It must be good being Yoshimi P-We. It seems to me that she's had a pretty great year, what with her Boredoms gig at All Tomorrow's Parties in New York, her ambitious sounding project aboard a Russian ferry, soundtracking this past summer's solar eclipse off the southern coast of Japan, two releases on the side: Bar-Cozmik (as Yoshimio) and Tingaruda (as OLAibi), not to mention the big fat recent new release from my favorite branch of the Yoshimi tree -- the all-girl, always exciting OOIOO. Amidst all this artistic activity, Yoshimi also gave birth to her second child this year. No wonder Wayne Coyne named a record after her.
When OOIOO released Taiga a few years back I fancied that listening to it was a lot like journeying into an hour long, aural tour de la nature -- a sonogram for one of those excellent macrocosmic David Attenborough documentaries where frozen, aurora-enshrouded forests of the North exist minutes from warmer climes where glacier-fueled rivers rush chuckling over rock and mud towards temperate seas. What stellar programming like Planet Earth does for your eyes in the comfort of your home, extraordinary sounds like that of OOIOO do for your ears within the infinite expanse of your mind. This may come across as cheesy (only the easiest cheese, please), but it reminds me of something Obi-Wan Kenobi explained to Luke as he struggled to find his bearings with the Force: "your eyes can deceive you; don't trust them...stretch out with your feelings." Listening to OOIOO, for me, is like letting the Force flow through you, no blast shield required.
OOIOO's latest release (on Thrill Jockey) is just as steeped in the sounds of nature worship as its predecessor, but the environment that gives rise to such faith seems to have shifted, or rather, evolved. Gone are the rhythms and melodies that suggested earthly symphonies of pounding tides, rambling rivers, wind-blown boughs and weathered rocks; on Armonico Hewa (an amalgam of Spanish and Swahili origin meant to suggest "air in a harmonious state"), it is as though OOIOO have blasted off into outer space and found some other planet's primitive weather gods to draw their polyrhythmic paeans and tribal chants from. The video for the opening track "SOL" prompts me to revisit my Star Wars analogy (see above) as it seems to focus on the sun (our sun?) as a thematic platform from which the album, ahem, blasts off.
Armonico Hewa could be called OOIOO's most random record to date in terms of musical composition due to the abundance of unexpected melodic and rhythmic twists and turns made within each track, resulting in a hodge-podge of a record not wholly unlike their previous works yet somehow alien to them all the same. But just like one might refer to their first record, Eight, as their "most punk" or Feather Float as their most, um, "techno-Lisa Frank-rock" or Gold and Green as their most "transcendentalist-rock," attempting to affix a label on the varied works these ladies create is as fruitless an exercise as pinpointing exactly how they create the sounds they make. I mean, did they auto-tune that Kaoss Pad this time around or what? And they must've ordered out for greens at one point because that bass line on the final track "Honki Ponki" -- a cover of a little known Turkish disco tune -- is as funky as that on "All Night Long" by the Mary Jane Girls. Here's hoping their next record is as near (in terms of completion) as it shall surely be beyond (in terms of creation). A++
p.s. Armonico Hewa is available in limited quantities on vinyl so get it, don't regret it. And...
Dear Thrill Jockey,
How about some OOIOO vinyl reissues already? Not everyone won the "I found it magically one day at Amoeba" game (in which I miraculously scored an copy of Feather Float on turquoise wax a few years back). Can you even fathom how much saliva a proper vinyl run of Gold and Green would draw from the collective maw of the music munching community? Gross! I mean, yes please!