Ben Kemp looks like a rugby player, but he has the most delicate falsetto voice and a rather poetic songwriting touch. His band, Uminari, are tight and very cool in a quirky Japanese way, especially the drummer who is so cool he doesn’t need drumsticks. We saw these guys at the Classic Comedy Bar and they put on a great show. But they were supported by local singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, and I liked her set even more.
Ben Kemp is a very nice Kiwi musician who has lived in Japan for some time now. He has gotten together with a group of Japanese musicians to form his band. The music works really well live — they go for extended soundscapes built around each song, with Kemp’s voice sometimes acting as another instrument. The mood ranges from gentle and contemplative to a bit more noisy and experimental on some tracks, where they might try to evoke the sound of the sea or a storm. It’s hypnotic stuff.
Between songs he tells how the songs came to be, and also shares some stories about himself. The show was nice and intimate — at one point he brought out a couple of bottles of Japanese liquor (sake and umeshu) and passed them around the audience. You can’t much more chilled-out than that.
The curtain-raiser for the evening was Anna Coddington. She played a set of her own melodic, heartfelt songs while accompanying herself on the guitar. She has an engaging stage presence and a good sense of humour, she’s good-looking and slightly quirky, and her lovely voice suits the songs perfectly. I was also impressed by her guitar playing: Some singers just play a few chords to accompany themselves, but she got a lot of different sounds and textures out of her instrument without ever overshadowing the songs. I think in a fair world she should be a superstar, or at least a star. Her album comes out in a month or so, so maybe she will be!