17 October 2009

Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zame Kuri no Hana (2003)

Zorbo's review on Rate Your Music (5/5):

"I think Ms. Shiina must be a Taoist. Or, if not, at least someone deeply interested in the concepts of opposites, doubles, balance and equality. Everything about this album screams a predilection with it. The title, translating to “Lime, Semen, Chestnut Blossoms”, seems bizarre, but it is a well-crafted one and, by her reckoning, a logical one. She claims that the first and last items both smell like semen and thus the title is a olfactory palindrome. Of sorts. Next, there are the titles themselves. When viewed down the page, the titles of the first and last, second and second-to-last songs, and so on, all have the same number of characters. Even the second song is called Doppelgänger, a German word meaning a person's double.

It is appropriate then that such an album, at first glance overwhelmed with doubling and copying, be so original. It is doubly appropriate that the album's sound be made of opposites. On the one hand, it's the tightest pop album I've ever heard. Not a note or melody is poorly placed. At the same time, it's all over the place. The range of instruments and styles featured on the record is astounding. Why, Ringo herself plays guitar, piano, drums, koto, shamisen, harmonica, harpsichord, and accordion, and let's not get into what her band plays. Lyrically? Well, I don't know, I don't speak Japanese. I have been informed that it uses obscure, obsolete kanji in the lyric sheet that accompanies the CD, which is of course to be expected from such a modern and forward thinking album from someone so obsessed with opposites.

This album, on paper, should not work so well. It shouldn't be so tight and perfectly crafted, but it couldn't be moreso. It sounds like a mash-up of swing, jazz, noise, a capella, rock, pop, folk and even classical, but it doesn't sound cluttered or jumbled in any way – it's wonderfully catchy and addictive, great to sing along to, relax to, or get excited about. It's brash, noisy, funky, experimental, complex, and in-your-face. It's also low-key, calm, accessible, simple and humble. Crafted by a fragile, young soul, and forged by a demonic sexual beast.

I could go on, but frankly, why bother? My point has been made and I'm just hammering it further. This album, at its heart, makes no sense. It's untouchable and innately indescribable. It defies logic, it defies theory, it defies one's prejudices or pre-conceived ideas. It defies belief that you haven't gone looking for it already."

Get it here.

Shiina Ringo - Shouso Strip (2000)
Tokyo Jihen - Adult (2006)

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