The way people enjoy concerts is in the process of transformation. The FLAT6 concert streaming program, which pairs up-and-coming VJs with young and talented artists, is bringing the world fascinating concert experiences. It presents audience-free shows that abound with creativity by bringing together new talent in a single “flat” space that fosters chemistry between artists.
“FLAT6 ROOM3,” which was released April 23 at 8 p.m JST, was emceed by ASOBOiSM, who also took part in the first FLAT6 show, “FLAT6 ROOM1.” Her style is distinctive for the intimacy of her discussions with artists.
Three artists performed in “FLAT6 ROOM3”: Haru Nemuri, who has captured the attention of the world with her first North American tour; Natsuko Nisshoku, beloved by fans for her piano skills and for the imagery produced by her lyrics, which overflow with originality; and newcomer Young Kee, who has recently burst onto the scene. All three are must-see artists for music lovers with their fingers on the pulse of new talent. VJs s a d a k a t a and Humungas (Ai Onoda) painted the stage with psychedelic visuals.
The show opened with a video that combined a ’90s-like VHS look and RGB glitch effects. The scenes shown were from 2022, but the aesthetics made the video feel nostalgic and yet new and fresh. The introduction was immersive, like a documentary. In a snippet of conversation, people discuss the definition of flat: “The word ‘FLAT’ is another word for apartment, like a shared home.”
After short clips of sound checks by each artist, the words “Let’s Get Started” flash onscreen. The scene changes to Ebisu’s LIQUIDROOM, one of Japan’s top venues, just a stone’s throw away from Shibuya.
A video introduces artist Haru Nemuri. The camera zooms in on Haru as she does warm-up calisthenics. Haru Nemuri’s music career has been making leaps and bounds in 2022. Her latest album, Shunka Ryougen, was given a score of 8.0 by Pitchfork, a U.S. music site well-known for its sometimes scathing reviews. It was even selected as one of the site’s “9 Albums Out This Week You Should Listen to Now,” a rarity for a Japanese artist. On music review site RATE YOUR MUSIC, the album is in 11th place worldwide as of April 28. Her success is the fruit of her nine-show North American tour and the tremendous reception she got at the massive SXSW 2022 festival. FLAT6 ROOM3 marked her triumphant return to Japan.
Her opening song was “Déconstruction.” Haru took a unique approach to staging, using a poetic rapping style whose roots lie in punk and hardcore. A palpable sense of tension swiftly transformed the stage into Haru Nemuri’s own world of heat and energy. Her next song, “Bang,” featured a heavy rock guitar riff over which she laid edgy lyrics that were like a shot through the heart for audiences.
The show then switched to a conversation between Haru and ASOBOiSM. Haru discussed the influence that Rage Against the Machine had on her. This kind of video, sharing the allure of artists in a way uniquely suited to a showcase concert, is possible precisely because of the nature of the edited, audience-free show.
“Kick in the World,” with its stunning screamed vocals, was followed by “Inori Dake Ga Aru,” whose ambience evokes a profound world, throwing Haru’s bold style into even greater relief. Between songs, Haru shared that “music has just barely kept me alive,” and then performed “Ikiru,” a concert anthem which she said was almost like a charm for her. In it, she sang about the beauty of life, and the beauty that living allowed her to see. She painted a mental picture of the state of mind she arrived at by keeping on pushing forward, regardless of how much pain she felt.
Next was the mysterious Young Kee, a 19 year old singer and songwriter. In response to MC ASOBOiSM’s question, “What went through your mind on stage,” he chuckled, “I’m sweating a lot.” He compared his band-backed performance, into which he threw his whole body, to a PE class, but his stage show was both stylish and spectacular.
It began with “BOY.” The pop feel of the song blended a fast beat with honeyed vocals, combining all kinds of genres and eras stretching back to the Shibuya-kei days. Next came “Musk,” a new digital single he released this year. This danceable song laid down a transient pop groove with an atmosphere redolent of ennui.
The special camera work, which took full advantage of the audience-free performance space, produced visuals unlike anything that could be seen in a normal live show, better expressing the artist’s aesthetics in a way that only “FLAT6” can.
Young Kee is still only known by those in the know in Japan, but the bold staging provided a glimpse of his prodigious talent and prince-like demeanor. In the light-hearted “Die The Night,” with its funky guitar strumming, Young Kee’s deep-felt vocalizations plucked at listeners’ heartstrings.
Talking with the MC, he discussed the influence of Japanese rock band Queen Bee and his high school band, which played their own original compositions. Next up was “Sugar,” a catchy guitar pop tune that was proof that he was no ordinary singer but someone with the potential to be a future pop star.
The last performer in the show was Natsuko Nisshoku, a singer and songwriter who plays piano and has recently been featured on a major Japanese TV show. In the opening interview, she talked to ASOBOiSM about her unique sensibilities, saying “I hate spring because…there’s too much emotions and I really can’t take it.” Their lighthearted chat provided a peek into her unique artistic and creative perspectives.
For her first song, she performed “Utsurobune,” off her latest album, Mimesis. She sang over a bouncing piano riff, playing the song live for the first time in a Japanese show. The pop sensibilities of the piece evoked mental images that streamed from the highly narrative lyrical world of the song. It immediately enthralled the audience members watching on their screens, pulling them into Natsuko Nisshoku’s own world. Then in “hunch_A,” which she performed in public for the first time, the beat of her bouncing piano line relaxed listeners with its warm embrace. The unique lyrical explorations, with their almost rap-like feel, were a pleasure to the ears.
Talking with ASOBOiSM, Natsuko Nisshoku surprisingly said that her musical roots lie in EXILE. “I know. It’s a funny story,” she said in self-deprecation, but continued in her own unique way, “when I played EXILE’s music on the piano, I found a lot of jazz chords.” She learned about the fascinating world of chords while using sheet music to cover the group’s songs.
“Serial,” with its dynamic, deep piano riff and cynical power, paradoxically abounds with rock-like energy. Backstage, she talked about how she grew up with rock music but was unable to join a band, so she decided to play the piano.
“As I walked, it was almost as if I were dancing,” began her last piece, “√-1.” Natsuko Nisshoku’s allure lies in the way her emotional and magical storytelling plunges into the listener’s heart, a sharp knife of music and words. The beautiful visuals of the show made listeners feel like they were right at the edge of the stage, pulling them in and stealing their hearts.
And with that, the third “FLAT6” show, “FLAT6 ROOM3,” came to a close. The performers in the next show, “FLAT6 ROOM4” — Newspeak, THE TIVA, and CVLTE — were shown in rapid succession, and the video ended with a burst of noise.
The captivating show, which introduced listeners to new talents, was over, like a brief daydream, but the baton had been passed to the next group of up-and-comers.
This article by Fukuryu first appeared on Billboard Japan.