Wandering through the narrow streets of Koenji, I stop in one of the many music shops to ask for directions to Penguin House. The Japanese call venues such as Penguin House ‘live houses’. I walk down a flight a narrow stairs and into a smoke filled room that couldn’t hold more than forty people. Penguin House. The show opened with an experimental improvisation that had no structure but hinted at a John Zorn-esq jazz freak out. Taka, the tenor sax player, twisted the traditional sound of a saxophone by using a wah-wah pedal hooked into his microphone. The drummer added some extra flavor to the experiments by using percussive bells and mallets instead of drumsticks. I later found out that experimental jazz is a big influence for Andersens and the opening improvisation was a way to let the audience know this.
After ten minutes of rising and falling noise that sounded like an orchestra tuning up, guitarist/leader Kiyokazu slipped into a finger picked chord progression that set a melancholy backdrop for the rest of the band to slowly fill in. The rest of the show consisted of syncopated songs with a pop spring to them. The far-out experiments that opened the show did not surface for the rest of the show. Most songs were based around Kiyokazu’s chord progressions while flute and saxophone melodies often doubled and harmonized his vocals. Kiyokazu’s voice was a little raspy and reserved but had a certain quality to it that gave the impression of honest feeling.
The show closed with an upbeat jam that was harnessed by a bouncing bass line and head-bopping 4/4 rhythm section. After the show, I had a chance to interview guitarist Kiyokazu and sax player Taka at a donut shop around the corner from the live house. They had an extensive knowledge of music and vast appreciation for experimental, independent music. I found it a bit curious that the band ultimately produced easily accessible pop songs even though they had such a love for experimental music. I think Kiyokazu has a good musical vision and he is working hard to fuse experimental music and pop music into the Andersens’ sound. He said that he will always be playing different music and changing his sound. I consider this to be a noble musical philosophy and I think the Andersens’ music will continue to grow in the right direction. I recommend listening to their 2004 release, Prepared Landscape.