Since one can only ride the English teaching gravy train for so long…and this blog isn’t making me rich though it’s fun to write ya’ll!…I’ve started contributing to other publications about Japanese music. This week, I wrote up a live preview of Osaka oddball Oorutaichi for The Japan Times. Go here and read it.
Instead of just indulge in some shameless promotion and calling it my daily post, my plan for this newly-christened feature is to touch on something not explored in either the outside article or on this blog. In future posts (fingers crossed) this could be a specific song, a past release I was oblivious to, a particularly LOL-worthy photo…whatever. For this first post, it’s exceedingly easy, as I’ve written a fair bit about Oorutaichi but have yet to say anything about his 2011 release Cosmic Coco, Singing for a Billion Imu’s Hearty Pi.
Well, let’s start with a huge declaration…Cosmic Coco currently sits somewhere in the top three of my personal “favorite Japanese albums of the year” list and I don’t see it dropping drastically far. It’s easily the top of the list of “strangest Japanese release” of 2011, though. One can draw a few soundalikes over the course of the album’s hour-long run time – the controlled chaos of Battles, the abstract turned pop of Animal Collective, the general “weirdness” of fellow Osaka groups like Boredoms (Eye contributes a remix here), OOIOO and Acid Mothers Temple. The face he sings in an invented, elfin-sounding language could lead to lazy Sigur Ros comparisons, but until Wes Anderson hits the cutting room hopped up on PCP don’t expect them to ever occupy the same universe. Yet with each new listen to Cosmic Coco, these attempts at drawing artistic contemporaries get muddled. Dude’s on his own trip.
This stuff isn’t “weird” in a way where it just sounds strange compared to everything around it and gets mislabeled as “interesting” coughSALEMcough. Oorutaichi’s latest is “weird” because he manages to take bits of familiar genres…hip-hop, dancehall, pop, Lord Of The Rings folk…and reconfigure it into something completely different while still managing to create honest-to-goodness songs. After the Willy-Wonka-nightmare-tunnel of lead in “Tiger Melt,” the album hits on two highlights. “Futurelina” imagines Jamaican dancehall on Neptune, insanely claustrophobic with equipment prone to freaking out but said technical difficulties keep the patrons dancing. “Shiny Foot Square Dance” ups it even more, Oorutaichi playing the role of electro witchdoctor well his disciples try to keep pace. This stuff isn’t easy to describe, but a blast to listen to. The easiest song to write about ends up being “Sononi,” mostly because it clearly features the sounds of a pterodactyl going into labor in the back.
A few stranger pieces space out the longer burning songs on Cosmic Coco, the two most prominent featuring guest appearances. OLAibi of OOIOO sings on “Coco,” a seemingly time-warped cave song. Oorutaichi enlists tabla player u-zhaan to help soundtrack his shouting on “Merry Ether Party” which…well, name does all the work I’d have to. These slowed-down instances lends the album a good pace without disrupting the abstract charm. This is an album ultimately in love with sound – Oorutaichi draws from all over the musical map to create new soundscapes for him to revel in, and it’s pretty and pretty forward thinking. Being at a loss for words rarely sounds so good.