Luminous Orange’s Rie Takeuchi soars with a little help from her friends

by

Special To The Japan Times

Though often referred to as a “shoegaze band,” Luminous Orange’s Rie Takeuchi says she is neither of those two things.

“I don’t like being described as a shoegaze band,” she says with a friendly smile on the first mention of the “s” word. “I think it’s boring to think about music in terms of genre.”

Takeuchi, who is the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the alternative-rock act, says there’s more to the music of Luminous Orange that can be summed up in a simple word like “shoegaze” or “dreampop.” She also politely points out that the project isn’t really a band anymore, but more on that later.

“(‘Shoegaze’ and ‘dream pop’) are terms that are only used to divide up the shelves in record stores,” she says. “I don’t see myself as shoegaze and I think if people listen to the music properly they’ll understand that, too.”

Luminous Orange has just released its seventh studio album, “Soar, Kiss The Moon,” via its official website. A nationwide release is scheduled for Nov. 5 via the band’s Parallelogram imprint. The new record contains many familiar elements of the group’s sound, including Takeuchi’s lush melodies and transparent vocals, layers upon layers of guitars, and complex, intertwining rhythms that borrow elements of postrock and math rock. The intricate production, wide sonic palette and attention to detail are typical of what Luminous Orange has been bringing fans for 22 years.

It’s also important to note that Luminous Orange has technically been Takeuchi’s solo project since 2002. Formed in 1992 in Yokohama, the band was originally a four-piece. After several lineup changes over the years, the other members left to pursue different projects. Takeuchi, however, decided to keep the name.

“We had five years’ worth of history that we had built up, and when you change the name you can’t play your older songs, or it seems like you’re covering yourself, and I didn’t want that,” she says. “So I kept the name, and when performing it’s a band, but in reality it’s a solo project. But Elliott Smith was like that, and even Stevie Wonder. They’re solo artists but they have bands.”

Since the solo project began, a revolving roster of musicians have contributed to Takeuchi’s compositions both on the records and at live performances.

On “Soar, Kiss The Moon,” Takeuchi presents an even wider spectrum of sounds compared to her previous works, from the e-bow glazed “Das Experiment,” which sounds like a nod to the 1998 Sonic Youth album “A Thousand Leaves,” to “Nightwalking,” a rocker with parts in 7-4 time, and to “Sore, Soar, Soir,” an uplifting, playful waltz number.

Also featured on the album is an expanded band of woodwinds and brass instruments. While past albums dabbled in a wide array of instrumentation, “Soar, Kiss The Moon” brings these nontraditional rock sounds to the fore. They’re also primarily provided by members of indie rock band Yoshida Yohei Group, who recently impressed audiences at the Rookie A Go-Go stage at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival.

“I’ve been wanting to use brass instruments for a while now. Some songs seemed like they would be good if they had brass in them,” Takeuchi says. “We were invited to a (rock band) Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots’ gig once, and Yoshida Yohei Group were on the bill. They were using flutes, bassoons and saxophones, and I ended up asking them to play on the album.”

Takeuchi’s ability to seamlessly glide through multiple time signatures and rhythms is highlighted by the incredible rhythm section on the album, courtesy of drummer Kensuke Nishiura, formerly of Soutaisei Riron, and session bassist Hideki Kawase. The album also features appearances by Jumpei Yamamoto, who plays with Latin-influenced rock band Praha Depart and the aforementioned Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots. Previous support musician Takehito Kono, bassist for progressive instrumental rock band Lagitagida, also appears.

The album features other frequent Luminous Orange contributors, including guitarist Katsuya Yanagawa of the band Caucus, and Ito Hayashi on backing vocals.

To coincide with the release of “Soar, Kiss The Moon,” Luminous Orange will perform at O-Nest in Tokyo on Sunday. The show promises a full set by the latest lineup of the band, along with guest appearances by previous collaborators, including the brass and woodwinds of Yoshida Yohei Group. The crowded stage will prove to be both a logistical and musical challenge for Takeuchi and her bandmates.

“We have so many instruments on the album, so the engineer is going to bring another mixing board to the venue,” Takeuchi says.

The show may perhaps be the only time audiences will be able to properly experience the new album live with the extended band. As I point out to Takeuchi that the new songs would be hard to recreate without having the members of Yoshida Yohei Group at every show, she nods and starts to laugh.

“We were practicing today without the brass section and the songs seemed really sparse and lonely,” she says with a laugh. “Perhaps if our schedules work out?”

Luminous Orange plays Tsutaya O-Nest in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Sept. 21 (6:30 p.m. start; ¥2,700 in advance; 03-3462-4420). For more information, visit www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~luminous//english_.htm.