5 out of 5
Label: Avex Trax
Produced by: Matuura Katsuto (executive produced by)
I’m going to make a supposition here that if you’re like me – don’t panic, I’m only talking in the most superficial of senses – a music fan, now in your 30s, you occasionally experience something similar to the following when listening to a new album: Wow, this is a great album (youthinks); I bet (so-and-so) would really like this! But what song would I play them to convince them?
You are, in other words, drafting a fantasy mix-tape. I know mix tapes were cool at one point, but I don’t know if they were ever really cool, so much as an obligation (to the listener), or some kind of proof of the elite quality of our tastes (to the maker); the only mix tapes I enjoyed were those that were handed off as toss-offs, or requested. And I know this dichotomy of obligation and proof, and yet I still do this little dance in my head of the “ultimate” song to “show” someone how awesome a particular artist is.
Allowing that fantasy to drift forward, I often then find myself stuck to make a choice, because no song is perfect. I try to figure out how I heard the artist, and realize it was generally through more than just one track, because one track is either misleading – it’s a single, not indicative of other material, or there are caveats scattered throughout the runtime that make it not a single, but are endearing once you’re more familiar with the group or person. So: song A is good, but… Song B is good, but… and so on, before I realize, yet again, that firstly no one wants to listen to my shitty mixtape, and secondly that, uh, I have a dearth of friends anyway.
But anyway, Seiko Oomori is one artist I’ve gone through this dance with several times. She’s awesome; she is – as a Reddit commentator put it one time and I can’t help but agree – a goddess. Her initial acoustic offerings show a penchant for memorable compositions and introduced us to Oomori’s screamy / babbly intensity, and then once she started bringing in a full band and distortion, things just went next level. (Though when she stripped things back for an acoustic disc, it was a reminder that the ‘next level’s were inherent from that screamy / babbly start.) However, all of that comes with those addendums to the “you gotta check this out” suggestion, assuming that your listening audience might be new to idol culture.
And then there was Kitixxxgaia, whereon every song is perfect. Every song works as a recommendation, with no extra explanations required. I’m spoiled for choice for my imaginary mix tape. This isn’t accomplished through any kind of streamlining of Seiko’s style, either: she’s as wild and experimental as ever, stylistically wacked and ranging from more hard-edged stuff to lighter fare; it’s just that’s it’s all so dang synchronized, songs using flourish to lull the listener into poppy calm before unleashing crazy choruses, or paralleling bouncy with brash; loud with quiet.
I can’t speak to the lyrics, unfortunately, beyond translating them, but using that method, there’s a lot to dig in to, with Oomori forever grappling with gender roles and emotions in inventive and challenging ways, along with a good dose of nonsense imagery that nonetheless paints a picture of a particularly creative mind.
The production on the album also supersedes many prior works, in which the multiple layering of keys and instruments and effects occasionally would overwhelm the rhythm. This is a big part of why Kitixxxgaia is so solid: its reigned in at the right moments; stripped down to balance out its volume; and then unleashed with all of its lovely clatter, mixed so that there’s a focus, with rewarding extras coming to light upon relistens.
Of which there have been, and will be, many. And maybe one day, when I’m forcing some music on someone, they’ll make that holy request for a mix tape, and I can just give them this disc instead. Because what the heck are mix tapes nowadays?