Fat Freddy’s Drop, live at Unit, Tokyo, 9/11/2014
At just past 1am on Sunday 9 November, Fat Freddy’s Drop, our very own hi-tech soul stalwarts, took to the stage inside Tokyo’s sprawling Unit basement venue. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the first time they’d ever performed in Japan. While in a sense they had a lot to prove, they were also greeted by an incredibly warm response from the crowd of Japanese music lovers (and, of course, the occasional cluster of homesick expats).
As a band, FFD can sometimes be guilty of taking quite a while to warm up. On this particular night, however, they didn’t mince bars, chords or words. Over an hour and a half, the band worked through a set that included ‘Midnight Marauders’, ‘Slings and Arrows’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Roady’ and several other songs. The brass section was tight and emotional. DJ Fitchie and Dobie Blaze’s drum programming and synthesiser work was powerful and compelling. Jetlag Johnson’s guitar work flickered with just the right amount of reggae skank. Joe Dukie’s vocal performance was masterful. His voice singing out sonorous and clear, every recognisable (or even not so recognisable) hook and verse met with an enthusiastic cheer.
If you haven’t been paying attention properly the last few years, it’s easy to think of FFD as a lazy-limbed dub-soul band. As the set progressed, it became clear how much the heartbeat rhythms and energy of classic house and techno are a part of what they do. Sure, song sections were extended to add drama, but it was about building intensity as opposed to jamming, and when those pulsing kick drums hit, the crowd response was always explosive. Trombonist Hopepa and host MC Slave’s respective dance and freestyle rap routines were equally effective. It was a celebratory moment, one sure to be repeated again in the future.
Introducing… Chelsea Jade
Formerly known as Watercolours, Auckland-based electronic singer/songwriter Chelsea Jade has in recent times emerged as one of the most promising new young musical talents in New Zealand. During 2014, she performed across the country, toured through the USA, spent time recording in New York with producer Justyn Pilbrow, and was selected to attend the Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo.
With her new EP Beacons, Chelsea and Justyn encase her poetically written lyrics and aching vocal melodies inside frostbitten minimalistic instrumentation. In the process, they take the washed-out dream-pop sound often associated with acts like Cocteau Twins and marry it to a chunkier frame. The result is a sound that draws comparisons to the music of Glasser and Beach House.
As this suggests, there is a definite art-house edge to the superficial aesthetics of Chelsea’s music, and its visual presentation (she’s a two-time art-school drop-out). After a few listens, what really cuts through are her pop-ready melodies and choruses.
If her recordings connect with you, you simply must experience Chelsea in the full flight of a live performance. Blessed with a natural sense of theatre and drama, when she steps onto the stage, she creates something that’s immersive, chaotic, captivating and beautiful.