Hearing Aide: Cibo Matto ‘Hotel Valentine’

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Cibo Matto have not made a record since 1999’s Stereo Type A. For 15 years fans of the band have been left waiting in anticipation for s new musical statement from the duo. While the principals of the group, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori have been busy contributing their numerous talents to other artistically satisfying projects, the Cibo Matto name and output has become an image in the rear view mirror. That premise is no longer relevant. The duo’s new release, Hotel Valentine due February 14th, shows that time has been more than kind to the duo. The fun emanating from Cibo Matto’s first two releases in 1996 and 1999 respectively has not left the group, alternately, the musical excitement has been combined with a serious artistic expression and expansive sonic palette. Hotel Valentine is the result of two years work by Miho and Yuka. Hatori stated recently regarding the recording, “Hotel Valentine is the cinematic bricolage of Yuka and me,”. The undeniable chemistry between the duo is the impetus for the development of the collection, after years of alternative collaborations the girls have come back together with a fury.

Electronic music can often leave even the most ardent listener somewhat emotionally cold in regards to the equipment and production techniques used. In the case of Hotel Valentine the warm and soothing analog vibe of the record is an olfactory smorgasbord. Honda reveals a clandestine grab-bag of grooves over the course of the recording ranging from smooth R and B, funky house, to tribal fire dances.Her sonic decision making is eclectic and knowledgeable. Hotel Valentine is a thematic as well as a cinematic excursion, with the girls in the band calling it, ‘a metaphor, a question, an answer, an idea, a feeling; A strange and vivid scene.

The records introduction comes with a ‘Check In’, where misty dual vocals swirl around a magnetic drum line that pulls the music in closer to your head. A hallmark of the album is the dynamic and diverse breakdowns that occur throughout every track. Multifaceted choices in production arm the collection with suspense and surprise. The next track ‘Déjà vu’ is aural anime, featuring seemingly innocent but sensually charged and ticklish vocals. The song shifts from 70’s soul, to hallucinatory cloud walk verse, then through a rippling hip hop breakdown. This song is sticky sweet, with a vocal groove made up of florescent colors and carnival candy. A standout track.

‘10th Floor Ghost Girl’ is irresistible ‘club pop’, with a guitar riff peeled straight from the grooves of a James Brown record.  Again, the duo illustrates an innate ability to offer differing vibes and flashing glimpses through the course of one track. This tune features a distorted ‘dubby’ chorus breaking up the fast paced dance of the number.

The juicy center of the recording containing ‘Emerald Tuesday’, the catchy as hell album single ‘MFN’(featuring Reggie Watts), and the title track ‘Hotel Valentine’ is a salmagundi of reggae beats, deviating tribal rhythms, uniquely constructed vocal ragas,  and contrasting musical movements.  Miho’s vocals really shine throughout this sequence and at points elicit actual physical reactions. The vocals throughout the album are blended, mixed and presented beautifully. The story of the record continues to open like a mystery box, a small segment of interpretation and understanding with every musical reveal. The pure buzzing modified sound of ‘Empty Pool’ is recorded claustrophobia, its organic melody existing in a silvery underwater world of blue chrome.  The album then moves through ‘Housekeeping’, a trippy bounce house track assisting with the dynamic close of the record, which to these ears echoes the influence of Chimera label mate Yoko Ono, whom Honda has collaborated. The recording concludes as it opened this time with a ‘Check Out’ filled with delectable vocal melody lines, this time layered over the top of tenderly picked acoustic guitar echoes. A  farewell through a song that sounds as if the track is disappearing in to the horizon, or is falling rain collected into pooling water. Disorienting symphonic mantras gain substance, disorienting effects shift until rupturing back into the airy acoustic guitar segment, thus concluding the record.

The musical tale of Hotel Valentine is journey well worth the wait for fans of the internationally renowned duo, or for those searching for another musical experience in their lives. The multitude of catchy melody lines and inspired beats adds up to a experience the runs the gamut of emotion.  While there are multiple moments of joy and dance, there are an equal number of moments containing musical drama and apprehension.  Cibo Matto will be playing at the BSP Lounge in Kingston on February 9, 2014 to promote this new release. Tickets are available for $15 Adv/$20 Dos at the following locations Jack’s Rhythms, Darkside Records and Gallery, Woodstock Music Shop and outdated: an antique cafe.

Key Tracks: Deja vu, Emerald Tuesday. MFN