The Crash Mustard

It’s hard to think of a more exciting band than The Crash Mustard to have emerged on the live music circuit in Japan in the last few years. They didn’t exactly just creep onto the scene, either. They’ve come roaring in with tremendous energy and talent, forging a new style of music that’s certain to excite those who seek out their live shows.

That the quartet has, in a mere six months of being together, accomplished such a mature and complex sound is not accidental. The musicians are all veteran players in other musical acts highly regarded by live music fans in Japan. The members are Kaneko Takumi (of Cro-Magnon) on keyboard, Yao (of Dachambo) on drums, Okabe Takuma (of multiple music acts) on bass and renowned didgeridoo player Nata. But experience doesn’t necessarily mean musicians will gel—certainly not this harmoniously. How do their disparate styles of playing manage not to, well, crash?

“We’ve got good balance,” they all agree, to which Yao adds, “We really listen to each other play and strive for a sense of unity. Then we think about how the song should progress.”

They come to their live shows with material they’ve rehearsed in the studio. “Then we jam with it,” continues Yao. “It’s close to jazz. We start with a theme, run with it, then return to the theme.”

Jazz seems particularly suited for bringing the members—and their different musical backgrounds—together. Okabe is no stranger to playing jazz and seems perfectly comfortable working the neck and laying down bass grooves. Kaneko, however, seems positively “liberated” (his words). While he studied jazz at Berklee College of Music he generally plays tighter loops with the more club and house-music oriented Cro-Magnon. Seeing his fingers dance across keys on spirited jazz-fusion riffs will be new to many familiar only with his previous work. Yao, one of the most versatile drummers out there, reveals a looser style of drumming with nimbly shifting patterns, having ably transitioned from the more power-driven percussion work with his regular band. The surprise, of course, is Nata’s didgeridoo, an instrument perhaps nobody would associate with jazz.

And yet it suits the genre surprisingly well. Like modern jazz drummers (and Yao’s own style in this band) Nata’s playing weaves between time-keeping/rhythm roles and melodic flourishes. In the song “Deja-va” Nata croaks and chirps in the background like some sonic tree frog taunting Okabe on bass. Later, you can hear him in the spaces in Kaneko’s solos. Says Kaneko, “When I hear him go bahhh I try to do the same on the keyboard,” he motions with his fingers, as if mashing down on a chord. Nata adds, “I do try to focus on the sense that I am singing.” The occasional comping between the didgeridoo and keyboard—with Yao and Okabe driving the rhythm furiously underneath—strikes one as the exploration of new musical space extending from the legacies of Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson, both pioneering experimenters of comping.

Mentioning The Crash Mustard in the same breath as jazz legends is exuberance, of course. But when hungry musicians at the top of their game assemble to create fresh sound, underestimating their potential impact to contemporary music seems equally blameworthy. When asked what they will do if they become big, Okabe laughs and responds, “We’ll establish a music corporation and stretch our legs out.” “We’ll never be that good,” says Yao. But again, who knows?

More to the point was whether they will continue working with their other bands, and the answer is a resounding yes. Kaneko explains, “In jazz, it’s important to make good music with the people you’re currently with, but also move around and play with other groups as well.”

Others musicians, too, like Koshino Ryuta (of Razoku) have joined them live to play some improvisation. They all agree that a vocalist might be a nice addition to the group. Before anything else, though, they want more opportunities to play, especially in festivals. “Wherever we’re needed,” smiles Yao. Soon, it may be a question of wherever they are wanted, which will likely be everywhere fans of live music reside.

photos & text: Ry Beville
All photos taken with an
Nikon FG20 on Kodak.

ここ数年で日本のライブミュージック・サーキットに登場してきた新しいバンドの中でも、The Crash Mustardのエキサイティングなサウンドは特に素晴らしいと思う。凄まじいエネルギーと才能が一つになって新しい音楽スタイルを作り出し、ライブでファンを魅了している。




彼らを一つのバンドとして結びつけるのに、また4人が持つ音楽的なバックグラウンドを一体化させるためにジャズが果たしている役割は大きい。特に岡部はジャズに通じており、そうした演奏を得意としている。金子はポジティブな意味で「自由」にプレイしているように見える。金子はバークリー音楽院でジャズを学んだ経験を持つが、Cro-Magnonが得意とするクラブミュージックやハウスなど、よりタイトなプレイが本来の彼のスタイル。The Crash Mustardでの金子のジャズ/フュージョン的なアプローチは以前の彼のスタイルしか知らないリスナーには新鮮に聞こえるだろう。Dachamboでは力強いパーカッションワークが特徴のYaoは、The Crash Mustardでは次々に変化してゆく複雑なリズムの中心的役割を果たし、より柔軟で自由なスタイルを見せる。そして特筆すべきはNataのプレイ。ジャズとディジュリドゥの組み合わせは斬新だ。それでいて不思議としっくりくるのである。Nataのプレイはバックでリズムキープの役割をはたしているかと思えば次の瞬間には華やかでメロディアスなプレイに移行し、そのスタイルは変幻自在だ。“Deja-vu”という曲ではまるでベースの岡部を嘲笑うかのごとく、アマガエルがゲロゲロと鳴くような音でリズムを刻んでいる。この曲では金子のキーボードソロのバックでNataが刻むディジュリドゥの音が特に印象的。「Nataの音を聞くと触発されて僕もキーボードで同じ音を出したいと思うんですよ」と金子は言う。「自分が歌っている感覚で音を出すように心掛けています」とNataが付け加えてくれた。このように時折聞かれるディジュリドゥとキーボードの掛け合いはYaoと岡部が生み出す強烈なリズムをバックに、ハービー・ハンコックやオスカー・ピーターソンらがやっていたことをさらに進化させる新しい試みとして聞き手に感動を与える。

The Crash Mustardとジャズの巨匠たちを同じ次元で語るのは適切ではないかもしれないが、ハングリー精神に溢れた有能なミュージシャンたちが集まって新しいことを始めた時、現代の音楽にインパクトを与える彼らの秘めたる可能性を過小評価することはもっと大きな間違いだと思うのである。有名になったらどうしたいか尋ねたところ、岡部は笑いながら「音楽会社を立ち上げて好きなようにやります」と答えた。「僕らがそんなに有名になることはあり得ないですよ」とYaoは言うが、実際どうなるか分からない。


“らぞく”の越野竜太もThe Crash Mustardのライブにゲスト参加し、即興的な演奏を聴かせる。また、バンドにボーカリストを加えることについても全員が肯定的な意見を持っているという。しかしそういった付帯的なことよりも彼らが一番望んでいるのはライブの機会を、特に野外フェスへの参加をもっと増やすことだという。「話が来ればどこでも行きます」とYaoが笑顔で話してくれた。彼らが引っ張りだこの人気バンドになる日も遠くないかもしれない。ライブの雰囲気が好きなファンなら誰でも間違いなく彼らの音を気に入るだろう。


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