ujiko Noriko is creating some of the best avant-pop that you’re not hearing. On her first album, Shojo Toshi, Noriko took short song structures and created an album very close to what Bjork’s Vespertine would have sounded like if Pita had been the main collaborator, rather than Matmos. At times harsh and unforgiving and at others hauntingly beautiful, Shojo Toshi showed Noriko’s complete and utter adeptness with the pop structure and the Mego aesthetic- it was simply the best electronic debut record of 2001, save Posthuman.
On Make Me Hard, Noriko lengthens the songs and increases the abstractness, but keeps the haunting beauty. Track 5, a track that may or may not be entitled “Bikini” (the packaging is all in Japanese, as well as her website), mixes an industrial-esque stereo skipping beat that flits underneath a simple keyboard melody fighting for room underneath the three different incarnations of Noriko’s voice occupying space within the track. There is an inherent complexity associated with each track here- Noriko has literally thrown in everything and the kitchen sink in terms of sound and production to create a completely dense and disorienting , yet beautiful record.
The disorienting quality to these songs relates to the amount of sounds on this record. In one sense, the amount of sounds is distracting and takes away from the overall enjoyment of the songs- there are simply too many to hold in one’s mind to discern what is going on. On the other hand, however, this makes multiple listens to the record a must- and of great interest. By putting them in a simple repeated structure, the sounds lie in wait to be uncovered by listeners willing to make the commitment to listen to the entire whole- and each individual track in each song.
The demands on the listener are nothing new for fans of releases of Mego Records, but it may put some causal fans off. It should be noted, that, despite the large volume of things going on does not deflect from the quality of the songwriting here. Without the simplistic and melancholic melodies composed by Noriko we would merely have the sounds of machines running on autopilot. Instead, in Tujiko Noriko’s second album, we have the sounds of machines running at full speed towards an unknown end, but it’s clear that we’re in good hands and should merely sit back and enjoy the ride.