hamaYôko
hamaYôko 4/29
CD (E48)




“In my dream, I see sentences written
on the ground of a false desert”

hamaYôko is Yôko Higashi’s musique concrète-influenced
electro-pop project. hamaYôko 4/29, mixed and mastered
by Higashi and Lionel Marchetti, is her first solo release.

See also
hamaYôko

Edition of 300 copies







Yôko Higashi and Lionel Marchetti, UFO club, Tokyo 2007
Photograph by Martin Holtkamp


Reviews

If nothing else, this peculiar woman has one heck of an esoteric
record collection to draw on for ideas. This release includes a
photograph of her with microphone poised at lips, suggesting
that this one is much more of a ‘vocal’ album. Her singing
and vocalising effects are something of an acquired taste,
but even so this release is starting to gel for me much quicker
than Ygun –n9– [which Mr. Pinsent also reviewed]. She’s got
a guest guitarist, Takeshi Yoshimura, on three tracks and
sampled rhythm tracks on others. She ain’t no Peaches,
though. Over the irregular rhythm patterns and alien clanging
noises generated by her sidemen and assorted devices,
Higashi adds her cold and distant atonal moaning, sometimes
switching to a crystalline pitch-perfect singing tone delivered
with icy clarity. It might help if I could understand the lyrics,
all sung in Japanese, to help me find a way into the intriguing
stories suggested by titles like Plastico Night or Galactica666.
This is genuinely far-out stuff, and much time is needed to
assimilate its perplexing and disjunctive surfaces.

Ed Pinsent in The Sound Projector

There may be an essential element of performance missing
when you put on hamaYôko 4/29. Yôko Higashi, whose
project it is, is also a choreographer and dancer, and there
is something arrestingly theatrical about both her vocal
delivery and the drama of the fragmented sounds set loose
around her. Higashi strips pop melody to the bones and
gives it a dark redressing in rags of sound. Like multi-
coloured shards spilling free of a broken kaleidoscope,
sub-bass drops, skeletal electronic punctuations, autumnal
piano, cello and resonant guitar fuzz all flicker in and out
of a sound field dominated by a voice that can slip in a
moment from sinister to utterly desolate. It's an openended
but original sound, a form of digital chanson with reduced
vibrato. Scott Walker’s angular diminished chords or the
abrasive gloom of Nico’s The Marble Index are possible
comparisons, but the quotient of chaos here is definitely
higher.

Sam Davies in The Wire

This strangely enticing, sometimes annoying, but frequently
fascinating contrivance was created by Yôko Higashi,
a Japanese vocalist and composer never met before by this
old babbler. Noticing the participation (on mix and mastering)
of Lionel Marchetti, whose work I respect, trust was granted.
Indeed the welcome was not what [I] expected: a deranged
‘song’ with an electronic arrangement verging on dissonant
mayhem, full of distorted patterns and sequences. As the
subsequent pieces alternate in our ears we start to be
seduced little by little, despite a few minor harsh spots and
a couple of slightly ‘constricted’ difficulties. Higashi knows
what she’s doing, though. Besides pushing her less inviting
vocal utterances towards the audience, at times causing
them to long for something more, er, heartwarming, she
literally cuts and pastes hundreds of different crumbles
and snippets whose range covers drum’n’bass as heard
from a distant room, looped post-rock guitar riffage,
melancholisergic vocalism and repeated whirlwinds of
modified electronics, often based on the deformation of
the author’s voice. It takes several tries to finally under-
stand that this theatrical pot-pourri does possess its own
depth, and my best suggestion could be ‘do not exaggerate
with the volume at first’, because the multi-faceted
aggressiveness of 4/29 demands a toll if one approaches
it à la Frank Capra, all wonderful things and happy endings.
Not so — but even the ugly components seem to carry a
special meaning in this artist’s sonic poetry. Give her music
time, and you’ll be repaid.

Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes

Very strong compositions which might be more aptly called
constructions, with a strong relation to the theatrical. Over-
driven rhythm box is glued to the sound of a singing woman,
suddenly switching to a telephone voice, after which a toy
synth plays an intricate melody. Something like that. Never
a dull moment, switching from the atmosphere of a 1950s
porn theatre to the delayed and reverberated twanging of
guitars á la Les Rallizes Denudes. I liked this rollercoaster
from the start to the end. It has the feel of John Zorn’s
The Big Gundown but definitely with more spunk.

Jos Smolders at Earlabs

A collection of thirteen songs, sung and otherwise
performed by Higashi, they dwell somewhere between
art rock and ritualism with the odd tinge of cabaret here
and there. I’ve never seen her perform but I understand,
and can see in a couple of videos available on You Tube
(one with Lionel Marchetti), that she incorporates drama
and dance movement in her performances and these
pieces seem to fit into that conception, the vocals
especially having something of a theatric, even over-
wrought aspect. Higashi embeds all this in noise
trappings — static, various abstract field recordings,
drones of differing textures — but at heart, they’re
songs and not terribly attractive ones. For this listener,
there was too much fence-straddling; I’d rather have
heard pure songs or not. A piece like Sarasate comes
closest to achieving a kind of warped, effective chanson
but might have done better performed ‘straight’.

Brian Olewnick at Bagatellen