Lisa Go is one spooky chick.
It’s hard not to visualize Halloween images — dark nights, full moons, foggy skies — when listening to her music. It’s also hard not to use the word “Gothic”.
Go’s third album, Utaime, offers much of the same as her 2000 album, Moonbeams — generous helpings of dark guitars, ominous synthesizers, drum machines, Go’s powerhouse singing, and, of course, a lot of seething, painstakingly crafted music.
“Yorumori” sets the tone for the album, trumpeting with a dominating guitar hook only to make way for a quiet build to a grand finish.
On “Limelight”, Go combines Aikawa Nanase’s vixen attitude with the drumbeat from Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People”.
“Tapestry” is an appropriate title. A piano pulse grounds the track while all the other instruments weave through odd time signatures and difficult drum beats.
In fact, Go has a knack for creative flourishes. “Hakoniwa” starts off with an incessant beat that calls to mind either tribal drumming or Chinese water torture.
“Parade” starts off with a Middle Eastern rhythms and layers surf music drumming, before a heavy metal riff disrupts the intro and turns into ska.
The industrial clang and clatter of her synthesizers may seem a bit dated — Nine Inch Nails is so 1994 — but Go possesses a melodic sense that doesn’t indulge in very many clichés. There’s no mistaking “Yotsuba” or “Bohemian on a Tight Rope” for anime themes.
Unlike Moonbeams, Utaime is sung mostly in Japanese. Only two tracks — “Tapestry” and “Place de la Concorde” — are delievered in English. Moonbeams suffered under Go’s garbled diction, sad to say.
But for all her fancy arrangements and dramatic performances, Go has enough sense to bring herself back to earth. “Tsutsuji to Zakura” concludes the album with little more than acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin and bodhran.
Too bad she doesn’t ground herself more often.
Utaime is an impressive display of studio wizardry, but Go’s reliance on electronics gives her music something of a cold veneer.
Song like “Yotsuba” and “Parade” show there’s more heart — and maybe more heat — than she allows.
Her songs don’t suffer from all the effects, but some of them just might stand well enough on their own without them.