Yuka Honda

Memories Are My Only Witness (Tzadik)

Cibo Matto's 1996 debut, Viva La Woman, was a refreshing blast of ass-shaking grooves and nonsensical lyrics, made distinctive by its evocative samples and spare instrumentation. The duo's 1999 follow-up, Stereo Type A, expanded upon Viva La Woman's methods, using more instruments and more band members -- including keyboardist Yuka Honda's flame, Sean Lennon.

Since Stereo Type A, Honda has broken up with Lennon andher CB mate, Miho Hatori (who subsequently formed Smokey & Miho, a bossa nova project with Beck guitarist Smokey Hormel). Honda's first solo record, Memories Are My Only Witness, recently released on John Zorn's Tzadik label, dispenses with Hatori's sing-along choruses and concentrates on the moodier elements of Cibo Matto's sound. A few of the songs -- like the lengthily titled "You Think You Are So Generous But It's the Most Conditional '"Anything' I've Ever Heard" -- still rock the house with fat beats, fuzz guitar, and screwy electronic squiggles, but the real focus of the record is on the evocative tone pieces. "Schwaltz" swerves and bobs playfully, like a disorienting Nino Rota score for a lost Fellini film, while the minor-key music box melody and coldly synthesized string section of "The Last One to Fall Asleep With" would fit nicely on the Blue Velvet soundtrack. "Some Days I Stay in Bed for Hours" feels like the backdrop to a documentary on trip hop, played on Hawaiian instruments.

Environmental samples -- a phone ringing, children playing, a waterfall gurgling -- appear throughout, woven into songs' structures to add to the cinematic feel. At times, Honda appears to be composing the accompaniment for a nonexistent movie, with different songs serving as the backing for the dream sequence, love montage, climax, and credits. All in all, Memoriesis not unlike Barry Adamson's landmark imaginary score Moss Side Story, which he made after being passed over for real soundtrack work.

Memories Are My Only Witnessmay not be the bouncy dance party that Cibo Matto fans have been waiting for, but it is tasteful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. In the past Honda has shown she knows a thing or two about moving the dance floor, but on this album she's more interested in telling us what could be hiding underneath.

 
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