Still finding a Muse

Angelina’s full name is Angelina Esparza, and if you follow DJ Krush at all, her name should be familiar.

Krush introduced Angelina on the track “Aletheuo (Truthspeaking)” off his Shinsou ~Message at the Depth album.

Angelina’s scathing lyrics about post-9/11 American nationalism summed up the tone of Krush’s Shinsou succinctly. Her pouty vocals also called to mind ACO’s performance on the single “Tragicomic”.

In June 2004, Angelina — dropping her hard-to-pronounce (in Japan, anyway) Latina surname — released her debut album, Muse. Krush is nowhere to be found, although he did provide a remix for Angelina’s debut single, “Babybayboo”.

The creative literacy Angelina displayed on “Aletheuo” comes across in her own music — for the most part.

Muse is a busy album. It’s clear Angelina wants the best of both worlds — pop maturity on the level of Utada Hikaru or Yaida Hitomi, but creative daring on the level of ACO or Shiina Ringo.

She has a wide grasp, but she’s also traded off cohesion for diversity.

Muse starts off with the minimal “My Life” — just Angelina and a folk guitar. She follows that introspection with the mechanical animal sense of “Akai Melody”, a hard rock song complete with haunting synthesizers and hip-hop scratching.

“Babybayboo” combines folk guitars with dance beats. “Lyrical” sounds like half-assed Timbaland, while “my name” has a techno beat.

Just when Muse couldn’t get any more scattered, Angelina throws in some jazz-pop (“Ride”), industrial (“Know the lies”) and Georgia blues (“Pathetic”).

It’s an admirable effort, but the scattershot approach loses its impact on the album’s middle tracks. The writing from “Lyrical” to “Poison Berries” isn’t as wildly fetching as “Akai Melody”, “Babybayboo” or “Telephone booth”.

“Pathetic” does, however, put Muse back on track till the end.

Angelina’s intentions are incredibly good, and it’s encouraging to find women artists who don’t want to leap through the usual idol hoops.

But there’s a sense that Angelina’s own muse still needs to find a more direct and focused voice.