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Aoki Takamasa and Tujiko Noriko, "28"

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The first time I popped this in I thought to myself, "Oh great, the Japanese have their own version of Bjork." After another ten minutes I was convinced this duo was constructing more than just pseudo- adolescent hysteria for fans of electronic pop.

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Tujiko Noriko's voice might be reminiscent of Bjork's flighty presence at time, but after just a couple of tracks it is clear her silky delivery has more nuance and sensuality to it than Bjork could ever hope for. The music she has released on Mego, Sub Rosa, and Tomlab might be familiar to some. Her partner, Aoki Takamasa, might be familiar to others as he has released music through the Progressive Form label. Their combined history with glitchy music shows on the album, but isn't overwhelmingly experimental or particularly shocking. In fact, the melodies on the album take precedence over any studio trickery. The skipping, warped beats, and heavily processed sound effects simply add a dimension that does more to develop a mood than to draw attention itself. And while 28 is an electronic album, it bares more of a relationship to rock or pop music than anything else, albeit a slow, slowly boiling version of pop.

 The album contains two "Fly" songs, one, I assume, is a variation of the original song of the same name that the duo produced upon their first meeting, and the other must be a kind of sequel to that track. As the inaugural song, "Fly 2" seems a little out of place. It's focus is less on Noriko's voice and more on the production and mood the rest of the album carries with it. It's a drifting, dreamy piece of pulsing keyboards and looped vocal effects, but on the whole it doesn't seem to represent the relaxing element of songs like "Vinyl Words" or "Alien." Once Noriko's voice strikes on "Vinyl Words," however, all bets are off and a sweet, sometimes clumsy lilt takes over. Noriko engages in call and response lyrical games and the duo's shared musical duties demonstrate a knack for constantly shifting melodies and toy-like percussion.

I could go on at length about how well each of these songs meld, how every track seems to blend seemlessly into a melodic dream, but the easy going mood that reigns over the record is the most attractive element of each song. The never-ending flux of the album never allows for a moment of boredom. Closing my eyes and listening to the album is enough inspiration to paint a series of highly ambiguous Rorschach studies, each one a constantly evolving blob of phosphorescence bent on taking shape but never quite getting there. Transparent shapes and amorphous, not quite developed creatures stalk the landscape, itself a multi- dimensional plain that's never quite bent into a definite geographic plan. After awhile the whole associative sound game becomes addictive and replay becomes necessary. Without the interaction 28 still stands on its own two feet quite well. Earlier I said that the whole thing sounds like a slowly boiling pop record, but in actuality I think the music is far more than that, less reliant on catchy hooks and more dedicated to a process of seduction.

Unfortunately there don't seem to be any plans for Takamasa and Noriko to tour outside of Europe or, more to the point, in the United States. Perhaps that will change when their own particular electronic lusciousness catches on and gains enough momentum to warrant a trip to this side of the ocean.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2005 02:25  


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