The music Fuji Chao has been making over the last couple of years has always been visceral. Samples sourced from cartoons featured screams and crying, while the artist herself dropped in spoken-word lyrics that played out like confessions of complicated emotions. Part of this reaction comes from a distance between listener and artist, but it can’t all be chalked up to circumstance — Fuji Chao excels at using sounds to strike emotional chords.
Welcome To Underground shows this really well, almost to a fault. While her latest album contains plenty of emotional release — see the melancholy reflection on depression and connection that is “I Played With The Sea Like A Kid, You Loved Me” — it also plays out like something exploring internet-saturated culture (something made most clear on what appears to be a bonus track, “Welcome To The Hell,” which directly wrestles with the idea of the Web being a nightmare hole). “Internet Fight” moves between warped drum ‘n’ bass abrasions to reflective passages back to digital freakouts, while the familiar start-up jingle of Windows 95 gets sliced up later on the album. A fair amount of Welcome To Underground is among the most aggressive music Fuji Chao has put together, capped off by “Hello Kitty,” a song sampling some sort of scene where a guy pulls up “Japanese girls puke in each other’s mouths” and…well, you get something just like that in audio form (I am not brave enough to try to source this one). It’s gross, but so is the internet and I guess that’s the point.
Yet countering those harsher and revolting moments are sweeter ones. Some are intentional reflections in a sea of chaos like “Milk Iro No Bra,” while others just strike something in me (“Electric Fuck Rain” picks up the same melody as QQIQ’s “Daydream,” an absorbing bit of dream-pop that…can no longer be found online at all, so listening to this is both melancholy and rage-inducing regarding the Web as archival destination). And it makes moments of breakdown, such as a song constructed from samples of Evangelion’s Asuka all the more powerful. Get it here, or listen below.