Standing out on a line-up where big names include Billie Eilish, Anderson .Paak and Johnny Marr is not easy, but Japan’s Otoboke Beaver are scintillating and easily the highlight of Saturday at Lowlands.
A bit of an exclusive for Lowlands, they’ve flown in from Kyoto, Japan, especially for this live wire show in the orange bunker venue X-Ray - one of the smallest stages on the site; but one that benefits from feeling like an underground indoor venue as opposed to a circus tent.
Mostly short, high-tempo tracks delivered with fury make a glorious racket. Crafted on nothing but a high-held Gibson SG, Epiphone Thunderbird bass, drums, and maniacal lead vocals from Accorinrin. Evidently, the four-piece’s sound is ill-concerned with advances in technology, and they steamroller the listener with unstoppable power. Musicality, however, is not sacrificed in all the bluster: hours spent grafting, honing their performance in rehearsal with new drummer Kahokiss shows. These sudden stops in the tracks work in to senf shockwaves through the crowd when they reignite the beat. It is dynamite; and a great reflection of the phenomenal level this band, which originally formed in 2009, are at.
The crowd are deliriously high as a result; elated at the spectacle, giving manic, flailing arm movements, whistles, punching the air, and head banging. The atmosphere is revelled in by the four-piece, who have just enough cheek and confidence to endear their audience with everything they say. For instance they’re very cool even with the simple stuff: “We are Otobtoke Beaver! Buy our album!” shouts the bassist, subverting the apologetic way most bands say they have merch. The introduction to songs add to the unconventional style as they’re really long: ‘Anata ga falling love shita no ha watashi ga kirai na onnanoko,’ is one cut. Moreover - and this rarely happens - they do a double encore. A double encore on a festival stage at 6pm, no less. Most bands have this thing where they think it’s only worth doing a festival if you’re a headliner. Otoboke Beaver don’t care, and good on them.
The other major highlight of the day is Charlotte Adigéry, who opened the X-Ray stage at 1pm. It’s busy but under-attended for the quality of the music. There is some space to dance at the front and it proves a great way to start the day; an alternative workout to the voguing workshop or yoga workshops going on a few minutes earlier. Belgium’s Charlotte Adigéry’s voice has fantastic structure to it, and, knitted together with the propulsive beats controlled by her excellently monikered partner in crime Bolis Pupul, it sounds great.
Afterall, the tracks were recorded on rare analog synths in the DEEWEE (Soulwax’s studio) so the aural art they’ve made is unlike synth patterns most people have heard before. The stage show, kept to just two people without live traditional instruments - the main piece of kit is the Korg Arp Odyssey - works too: it allows the duo to focus on entertaining with Pupul playing charades to the lyrics in one of the tunes. The lack of taking the stage too seriously shows confidence in their end product. Sonically, the references span - but aren’t limited to - breakbeat, pop, and Guadeloupean and Martiniquan traditional music and dance called GWO KA. Stuff that may sound disparate but Charlotte Adigéry’s vision and identity is what shines across most. The innovative pop star could get away with any mixture music and sound compelling.
Lowlands continues today with big names; including: James Blake, New Order and Tame Impala.