This “great albums” project is getting back on track. I’m going to try to do one of these per day for a while. First, Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko’s 28.
I heard this album before I had heard any Tujiko Noriko, and initially I wasn’t all that impressed. Later, I listened to (and enjoyed) Shojo Toshi, and so I returned to this. Aoki Takamasa I’m still not independently familiar with, but here he takes Noriko’s voice and does wonderful glitchy things with it while completely avoiding the cheese she occasionally lapses into in her solo work.
Noriko sounds essentially like a Japanese Björk. They have a remarkably similar tone and voice, but Noriko never yells or shrieks and is much quieter and smaller. Often on 28 she is just an echoed whisper. Takamasa’s contribution seems to be making everything sound (for lack of better terminology—soon these phrases will be like “angular guitars”) “ethereal” and “icy”.
There are essentially two types of song on 28. First, there are the songs that sound like they could be on a Noriko solo album. (After all, she did release work on Mego, she is no stranger to glitch.) “Vinyl Worlds”, “Fly-Variation”, “When The Night Comes”, and “Alien” make up this group. All of them leave her voice mostly unfettered, actually allowing her to complete verses and choruses. (This is the part that could be on a circa-Vespertine Björk record.) “Alien” is particularly strong, and I smile anytime I hear the words in “When The Night Comes”. “Vinyl Worlds” sounds remarkably like Múm would if they were just a little less “organic”.
The second—and better—group of songs are the glitchier ones. I assume this is Takamasa’s influence, but I can’t be sure. These, made up of “Fly 2″, “Doki Doki Last Night”, “Nolicom”, and “26th Floor”, are slower and sparer than the other group, featuring mostly Noriko’s delicate voice held in lace above itself, stretched and looped and doubled. She whispers, mostly snatches of Japanese, while Snd-like beats click and snap below her (particularly on “Nolicom”). On “Doki Doki Last Night” some of the only English on the album occurs, as she repeats “last night I was…” somewhat ruefully. “Fly 2″ evokes an intense feeling of stasis.
However, “26th Floor” is, in my opinion, the clear standout on the album. On most of the rest of the album, the vocals are said slowly and are relaxed. Here, they’re lots of repeated snatches of Japanese babble and quick, worried breathing over a steady beat, almost as much Snd as “Nolicom” is but not quite. It’s breathtaking.
This album is an excellent starting place for someone new to glitch, and one of the best albums I’ve heard, but it takes a while for its joys to unfold. There are essentially no gimmicks, and it is a little inventive, mapping the territory between more pastoral and more austere and digital soundscapes. Recommended particularly to fans of Nobukazu Takemura.