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Weekend Reviews | Pop

Two Multiplied by Outrageous Fun Equals Five

September 08, 1997|SARA SCRIBNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A cult band in America, Pizzicato Five is famous in its home metropolis of Tokyo for its combination of kooky, far-out samples and a love of swinging dance-kitsch. But on Friday at the El Rey Theatre, the duo of DJ-guitarist Yasuharu Konishi and singer Maki Nomiya made it clear that Pizzicato Five is as much about sheer spectacle as music.

The point was embodied in Nomiya, who strutted onstage in sequins and feathers and transformed herself into an array of wild, futuristic guises: cartoon cheerleader, runway vixen, Vegas peacock and a Foxy Brown-like character with tremendous white afro.

Delivering a set that smacked of Vegas gone mad, the two presented playful, hyperkinetic sounds and, on a screen above the stage, flashed video images of themselves alongside old movie clips.

As outrageous as the visuals, the music was a swirling electronic concoction of cute, urbane pop and sophisticated, '60s-style intrigue alongside Latin-flavored songs from the duo's new album, "Happy End of the World." Konishi and another musician helped cut through the prepackaged element of the mostly prerecorded music with dueling guitars.

Live music seemed an afterthought, though, ranking far below Pizzicato's penchant for a big show. That enthusiasm propelled the group out of the realm of mere camp, into a realm of heady fun.

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