From the East to the West: Japan’s Yahyel Brought Their Own Style to SXSW The Japanese Cyberpunk Band Captivates America Audience In Austin
AUSTIN, TX- Day three of my 2019 SXSW started the same way as day two, at the Mohawk Austin for its continuing Brooklyn Vegan showcase. This time around however, I decided to check out the indoor stage that features a much darker and more intimate setting. The first act I caught was an electro-pop group out of Japan by the name of yahyel whose musical styling’s are trying to break Japanese stereotypes.
Formed in 2015, the band consists of five members: Shun Ikegai (vocals), Miru Shinoda (sampler & chorus), Kazuya Oi (drums), Kento Yamada (VJ), and Wataru Sugimoto (synthesizer & chorus). The name “yahyel” is actually taken from a cult in the US that believes aliens will come in contact with humans and those aliens are called ‘yahyel’. The name plays on the fact that the group is trying to be different and it wants to change the way westerners view Japanese music. Not only is their music unique, but the songs are mainly in English as well. If yahyel’s goal was to captivate an American audience, they certainly accomplished that task.
In the dimly lit room with the stage lights set to red and directed on yahyel, a deep electronic bass started pulsating from the speakers. It was eerie and suspenseful in the moment in that quiet and dark environment. But when Ikegai’s reverberated voice began singing and the beat dropped I couldn’t help but feel like dancing. The drum rhythms combined with ecstatic synthesizers made me sway and head-bop from start to finish. Yahyel’s music is founded on looping electronic samples that come in with a heavy drop and high pitched vocals from Ikegai. The premise is very American with regards to the EDM and techno genres, but yahyel adds unique twists to their samples using the synthesizers in profound ways to distinguish themselves from anyone else out there right now.
On stage, Ikegai’s movements mirrored the music he was singing to, often pulsating and convulsing with each beat. He was dancing and moving throughout the entire performance including during the last song when he went into the crowd to dance along with them. Yahyel’s setlist included songs from both of their studio releases; Fresh and Blood (2016), and Human (2018), the latter definitely being their more experimental record. The way they manipulated electronic sounds was amazing to hear in person and I was indeed pleasantly surprised that this band from Japan shared such unique music that I thoroughly enjoyed. Next time they’re at SXSW or go on tour in the US I would highly recommend seeing them live.