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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Ben Kemp & Uminari, Mighty Mighty, Thursday 13th March

Seeing Ben Kemp & Uminari at Mighty Mighty was a pretty exciting prospect. I’d never heard of the innovative Japanese four-piece fronted by ex-pat New Zealander Kemp, and the curious range of instruments on stage promised a stimulating experience. Alongside the acoustic and bass guitars was a flute, two cymbals and a small wooden box the percussionist used as a seat and a drum. The group also looked the part when they arrived on stage, their clothes a mixture of Japanese and Maori-inspired design.

This gig was going really well until the first bar of music sounded. The anticipation was rapidly replaced by a concoction of bemusement, discomfort and confusion. The group promoted their music as Polyn-Asian, but the only support I found for this claim was in their attire. The music wasn’t some stunning hybrid of Japanese and South Pacific styles. It was dull, poorly-disguised generic singer-songwriter rubbish.

Nine of the ten songs played seemed to merge into each other creating a seemingly non-stop stream of lacklustre, deflating songs. After the set was over, it dawned on me that I’d got off pretty lightly. If the Salient music team had handed me their new album to review, I would have had to listen to it more than once, the idea of which makes me feel really nauseous.

I promised myself I’d avoid using the word ‘cheesy’ in the review, but it’s scarred on the forefront of my mind and just happens to be the most concise way to sum the act up. The only highlight of their set was the penultimate number, displaying that the band was wonderfully talented and could improve with a massive shift in direction.

Supporting act Good Laika was the night’s saviour. The local band played a charming, varied set with some really impressive songs, their solid music based around their talented frontman and some really awesome drumming. They didn’t blow me away, and were rough in places, but I would love to see them again. As for Uminari and their crooning frontman, next time they’re in town, I think I’m busy…


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