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Yuka Honda - Eucademix

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Artist: Yuka Honda

Album: Eucademix

Label: Tzadik

Review date: Oct. 20, 2004

Best known as half the defunct urban-pop duo Cibo Matto, Yuka Honda has built her career on quirky chic. Her good-humored DIY methodology was recently employed in collaboration with Yoshimi P-We of Boredoms fame - a project which earned Honda new credibility in the experimental music community.

Honda’s latest solo release Eucademix is a voyage through a multiplicity of offbeat styles. A kaleidoscopic mini-suite, Honda touches on everything from Ryuichi Sakamoto piano balladry to jazz-tinged rock. Some of the usual Tzadik crew have made roll call - Trevor Dunn and Marc Ribot contribute, and label chief John Zorn is the executive producer.

The disc’s amiable head-trips most resemble Japanese freak-pop trio Buffalo Daughter, but Honda’s laid back and occasionally sloppy approach to recording shows more personality than her contemporaries. “I Dream About You” is awash in a dense layer of vocals, its repetitive refrain skating between awkward keyboard stabs and a crunchy kick drum pulse. Ever-so-slightly psychedelic, the track charms with its mix of conventional and left-of-center sounds.

Ribot’s signature skronk is instantly recognizable on “When the Monkey Kills”; his quasi-jazz fragments running alongside tribal percussion, fuzz bass and distorted lead guitar. The song’s exotic, metallic funk falls somewhere between Prince and Judas Priest, yet there is a delightful lack of self-consciousness in the result. The unlikely combination works due to Honda’s ability to combine disparate elements with no apparent second-guessing.

“Some Things Should be left Unsaid” could be the theme song to a Stephen Bochco TV show, at least until Ribot’s George Harrison-style lead breaks through in full tremolo glory. His uncanny ability to leave commentary in an incredible array of genres has made him indispensable in the avant-garde world, and Honda uses his gifts to their fullest.

The lovely “Seed of Seed of Peach” is a emotive solo piano piece which illustrates Honda’s delicate way with melody and space. The track is a bit out of place amongst Eucademix’s zany kitchen-sink productions, but it’s strong enough to stand alongside most modern classical compositions. Any doubts regarding the depth of her discipline are put to rest here.

Casual listeners may end up scratching their heads, but greater attention paid to Honda’s odd ditties provides unique rewards. Her musical easy-bake oven turns out delectables track after track, and Eucademix is greater than the sum of its parts. The instrumentation is fairly pedestrian, but the efforts of Honda’s contributors, as well as her ability to make use of many tones and textures make this album entertaining and invigorating. Honda’s cultural kitsch factor may be receding, but her confident, creative vision endures.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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