Featuring a collection of accomplished, Montreal-based musicians, who have played with and alongside the likes of Pawa Up First, Patrick Wilson, Boogat, Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra and others, the rising Montreal-based Japanese psych punk septet TEKE: TEKE – Yuki Isami (flute, shinobue and keys), Hidetaka Yoneyama (guitar), Sergio Nakauchi Pelletier (guitar), Mishka Stein (bass), Etienne Lebel (trombone), Ian Lettree (drums, percussion) and Maya Kuroki (vocals, keys and percussion) — was initially founded as a loving homage (and tribute) to legendary Japanese guitarist Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi.
With the release of their debut EP 2018’s Jikaku, the members of the Montreal-based septet came into their own highly unique and difficult to pigeonhole sound that features elements of Japanese Eleki surf rock, shoegaze, post-punk, psych rock, ska, Latin music and Balkan music. Last year was a momentous year for TEKE: TEKE. They signed to Kill Rock Stars Records, who will be releasing the band’s highly-awaited full-length debut Shirushi on May 7. 2021. And to build up buzz for the album, the band has released four singles off the album:
“Kala Kala:” Deriving its title from a phrase that roughly translates to English as clattering, “Kala Kala” is centered around a mind-melting arrangement and song structure, Kuroki’s howling and crooning. And to my ears, the track accurately captures the band’s frenetic live energy.
“Chidori,” a cinematic yet mosh pit friendly freak out that’s one part psych rock, one part Dick Dale-like surf rock, one part Ennio Morricone soundtrack delivered with a frenetic aplomb.
“Meikyu:” Deriving its title from the Japanese word for labyrinth, the track is a no bullshit, no filler all killer ripper with menacing guitar work, dramatic bursts of trombone, fluttering flute, thumping tribal drumming and some wild soloing within an expansive, mind-melting song structure.
Yoru Ni,” a fever dream featuring dreamy blasts of flute and trombone, menacing and slashing guitars and intricate Japanese shamisen. Deriving its name from the Japanese phrase for “at night,” the song despite it’s mischievous tone, is a somewhat romantic and spiritual tale about its central character letting go of a long-held delusional quest.
“Barbara,” Shirushi’s fifth and latest single is a mischievous and cinematic track with a stomping, punk rock energy that to my ears at least, sounds like it would be a perfect soundtrack for a circus or the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, as each instrumental part seemingly introducing a new and strange character. Much like the previously released singles, “Barbara” captures the frenetic energy of their live sets. “I remember er i being pretty late at night in the studio, everybody was perhaps feeling a bit edgy from a long day of recording,” the band’s Ian Lettre recalls. “And after having a chat about Brazilian band Os Mutantes, somehow we just thought ‘you know what? How about we all get in that room together and play ‘Barbara’ like there’s no tomorrow. That ended up being cut that’s on the album, haha . . .”
The lyrics as the band explain are a twisted take on zashiki-warashi, spirit beings, who like to perform pranks and bring good fortune to those who see them. “The initial inspiration for this song is a true story that happened to me,” the band’s Hidetaka Yoneyama explains. “I was randomly mistaken for an old lady by this stranger on the street, who came up to me screaming ‘Barbara? Barbara?! It’s you?! Barbara?!’ Maya then had the idea of taking the story to another level by turning it into this psychedelic tale of yokai (ghost or spirit) that escapes a house and goes on doing all sorts of pranks on people, that spirit being Barbara.”
The recently released lyric video was animated by the band’s Serge Nakauchi-Pelletier and Maya Kuroki and features some childlike and mischievous line drawings of the band performing and of the song’s equally mischievous titular character Barbara, evading attention, playing pranks and causing some good hearted trouble.