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Tujiko Noriko - Make Me Hard

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Artist: Tujiko Noriko

Album: Make Me Hard

Label: Mego

Review date: Apr. 30, 2003

Pink Melancholy

The visual candy that accompanies the laptop pop of Tujiko Noriko’s Make Me Hard makes for an easy entrance into discussing the music within. A loose bunch of inserts take the place of a booklet, matching each song with its lyrics and odd combinations of drawings, photographs, video stills, and appropriations. Noriko herself is in half of the inserts, and SlideLab, her design crew, produced the packaging. There are boyish moments (robots; Noriko posing in front of cars she doesn’t own; more robots) but overall, the images are really girly, from the absurdist Hello Kitty collages with the occasional head-transplant, to the mothers and daughters, fashionistas, swimsuit models, and karaoke queens, all in various states of dress and undress.

Just who is getting hard here? This could be a deft statement about the male gaze through intentionally contradictory images of female beauty or some sort of catalog of her visual subconscious, but either way, the imagery is girly, pretty and cute, and it’s also photoshopped, pixilated, cold, and digital.

This approach is present in the music as well, challenging the Y-chromosome-saturated laptop glitch stereotype. It’s poppier than most laptop, electronic, or electroacoustic music, but it’s not out of place on Mego, where they prefer their MaxMSP with a touch of honey. Labelmate Fennesz can speak to a collective, often impossible nostalgia, but Make Me Hard searches for something smaller and more personal. It isn’t as grand as Pita’s sunset panoramas, but just as lonely.

Naturally, the vocals make the biggest difference, and in the layered, dimensional la-la-la scales of the opening “Shore Angel”, things float around and warm up, while the flip-flop static underneath pulls it along. A stomping, crystalline beat rolls through a lukewarm duet with an excited cartoonish voice. The pink melancholy of melody on “Fly” feels like reading someone’s diary, alternately thrilling and mundane, while a piano melts into something steel as a flute takes over for typewritten static.

Some of Noriko’s experiments with sound aren’t as successful, especially when mutations of instruments don’t fall far enough from the original. Timbre is everything, but the clean plastic horns of the next duet’s interlude don’t have much to give. The steady, rhythmic vocal on the next track would make Kate Bush (or Haco) blush, while a circular arpeggio ignores the broken humidifier to the right. None of it drags on, but the seventh untitled track is the only one that justifies its length: discrete clicks ratchet against reverberations that move like ripples without a pebble, as Noriko’s voice very slowly makes good on its promise that “the train is running to the sky.”

By Elliott Brennan

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