Anathallo -- there are about seven of them -- are Midwestern Americans who sing mostly in Japanese. As you do. (Hold the press, Matsuri-kei Japanizes the Midwest!) Their songs are -- naturally -- adaptations of Japanese folk tales. Something about the sound of them reminds me of Brian Eno's statement that "empathy is the basic unit of social intelligence".
There's lots of empathy here. There's lots of intelligence, too: this is a band who financed themselves (fed seven hungry mouths) in the early days by making music for a Vick's commercial rather than signing immediately to a label. Their first releases were homeburns. The track in the background here is "Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!" from their self-distributed album Floating World.
The large number of members -- and some sense that they're not so much a band as a religious cult -- reminds me a bit of The Polyphonic Spree. They're also very much a post-Animal Collective band, it seems to me. The vocal layering and the boho-hippy art school vibe frame them with the Rhode Islanders. Less obviously, according to Impose Magazine, there's even something Momus-like about them. "More than good, great," raves the Impose writer. "Sort of like Godspeed meets a Philip Glass quartet getting overdubbed by Momus." Who knew that egosurfing would prove such a great A&R tool?
But why the Japanese? "This is going to sound really heady and stupid," says co-founder Matt Joynt, "but we decided to use the Japanese culture and linguistic differences as a sort of backdrop to balance the way that we try to narrate our lives based on the different systems that we have around us. So we have this sense of two different languages pitted against each other in a sense of uncertainty by the listener, who will probably think "What are they singing? I can't even understand it." To have that sort of tension between the two things opens up a dialogue about -- I think, anyway -- how we narrate our lives."
Oh, and bass player Seth grew up in Japan, and likes to tell folk tales about dogs and buried treasure.
Parish notes (Berliners only): Joe Howe plays a show as Germlin on Wednesday here in the Neukolln hood. Come along!