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Tomoyuki Tanaka (a.k.a. Fantastic Plastic Machine) is something of a dying breed these days—a true Renaissance Man, a near impossibility in today’s hyper-kinetic society, with all of the micro specialization encouraged by school and work. Not satisfied as a mere musician, Tanaka is also a magazine editor, radio personality, and composer. Perhaps it’s his own multimedia meandering and refusal to accept boundaries of any sort that have inspired his plundering of diverse global sounds from Brazilian bossa nova to British techno and from German electronica to French pop. Whatever the cause, Tanaka’s broad palette results in a compelling mixture of sounds and textures.


Led by the swingy, lounge jazz of the tone-setter “Theme of Luxury,” Luxury revels in international, otherworldly sounds and collaborations with musicians who perfectly suit Tanaka’s experimental bent. There’s the pairing with Lorraine Bowen on Eurythmics’ classic “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)” that evokes an ethereal sound and an image of cooing space nymphs. Unfortunately, at nine minutes plus, it’s just too drawn out and could have benefited from a touch of restraint. Meanwhile, “Electric Lady Land” is a slice of bubblegum, Japanese pop straight from the Pizzicato Five or Shonen Knife playbook. It’s in the relentlessly perky, upbeat numbers that Luxury really shines, whereas a few of the slower tracks could have used a smidgen of editing. Nevertheless, Luxury is an enjoyable, eclectic effort that fans of sophisticated Euro pop are sure to adore.

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By Carolyn Kellogg
14 May 2001
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