(photo by Ángel Delgado-Reyes)
The best part of SXSW is the surprises, those bands you just stumble upon when you’re not sure what you’re looking for, or those that happen to be playing with the bands that you thought you really wanted to see.
This was the case with Austin’s Ichi Ni San Shi.
We had wandered down to Beerland for the Super Secret / Twistworthy / Thread Pull Records unofficial SXSW show to see Ghost Knife, another project by Mike Wiebe of the Riverboat Gamblersand High Tension Wires. We weren’t going to be able to see either of his more prominent projects (the only Gamblers show I saw listed happened Saturday - after we left Texas), but he’s one of the most exciting frontmen around, so I’m always interested to see what he has to offer.
But first up was the hard to pronounce and harder to figure out Ichi Ni San Shi.
Let me start out by letting you know how much I didn’t like this band. The vocals were nasal and grating, and the music, this mashup of electronic rhythms, pop melodies and horns that didn’t seem to quite match up all seemed unlistenable and impossible to appreciate - the sort of music created for people to have a favorite band that nobody else is into, because they’re impossible to get into.
But sitting on the bar stool drinking a cold tall boy, and transformation began to take place. I’m not sure if it was an evolution in the band’s set, or a mental shift in the way I was listening to it, but I started to hear the music.
I started to catch the cleverness in the band’s sound, to detect that these seemingly discordant rhythms matched up in a less than traditional way. And it wasn’t pretentious and it wasn’t artsy; nothing seemed placed or planned in an effort to make them seem like they were doing anything more than making the music they wanted to make. I even began to warm up to vocalist Bill Jeffrey’s voice. He began to mesh perfectly with the music, serving as another instrument in a complex musical composition.
By the time the band played the song “Watch Them Grow,” I had grown from strongly disliking this band to actually becoming an avid fan, making a mental note to seek out their recordings. And that track - “Watch Them Grow” is an infectious earworm that I would be humming and singing to myself for days afterword.
And I’m doing it again now.
A whopper of a local music sampler for a worthy cause! A dear friend to the Austin music community, Danna Williams, is fighting cancer. To help her with the financial strain, Art Pinsof compiled an amazing collection of songs from local musicians to create a digital album available for purchase on Bandcamp. It looks as though most, if not all, of these songs are exclusive to this comp. Ichi Ni San Shi added an unreleased song “Slug,” which kicks it off. Spend $10, download 2+ hours of songs recorded by Austin musicians just for this comp, and help a wonderful individual and friend of the music central Texas music scene.
Ichi Ni San Shi playing “Here Sometime Today” at Beerland in Austin, Texas.
Video taken by Ángel Delgado-Reyes.
ICHI NI SAN SHI - Slow Truth
$12 (plus tax)
Hello, Gold Van Fan! How have you been? We just returned from SXSW and, while we have had this album since our last trek to Austin, TX back in February 2014, we had a chance to see these folks ICHI NI SAN SHI (Japanese for 1,2,3,4) and we were able to buy some copies for the van from their label Super Secret Records (an Austin, TX institution…see also Kingdom of Suicide Lovers). This band is one of Ruben’s personal new faves.
Let me tell you about the live experience (which I admit, I wasn’t sure after hearing this wonderful quirky pop lp that they would be able to do it, but they pulled it ALL THE WAY OFF.) First off, the drums are controlled by a nice lady and a table of samplers and drum machines, there are keyboards, bass, an incredible and colorful guitar player, and a lead singer in Austin, TX legend Bill Jeffries! Bill’s stage presence, much like the band is playful, happy, and energetic. (That description of the band also sums up the sound of the album, btw) Bill has spent time lending his voice and trumpet skills to many bands in Austin, TX since the 90’s, way back when I lived there, and I feel the others are just as well seasoned as they all RIPPED IT UP. This is a special record.
This wonderful debut, Slow Truth by ICHI NI SAN SHI combines pop, psyche, and noise with cool electro-beats and is done well by these seasoned musicians. They keep it weird, sure, but they make it POP.The band will most likely not tour, but that does not mean that you would not enjoy this LP on your turntable tonight.
See you this weekend (March 22nd in front or around Rudy’s on Capitol Hill), weather permitting. In the meantime, THIS LP IS IN THE VAN!
Thanks for listening!
Punk-punk-punk; every time I review a punk record on this site I mention how there just isn’t enough coming into Cerbs, and never has been. What gives? Super Secret has been filling the void, or helping to, for a few years now, so when this Ichi Ni San Shi LP came in I figured I was in for another serving of punkin’ pie. What I/we (we’re all in this together, right?) got instead was a band more in line with Silent League, Of Montreal, or maybe even Half-Handed Cloud and recent Sufjan, rife with electronic elements and vocals that quiz the ear on quirk. If you were to describe their sound to me, I’d likely bristle and refuse to even give it a chance, and while at times duringSlow Truth my instinct to move on kicked in, I’m glad I stuck around because there are beguiling experiments afoot. “Watch Them Grow” is a prime example, starting as an irritating, awkward interaction between elements that seem miles apart, then morphing into a positively enlightening experience with the help of a few well-placed synthpeggios and a momentum that, once it picks up, just won’t quit (kind of like this sentence, which through parenthesis is still alive!). That guy from Vampire Weekend keeps pumping money into his synths, or at least I hope he is, and he still can’t get his rig to imitate trumpets as effectively as these guys do. Just for the record.