Monday, May 14, 2007

Post #50

OOIOO - Tagia - (2006)

With OOIOO, there's plenty of distinguishing characteristics to separate them from the herd. First, you could mention the fluorescent body paint they wear on-stage. Or perhaps the demographics of their lineup, four Japanese women. Or their music, a furious amalgam of rhythmic guitars, patternless vocals, and energetic effects. The frontwoman of the group is the irrepressible Yoshimi P-We, the talented and multifaceted percussionist from the Boredoms. In this incarnation, she sings and plays guitar, but not in the way John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, or even Kim Gordon would. Her role in the group is as the main energizer, the street light around which the other moth-like noises revolve, flutter, bump, and find themselves redirected in a million different ways. It's next to impossible to describe "their sound," because -- by design -- it rarely follows consistent patterns. Suffice to say they're one of the most dynamic bands on the underground circuit. Not in the way a mid-level purchasing director would be described as dynamic, but in the way a ballistic missile would. They're bursting forth with excitement and vivacity in the way few humans, in few art forms, can. Plus, they're fun with a capital PH.

In Japanese, Taiga means "big river"; in Russian, it's "forest." Both are apt descriptions for the dense, winding, jungle-like music OOIOO craft on this, their fifth album. Not to push the connection too much, but Taiga's multilingual meanings could also allude to the band's magpie-like ability to pick the most vital, interesting sounds from other cultures and fashion them into what feels like world music from an alternate universe. Despite the Japanese and Russian meanings of "taiga," the most prominent influence on Taiga comes from Africa: dense African jazz and lilting African folk-inspired guitar melodies play large roles on most of the album's tracks. In particular, the vibrant "KMS," which makes nine minutes feel like the blink of an eye (well, maybe two blinks) incorporates these elements brilliantly. Building from hand drums, guitars, and a rubbery bassline, the track shifts to jazzy rhythms and picks up steam as it goes along, adding forceful singing and brass on the way. By the time it closes with an insistent guitar riff that weirdly echoes "Pictures of Matchstick Men," OOIOO make three very different-sounding stretches of music sound perfectly natural together. "SAI" is another standout, a 15-minute epic with a loping beat; hypnotic, slowly turning organ; and flute melodies and vocals that sound like wild birds. Elsewhere, the band fuses gamelan and psych-rock ("ATS") and calypso with drum rolls straight out of the big top ("GRS"). As always, Yoshimi P We's drumming is so vivid it's almost visible, especially on Taiga's opening salvo, "UMA." She plays cat-and-mouse with the rhythm (perhaps it's not coincidental that the album's name also sounds like "tiger"), rolling and batting it around before pouncing down with a satisfying crash that makes the track's chanted vocals sound even more feral. Most importantly, the album is a beautiful demonstration of how OOIOO keep changing and innovating without losing touch with what made them distinctive in the first place. Their inspired, eclectic mix of sounds and textures is always playful, but Taiga's powerful playing and sophisticated arrangements make it OOIOO's most mature album yet.

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Anonymous said...

extremely cool, thanks.

Barry White said...

Lovely! Thanks very much!