The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
Monday, 22nd May 2023
Don’t you just love it when the stars align?
As of last Thursday morning I had not heard of Paranoid Void, a math-rock friendly trio of young ladies from Japan. After this gig I’m a complete fan and can’t wait to see them again – and they promised they’d come back soon. I hope they do!
A work trip to Birmingham presented the opportunity for an unplanned gig, but searching the listings led to one dead end after another. Monday nights are never going to be a hot-bed of excitement, after all.
But wait! Who’s this? Paranoid Void? No idea.
A quick Google immediately raised my interest though, as from experience, any band from Japan that makes it all the way over here – particularly during these challenging times – has got to have something going for them. Over to YouTube and the videos for their tracks redo and ukiyo have me at the edge of my seat.
My first thought is, “This band is bloody great!” More videos underline this, and consideration becomes an intention. Despite Transport For Wales and CrossCountry Trains doing their damnedest to prevent it, I’m in Birmingham, fed and watered, and ready for action at the Sunflower Lounge – a brilliant 50 yards from the hotel – 15 minutes before Paranoid Void are due to start. The support has just finished and PV are setting up. They are precise, concentrating on the detail and checking every connection, the noises of soundcheckery keeping their cards close in respect of what will happen when they kick off for real. When they do, it’s immediately awesome, a colliding spiral of drums, bass and guitar, played with skill and pizazz.
Meguri is the guitarist, and she carries the melody lines with just the right amount of delay to spin the music back on itself, all three players locking in around it with thumping and skittering drum rhythms and insanely good bass. These three have it all in the fully instrumental set, built over a decade of playing together.
Bassist Yu-Ki adds keyboard washes when not two-hand tapping the living shiz out of her four-string. She really is stunning to watch, deftly peeling out runs and lead lines, adding funky slapping drive and nailing the bottom end in sync with the drummer, the well-named Mipow, who batters away, deftly changing pace and direction with the flick of a wrist to drive the music onto a new course. She also deploys drum pads to add another dimension. The playing of all three is enigmatic with supernatural degrees of telepathy as they close their eyes and ride the music as if it’s playing them.
Meguri is the designated spokesperson, her high-register tones telling us who they are and where they’re from, and that’s about it. It’s immediately engaging, in a way that Japanese bands always seem to manage. Later she tentatively reminds us that they have merch available, and at the encore asks if we’d like one more, but after that I think she’s pretty much all out of English. It doesn’t matter in the slightest as the music does all the talking and the audience are eating out of their hand. As is often the case with Japanese acts, they seem surprised and relieved by the warmth of the response. There are no egos here.
With a very good sound – not too loud and with plenty of clarity despite the small room – the result is a funky and groovesome hour or so that gets the 50-odd happy audients moving and dancing with ease. It’s a young crowd; another strange example of the musical tramlining that goes on between prog and math/post. The prognoscenti needn’t fear this music – dive in and give it a go, you might just have a blast. As do the band, who are clearly doing this for all the right reasons. Completely enchanting.
Paranoid Void dextrously conjure beautifully melodic pieces whilst remaining true to their independently imagined musical worldview, which just so happens to align with those of a mathy persuasion, but with something undefinably different thrown into the mix. I have no idea what they played, other than the familiar sounds of some of the pieces encountered by my YouTube surfing, but they played it all fiercely.
Paranoid Void were just superb, leaving that lovely warm and fuzzy feeling of satisfaction.
[Paranoid Void’s current U.K. tour will conclude at the Portals Festival in London on Sunday 28th May.]
Meguri – Guitar
Yu-ki – Bass, Keyboards
Mipow – Drums, Drum Pads