The Makunouchi Bento, or traditional Japanese lunchbox, is a highly lacquered wooden box divided into quadrants, each of which contains different delicacies. It is also one of the most familiar images of Japan’s domestic environment. Reading the box as both an object and a metaphor, Felix Petrescu and Valentin Toma founded this cinematic / experimental / electroacoustic project back in late 2000.  

We’re talking with these purveyors of singular aesthetic who are coming to perform on Belgrade’s longest-living audio-visual event “Live Soundtrack”, this Saturday on 20:30 at Art Bioskop Kolarac.

Event : Live Soundtrack 72 at Art Bioskop Kolarac


There seems to be an element of exotic-ness or otherness in your (band title),  approach and musical collages you make. You‘ve started with IDM music and then integrated more and more organic stuff, including some folklore music, what got you into this and made you change the course?

Our musical journey began with computer-based trackers, inspired by the most honest and creative genre (for a while) we encountered in our youth. But then, we grew and expanded. We shed the Metallica t-shirt and the idea of being super-cool and we immersed ourselves in the beauty of every kind of sound, the most obscure noises, field recordings, sounds imagined or sounds that float around and are barely noticeable. Simply put, Uncle Time is a pied piper and we’d better follow the expansion of the Universe and not resist it, not even in our sleep! I guess the best major change for any artist is to stop listening to their known self, the one that tells them to remake the music they like, over and over, and to start listening to their unknown self – the one that drags them into hidden realms. All the weird music rests there for a while, ready to be awakened. Music is not a commodity or a daily buzz for us: it’s a curious phenomenon, an eccentricity, a fat layer of eeriness and literally, The Unseen. Part of The Unseen, or maybe The Unheard to us, is the folklore. Yes, we drink nowadays via Net from every possible corner of humanity’s primal lake of tears (the folkloric universe) but what is more fascinating to us is the game of imagining folklore that is hybrid [no, not in the way the turbo-folk is :)] and a little bit alien, folklore that never was or if it was, nobody cared to harvest it, like the happy song of a shepherd who creates unusual wind instruments and plays with them for the ghosts of his beloved dogs that sadly, passed away. Everything gets lost in translation, but I guess this is for the better. Reimagined, it creates new infinite worlds and new meanings.

You call you music „cinematic“. Which is your first remembrance of a film or a scene that triggered some synaesthetic sensations in you. A fav film soundtrack or maybe some film composers you admire?

F: Well, “cinematic music” in a popular sense is the epic string-based soundtrack, but we use it more like an umbrella term. We’re far from epic. So “cinematic” for us is more like “anything goes”, a sort of a shameless wildcard, more “radio drama” than Hollywood blockbuster, more in the style of a giallo film soundtrack than Hans Zimmer’s grandeur. Speaking of early music that I remember from my childhood that triggered vivid images, I recall Pink Floyd’s (with the fabulous Syd Barrett) Live at Pompeii that my father played on repeat on his Russian tape recorder. Was I a psychedelic kid?! Who knows, but I know that even sweets were scarce when I was little. Also Ennio Morricone & Joan Baez’s “Here’s to You” anthem still rings in my ears as I write. What else?! A lot of damp Bach from summer radio. (maybe that’s why Bach’s works are still my “desert island” music and I’m not ashamed). Ah! One more! Vangelis’ mind-altering soundtrack for Blade Runner! I still have trouble handling it without tears and I’m 48. As for film music composers that I discovered along the way, I highly recommend Egisto Macchi, Krzysztof Penderecki and more recent Mica Levi, plus from anime music composers Susumu Hirasawa, Yoko Kanno and Keishi Urata.

V: And if I may add, discovering Cristobal Tapia De Veer via the fantastic and original soundtrack for the even more fantastic and original Utopia series (the UK one!) was a whiff of fresh air. Peter Strickland’s movies have interesting soundtracks: Broadcast for Berberian Sound Studio, Cavern of Anti-Matter for In Fabric. And I think we can include game music here as well: don’t think shooters, but rather the point and click puzzles of Amanita Design, with soundtracks by Tomáš Dvořák / Floex, DVA and Hidden Orchestra. Finally, to return to the classics, I cannot not mention Alain Goraguer’s La Planète Sauvage, one of the soundtracks I return to very often.

There seems to be a lot of „experimental“ music these days, but I rarely find something as playful and daring as your collagist imagery. What is your take on the rather conservative and status quo of fetishization of particular sounds in improv and experimental worlds and what kind of experiment gets your horses started?

We appreciate your kind words, Marko. We delight in assembling the fragments of a puzzle, even if the final picture is blurred and blemished. (Perhaps our nostalgia for the glitches of the cathode-ray tube TV and the VHS tapes influences our aesthetic, but we still urge you to “Do Not Adjust Your Set!”). We inhabit an era of conformity and cleanliness, so we are drawn to whatever is filthy, weird, distorted in sound and vision, and imbued with the depth and spirit of the (now buried) Underground. And we highly appreciate the seasoned artists who dare to relinquish control of their art. Not to mention the obscure and eclectic film scores, the bizarre folk and the unconventional classical music.

You have done some re-scores (something that you will also do on Live Soundtrack 72) and original scores.Tell us something about your experience of working on film-related projects, which was the one that left a lasting impression on you.

Definitely the original soundtrack for Bodrog, our only feature film score. It’a an experimental horror / comedy mockumentary made by our good old friend Mimi Sălăjan (also a musician that goes by the name of Selfmademusic), a deeply personal project of his. He wanted the music to be more like another character in the film – more than simple underscores and such – so its role was to twist certain scenes and turn them into something completely different. It was fun and challenging, and we had complete artistic freedom, of course. Apart from that, let’s see… many years ago, we wrote an original soundtrack for a short animated film by Vali Chincișan (that one got some awards too, back then); there were some dark drone soundtracks for a couple of experimental shorts by Sergiu Sas; we wrote a minimal ambient piano (Ryuichi Sakamoto-ish) score for an experimental philosophical game by Santiago Franzani / Antennaria Games, which unfortunately remained unreleased (the OST is available on our Bandcamp page though). And then, the rescorings – but this is a different area, in a way: rescorings usually involve silent films, and music behaves in a different manner. We did something very similar to the Live Soundtrack project a few years back, when we rescored an experimental short for the Kinema Ikon collective in Arad (our first microtonal composition), then we rescored a bunch of 100-years-old Romanian silent documentaries and an old Romanian silent comedy short, giving them a completely different, more modern and experimental feeling. And finally, we did some live rescorings for Lotte Reiniger’s Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed and Andrew Leman’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu – these weren’t actual compositions though, but live DJ sets & FX. Almost forgot to mention: our most recent work was writing short loop-based soundtracks for Reniform’s looped augumented reality animations.

Swimé was the album that got me into your music. It is complex and I found myself stunned that even after several listening I was still in awe with some details and sound constructions. For some Serbian readers who are not familiar to your music, which releases from your extensive disography would you recommend to a rookie. (maybe even your own favourites)

Indeed, should you visit our Bandcamp page, you might feel a bit lost. A more organized way to browse our discography is through our official website:
Swimé was a bit of a turning point for us. One of the most intense works we’ve ever done. You can find something rather similar in Rinbo, an old EP based on Yokai (supernatural spirits from Japan’s highly interesting folklore) – and perhaps the even older EPs that made the transition to this electro-acoustic, organic sound, are Balada unui creier mic and Lament of the Fishing Robot. Some of our best compositions in recent years are probably 3 other EPs: Lighthouse Stories (our only official video ever is for a song from this EP), Paquet Congo and most notably, 3 Electrical Snowghosts. Our most important original soundtrack is Bodrog OST, the one we mentioned before – which was then flipped into an album, Drowned in Bodrog. Another important album is Ghostophonia, a collaboration with Silent Strike, based on 100+ years old Romanian folklore music recorded by Béla Bartók on phonograph cylinders. We’ve also experimented with tracks built entirely from processed field recordings: Pulsating Resins, Stray Beads and Post-Muzica 34. And so on, so forth.

Speaking about Romania, do you find anyone as open-minded about music / anyone else‘s music you‘d like to recommend to our readers?

We haven’t really found any music that’s very similar to what we do, in Romania or even abroad (not sure if that’s a good thing or not) – but that doesn’t mean other artists aren’t open minded, haha. From Romania, perhaps the artists most close to us in terms of a broader “cinematic” direction are our friends and collaborators from the Cinemaude crew:
The artists who we collaborated most with are Silent Strike (he’s very well established in Romania), and the more underground Selfmademusic aka IIVII II IIVII II. Also, Petre Ionuțescu / Trompetre is a Romanian Molvaer of sorts, quite compatible with our sound. 🙂 And one of the most interesting (to us) and original experimental artists must be Sillyconductor.
If you want to go deep into Romanian music – not experimental or cinematic music, but pretty much any genre – try Toma Carnagiu (1/2 of Makunouchi Bento) on Mixcloud. The project has been put to hibernation, but there are plenty of mash-up mixes to have fun with:


You are natural enthusiasts who explore universe(s) with sounds. What could be the next endeavor for the broadening of your sonic palette(s)?

Lately we worked more than before with processed field recording and resynthesis so these plus physical modelling are most appealing to us. Also more improvisation – with every software and hardware we put our hands on. We plan to prepare some improv setups for next acts and some of them will be virtual modular (as in modular synthesis)- so designing imaginary instruments-like setups and pushing them to leftfield aural zones is what we did before but we want to go deeper in.

Makunouchi Bento on Facebook

Makunouchi Bento on Bandcamp