Joy Ride vol.133: soyuz project, CTO LAB., NeoBallad

Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

CTO LAB.On Friday April 19 was the 133rd edition (!) of electro-themed event series "Joy Ride" that started in 2006. That's an average of 2+ events per month! I went to this one especially to see CTO LAB., the all-star band of polymoog (Elektel), Okada Tohru (Moonriders) & Imai Kentarō (Aprils), who I felt I hadn't seen in a while. Although I hadn't heard of the other acts before this show, I found myself enjoying all of them very much.

soyuz project is the solo project of Fukuma Hajime (ex-P-Model). Actually it used to be a unit with other members, but after a split-up he turned it into his solo project. His set consisted of him standing in the middle of 3 tall stands, respectively holding a laptop, a small keyboard and a mixer, and in the center of which he stood controlling each device in turn.

On the sides were two transparent screens on which his accompanying VJ projected videos. Behind the stage was also had a large screen, completing the very visual setup. The tracks were upbeat and danceable. First album "Perspective" was released last December (CDJapan, YesAsia iTunes (World), iTunes (Japan)).

Next on stage was CTO LAB.. The band appeared accompanied by dancer Taichi (Genius) who appeared a few times though the show. For a few songs at the beginning, Okada Tohru played a white Alesis Vortex strap-on keyboard, he said it was his first time being on stage with this kind of instrument but it somehow looked very natural on him. The opening song was a surprising cover of "Un homme et une femme", a track that had been made for a show featuring French singer Pierre Barouh last year. The set was full of CTO LAB. favorites, but also featured an unreleased cover of "The Elements" (Tom Lehrer), and new song "Go Spiral Go" to be featured in game "Groove Coaster" later this year.

Also this show was a sort of advance release party for single "sekai wa BON HI-BON!", the 2013 theme song for NHK TV show "dai! tensai TV-kun". "sekai wa BON HI-BON!" is an upbeat hyper track with many different sounding parts. The "HI-BON" in the title is the Japanese word "hibon" which means "extraordinary". While the single CD will only be officially released on July 3, it was already being sold in advance at the show! Of course I got mine. :)

Set list: Un homme et une femme (Francis Lai cover) / Pack up my sorrow / C.DISCO / The Elements (Tom Lehrer cover) / itoko dōshi (Moonriders cover) / Go Spiral Go (unreleased new song for game "Groove Coaster") / sekai wa BON HI-BON! (new song) / Crash Bandicoot


Last on stage was NeoBallad, the unit of singer Wakasa Sachi and drummer Kamiryō Wataru. Kamiryō used to be in bands such as P-Model and Grass Valley, and has also been a support member for Soft Ballet among others. Together the duo perform Japanese traditional songs known as minyō over programmed electro backtracks. I couldn't help but recall Omodaka, as they even share common songs (e.g. "kokiriko bushi"), but still the style and performance is very different. In the case of NeoBallad all vocals are performed live, and accompanied by powerful drumming.

NeoBallad's first album "01" has been released just last month, and it's available on CDJapan, iTunes Japan, etc.

I'll definitely be catching more of the Joy Ride events, as it looks like there's lots of good music to find there!

Larger sizes and more photos at Flickr

Live information:
5/5 - "Techno+Pop=Forever ~Motocompo tribute party~" w/ (M)otocompo, Aprils & more @ Shibuya O-nest
5/17 - "Joy Ride vol.136" w/ NeoBallad, Takahashi Yoshikazu (ex-P-Model), BachiBachi Sonic @ Koenji High
5/18 - NeoBallad free live @ JR Ochanomizu station (Hijiribashi Exit), starts at 14:00
6/21 - NeoBallad @ Koenji High
6/28 - "Joy Ride vol.139" w/ soyuz project, COSMO-SHIKI @ Koenji High

soyuz project "AUX" (Live in Osaka)

CTO LAB. "Crash Bandicoot"

NeoBallad "kokiriko bushi" & "Saitara bushi"

Tags: CTO LAB., NeoBallad, soyuz project (click for more info)

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