Afro Finger and Gel
hen analyzing Mu’s work, one must consider…well, everything; a record of such quavering vitriol was surely crafted in response to something. That being said, it’s hard to say exactly what Mutsumi Kanamori and husband/producer Maurice Fulton are reacting against, when one can pick from any number of potential catalysts. Take Mu’s apocalyptic war shrieks which seem to decimate the nouveau easy listening of most trance and house: this and the violently cynical lyrics of much of the album throttle both the elitism of clubbing and our worst cultural blueprints (the "bored biz man" and reality dating shows).
"My Name is Tommi" and "Hello Bored Biz Man" both find Mu assuming multiple guises and, abetted by Cuban drum fills and the dissonant clang and squiggle of Fulton’s bizarre production, weaving elaborate tales of betrayal and misery. Whether playing the jilted lover, cheating mate or detached investigator helping the couple along in their misery, in "My Name is Tommi", Mu approaches her material with a dehumanizing lack of sentimentality.
In Mu’s world-view, all proponents of modern amorality are to blame: the man (for cheating on his mate), the woman (for turning to the investigator), the investigator (for exploiting the couple’s demise), and, above all, the listener, for objectifying (read: listening to) the transaction of sorrow. Far from skirting the edge of gimmickry, Mu towers over these songs like a preening, multi-limbed cyborg mantis, her black eyes swelling with stultifying condescension for any who dare question the veracity of her performance.
"Let’s Get Sick", on the other hand, finds Mu chanting hysterically over a pummeling industrial sample. As the metallic hammering of a drum threatens to overwhelm Mu’s lithe squeal, her metamorphosis from demure to vicious, vindictive nightmare boxes the listener’s ears like two svelte hands in black leather gloves. "Roll a big fat spliff / And smoking stoned all day / We feel each others bodies / And kiss to my oranges!" Mu rages in her mutilated English cadence, off-set by the urgent wails of sirens, frenetic cowbell playing and the arrhythmic rush of Fulton’s tribal drumming samples.
Far from being a vacuous club anthem extolling the virtues of narcotics, "Let’s Get Sick" bares its teeth and chomps down hard at the notions of pleasure and escape. When the track lapses into a placid interlude replete with pretty synth work, only to again snap into a state of disquieting antipathy, the logic behind Mu’s bait-and-attack methods becomes—for just a moment—clear: what she and Fulton have crafted so lovingly is relaxant music for masochists.
In an underground society fueled by who-has-what, Mu’s album is an explosive statement made for cutting through the shit. What’s left, Mu seems to cry out through a bramble of tangled electro-terror and screeching alarms, is jealous, bored trash. By merit of its incomparably soured outrage, Afro Finger and Gel is a sort of social awareness album (one seeking to destroy archaic Hierarchies of Cool rather than preaching tired homilies about the decay of inner-cities, the yearnings of single mothers, abortion, death penalties, etc.).
A screech of injustice borne of privilege, seeking to daunt and defile the superficial? Certainly. But that only makes it more relevant for its intended audience. Afro Finger and Gel is a terrifying paean to the destruction of scenes, the dissertations of junk-culture, and the end of humanity. As "Destroying Human Nature",—the most nihilistic, and perversely, most accessible track—fades out of earshot, the listener has endured a sobering, candy-colored pipe-bomb of rage straight to the occipital lobe. Believe it.
Reviewed by: Eric Seguy
Reviewed on: 2004-04-14