TORIENA at HYPER JAPAN, London

live report - 22.09.2017 01:01

TORIENA, the chiptune girl armed with a Gameboy, blasts HYPER JAPAN.

TORIENA is a fast-rising star of Japan’s chiptune movement. The multi-talented artist not only composes, performs and produces her music with a Gameboy and desktop music software, she co-founded her record label, Madmilky Records, designs her own artwork and has even created a mobile phone app game with m7kenji, the creator of her Pulse Fighter and Kandi Pixel Z music videos. She has played overseas extensively and now brings her brand of chirpy chiptune music to the UK.

As she’s announced to the crowd TORIENA, dressed in cool white Harajuku style, runs on stage. She’s all smiles, with her pink twin-tails bouncing. There’s a momentary false start thanks to a dead mic, but she laughs it off and begins again, launching into Pulse Fighter while the frenetic, retro 8-bit platform game-style video of the song plays on the big screens to either side of the stage. With the programmes set and the thumping, beeping music taking care of itself, she bounds to the front of the stage. Like all of her earliest work, Pulse Fighter is an instrumental, and this leaves her free to get the crowd jumping with her energetic dancing, blasting a whistle in time with the rapid fire digital music.

She heads back to the desk to cue up Kandi Pixel Z, still hopping about while she’s at it, and then she’s back out front, dancing again. The 8-bit dating game-style music video for this track plays along on the big screens as she sings with irrepressible enthusiasm and her voice is given an electro treatment that fits with the character of her music.

After the frantic start, she peels off her shiny white jacket and crashes on with the show, a techno assault on the senses with no pause for breath as each track segues into the next. The complexities of the compositions and the technical skill in extracting melodies from a Gameboy’s primitive internal sound-chip are impressive, but they get a little lost in the relentless blast of the show. Besides, TORIENA’s performance, a cross between singer, cheerleader and DJ, is all about having fun and dancing. For Boku wa futsuu no ko, she’s the singer and Dim Sum sees her cheerleading the crowd, who happily join in with her exaggerated dance moves. All the while she’s flitting back to the desk like a hyperactive DJ to control the tunes. She grabs a Gameboy to switch up the beat and with her elbows propped on the desk, attention fixed on the handheld console, she resembles a gamer absorbed in a final level boss battle.

Putting this much energy into a performance is hot work and TORIENA takes a quick swig of a cooling drink, only for the programmed track to finish, leaving her in silence with a mouthful of water. After a quick ‘uh-oh!’ grin, a swift gulp and some deft work on her consoles, we’re back in business again and heading for the finishing number, Odeo Controller, a track created in collaboration with producer Yunomi. This is a gentler, less frantic song with non-Gameboy sounds used to give a slight flavour of traditional Japanese music, and it lets the crowd down gently after the mad techno thrash of her show. Finally, she joins the smiling, danced-out crowd for a photo, with her Gameboy held high.
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