Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Plug into Formoz's electronica stage

By Max Woodworth  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Caribou from Canada will stomp across the electronica stage tonight.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SILENT AGREEMENT

For the second year the Formoz Festival will feature a stage dedicated to electronic music with a lineup of local and foreign bands. As with last year, the local indie label Silent Agreement has taken charge of booking the bands for the Electronica Stage and has dug into the short, but solid list of bands whose albums it releases in Taiwan to come up with the stage's headliners.

This year's major attractions will be Caribou and the Konki Duet. Neither band is well known in Taiwan, but Silent Agreement has a knack for picking relatively obscure groups that make an out-sized splash when they play here -- Four Tet and Album Leaf are two that come to mind. The label also brought Japan's DJ Aki to last year's Formoz for a mind-blowing drum 'n' bass session that extended deep into the festival's Saturday night.

"There was a great atmosphere at the electronica stage last year, so there's a lot to live up to this time around," said Huang Yi-chin (黃一晉), head of Silent Agreement. "We dug up a lot of variety, so however you define electronica it'll all be on this stage."

Within the broad genre of electronica, Caribou and Konki Duet could hardly be more different. Caribou, a three-person outfit from Canada, is explosive and frenetic, with two full drum kits, guitars, laptop, keyboards, samplers and vocals sometimes all going at once. It's melodic enough to avoid a description as noise, but all the action makes it a rarity in the realm of electronica: it's a band with stage presence and members that don't just warm their faces to the glow of a laptop monitor.

At the other end of the energy spectrum, the Franco-Japanese trio Konki Duet make moody, rainy day music that should be appropriate to the last night of the festival when they play. The whispered lyrics are self-consciously introspective and their album Il Fait Tout Gris is sometimes so quiet you need to check to make sure the track is still playing. With an album title that translates as, It's all gray outside, this is perhaps to be expected. But Konki Duet isn't all doom and gloom. They still manage a few spectacular, euphoric moments of great, uplifting indie pop.

Fleshing out the electronica stage's foreign lineup over the three days will be performances by half a dozen artists from Japan and Hong Kong.

Playing tonight before Caribou will be Utabi from Japan, whose music has been given the unfortunate label "intelligent dance music." But trust us, the music isn't as obnoxious as the label sounds.

Tomorrow's lineup will stray a bit from electronica with local hip hop by Daximen and some aggressive rock by Japan's Poplar, but will otherwise keep to the script with the Hong Kong ambient group Snoblind, who played a killer set at Spring Scream this year, and UFA, Taiwan's answer to DJ Krush. "Sunday is the only day we have a kind of theme, though it wasn't conceived as such," Huang said.

"The foreign bands like YMCK, the Aprils and Pixel Toy all sound like video game music. It's really electro and retro. One might even say kawaii."

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