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Artist: Migu

Album: Migu

Label: Ochre

Review date: Jul. 11, 2003

Cornelius drummer's fractured pop experiments

Migu, aka Yuko Araki, thus far has only been known to audiences in the U.S. as the drummer for Cornelius. Those who have seen Cornelius on tour have probably noticed Araki: though she's at the back of the stage hidden behind her drums, there's no escaping the fact that she completely kicks ass in every way and never seems to miss a beat, an essential element in the tightly-choreographed performances.

Her debut solo album starts off with a burst of frenzied drumming, but itís a misleading introduction. "Sakaiminato" is only a few seconds long, and the following song is a slow-moving piece of simple rhythms, delicate electronic sounds, and enervated, melancholic vocals.

Slow, overdriven drums push "Lazy" forward alongside a minimal, repeating guitar line. Araki's vocals are more chanted than sung: "play a video / rewind, and play / there goes another day..." The oddity that is "Spider" lays down a strong drumbeat that bounces from side to side in the stereo field, then drops in a repeated little guitar cluster and weird electronic noises. Meanwhile, Araki chants about her fear of the spider in her room.

Opening with a collection of little guitar pluckings and a humming synthesizer, "Train Run" is a collaboration with Cornelius that has an intensely rainy-day feel to it. The skeletal programmed beat and pristine digital clarity have Oyamada's fingerprints all over them. Araki's singsong vocal matches the mood, like someone sitting in the window on a rainy day watching the drops fall on the street.

Veering from goofy cartoon music ("jAZZ") to an almost beat-like reading over sparse cymbal hits and plucked bass strings ("What to do?" in which she laments "I lost my space / What to do?"), Araki naturally makes sure to place a steady beat behind it all. This allows the strange noises and awkward-yet-pleasing vocals to fall into place, which keeps these unusual songs cohesive despite what could have otherwise been dangerously chaotic tendencies.

"Drive strings 0" and "Drive strings 1" are pretty string quartet versions of "Drive," a nicely-constructed pop song that's undoubtedly the most straightforward track here. The guitar melody is simple and catchy; the string quartet versions adapt the melody to good effect.

After the brief "Sakaiminato 2," which echoes the little drum solo intro, the half-hour trip is over. Migu's fractured pop songs are eminently appealing, and unique. While they might feel a bit lightweight at times, the depth provided by the studio trickery, weird electronic sounds, and most of all Araki's drumming keep it all together. The end result is well worthwhile.

By Mason Jones

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