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Sunday, May 1, 2005

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Soundz from Germany


Classical German culture had a profound influence on modern Japan, especially in the fields of philosophy and medicine, but recent German trends have had to compete for attention with all the other international cultural imports. The Deutschland in Japan Year aims to give Germany a higher profile here, and it's the specific goal of the Goethe-Institut Tokyo to provide enlightenment about current German pop culture.

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Mouse on Mars

"It's catching on among Japanese young people," says Markus Wernhard, head of the institute's Arts Dept., "and music is a major facet." Wernhard has invited 11 musical artists to perform as part of the Soundz from Germany festival in Tokyo and Osaka. "Germany is the third largest music market in the world," he explains, "and not just in terms of consumption. It's also a major producer of pop music."

When most people think of German pop they probably think of proto-techno 1970s Krautrock bands like Kraftwerk and Neu!, which had a direct influence on the international electronica waves of the 1990s, not to mention hip-hop. Wernhard says that many of Germany's biggest pop artists "are directly related to this tradition," incorporating electronic elements into different styles, be it heavy metal or reggae.

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Senor Coconuts

"When we were thinking of which artists to bring we wanted to honor this tradition but also introduce bands that have more pop and rock elements," Wernhard says. "[The band] Mia call what they do electro-punk, and Kante, despite its strong electronica sound, is considered a pop group in Germany."

Tradition will be represented by Der Plan, the venerated 1980s synth-pop group who reunited recently. "It will be the first time many young Japanese fans will have the opportunity to see them on stage," says Wernhard. The same goes for Lali Puna, a Stereolab-like pop group who has a dedicated cult following in Japan, and Kante, a rock band whose martial beat is reminiscent of the new-wave punk of Nina Hagen.

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Lali Puna

Soundz from Germany will also be the first opportunity to see Senor Coconut and His Orchestra in Japan. Though Senor Coconut (Uwe Schmidt) has come here many times to produce people like Bonnie Pink and perform solo, he's never brought his 11-piece ensemble, which take classics like "Smoke on the Water" and gives them a thorough reworking, usually in a Latin mode.

The Tokyo shows will offer two stages, one for serious computer music and the other for pop and rock. Among the former are Monolake, which Wernhard calls "moody techno"; Apparat, who applies Sonic Youth-like distortion to his keyboard rock; and Pole, with his loungey ambient glitch music. Rounding out the electronica posse is the inimitable Mouse on Mars, who have done more than any other recent German group to revolutionize the nerdy computer music genre.

May 2: Senor Coconut, Der Plan, Kante, Monolake, Apparat; May 3: Mouse on Mars, Mia, Lali Puna, Pole, Atom vs Pink Elln, ISO68. Both Shibuya O-East & O-Crest, Tokyo, 7 p.m. 5,500 yen each show/10,000 yen both shows, at door. May 5: Senor Coconut, Mouse on Mars, Mia, Lali, Pole. Shinsaibashi Big Cat, Osaka, 5 p.m. 5,500 yen at door. The Goethe-Institut has also released a Japan-only compilation album featuring all the artists appearing at the festival. For more information contact Headz ([03] 3770-5721/faderbyheadz.com)


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