The Japanese band making ‘electromagnetic punk’ with obsolete devices

Tokyo, Sep 5 (EFE).- Japanese art collective Electronicos Fantasticos! is using obsolete devices like fans, old television monitors and lamps to create music.

Techno beats and rock boom out of the speakers in a concert hall as the artists, led by musician Ei Wada, perform with DIY instruments like cathode ray screens attached to guitar necks and air conditioners hooked up to microphones.

The cutting-edge band even dabbled in traditional Japanese imperial court music, known as Gagaku, at a recent concert in the Tokyo Kanda Myojin Hall.

Electronicos Fantasticos! leader Ei Wada (L) performs on stage with a band member during a concert at Kanda Myojin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, 02 September 2022 (issued 05 September 2022). EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
Electronicos Fantasticos! leader Ei Wada (L) performs on stage with a band member during a concert at Kanda Myojin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, 02 September 2022. EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON

LAB TO ORCHESTRA

Wada has always been fond of tinkering with devices to transform them into musical instruments and during his first project, using cassettes and magnetic tapes, he realized that “any device, as long as it is capable of receiving electromagnetic waves, can become an instrument.”

He started working with a “community” of like-minded professional and amateur musicians, engineers and designers and by 2015 an orchestra made up of artists and old appliances had formed in the Tokyo district of Sumida.

“At the beginning, we had to find a way to play, since it did not exist, and we worked step by step on turning the devices into instruments and composing our own music,” Wada tells Efe.

Between 70 and 80 artists are involved in the collective across four Japanese cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Hitachi and Nagoya. The group has set its sights further afield with online workshops aimed at capturing international talent to forge a “global laboratory-orchestra”.

Participants share ideas, technical expertise, learn to build their instruments and take part in improv sessions.
The scope of the “adventure” is vast and brings together school students and retirees, adds Wada, who says the project strives “to create ethnic music with electromagnetic sounds as if we were a tribe.”

An Electronicos Fantasticos! member performs on stage during a concert at Kanda Myojin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, 02 September 2022 (issued 05 September 2022). EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
An Electronicos Fantasticos! member performs on stage during a concert at Kanda Myojin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, 02 September 2022. EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON

TRASH TO STAGE

Wada explains that at the core of the Nicos, as the collective is also known, is the idea that “appliances that were going to end up in the garbage start a new life as musical instruments.”

Old devices are “hacked” with circuits, scanners, photoreceptors and modulators that convert signals into sound with the help of pedals and amplifiers.

Among the household appliances that have been pimped up to become instruments are table lamps, vacuum cleaners, fans, video cameras and transistor radios.

Wada describes the group’s style as “electromagnetic punk” because the instruments “come from a time when electromagnetic technologies abounded.”

The devices the Nicos use were mostly manufactured until the 1990s by homegrown brands like Toshiba, Sony or Panasonic when Japan’s post-war economy was booming and put the nation on the map as the global production hub of consumer electronics.

The collective includes several engineers who, during the day, work at Japanese companies designing new gadgets, and at night “turn old appliances into monsters,” Wada jokes.

The Electronicos Fantasticos! stormed the stage at Fuji Rock in August for one of Japan’s largest music festivals, and are regulars at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz (Austria), one of Europe’s most eclectic and avant-garde events.

Wada hopes that the group will one day perform at Sónar Festival in Barcelona, and he is also planning a street music parade with his instruments which would see obsolete devices “suddenly reappear in everyday spaces.” EFE

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