CHAI + CURRENTMOODGIRL – PATTERNS, BRIGHTON 9.11.23
28th October 2018 marked the second out of three times where I experienced London-based psychedelic pop band Superorganism live. Being the superfan of them that I was, I paid additional attention to their support act, a little-known (back then, at least) Japanese four-piece known as CHAI. Despite my attention, I remember very little about the music other than it being a wave of cute Kawaii electro-pop with pink tinges dazzling the walls of Concorde 2. Since then, I had yet to give the band a proper exploration, instead, watching them grow and develop in popularity and scope on my Instagram feed. However, after catching their features on Superorganism’s sophomore album ‘World Wide Pop’ last summer, I felt the urge to finally plan to catch them live again after all this time and see what all the new fuss is about…!
When I last saw them, they were touring material from their debut album ‘PINK’, which features an eclectic mix of dance-pop, new wave and J-Pop. Since then, three albums have dropped, twice as much as their ex-touring partners Superorganism: 2019’s fast and playful ‘PINK’, the glossy and quirky ‘WINK’ a couple years later, and last month’s self-titled synth funk-oriented release which stands as the album of touring choice at Brighton’s Patterns on Thursday night. Despite a twenty-minute hiccup regarding entry into Patterns (that’s a story for another time…!), I got comfortable at the front row, making a change from my last visit here, catching Pinkshift back in August from the back platform. After a quick catch-up with the photographer for the night, Cherie Elody, a mysterious white snow coat-donning figure made her way onto the stage, by the name of Greta Carroll, aka CURRENTMOODGIRL. Originating from Manchester but based in Brighton, Greta has been exploring the sounds of dark experimental pop for some considerable time and has begun to make a name for herself in Brighton’s more futuristic pop live scene alongside icons such as VASCHA (whom I caught supporting CLT DRP not too long ago).
Here, Greta has come to provide a slight culture shock for CHAI fans, bringing forward her veiling aura for a brief seven-song set. Backed by her backing tracks via Ableton, the introductory ‘Sleepless111’ sees Greta begin to whisk her mutated vocal delivery across the crowd, with an instrumental adorned in industrial chimes and a 6/8 groove. Drum patterns almost stretch into breakbeat territory as her wild screeches pull us through to the end of the song. ‘RED (In Bed)’ maintains an oddly desolate sound, like something off of the last couple Gary Numan albums. This aside, the rumbling sub-bass and very Bjork-like vocal inflections are sure to either alienate or entrance the CHAI crowd. I must say, between songs when Greta addresses the crowd, it’s odd to hear such a strong Manchester accent right after some truly tumultuous vocal passages…! Anyways, the song ‘The Letter L’ (supposedly about dyslexia), plays around with a scant industrial backdrop and a repeating vocal motif of “lucky lie, lusty love, lullaby” which remains a constant throughout. Greta’s musical persona definitely requires the audience’s attention to the performance side (naturally, with only a backing track present), however, it would have been exciting to see Greta gifted with a wider space on stage for her to travel around.
The more meditative ‘Dagger’, however, sees Greta seductively strutting across her space, plus a couple of jaunts into the audience members’ faces in the front row, like she’s wandering around her own world of paradise. This track was easily the most majestic song in her set with dreamy synth passages and stunningly powerful falsetto vocals. “You’re all so bloody sexy!”, she proclaims before heading into the next song of the set, ‘IOU’. This track continues to make great use of industrial music textures and warbling synth lines in the spaces around the mix. While I personally enjoyed Greta’s music here, part of me wants to watch her perform in a more open space, as the metal barrier put in place did seem to put a damper on things…! Following the next track’s (‘Tellyphonevishion’) more melodic content, packed with polyrhythmic synth chimes and erratic kick patterns, came what was possibly my favourite song of the set, entitled ‘My Own’. Compositionally, the song plays around a simple two-chord progression with filtering white noise and pitched-down drum beats. During this track, Greta proceeds to bless us with an almost soulful vocal delivery across longing lyrics of not being able to be without your lover; what a stunning way to close off the first act of the night! CURRENTMOODGIRL will make a welcome return to Patterns on Monday 27th November as support to Tom Rasmussen – Grab your tickets HERE.
‘RED (In Bed)’
‘The Letter L’
As members of the CHAI live crew begin to tune guitars and check everything is ready for the queens of Kawaii themselves, my anticipation began to grow more and more, excited to finally experience CHAI in a live setting again for the first time in five years… and, in they came! About five minutes early (like I’m complaining!), drummer Yuna, bassist Yuuki and twin sister lead vocalists Mana and Kana (you can distinguish between the two via Kana’s wedding ring), make their way to the stage, with the sisters taking marching positions on the opening ‘MATCHA’, the intro track on the new album! With a lovely Moog bass line from Yuuki and a solid hip-hop groove from Yuna, this track comes complete within dream synthesiser waves, drifting us into the wonderful bubbly world of CHAI! The subsequent song ‘PARA PARA’ is where it’s at however as the party starts here, with neo-futuristic disco rhythms and funky as hell guitar lines; it may be a short song, but it sure is sweet! Mana welcomes us to the show, praising our appreciation for the new album, before leading us into ‘From 1992’. This is more of a low-key song in terms of percussion, with a mutant disco vibe not unlike that of something you would find on an Arthur Russell project. Let’s also not forget the stunning pairing vocal harmonies between Mana and Kana: irresistible and lovely!
‘PING PONG!’ was easily my favourite of the set with Yuuki and Yuna now holding their stances at some Akai-induced 8-bit synths and drum machine patterns at the back of the stage; but it’s the interpolation of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and the gorgeously hypnotic chorus melody that does it for me! It’s at the song ‘ACTION’ where I spot that even Mana and Kana’s triple hair buns are symmetrical (Mana’s to the left and Kana’s to the right), but this song is a highlight, purely for the wonderful choreography that all four members undertake atop these synth disco patterns. It seems that many areas of dance music are being covered at this show, and on ‘Nobody Knows We Are Fun’, the sounds of modern garage music are let loose, with Kana and Yuuki perched behind two pink-coloured Casio keyboards. The track ‘GAME’ almost feels like the halfway point in the set, with an almost muzak-esque arrangement of synth passages, while Yuna maintains a steadily-paced groove between her sample pad and her drum kit. During this track, Mana and Kana parade the stage holding two decorated cardboard boxes… we never got to see what was in them (insert sad face here, I wanted to win a prize!). The stop-start introduction of the track ‘Driving22’ is an exhilarating return of pace before fluctuating drum patterns tint the bittersweet chord progression a glorious neon shade. It’s at this point in the set where I can truly marvel at just how far these girls have come since supporting Superorganism all those years ago – easily one of the most unique pop bands I’ve ever witnessed live!
‘NEO KAWAII, K?’ is preceded with life-affirming exclamations from Mana surrounding the fact that “everyone’s a little strange” and that “normal’s not normal”, statements I keep close to my heart. This track brings so much funk with Yuuki on bass, maintaining a slight post-punk tinge; a change of sound to the candy-flavoured synth gloss we’ve been exposed to so far. It’s also fair to say that I’m in love with Mana’s chaotic energy; it’s so infectious! The instrumentally colourful and powerfully feminist ‘We The Female!’ is packed with phaser-washed guitar riffs and a thunderous drum sound to boot… oh, sorry, I was so in the zone by this point, I completely forgot there was a crowd behind me! ‘Cool Cool Vision’ is possibly the most anxiety-inducing song of the set with its descending guitar lines, not to mention the intense rhythms via monstrous disco beats and another slick song interpolation, this time of Basement Jaxx’s Numan-sampled ‘Where’s Your Head At’. Remember the post-punk vibes of ‘NEO KAWAII, K?’ from earlier? Well, scratch that, because the very The Books-esque title ‘Donuts Mind If I Do’ is about as post-punky as you can get, particularly with Yuuki’s bass once again, but also the rapid fire vocal pace from Mana and Kana, with the former’s energy getting more off the rails as the set progresses!
Now, we approach the final two songs of the night, the first of which is the fan favourite ‘N.E.O.’, complete with chilled synth passages underneath stabbing guitar chords. There’s also the presence of a very luscious chord melody line that scratches all the right itches for me, as well as the damn good chord changes in said chorus. Finally, ‘KARAOKE’ is a fond farewell from CHAI, in the form of a bubbling synth lick that sits atop extravagant electronic textures, dancehall drum grooves and, of course, those beautiful progressions of harmonies from the twins who wave us goodbye as the song ends! With the unfortunate lack of an encore, CHAI departed the stage, heading straight for the table decorated with colourful merchandise, plugged wonderfully before the final song by drummer Yuna (I mean, signed vinyl, t-shirts and big stickers?! Hell yeah!). It’s been truly wonderful to catch CHAI live again after so long of just being a bystander. As they begin to embark on the final four shows on their UK tour, starting with Manchester on 12th, I feel the time has come for me to start buying their CDs, don’t you?
Mana Obata – vocals
Kana Obata – vocals, guitar, keys
Yuna Matsui – drums, samples
Yuuki Mizutani – bass, keys
‘MATCHA’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘PARA PARA’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘From 1992’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘PING PONG!’ (from 2021 ‘WINK’ album)
‘ACTION’ (from 2021 ‘WINK’ album)
‘Nobody Knows We Are Fun’ (from 2021 ‘WINK’ album)
‘GAME’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘Driving22’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘NEO KAWAII, K?’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘We The Female!’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)
‘Cool Cool Vision’ (from 2017 ‘Homegoro Series’ EP)
‘Donuts Mind If I Do’ (from 2021 ‘WINK’ album)
‘N.E.O.’ (from 2017 ‘PINK’ album)
‘KARAOKE’ (from 2023 ‘CHAI’ album)