I stumbled across ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS! one day while mindlessly scrolling through my YouTube homepage. The video thumbnail of a man shredding an office fan reeled me in. The video was titled “Electric Fan Harp │ 扇風琴” and I just had to see more. What greeted me on the other side of that mouse click was part ear grating noise, part beautiful melody, part entrancing rhythm, and wholly captivating.
How did this guy make an office fan sound like that? What techno-wizardry is going on that makes this possible? After that first encounter, I went on a YouTube deep dive and discovered the man behind the project, Ei Wada. I learned that he isn’t a crazy Frankenstein making electrical monsters but a real artist with big dreams.
About Ei, and Open Reel Ensemble
Ei Wada was born in 1987, in Tokyo. As a child, he had fantasies of a music festival at the base of a tower made of CRT TVs. Motivated by this dream, Wada started experimenting. In 2009, Wada founded Open Reel Ensemble, a band that uses modified reel-to-reel tape recorders as their instruments. The group performs at art events and festivals, where half the fun is watching these guys play the reel-to-reel.
The group has recorded a number of albums, and it’s definitely off-putting at first. Upon first listen, it may sound like random noise, but when you can look past the musical psychoticism of a song like “Degulated Jaz,” there is a ton of creativity and artistry taking place. The time-bending song “Gone” is a fantastic example of such creativity (Here’s a great version of it being performed live). Keep in mind when listening to these songs, that a majority of the sounds being heard are being played back and manipulated on tape recorders, not computers. This is all analog. When you realize that, the crazier songs suddenly become displays of technical mastery.
In 2015, Ei Wada founded his group ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS! The group is part artistic and part musical, serving as an artist collective of sorts. Calling on over 70 people across Japan to bring their design, music, electrical, engineering, and management experience to the project. Wada and EF! have partnered with the Nicos Orchest-Lab, ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS! makes their own instruments out of old household appliances and electronics. (CRT TVs, office fans, and bar code scanners) While the group has not (yet!) released an album, they have a fairly large catalog of YouTube content showcasing their work. Some of my absolute favorite videos are “Electric Fan Harp in the bathhouse”, “Granny dancing with the Telebeatz, and the group’s rendition of “Blue Monday” by New Order.
What makes Ei’s work so infectious?
Throughout his work with both the Open Reel Ensemble and ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS!, Ei Wada is able to infuse his music with a certain degree of infectivity. I think the ‘it factor’ for Ei is the pure fun he exudes in his performances. This is a man that is clearly incredibly passionate about what he is doing, and that joy can be felt through the screen and speakers. Wada’s work spawned out of a childhood fantasy, and as a result his work carries a bit of childlike wonder within it.
There you have it! A primer into one of the most interesting artists I’ve stumbled across recently. I hope you give Ei’s work with Open Reel Ensemble and ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS! a listen. I truly think his music has something to offer everyone. Check him out!