What does TEKE::TEKE sound like?
A mixture of Japanese folk rock called Eleki, Brazilian surf rock and psychedelia.
The review of TEKE::TEKE – Hagata
In order to understand the music of TEKE::TEKE , I first need to explain Eleki. Eleki is a type of Japanese surf rock that, whilst similar to Western surf rock, uses traditional instruments and the pentatonic scale. It popped up in the 1960s and has become a niche over the decades. It wasn’t something I’d come across until I discovered TEKE::TEKE and now I want to discover more.
It’s worth noting that TEKE::TEKE are not strictly an Eleki-only band. They also weave in Brazilian surf rock and plenty of psychedelia into their sound. There isn’t anything quite like them out there though. On their new album ‘Hagata’, very much my starting point with the band, I was immediately blown away but the visceral explosion of sounds, cultures and rock symphonies the septet create. Opening with ‘Garakuta’ we have a kabuki dance of flutes, brass, guitars and water-filtered vocals. The guitar and bass sound like a throwback to shamisen riffs, or on tracks like ‘Gotoku Lemon’, like a Bollywood riff. It gives a sly and sensual feel to the music. The woodwind and brass are often playing melodies in unison which give a quirky comedic and secretive spin on things too. Add in some Brazilian-inspired percussion and you have a true melting pot of ideas. Am I in Turkey? Am I in Japan? Am I in India or Brazil? Nope, TEKE::TEKE is based in Montreal.
With such a buffet of sounds to choose from, the band refuses to sit still. ‘Hoppe’ eschews the traditional for a punk rock crunch. The brass arrangement really ups the ante in the bridge and choruses but the rock edge reminds me of Shiina Ringo at times. ‘Onaji Heya’ leans into that comparison more with lots of electronic and baroque elements to the track. Then we break into striving, dramatic guitar solos to break the song into segments like a classic rock tune. The palette-cleansing ethereal harp and flute interlude of ‘Me No Haya’ couldn’t feel or sound a million miles away. Yet as it spins itself into a frenzy, more of TEKE::TEKE’s rock members join in for a whirlpool of ghostly rock nods to something darker.
Taking us fully back to 1960s psychedelic folk is the superb ‘Doppelganger’. Between the sassy brass, the timeless electro-acoustic band sound and some of the cleanest vocals on the album, it is a great place to start if you are new to this style of music. The track is more of TEKE::TEKE’s hippy side rather than the rock side but if the band’s charm is ever going to win you over, it is with this song. Fast forwarding to 70s cop shows, ‘Setagaya Koya’ has guitar whammies that come with giant sideburns. It then switches to a rock interpretation of bossa nova and Latin beats, leaning into the Brazilian side of their sound. Sassy, seductive, dramatic and dangerous sounding, I feel like I’m performing espionage in 1972 Brazil.
‘Kakijyu’ is the longest and perhaps most experimental track. It is a taut and rhythmic drum pattern crammed full of whispered vocals that slowly build and build until the entire band joins in with a euphoric outro. It sounds ceremonial but may be a hard sell to start with. Drums lead the way with the chaotic kraut-rock of ‘Yurei Zanmai’. The track barrels along at huge speed and the vocals literally shatter as the guitars pile in. Hedonistic in its setup, this feels tribal and primal as all the instruments zipline between two chords like a ripcord. That leaves the haunting closer ‘Jinzou Maria’ to provide a Brazilian farewell. The South American flavoured ballad starts off like a Latin cowboy theme of vocal and guitar before the rest of the band join to give a psyche-folk outro.
There is a certain diaspora around TEKE::TEKE that I find fascinating. I’m sure I’ve called out incorrect cultures and influences throughout this review but it is such a magical blend of ideas, I’m sure I’ve missed about 25 countries out of the mix too. Sometimes it sounds Mexican, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, Brazilian, American and sometimes all of the above and none at the same time. TEKE::TEKE has a genuinely unique sound and I adore it. This album is a triumph in melting pot sound design that works. Sounds don’t feel isolated or fractured – everything has its place and merges superbly with the other elements. ‘Hagata’ will feature highly on my best of 2023 list.
Recommended track: Doppelganger
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.