One of my favorite discoveries in the last several years is Romanian duo Makunouchi Bento. I have previously written about their excellent album "Swimé," which is still a favorite, but there is a lot more of their fantastic music out there. And the big recent news from that band is that now it’s all in one convenient location. - See more at: http://albertetrapezoid.com/#sthash.BLoBMO6i.dpuf
Makunouchi Bento is Felix Petrescu (a/k/a Waka X, a/k/a...well...see below) and Valentin Toma (a/k/a Qewza, a/k/a Toma Carnagiu). They have been putting out music for over a decade and show no signs of letting up. Their releases have been spread out on various labels and websites so for a fan it could take a little work to track it all down. Enter one wonderful Bandcamp page. There you will find 21 different albums and EP’s on the main page, and a few more gems if you click on their "Recommendations" link. And they kindly have it all available for free download (although you can also show some love and make a donation).
Valentin and Felix often display playfulness and humor both in their music (for example, a track on "Avebell" is called "Bell Lugosi is Dead") and interviews. They were kind enough to answer a few questions for me about this gathering of their work and some other topics.
1. I started by asking, now that they have assembled their entire discography in one place, what is their reaction?
Felix: It's such a mixed bag, it's such a magnificent display of human errors and weakness. A whirlwind of thoughts, stories and emotions. It's the breadcrumb trail that leads to our stories.
Valentin: And yet, it's not quite a surprise, we've always been pretty much aware of our back catalogue and the evolution of our sound within these 13 years. Following back the breadcrumb trail (unaltered by time), we remember everything with joy.
2. To me most of their work seems inspired by a particular concept or a story. Sometimes this is clear in information included with their music, sometimes it’s less obvious. I asked for a little insight into their creative process. Specifically, I wondered if the concepts and stories come first, then the music, or if they come up with the music first and develop a concept later.
Felix: It works both ways. Sometimes we have the story and illustrate it with sounds, sometimes we have the track that fires up our imaginations. The stories are always "there" for us. For me, every sound or song unfolds an intricate story. They work together, never alone. If the artist won't build a world for his work, what should be expected from listener?!
Valentin: The most important thing is we always start with an idea, something that stands out and makes the song particular, in a way. Be it an interesting story or an unusual sound.
3. Not to get too greedy considering all the music Makunouchi Bento has made available, but I also asked what we could look forward to next.
Felix: Latest project was a DJ/VJ project called "Science Night", played just once, unfortunately. We are preparing the start for new album in January 2014, an album as serious as Swimé.
Valentin: Not to mention the "Red Slippers Room" open-playlist, a collection of little experiments we made in 2013 that might continue in 2014 alongside the work on the new album. Also, some surprise remixes and collaborations could pop up anytime, should Chronos be a good lad.
4. So where to begin if you are new to Makunouchi Bento? I asked if they had any personal favorites. Valentin said "I have this alter-ego called Toma Carnagiu (a Romanian pun, that is), that might assemble a mix of his favourite Makunouchi Bento tracks, at some point in 2014." In the meantime, I’d personally recommend "The Guardians of Rare Pieces: Compilation Tracks," "Remix Box Ichi," and of course the aforementioned "Swimé" as good mix to start enjoying this band. Oh, and what about this Higaru character? Their early album "Himette" includes a track called "Mr. Higaru’s Love Nest." I’ve also noticed that name other places (email address, etc.). So I had to ask what I labeled the most important question: Who is Mr. Higaru?
Felix: Higaru is one of my alter-egos, a Japanese psychotic student, a puppet in our aural puppet-shows. Maybe, someday, Higaru will be the main subject of a full EP or LP. Only he knows. Cogito, ego sum!
Valentin: Or maybe it's a four-eyed pirate, arr! Ask no more, or you'll walk the plank!