Sixth album of inventive expression from the Boredoms’ Yoshimi P-We and band.
Noel Gardner 2009
Although OOIOO (pronounced oh-oh-eye-oh-oh) provides the tallest platform for the towering visions of Yoshimi P-We, her role in the all-woman quartet is only her third most recognisable status. She’s better known for being the drummer in Japanese experimental icons the Boredoms, and in a more tenuous but wider-ranging way for being honoured in the title of the Flaming Lips album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. On the strength of Armonico Hewa, the sixth OOIOO album, the Lips could benefit from an injection of this kind of bubbling energy and gleeful surrealism.
The title of this album is a mixture of Spanish and Swahili, and its musical contents are about as culturally disparate. Take Polacca, a track centred around drums, vocal chants and zippy, high-pitched guitar and keys which sounds like an experimentalist’s reimagining of various African genres – highlife or soukous, perhaps. It never feels like OOIOO are mere magpies here, though – as with the Boredoms, the members not only use these inspirations as a springboard for their own driven wig-outs, but eventually absorb them into a world with no First or Third, East or West.
While there are long instrumental passages over these 50 minutes, Yoshimi’s voice comes to the fore on Ulda, rising like a sun over the pastel blocks of pure electric drone. Irorun bursts with youthful energy and the pitched-up, percussively-charged zeal of Battles’ 2007 breakout sort-of anthem, Atlas; O O I A H is perhaps Armonico Hewa’s best showcase for their rhythmic elasticity, sounding like early 1980s NYC band Liquid Liquid fast-forwarded a decade into the city’s tribal house scene. The beats are about as important here as with the Boredoms, who infamously arranged an outdoor concert featuring 77 drummers two years ago. Hewa Hewa might be naught but militaristic drums and repeated vocal invocations, but if you try and jog while listening to it you’ll do yourself a hernia.
The occasional feeling that you’re regressing into childhood can get a bit much – glorified playground chant Honki Ponki is as CBBC as its title – but more often, this feels like being kidnapped and dropped in a mystery continent with your memory erased. In a good way, naturally.