken aback by the sizeable crowd that had gathered in anticipation of seeing something special. Casual and self-effacing in nature, the acid folk icon then proceeded to lead his cohorts into a mournful opener that spanned almost 10 minutes and evolved through several soundscapes, each seemingly painted with completely different aural brushes.

The largely experimental set deliberately ignored traditional rock structures, choosing instead to dismantle chords one by one and piece them back together in a subtly different order. In fact, none of the Soaplanders were painting riffs by numbers. Instead, they were delivering them in a style that allowed them to caress them into submission, altering their elements to create a new form of rock chemistry that had festival-goers swaying in unison. After running through a few thoughtful compositions, Kenta introduced a “dance number” that was grounded in new wave ’80s pop with a hint of Madness and then pulled out a range of eccentric dance moves that have yet to be spotted at Fuji Rock this year, including a moonwalk.

Why Kenta’s colleagues call themselves the Soaplanders is still a question that remains unanswered, but we’d like to think that it has something to do with delivering a sound that has been cleansed of all its grit and presented to the public in a well-manicured style rather than any assumed ties to dodgy practices in the back streets of Ikebukuro. That said, they might just as well like the way the name sounds — much like their musical output.

A thunderclap ripped open the sky about halfway through the increasingly lively set and for a while it became almost impossible to differentiate the music from the atmospherics above. This only seemed to energize the Soaplanders more, and the arrangements that followed sizzled with a form of electricity that could almost be heard in your ears. One has to assume the weather’s influence on the band’s compositions was entirely coincidental, but after hearing the end result it is not altogether implausible to believe that Kenta had ultimately been responsible for it all.