Mask-clad IX -NINE- first appeared in the visual scene back in March, and have stood out from the crowd not only in their style, but in their efforts to reach potential fans all around the world through the power of the Internet and LINE. Their six months of work culminated on Sunday night at a small performance space in a Shimokitazawa rehearsal studio — STUDIO BAYD — where their first live took place.
True to character, all members took to the stage in noh-style masks and black clothes, with the final entrant and frontman, IX, in grey and sporting his distinctive fox mask. Joining regular members $ali and Nøi, were Akatuki on guitar and Syouki on drums as support members (though they’ve just been formally inducted into the band tonight!).
Even before the beginning of the kickoff song, Soubi na Yurameki, IX abandoned his mask but maintained his mystique with an ashy head scarf concealing his face. His voice came through with an ethereal echo effect, blending his words into the sounds of the other instruments on stage. This sensation of surrealism continued into Byakuren which Nøi drew out with a bow across the strings of his Taisho koto.
Chinmoku no Tou evoked a sense of premodern Japan before its hauntingly abrupt ending, before Higan to Tsuki gripped the audience with its powerful message. One of IX -NINE-‘s first-released songs, and dedicated to the victims of the March 11th Tohoku disaster, this piece no doubt caused some goosebumps among observers. IX’s chilling howls flowed from the stage and then-support members Akatuki and Syouki, respectively, presented a sharp guitar section with heavy rhythm.
$ali was certainly not to be outdone as a showman or musician, and kept himself moving with the beat of his bass until Ukiyo, the first new song of the night, saw him on his own synth and koto. The real standout of the set followed in Subliminal Sunrise. IX’s vocal styling and tone in this powerful song hearkened to — dare we say — Kyo of DIR EN GREY.
The unusual but captivating drum beat of Heat Haze came as a bit of a curve ball for the set; the track stood out stylistically from the so-far beautiful-but-ghostly song selection. Another new song from the upcoming album, Yuushuu no Bi took this trend a step farther into the set list with skillful cymbal work an an overall uplifting sound.
A piano track cued Madoromi no Tamashii, the last full, live preview of the January album for the night. With its hybrid sound created of electronic and classical, all five men put on their best show. Syouki nailed a powerful crescendo — not long before IX was hitting strong, silken notes of his own.
The live was rather short for a one-man, coming to an end as the apt final track, Dirge began. Gently played strings colored the early parts of the song before, where a vocal chorus might be expected, Akatuki’s guitar lines rang clear. Until the very end of the emotion-evoking song, and even after its soft fade, members remained in masks, faces covered, facilitating a real connection to the music itself above and beyond a connection to the people playing it. A sense of calm lingered in the small venue once the lights were on that very few lives in the visual scene can produce.
With the upcoming album NIRDVANDVA and its impressive 22 tracks, we can only anticipate even more great things to come from IX -NINE- in the future.
Set ListSE. Remembrance1. Soubi na Yurameki2. Byakuren3. Chinmoku no Tou4. Higan to Tsuki5. Ukiyo6. Subliminal Sunrise7. Heat Haze8. Yuushuu no Bi9. Madoromi no Tamashii10. Dirge
Photography (c) Suguru Nakamura