Tujiko Noriko
Shojo Toshi
Mego
2001
A-

there is something inherently alien about the art of haiku. When done in English they merely seem wrong- the flaccid remnants of an ancient art from another culture. When they are translated into English from Japanese they take on a certain beauty, of course, but it isn’t a conventional beauty, it’s something odd, something wrong- as though you’re only seeing halfway through a pane of glass- getting blurry images of something that is much clearer.


The Mego label has made a cottage industry of turning traditionally alien sounds into a beautiful maelstrom. Whether it be the unmitigated transcendence of a Pita work, the abstractness of General Magic, or the ever rotating oscillations of Jim O’Rourke’s laptop compositions; Mego has made beautiful the sounds that surround us- and the sounds that we never thought we would ever encounter. Tujiko Noriko is no exception to this. Sounding like a combination of Bjork, Bows, and Dntel it becomes apparent that comparisons are merely a jumping off point into describing the sound that is contained on Shojo Toshi. To heavy listeners of IDM and trip hop this will probably not be seen as completely original music, but it will most certainly be thought of as the perfect distillation of certain prevalent strains of music in vogue today.


Sounding like some dysfunctional dirge, the opening song on the disc plods along at a snail's pace- rhythmic, but nothing you could ever find yourself dancing to. Piano chords echo in the background underneath electronic squelches and interminably held out sequences of pure sound. This chaos continues into the next song until it is swept away completely. A lone voice singing the slowly recognizable refrain “You’re so beautiful” comes out of the disorder that once reigned supreme. A slow simple melody saunters into the left channel until this simple vocal line has four different permutations going at the same time. This allows the vocalists to sound almost evil and sadistic, giving it an air of Aphex Twin. This is the level that this album works on- a combination of beauty mixed with something alien, making sure that the listeners comfort is a very quick and fleeting moment at all times. At points, the artist settles into a groove and allows the listener a sort of respite. This never lasts long, however, and even at these times there is a palpable sense of things going on underneath, something unheard. The compositions are packed tight with small ephemeral sounds that force their way to the forefront of the mix at times, only to be pushed beneath the surface soon after.


Mego, as a whole, embraces the abstract. The lightening of this dictum, to a degree, has occurred in a very melodic run of releases, including Jim O’Rourke’s I’m Happy, I’m Singing, and a 1,2,3,4 and Fennesz’s Endless Summer. This seems to have started in May of 2001 with the release of this record. There is something more here than the usual Mego weirdness, though. A human mixed with the alien, a beauty inexpressible, a pure haiku.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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