OOIOO, much like their big brother band, The Boredoms, are an all or nothing sort of band. It’s highly unlikely that one with merely a passing interest will pick up one of their records. Their unconventional, psychedelic experimentalism is not the sort of thing that goes for background music, nor will it soon convert a strict pop devotee. OOIOO is a band that divides, and when diving into their music, one must accept that. With that little disclaimer out of the way, their latest album Taiga is truly amazing and adventurous music.
Taiga, which apparently is both a Japanese word (“big river”) and a Russian word (“forest”), is a rich and varied palette of jazz improvisation, tribal pounding, electronic grooves, psych-rock and generally unexpected and exciting combinations of sounds that seems to thrive in the lingual contradiction its name brings about. Led by Yoshimi P-We, she who fights pink robots in Flaming Lips fiction, OOIOO make a mighty thunderous sound. It may not equal the carnage of Battle Royale, but it’s still one of the most powerful bits of devastation wrought by four Japanese women. Opening track “UMA” makes that pretty damn clear, a thunderous onslaught of drums crashing beneath manic shouts and odd electronic blips. The nine minute “KMS” traverses from blistering psych rock to Miles Davis-like bop, back to a heroic rock outro.
The static-ridden “UJA” fizzles in and out like the coolest distant Afro-beat sounds buzzing in and out of a shortwave frequency, ultimately clarifying for an exotic jam breakdown. “ATS” similarly revels in African rhythms, only utilizing fewer beats and more odd combinations of grooved-out basslines and electronic improvisation. It too goes harder and dirtier in its second half, however, giving in to some raw funk in the process. And “UMO” revisits a similar sound to that of “UMA” sounding something like a Japanese, art-school pep squad cheer. Really.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have appreciated OOIOO’s manic tribal freakouts, and countless still probably don’t have the patience, understanding or open mind for it. That’s fine; there are still those who want to be challenged, provoked, and given the gift of something truly unique. For those precious, curious and unique few, this record is for you.
Animal Collective – Here Comes the Indian
Boredoms – Super ae
Konono No. 1 – Congotronics
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.