Peaceful and serene, clean-cut beams reach upward, cast in crimson red, candy lighting with interlaced shadows scattered across their upward slant. Once a place of worship, now renovated and remade, the Chapel hummed with newly infused energy. Softly lit candles lined the walls, and electric blue light fell on the elevated stage, bathing the instruments of KAZU’s band in effervescence.
Previously the lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist of Blonde Redhead, Kazu Makino has branched off into her own territory by releasing her first solo album, Adult Baby, under the stage name KAZU. Her tour of the United States brought her to the Chapel on Oct. 16, an intimate setting with a seating capacity of only 200, which KAZU just about filled.
Adult Baby highlights KAZU’s incredible vocal elasticity and range while maintaining a highly experimental and alternative sound throughout. It is a clear departure from the more rock and pop sound of Blonde Redhead. The album flows together like water, but the incomprehensibility of the lyrics and the scattered structure of the songs is a challenge to complete engagement. In person, KAZU both affirmed and negated these expectations, as the nature of the songs remained abstract but the artistry she constructed was unquestionably captivating.
Dressed in a beautiful, loose-laced dress that stopped high up her thigh, KAZU glided to center stage, accompanied by her instrumentalists. Despite the ecstatic applause that greeted her appearance, the singer deigned to acknowledge the crowd and instead bowed her head, letting the ethereal sounds of “Name and Age” wash over the venue. Bringing the mic to her mouth, KAZU’s hypnotic voice spilled through the speakers, a paradox of smooth liquidity and raw raspiness.
As she sang, KAZU moved her body freely without thought or restriction and seemed to inhabit an alternate space and time. Broken phrases of verse surfaced occasionally, but the performance primarily hinged upon the hypnotic eloquence of KAZU’s voice merging with soft drum beats, eloquent keyboard melodies, the swooning of a violin and the rhythm of an electronic sound system.
For her song “Salty,” beams of striped white light were projected onto the stage, mimicking the way that light ripples and reflects upon water. KAZU and her violinist, who also doubled as her pianist, moved fluidly and rhythmically, transforming the static light into a moving and flowing apparition upon their bodies. The song too flowed with the consistency of water, rippling rapidly, full of movement and energy.
For the moments of long instrumentalism, KAZU put down the mic and danced with smooth but powerful movements. She took up space by swaying rapidly from side to side, moving her arms and head in tandem to her legs. She simultaneously seemed to shrink into herself, as she remained hunched over, her gaze cast downward. It was as if she were both a part of the music itself yet completely isolated. Qualities of both inclusion and exclusion permeated the performance, as the audience was bathed in sound along with KAZU but remained removed from any sense of connection to her.
Transitioning into “Coyote,” the stage was engulfed in an electric, cobalt blue. The stage looked as if it had sunk to the bottom of the sea with the music still rippling, but slowly and heavily. KAZU’s voice took on a haunting quality as she explored a variety of ranges, allowing her voice to fluctuate between lower notes and back up toward higher, more drawn out notes.
Finishing up the set, KAZU quickly thanked the audience and walked off, with her band following. The abrupt end to such an enthralling and mystical experience shocked the crowd, who responded to KAZU’s departure with ecstatic and never-ending applause, continuing until she ultimately returned for an encore.
Her voice pierced through the night one last time with a thrilling performance of “Undo,” after which the audience thanked her with a standing ovation, expressing their love and appreciation for the artist. KAZU stood for some moments, smiling and gazing at the audience, mouthing the words “thank you” over and over before finally waving goodbye.
Overall, KAZU delivered an ethereal and enchanting performance, leaving the audience to contemplate it in tranquility and awe.
Highlights: “Adult Baby,” “Come Behind Me, So Good!,” “Unsure in Waves.”