© Mao Yamamoto
Two-time laureate of the Japan Media Arts Festival, Open Reel Ensemble, founded by Ei Wada in 2009, is among the most unique bands there is. Using old reel-to-reel tape recorders from the ‘70s and ‘80s hooked up to controllers and to a weird and wonderful assortment of obsolete electrical devices, the ensemble delivers a live musical performance as irresistible as it is atypical. Those reel-to-reel tape recorders are played as literal magnetic folk instruments, a style self-described by the band as “magnetikpunk”.
The ensemble was commissioned four times to provide music for Issey Miyake’s fashion shows at the Paris Fashion Week, and also composed the soundtrack to the Japanese short movie Inseki To Impotence, selected for official competition at Cannes Festival in 2013. After releasing a string of CDs and DVDs, the malleable trio published their opus Magnetik Phunk on Bandcamp in 2022, consisting of a series of audio tracks and an e-book. While developing a number of side projects – most notably the Open Reel Orchestra, bringing together twenty musicians with as many reel-to-reel tape recorders – and organizing workshops and exhibitions, the band continued to present their live performances and shows in numerous countries, namely at Sonar in Barcelona, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as at the Ars Electronica museum in Linz, Austria.
Open Reel Ensemble uses vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders as instruments by combining them with the latest technology and other unusual finds. They continue to explore new possibilities granted by reel-to-reel tape recorders by modifying their shapes and configurations. Open Reel Ensemble’s music is undoubtedly unique, but it is the spectacle – the cobbled creations and the physical performances – that makes each concert truly fascinating.
Open Reel Ensemble is a Japanese band formed in 2009, whose current members include Ei Wada, Haruka Yoshida and Masaru Yoshida. The trio uses modified reel-to-reel tape recorders as instruments.
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Magnetik Phunk (2022)
Open Reel Ensemble’s frontman Ei Wada also leads another musical project called Electronicos Fantasticos, which employs a wider range of old modified electronics such as televisions, phones, desk fans and washing machines.