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Melting Vinyl at the Japan Festival
For Melting Vinyl’s Anna Moulson, the promoter who has been bringing top artists and musicians to Brighton for years, the enduring fascination of Japan is that it is a nation of contrasts.
“I like the way they obsessively get into things and they have a certain style with their appearance,” she says, as we discuss what to expect at Brighton Japan Festival number five, which is filled with artists all the way from Japan (via London) or inspired by Japanese culture.
“Then when you talk to them they can seem incredibly polite, but this appearance can be so full-on. It’s just such contrasts. That’s what’s intriguing about the culture.”
Moulson, a music buff, says the country’s current cultural hits are J-Pop, which is sweet, sugary pop, and the fake stars from the hologram world.
“They are massive stars in Japan but they are just holograms. There is a projected hologram singer with a live band behind and thousands of people fill arenas in Japan to go and see them.
“These hologram stars are all idealised and beautified in terms of looks, with Asian faces and Western bodies.”
Instead of flying a hologram star over with her entourage in tow, Moulson has picked three Japanese artists in the country’s music genres that are most popular with English fans.
Toyko Sounds on Saturday, June 30, is an open-air event on the festival’s final weekend on the platform outside Moshi Moshi.
“Ken Kobayashi is a bit more sountracky, with a delicate sound,” she explains.
“No Cars is saccharine pop, with three girls going crazy. It’s funny on stage, because they are self-deprecating and comical.
“Then smallgang is a bit more retrospective, a bit more edgy, with big guitars, almost wall-of-soundy. It’s the experimental indie-side that comes out of Japan.”
Ticket holders will have access to the outdoor Hiroba, with an Asahi bar and traditional Japanese food stalls, as well as HOMU, the festival hub, which translates to English as “home”, and will be stocking “exotic midsummer cocktails”.
Moulson says the idea for its second year working with Brighton Japan Festival is to make things more boutique.
“This year the marquee is on the side of Moshi Moshi rather than in front of it. We wanted to make it a bit more bespoke because it was big and vast last year.
“With the marquee in front of Moshi Moshi it overshadowed the food side of the festival, and it is all about Japanese food as well as the performance.
“You can walk through the restaurant and go straight into the marquee. We’ve got a pre-dinner festival menu as well as the entertainments, and people can buy one ticket that includes both.
Ideally, everything should feel a bit more like a supper club.
Moulson says the HOMU is inspired by the ethos of the old Spiegeltents from Brighton Fringe Festival, because they want to create “a happening hub”.
But the decor will be a world away from the beer-soaked tent – with hundreds of hand-crafted origami cranes hanging from the ceiling and intimate lighting.
On the eight-day festival’s first evening The Paper Cinema, a collective from Dorset inspired by Japan’s paper art, will play twice.
“It premiered in Brighton last year at the Pavilion Theatre and it is really interesting. It is live animation and film.
“Very delicate paper cut-outs that are projected live in front of a camera and you get to see that as part of the audience.
“It’s folklores and fables and tales and Greek mythology and there is a little musical ensemble playing along, doing the soundtrack.
“The crux is you can see the process, and it’s inspired by Japanese culture.”
Building on the continued growth of the festival across Brighton, Hotel du Vin will host one of the more unusual offerings tonight – a Japanese whisky-tasting led by Brighton whisky expert, Edmund Skinner-Smith.
A week later, for those who enjoyed the tasting, the editor of Whisky Magazine Japan, Dave Broom, will be explaining why he believes if you don’t like whisky it’s because you’ve just not found the right one.
“He has some great stories,” says Moulson, who has commissioned a one-off screening of Japanese thriller The Ring (on June 23) in homage, which she confesses she has never quite made it through.
“Back in the day when they started to discover whisky in Japan, groups of businessmen used to go over to Scotland, and the tales of them trying to cross the cultural divide in order to understand how to create their own whisky sound hilarious.”
*For information on all Melting Vinyl’s Japan Festival events visit www.meltingvinyl.co.uk
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