Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ufufu You, Too

Don't call me Sayuri

一青 窈 (Hitoto Yô) - "音叉" ("Onsa") (mp3)
(purchase here)

While some gettin' surly over the MTA strike, the bigger drayma really hit high gear 'fore the weekend even started. Bush wished the press corp "Happy Holidays!" and made another pointed remark before signing off for the year. I'm with Notes' headline on this one, f'sure. Way to distance yourself from the people, once again...

While "frustration with morally reprehensible acts of a criminal politico" and "J-Pop" don't normally go hand-in-hand, I turn to one such singer for today's selection. Hitoto Yô hit it big in Japan about two or three years ago, but she came onto my radar through Café Lumière. Hou Hsiao-Hsien's tribute to Japanese melodrama master Yasujirô Ozu was maligned unfairly (who can expect to be Ozu except for Ozu?), but I found Hitoto's performance (her acting debut, no less) to be spot on. Perhaps Hsiao-Hsien was indeed taken by the parallels between the singer's background and the disconnected duality of her character (once again, the ever-trusty UK press had this interview with Hitoto around this time last year; note, the spoiler has a large inaccuracy in it), but her aloof persona is a perfect match for her character Yoko's late-20s Peter Pan-isms. But I digress.

Hitoto's music still flirts with the familiar J-Pop terrain of adolescent melodrama, but in a manner considerably more extroverted than that of her peers. While numerous Japanese artists go awkwardly out of their way to explore the other, Hitoto subtly draws her influences in and translates them in her own peculiar manner. In a word, her music is a unique blend of Japanese popular aesthetics and international explorations. Her latest single,
"指切り" ("Yubikiri," or "Nailclipper") single, is a jagged piece of rock that features a startlingly impassioned vocal from Hitoto. However, the video (sorry, a 30-second clip is the best I could find) is a reverse study of Björk-ian appropriations, clean modern lines and post-Flying Daggers dances (you like that? I got more of 'em, too). In this manner, her best songs are refreshingly discombobulating.

Today's selection is a b-side to the aforementioned jump-off single (her third album, &, was released yesterday; scroll to the middle of this page for sound clips) and perhaps the large reason why I took note. A furious, borderline emo take on Timbo, "Onsa" is, to the best of my understanding, another relationship diagram, an attempt to find convergence when paths diverge. The fragility of her voice, while unusually and brilliantly paired on "Yubikiri," is crazy displaced over this crunk-ass beat... but in an equally brilliant manner. The claustrophobic performance mixed with early '00's Missy-isms makes for a more interesting mash-up than even 50 over Philip Glass.

A couple sidenotes: I find her pronunciation refreshingly different (she is half-Taiwanese, half-Japanese and was raised in Taiwan until age 6, but I wouldn't say she has a Taiwanese accent) and, quite frankly, her occasionally faltering pitch to be pretty damn real (hey, not everything needs to be fixed in ProTools; have you heard how out of tune "Walk the Line" is?). However, all of these apparent "mistakes" are precisely what makes her music quite inventive to my ears. Tracing latitude when it appears to be longitude, yet consistently meeting.

Now, if a 28-year old pop singer can find commonalities in differences, why can't a 59-year old President just admit his ass is wrong?

One last bit of trivia: want a possible reason for the big boomin' sound of this cut? Brian "Big Bass" Gardner handled the mastering. The opening paragraph of the linked interview says it all: he's worked with Dre, Em, Mary, Nelly Furtado, Pink... and on J-Pop. Now, that's gangster.


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