OOIOO: Taiga

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



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

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.







Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.