There has been something of a movement in Japan over the last couple of years towards the certain sound that first came into being within West Germany in the 1970s. Krautrock, characterised by it’s driving minimalist rhythm and optimistic sound- the sound of Neu!, of Can, of pre-Autobahn Kraftwerk- the sound of the then-future. This revival is therefore a modern take on yesterday’s sound of tomorrow, and it is a revival that has been spearheaded by Tokyo’s Minami Deutsch.
Within the basement of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, upon a trestle table armed to the teeth with all manner of electronic music gadgetry, Stupid Cosmonaut take to the stage under UV lighting and heavy smoke. They are futurism: stark and industrial in appearance, substance over style – two men barely looking away from the mess of wire and LED in front of them. As the soft analogue synthetic drones begin to pour through the speakers, almost mixing with the smoke, it creates a sound reminiscent of Dignity Of Labour-era Human League, or Brian Eno’s Apollo spacescape experiment. These are gradually joined by a twinkling pattern, almost like a neon skyline coming into focus through the fog and clouds. Stupid Cosmonaut offer the audience the opportunity to use their imagination as they supply the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, a 1980s sci-fi flick that was never made, with Vangelis-like synth sweeps rising above John Carpenter drones and bass lines. In fact, the band seemed particularly indebted to Vangelis’ soundtrack to Blade Runner, to such a point where you found yourself wondering if Stupid Cosmonaut had somehow stumble upon unused ideas for the soundtrack and giving it a showcase to the general public.
The sound grew in intensity and more elements were added, as more smoke poured out of the stage that completely engulfed the duo. The soft-focus synths eventually gave way to techno-inspired beats and repetitive riffs, with tones constantly evolving through gradual modification, keeping the human element alive- man and machine working together perfectly. Across three pieces of music, Stupid Cosmonaut offered the sound of another world, a world of sentient robots, towering skylines and the warm tones of retrofuturistic electronica.
Minami Deutsch took to the stage and started up, two guitars thick with echo making noise for six, before bursting into the kind of one-chord jam that Spacemen 3 prides themselves upon. Machine-like precision from drummer Hikari Sakashita gives a concrete foundation that attaches itself perfectly with the simple but powerful grooves of bassist Keita Ite, providing a platform for the fuzzed-out twin guitar interplay, with the occasional whispered vocal floating above. This is a tight four-piece at the peak of their powers who know each other inside out, able to at the most subtle variance to their playing to allow the tonal journey to continue unabated.
Playing material from their self-titled debut album- such as a gorgeously stratospheric version of ‘Sunrise, Sunset’, as well as a number of tracks from their self-released singles and EPs, Minami Deutsch showed their audience that the band are just as taut and muscular in a live environment as in the studio- all tension and release. The songs invariably burst out of their confides, exploding outwards into extended jams, always keeping the ‘less is more’ output that somewhat defines Kosmische Musik- driving across a pristine autobahn in a Japanese sports car, the music drifting hypnotically out into the appreciative crowd. This is the second time in just over a year that Minami Deutsch have visited Manchester, hopefully they will return soon.
Words and photos by Liam Moody. Minami Deutsch performed at Soup Kitchen on September 19th 2017.
Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!