The True World
Nagisa Ni te at Le Weekend, 27th May 2007

I’m not sure what the idea was, meeting at three. The earliest thing we wanted to go to was the film screening at five (about Cornelius Cardew, we didn’t get in), and the gig itself didn’t start until seven. I got quite drunk in the interim, anyway, so what follows may not be particularly reliable. They tend to be early, these out of the way events, with train times back to Edinburgh and Glasgow printed handily in the programmes. It’s brilliant if you happen to live somewhere out of the way to find that for a day or a weekend, Stirling (Le Weekend, now in its tenth year) or Dundee (Kill Your Timid Notion, its younger, more hastily-named cousin) can become hip enough for a Lee Ranaldo or a Kawabata Mokoto to grace its grey streets. In the audiences locals must be a minority, but perhaps that’s part of the idea too, to draw people in, out of their usual orbits. There is a lot of subsidy holding these events together (there are logos for Stirling Council, the Scottish Arts Council, the PRS Foundation for New Music, and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation on the first page of the programme, with more scattered throughout), and it makes you wonder: how does music get to deserve subsidy? It imitates art, I suppose.

Justice Yeldham, for instance, did art music. He took one large shard of glass, maybe four feet long, in the shape of an attenuated shark’s fin, with a contact mic attached and running through some effects pedals. He rubbed his open mouth against this piece of glass for the fifteen minutes of his set, apparently cutting it quite badly. He frothed at the mouth, paused occasionally to bash the glass in two against his head, and generally came across like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The PA produced some white noise whilst this was going on. Chris loved it. I thought of a set I’d enjoyed a few years ago at Kill Your Timid Notion, which was a guy with a fluorescent tube which he manhandled like a stonking big bass guitar while it flashed and stuttered and strobed. All very exciting. But, ‘it’s the same fucking noise,’ I protested. ‘There’s your Tangents review,’ said Chris.

Headliners The Thing + ZU were two three pieces, with muscles, long black shorts and some ancient looking saxophones. Sometimes one band would be on the stage, sometimes the other, sometimes both. The hand-overs were slick. The saxes were mean and dirty. This is all I can remember.

Nagisa Ni te possess a millpond calm, and can drop you from the worries and the hurries of modern life on to the banks of said pool within a drumbeat thud, a reverb glissando. The Geographic compilation Songs for a Simple Moment stands with Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s astonishing From a Summer to Another Summer as a cornerstone of the label. There probably aren’t two better records, but where Tori Kudo’s bunch are hyperactive kids pushing buttons and asking ‘what does this do?’ and ‘why not? Let’s do it anyway’, Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda are impervious giants, refusing to acknowledge anything but wonder and wistful regret. Their sound hasn’t changed much over the twelve years since their first LP: 2001’s Feel was a sadder variant, 2004’s The Same as a Flower lighter, livelier. But always there are Masako’s slow tender drums and her voice which sounds alone but never lonely. Always Shinji’s unfazed baritone and his guitar which revels and soars in the same slow time, whether it’s crunching or crooning. And that’s all you need. It makes you happy, even when it’s sad.

Those are the records, and so it was pretty bloody exciting to see them live at last. I regretted being so drunk, and have rarely been in less need of their calming influence, but still they were magnificent. Masako barely moving behind the drum kit, obscured as on the record sleeves by her overgrown hair. Shinji gravely introducing each song and allowing himself some elegant moves during the transports of his solos. It was all very controlled, and after a while it stopped being surprising that three people could make such an expansive sound. Everything fitted. Kicking off with a flourish of reverb for the intro to ‘The Same as a Flower’ and then plunging into its gentle anthemic verses (as Shinji sang them), the same tune run through with melancholy when Masako took over. This is a trick which works for them again and again. ‘Me, On the Beach’ and ‘The True World’ lay in store, how strange to finally hear them being played. I wonder if the chance will come again?

Some time before or after this I sidled up to where Stephen Pastel was DJ-ing and offered my apologies for my less than kind review of the recent Pastels gigs. ‘It’s a fair point,’ he conceded. ‘Same old shit…’ Ouch. He was joking, but I’ve never felt like such a complete bastard in my life. Of the new LP, he said, ‘It’s mostly done.’ He played a new Katrina song, too, with sleigh bells, a collaboration with somebody Japanese whose name I have no chance of recollecting. She told us she’d been waiting for the lyrics so she could get started and then they emailed and said, ‘We need it yesterday! You’ve got to write the lyrics too!’ Obviously it was completely lovely. You see? They’ve still got it. And in their own sweet time, they’ll get back to getting it out there.

© 2007 Chris Fox