As the second-most veteran member of the noise/punk/psychedelic time-space continuum that is Japanese band the Boredoms, Yoshimi P-We has, in recent years, found herself on a course of ever deepening involvement with the primordial forces of the natural universe. The Boredoms' recent works, beginning most potently with 1998's Super Ae, have been informed by what appears to be a truly Odyssean psychedelic journey, one which has found them at war and at peace with the most swirling and titanic cosmic forces available to human perception. Singer/leader Eye and his fellow journeymen (chief among these Yoshimi) have achieved some of the most ecstatic and cathartic music ever recorded, and have sought new methods of saturating their albums with more and more of nature's viscera. ("Seadrum," from their last album, even found them recording drums on the beach and submerging microphones under the crashing waves.)
In the midst of all of this, Yoshimi began her initially imaginary side project OOIOO. While the new band at first seemed a fantasia-drenched respite from the snowballing gravity of the Boredoms' experiments, as it has grown in concept it has also found more in common with its parent band. Previous releases have delved more specifically into colorful, bit-rated prettiness and more effusively rhythmic trance rock, but their newest and fifth album, Taiga, absorbs and reapplies all of these and gives a greater idea of the spectrum of what OOIOO can be.
All of the materials surrounding the release of Taiga herald it as the most focused expression of Yoshimi's obsession with nature, and as a direct attempt at "communication with the earth." This all translates quite palpably throughout the record's grassy peaks and valleys, but while the Boredoms have become illustrators of the raging windstorm and the fearsome immensity of the ocean, on Taiga, OOIOO have developed a sound that feels reflective of the more subdued, if still gently chaotic, vectors of plants and animals traveling from birth to death.
The album's mostly long compositions often employ the same sorts of implicitly infinite spaces found in the music of James Brown and Fela Kuti; melodic and rhythmic figures that feel as though they have been and will be going on forever form structural underpinnings, while the "idea" of songs is formed by the highly organic addition and subtraction of musical layers. On "KMS," they strike a gently propulsive repeating pattern akin to Kind of Blue–era Miles Davis, occasionally punctuated by wailing vocals and eventually overwhelmed by thunderous rhythms and dental-drill keyboard interjections. The brief "GRS," meanwhile, pitches the members' Japanese-folk-music-shaded chant with waves of gently rolling snare and steel drums that ripple like sunlight on the ocean.
At times, as on the middle section of the eight-minute "UJA," OOIOO achieve an unusual and unlikely union between the hyperactive NRG of modern video-game music and the more deeply earth-rooted funk of artists like Kuti. They produce fully hypnotic and humanistic grooves while keeping the sonic palette as artificially sweet-toothed as the soundtrack to Dance Dance Revolution.
OOIOO, like the Boredoms, pursue a full-bodied embrace of the cosmic and spiritual, but as evinced on Taiga their pursuit is still informed and inflected by the environmental (here aural) reality of modern life in Japan and the Western world. While the Boredoms' music seems to cut a swath through the forest even as it seeks communion with it (and here is the most beautiful facet of the Boredoms' content—the white-hot friction between personal violence and communal peace), OOIOO's has a more balanced and utopian tenor, and intertwines overtly feminine and masculine energies with a truly natural grace.