Music

OOIOO: Taiga

It's exhausting, it's exhilarating, it's excellent.


OOIOO

Taiga

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2006-09-12
UK Release Date: 2006-09-11
Amazon
iTunes

Yoshimi P-We is the coolest person in the world. There really isn't any credible argument against this truth. She drums and screams and plays trumpet for the Boredoms, a Japanese band so bizarrely great that not even their recent profile in the New Yorker can blunt their edge. She has been in side-project bands with members of Sonic Youth, Pavement, and Cibo Matto. And you know that Flaming Lips album called Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots? Yep, that was a semi-concept record about her, featuring her yelling and free jazz horn stylings. (I once interviewed the Lips' Steven Drozd, who said that Yoshimi was actually really pissed off at them for editing so much of her stuff out of the finished record.)

But her real legacy of awesomeness might actually be focused on her band OOIOO. This all-female group, which was reportedly formed as a stunt for a magazine shoot, has only released a few records, but all of them are challenging and beautiful and just plain cool. (My favorite is Feather Float, but some swear by Green and Gold, and I haven't heard some of the early stuff.) OOIOO combines tribal drumming and chanting with modern electronic textures, jazz, funk, avant-classical, noize, assorted world musics, prog, punk, and minimalism.

Taiga has eight tracks, all of which have titles consisting of three letters. They are very strange and very wonderful, and none of them are easily boiled down. Take, for instance, the eight-minute piece called "ATS". It starts with 1970s conga music, quickly adds blips and beeps and three-part girl-group doo-wop harmonies, and then turns African with a multi-tracked marimba section. New instruments and rhythmic motifs keep being added for the first three minutes, until we get to a funky breakdown, at which point it turns into something that works more like avant-African chanty dance music. Two minutes later, a huge guitar riff introduces a full-on dance-punk jam with squealing feedback and squealing accordion and squealing Japanese women. It's exhausting, it's exhilarating, it's excellent.

And it might be one of the lower-energy tracks on this album. Certainly, "UMO" is more hyper; this piece sounds like a band of overcaffeinated goth cheerleaders, all banging on stuff and chanting. (I keep expecting them to break into Toni Basil's "Mickey", which, y'know, WOULD BE AWESOME.) "UJA" has about 12 levels of polyrhythmatic madness, maybe 14 levels of weird vocal, and at least a couple of acid guitars twining around each other... and then things get really wild, as the whole thing goes all glorious freaky Afrobeat.

Which is not to say that everything here is one-note. "KMS" is very much like late '60s hipster jazz (think Tony Williams Lifetime); that is, of course, when it's not busy incorporating Mexican banda music horn flourishes. The 15-minute "SAI" out-Fiery-Furnaces the Fiery Furnaces by going through about as many twists and turns as a piece can possibly go through. My daughter thinks it sounds like "mystery music"; my son says it sounds like "opera crossed with a spy movie". They are both right.

I'm not saying this is the easiest music to deal with; those with more vanilla tastes will not want to come anywhere near this. But for avant-garde multi-genre music from Japan, it's awfully cuddly and adorable. Nothing here will actually hurt you -- unlike some Boredoms albums, or anything by Nickelback -- and a lot will make you smile and dance and think. OOIOO is a whole lot of fun. But for a group that started as a joke, THEY AIN'T NO JOKE.

9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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

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

rating-image