Hochzeitskapelle + Japanese Friends - The Orchestra In The Sky [Tokyo Recordings] LP
Hochzeitskapelle + Japanese Friends - The Orchestra In The Sky [Tokyo Recordings] LP (Alien Transistor/Germany)
As heard on episode 19 of Courtesy Desk Radio.
There’s a big clue to the pacific wisdom of The Orchestra in the Sky in the artist name – Hochzeitskapelle + Japanese Friends. For this is, indeed, music based in, and resonating with, friendship, camaraderie, collaboration, and creative exchange. Across two albums – one documenting recordings from Tokyo, the other an expansive double album of sessions from Kobe – Hochzeitskapelle gather around them some of the finest voices in Japanese independent and underground pop music, like Tenniscoats, Eddie Marcon, Yuko Ikema, and Kama Aina, and explore an open field of music, full of creative encounters.
You may already know Hochzeitskapelle as the German instrumental quintet formed by members of The Notwist, Alien Ensemble, and friends from the jazz scene. Across three albums, one a collaboration with Kama Aina (2018’s Wayfaring Suite), they’ve developed a way of playing together that’s intimate and playful, rich and human; it’s a music that’s deliberately rough around the edges, and that nestles cosily into the everyday. Their relationship with Japanese indie has developed over the years, doubtless encouraged by member Markus Acher’s Minna Miteru series of compilations of Japanese indie pop for Morr Music. A peripatetic gang, Hochzeitskapelle also recently backed Japanese singer-songwriter Makoto Kawamoto on her new album, Hikari.
In many ways, The Orchestra in the Sky feels like the culmination of a set of ongoing cross-cultural exchanges: the Minna Miteru compilations; tours of Japan by Hochzeitskapelle and The Notwist; and indeed, Markus Acher’s Spirit Fest group with Saya and Ueno of Tenniscoats. The latter are present throughout much of The Orchestra in the Sky, and Saya’s voice is particularly winning on songs like “Tsuki no oto”, where the two outfits are joined by brass ensemble Zayaendo. There are several lovely turns from singer-songwriter Yuko Ikema, and Eddie Marcon appear twice; their songs are still beautiful, spectral acid folk, but with Hochzeitskapelle filling the details with lush, sad brass and strings.
But it’s also the potentially lesser-known names that shine through The Orchestra in the Sky, like the frail folk of Gratin Carnival; the delightful, gentle pop songs by sekifu and Zayaendo member, Kanako Numata; a trio of beautiful, stumble-drunk melodies played in swaying consort with popo. That group, along with the presence of Zayaendo, Fuigo, and Mitamurakandadan?, make strong connections with the Japanese underground’s love of brass bands, partly informed by the tradition of chindon’ya, marching bands that walk the streets of Japanese cities. They also all appeared on the recent Alien Parade Japan compilation of such groups, assembled by Acher and Saya.
All things converge, then, on The Orchestra in the Sky, a smart, spirited collection of heavenly pop songs, intimate folk melodies, lungfuls of joyous brass, deep weeping strings, and swooning sighs. The last words go to Acher himself: “Many things we did in the last years come together here and it feels like something special was captured.” We hope you like what you hear.