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Nobukazu Takemura - Sign

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Artist: Nobukazu Takemura

Album: Sign

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Japanese laptopper Nobukazu Takemura has finally released the much-anticipated Sign, a sixty-five minute super-EP that contains the full version of the song “Sign,” as well as three other cuts. “Sign” has been available to the record-buying public for over a year now in various modes, starring on its own twelve inch slab of wax and then in an abbreviated form on last year’s Hoshi No Koe. The song appears here for the first time on cd in its entirety with three other cuts and a bonus cd-rom movie for the song created by visual artist Katsura Moshino.

The first song, “Sign” is the sort of cartoonish hiphop that your stuffed animals might listen to if you left the room, Toy Story style. Very much in line with the rest of Nobukazu Takemura’s work, “Sign” fits the form of glitchy/twitchy/clicky electronic music that has exploded in recent years, thanks mostly to Warp Records. Nobukazu Takemura’s take on the music is much more childlike and playful, with jubilant bursts of organic and electronic noise and catchy melodies. “Sign” uses multiple narration points more effectively than any song since Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumper,” and each voice is of the synthesized Speak-and-Spell sort that nicely compliments the microbeats and pitter/patters of the music. One might wish to remark to friends who listen to hiphop about the amazing breath control displayed by these MCs. The video (found on the enclosed accompanying second cd)is bizarre and hilarious, depicting various roboanimals trying to destroy a chemical corporation, and it is the type of cartoon that is missing from the joyless Saturday-morning lineups of today. (Of course, the violence and nudity would have to be edited out for corporate television, which would remove all of the fun)

The second track, “Cogwheel,” is a bit more sophisticated and groovy, and it sounds as if the multi-layered beats are playing some sort of game with each other. Tinklings from a twenty-first century musicbox can be heard in the background.

The third song, the epic thirty-five minute length “Souvenir in Chicago,” is a summit between Nobukazu Takemura and post-rock superfriends Tortoise, who have toured together in the past. The song begins quietly, with guitar patterns and synth swells overlapping one another, piling loops on top of loops until the song becomes dense, hypnotic meditation. At the five-minute mark, John McEntire’s drums descend and the song begins to take the stately rock form that the underground community has come to love/hate from Tortoise. At twelve minutes, the song is turned over to Nobukazu Takemura, who cut and paste, loop and weave for the rest of the song’s duration.

“Meteor” rounds out the disc with buzzsaw synth and Atari bursts and blips. The song is a reminder that Nobukazu Takemura’s music seems determined to infuse electronic music with joy and humanity, blue skies and summer days. Indeed, Sign may just be the soundtrack for the world’s coolest kindergarten classroom.

By Andy Cockle

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