Yuka Honda: Eucademix

Hunter Felt

Taking her cues from label head John Zorn, Yuka Honda follows the free-for-all Tzadik ethos and produces a collection of mostly instrumentals that seem both tossed off yet somehow satisfying at the same time.

Yuka Honda


Label: Tzadik
US Release Date: 2004-09-21
UK Release Date: 2004-11-01

Way back in the declining days of alternative rock, a talented duo of Japanese women living in New York entered the fringes of popular consciousness with offbeat songs about food. Although the act was considered something of a gimmick band, Cibo Matto's Viva! La Woman was an astounding, if occasionally awkward, genre-hopping delight that almost perfectly encapsulated the anything-goes mentality of the mid-'90s alt-rock scene. For me, personally, it was one of the first albums that suggested that there were artists worth discovering outside of what the local "modern rock" station featured in its rotation.

After a stopgap EP, an unjustly ignored follow up (the beautiful, bossa-nova-tinged Stereotype A), and a guest appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cibo Matto just stopped at the start of the new millennium. Perhaps it was a wise decision, considering how unkind this decade has treated many of the guiding lights of the previous one. Outside of Cibo Matto, the members have continued to dabble in their own eccentric pursuits, now operating a little bit more under the radar than during their salad years. For example, it came to me as a shock that Eucademix is actually keyboardist Yuka Honda's second solo album, her first one released in a total media vacuum. John Zorn's Tzadik label, after all, doesn't quite have the marketing budget of Warner Brothers, which might be fitting considering the experimental nature of Eucademix.

Eucademix is, as the title suggests, is less of a fully formed cohesive album but rather a bit of an oddball mix of tracks. Taking her cues from label head Zorn, Honda follows the free-for-all Tzadik ethos and produces a collection of mostly instrumentals that seem both tossed off yet somehow satisfying at the same time. The casual atmosphere is highlighted by the long list of Honda associates that perform on the album: Peta Haden, Marc Ribot, Trevor Dunn, and Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori and Timo Ellis. The album was originally supposed to be credited to "Yuka Honda & Friends", and this collaborative feeling gives what could have been a chilly electronic album a much warmer feeling.

The warmth of Eucademix comes from Honda's pop background. Instrumental electronic albums typically appeal more to the head than the heart, but Eucademix shows that Honda considers electronic music as simply pop music coming from a slightly different direction. One of Cibo Matto's strengths was that it treated all genres of music (rock and roll, rap, funk, jazz, bossa nova, metal, trip-hop, etc.) as essentially slightly different styles of pop music, so it shouldn't be shocking that Honda has made a pure pop delight out of what could have been an admirable but unexciting experiment. The twittering "Twirling Batons in My Head", for instance, is as jittery and nervous as the title suggests, but Honda never loses track of the enthralling main melody. While the music remains unconventional, Honda is unafraid to mix in wordless vocals and bubblegum "la la la's" into her heady mix.

She is also unafraid to give the music a darker twist, another trait from her Cibo Matto days. While the jungle-themed instrumental "When the Monkey Kills" or the solo piano "Seed of Seed of Peach" may lull the listener into thinking this is a low-key, almost loungey, affair, the spiked Ribot guitars of "Some Things Should Be Kept Unsaid" or the controlled lunacy of the aptly-titled "Why Are You Lying to Your Therapist?" will shock the listener out of any sort of reverie.

The anticipated highlight for the Cibo Matto faithful would be "I Dream About You", a reunion between Honda and Hatori that, in an unsurprising surprise, sounds nothing like anything the pair has created in the past. Instead, "I Dream About You" is a thumping, electroclash love song with Hatori's vocals much drier than her typical heartfelt performances. If listened to without context, one would scarcely think that this was the same pair who sung "Know Your Chicken" all those years ago. What is promising about "I Dream About You" is that it shows that both Honda and Hatori are uninterested in revisiting past victories, suggesting that the two (either on their own or together) still have the potential to continue breaking down musical conventions long past their 15 minutes of meaningless fame. Some critics might say that they are wasting their talents on these countless "minor" side projects. Eucademix will not only silence these critics, it might even turn the ears of those stubborn folks still waiting for a new Cibo Matto release.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.