Thursday 6 February 2014

Anamanaguchi @ Heaven, London

Anamanaguchi arrived in London from New York (by way of Japan) for this, only their second gig in the UK.  They’re best described as a chiptune rock band, using synthesised sounds from the sound chips of vintage computers and games consoles (namely the NES and Game Boy) in addition to the usual guitars and drums.  In simple terms, imagine the Tetris theme tune with a donk on it and you’re half way there.

The style might be something of an acquired taste, but if anyone can win over noobs it’s Anamanaguchi.  Performing choice tracks from their 2013 album ‘Endless Fantasy’, their 8-bit music is densely textured, hyperactive techno.  Simple, playful melodies are accompanied by heavy basslines, dubstep beats and roaring guitars, the only occasional vocals coming from processed, high-pitched samples.  It’s the sort of music you’d expect to come blaring out of a Japanese arcade in central Tokyo.

Visually, though, there’s a slight disconnect between the predominantly electronic music and the standard band set up – it just looks unusual to see a guitarist but hear a series of bleeps and bloops.  The band champion a sound that’s retro-futuristic and highly regarded within their own niche.  Even for the uninitiated, though, they put on an electric show, surrounded by pillars of neon light and performing in front of a backdrop of psychedelic, kawaii animé imagery.  It’s not the sort of rainbow coloured visuals you’d normally associate with a rock band, but here it works.  As one band member held internships at a number of fashion companies (whilst the other three majored in Music Technology at New York University), it’s understandable that they have a flair for impactful aesthetics and style.

The crowd, too, were suitably eclectic and numerous – from glow stick brandishing ravers, to long-haired emo headbangers who were all “partying like it’s 10pm in summer”.  This may have only been their second UK gig, but the band have already garnered devoted fans.  Gaming enthusiasts will certainly recognise their music from the Scott Pilgrim game, as well as Bit.Trip Runner and Rock Band, but as chiptune music continues to reach wider audiences Anamanaguchi are sure to be at the forefront.

As a whole, the gig was a relentless assault on the ears.  Though ‘Endless Fantasy’ includes a handful of slower tracks and interludes, these were absent from the setlist.  Instead, the band’s aim was clearly to have the audience raving and jumping throughout – a feat they certainly managed.  The effect was positively manic and hugely energetic – enough to make you want to save the princess, defeat the alien hoard, race to first place and catch ‘em all.  You can’t ask for more of a power up than that.