Category: Catalog Crashing

There goes a Supernova

Rock music is fleeting.

When it was released in 1999, Supernova Vol. 1 “Uni” was a showcase for emerging Japanese rock bands. “Vol. 1” in the title implies there would be more editions of this compilation. There hasn’t.

Of the five bands featured on the disc, two of them didn’t produce much more after making their contributions. One band broke up. The other two have persisted, with a few line-up changes.

Still, the Hoppy Kamiyama-produced Supernova brings together artists similar only in their distinctiveness.

Number Girl starts the collection off with its live staple “Samurai”. The song doesn’t appear on any of the band’s studio albums — nor does the accompanying track “Wei?” — so Supernova is the only recording to contain studio versions of these songs.

Number Girl sounds positively fresh on these tracks, recorded around the time the band signed its major label deal. Mukai Shuutoku was just beginning to come into his own as a performer, his vocals a powerful force compared to his timid indie work.

The original incarnation of eX-Girl contributes “Gween-Kong-Gee”, which was re-recorded for its US debut, Back to the Mono Kero! The newer version of the song is punchier, but even here, the trio proudly struts its quirkiness.

“Hey-Ann-Kyo”, meanwhile, is classic eX-Girl, full of whimsical screams, bizarre flourishes and mangled lyrics in foreign languages.

Yo!Go’s, on the other hand, filter Deep Purple through a psychedelic lens on “Sunshine Yororei Love”, while “Elvis” imagines the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll come back from the grave.

Smile Like Dog, described as “Pizzicato Five meets Violent Onsen Geisha” by Sister/Benten Records, combines a manic techno beat with Polysics-like synthesizer effects and banjo on “Kung-Fu Shirts”, while on “Shoodon”, the band throws in a few profanities with its ukeleles and Hawaiian steel guitar.

King Brothers finishes the album off with its special brand of disintegrated garage rock. The band doesn’t so much write songs as much as they play loud as fucking possible. “Mach Club” and “Tama wo Uritobase!” make Guitar Wolf sound like Yanni in comparrison.

Supernova Vol. 1, “Uni” is a terrific snapshot of five bands asserting their creative identities, at a time when the future was all they had.

But the future eventually turns into the past, and the same disc which heralded the arrival of new talent now serves as a post of what was and what could have been.

Smile Like Dog and Yo!Go’s don’t seem to be anywhere anymore. King Brothers are still terrorizing live audiences with its manic music, while eX-Girl travels the world as ambassadors from the Planet Kero.

Number Girl split up in 2002, its members scattered among their own projects, but the band left such a bold legacy, its former label embarked on an ambitious reissue campaign in 2005.

Regardless of such changes, Supernova Vol. 1 “Uni” maintains its freshness. It’ll take another few years before this music sounds dated.

Good at being bad

When it comes to understanding the African American experience, no one is more unqualified than I am.

I am a gay, Asian-American man with classical music training and a fondness for indie rock, especially when performed by Japanese musicians.

How could black culture ever speak to me? What could I possibly find in common with three black women from Atlanta, ruthlessly exploiting their femininity as a weapon in a battle of the sexes, cutting clueless men down to size in the process?

Wait a minute. That feels like deja vu.

Huh. It is deja vu. It’s how EOnline writer Andy Chen described Japanese rock superstar Shiina Ringo in 2000. And it’s pretty much what TLC has done throughout its career.

There’s a long history of strong, black women asserting their identity in a male-dominated world, before Salt ‘N’ Pepa and Queen Latifah busted their way into hip-hop, before Janet Jackson declared she was in control, perhaps as far back as Aretha Franklin declaring her love for you like no other.

But with TLC, black men found a formidable opponent. Left Eye, Chilli and T-Boz — they weren’t having none of that macho shit.

And nothing states that more forcefully than “I’m Good at Being Bad” from 1999’s FanMail.

“Nigga you must be crazy/Whacha gonna do with a bitch like me?” TLC challenges, later stating, “I’m not the mushy kind.”

Having abandoned radio back in the late ’80s, I was cognizant of the overexposure given to “No Scrubs” but never affected by it. Still, “No Scrubs” is damn catchy tune, if not melodically, then certainly in attitude.

Some of the best moments in music express yearning, but with “No Scrubs”, it’s the prohibition that makes it singular.

The hooting intro and simple beat of “Silly Ho” exude swagger, and despite the nearly imperceptible vocals, one line comes across clearly: “I’m not the one for you.”

FanMail has its tender moments, and in fact, the second half of the album crashes because too many of them happen there.

“Unpretty” poses the idea that the methods meant to enhance prettiness don’t actually create beauty, but when FanMail gets slow and sentimental — as it does on “I Miss You So Much” and “Dear Lie” — it gets generic.

“My Life” and “Shout” keep the momentum going for a while, but “Lovestick” and “Automatic” don’t quite give the album a sterling finish.

Still, TLC takes listeners on one terrific ride. The heavy-handed production of Dallas Austin, Babyface, Jam and Lewis and Shekspere keeps up with the bravado Left Eye, Chilli and T-Boz exhibit throughout.

TLC wins the adoration of fans and, perhaps, the respect of some critics for standing up and showing strength. I may not have much in common with them, but I like their style.


I wasn’t introduced to Nirvana through radio or MTV. Not directly, anyway.

I was already listening to Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, when I read an article about Nirvana in a magazine. The article mentioned Butch Vig produced Nevermind, and I was willing to give it shot based on that recommendation.

When it comes to the product diffusion curve, I’m usually somewhere at the tail of an early adopter, so it was mere months between my purchase of Nevermind and the ascent of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into pop culture consciousness.

Once Kurt Cobain became deified, my interest had already moved on to Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and Clannad. I didn’t buy Insecticide or In Utero or MTV Unplugged, and while I was sad Cobain took his own life, I sought not to blow his death out of proportion.

After listening to the self-titled collection back in 2002, I was drawn to the tracks from the band’s early era, and after hearing Nevermind in context of Nirvana’s entire career, I was surprised by how blatantly commercial that album really was.

So I found a used copy of Bleach and took it for a spin.

Despite a $600 budget and some weak mastering, this album has some blistering performances. (Bleach was remastered in the UK in 2002, but I don’t remember hearing whether than edition was released in the US.)

Bleach possessed all the songwriting finesse of Nevermind and all the grit of In Utero. Yes, you could say the subsequent albums diluted the aspects which made Nirvana whole.

“About a Girl” is a tender song without having to resort to balladry or introspection, but Cobain’s disintegrating wail on “Negative Creep” is nothing short of riveting.

The eastern touches of “Love Buzz” show a trace hint of lineage from Led Zeppelin, while the dischordant pulse of “Paper Cuts” can still be heard in the pummelling riffs of Number Girl.

“Swap Meet”, meanwhile, has the familiar melodic contour trademark of Nirvana, and “Big Cheese” features the haunting harmonizing that made Cobain’s singing special.

Bleach is an amazing debut, louder, harder, tougher than the work that would eventually bring Nirvana fame. If I had encountered Bleach before Nevermind, I probably would have tossed something about “selling out”.

This album is exactly what the band could do while nobody was looking.

Ancient voices

Before there was Akira Symphonic Suite, there was Rinne Kookyogaku.

Yamashiro Shooji’s original composition caught the attention of director Otomo Katsuhiro, who then commissioned Yamashiro to write a score for Otomo’s landmark film, Akira.

The resulting soundtrack was a thrilling and oftentimes frightening blend of traditional Asian music forms — Hindu chants, Indonesian orchestras, Japanese noh theater — with modern instruments.

And the soundtrack recording of Akira is perhaps the only one available in the US of Yamashiro and his group, Geinoh Yamashirogumi.

A number of ideas in the Akira Symphonic Suite finds its origin in 1986’s Rinne Kookyogaku, or Ecophony Rinne.

The first movement, “Suisei”, is marked by a slow, vocal melody, interrupted by interludes of ethereal electronic music. It starts in the same manner as the Akira Symphonic Suite — a low vocal rumbling punctuated with a thundering taiko drum.

The second movement, “Sange”, layers chants of differing rhythm, rising from a deep swell of pitch and rhythm.

“Meisou” features the Indonesian gamelan so central to Yamashirogumi’s other-worldly sound, with a wordless vocal canon adding another haunting dimension.

Finally, “Tenshou” ends Rinne Kookyogaku with the Jegog, a bamboo version of the gamelan. Voices attempt to disrupt the rhythmic flow of the orchestra, but ultimately, it’s the eruption of an organ that interrupts the movement.

At first, it might seem uningenuine hearing some of the same kinds of motifs used in the Akira Symphonic Suite in Rinne Kookyogaku. Yamashiro even reused some of the synthesizer samples from Rinne in Akira.

But the character of the pieces couldn’t be any more different.

Based on the cycle of life, death and rebirth, Kookyogaku Rinne comes across as more meditative and less grotesque. It’s every bit as thrilling as the Akira Symphonic Suite and inhabits a sonic atmosphere all its own.

Geinoh Yamashirogumi gives an incredible performance, especially since Yamashiro recruits mostly non-trained singers for his ensemble. That lack of training gives a subtle rawness to Yamashiro’s composition.

It’s easy to see why Otomo chose Yamashiro to write the score for Akira. Kookyogaku Rinne is a truly cosmopolitan work, drawing from ancient forms to create something beyond modern.

I found that essence rare

The first time I encountered Gang of Four’s Entertainment! was in 1988, through the Hawaiʻi State Public Library — it was part of the library’s vinyl collection.

An article I read in Rolling Stone magazine at the time listed it as an essential album. The magazine described Entertainment! as “New Wave”, and until then, my picture of New Wave meant ABC, the Human League and Duran Duran.

What I heard sounded nothing like Duran Duran.

Too, I was distracted by a growing curiosity about 20th Century classical music, so I returned the record to the library and went back to listening to Steve Reich, John Adams and Philip Glass.

It must have left some sort of impression.

The first thing I thought when I heard Franz Ferdinand was, “Huh. I liked this group better when it was called Gang of Four.”

Entertainment! has been out of print in the US since 1997. It was last remastered in 1995. The band’s original 1982 line-up reunited recently, and to precede tour dates and an anticipated new album, Rhino Records reissued and expanded Entertainment!.

Given the brevity of my initial exposure to this album, there’s no way I’m going to critque the fidelity of the remastering.

But how I listened to music when I was 18 is vastly different than how I listen to music at 33. Technically, I’m revisiting Entertainment!, but really, I’m hearing it for the first time.

And damn if this album isn’t some of the most jagged and danceable punk rock ever made.

Entertainment! juggles a number of contrasting elements. It’s simultaneously simple but dischordant. It’s rhythmically complex but choppy. It sounds both brittle and piercing.

The melodies are often robotic and monotone but highly musical. “Guns Before Butter” starts off with a repetitive verse, but the call-and-response between the guitar, bass and drums gives the song a brilliant depth.

A stuttering drum beat contrasts an insistent bassline and a nervous guitar riff on “Ether”. And “Natural’s Not In It” is the most danceable and direct track on the album. Singer Jon King also delivers the best lyric: “This heaven gives me migraine.”

The extended liner notes by Michael Azzerad do a wonderful job explaining the unique sound of Entertainment! EMI executives complained the album sounded too much like a demo, which the band considered a compliment.

Given the tinny fidelity of the album, it is easy to see how a remastering job would do it service. As lo-fi as Entertainment! is, it still sounds ahead of its time.

This new edition tacks on eight additional bonus tracks, which is probably of more interest to long-time fans than to newcomers.

The four-track Yellow EP, some of which was included in the 1995 edition, doesn’t possess the same kind of clarity as the rest of the album, and alternate versions of “Guns Before Butter” and “Contract” show the band was on the right track for choosing the final cuts.

A raucous live cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” is a nice addition, even if the world doesn’t really need another cover of “Sweet Jane”.

Entertainment! deserves its nods as a classic album. Gang of Four wrote a tight set of songs and recorded them with a singular sound. It’s never too late for discovery. Or re-discovery.


Stephen Sondheim wrote A Little Night Music around the time I was born, so “Send in the Clowns” had been around for about 7 years when I first heard it.

My siblings and I reached a rare consensus — this song mentions clowns, and clowns are creepy. We didn’t like it.

It wasn’t until 1990 that I would face my learned fear of the song. By then, I had discovered Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods and found out Sondheim was the man responsible for “Send in the Clowns”.

A New York City Opera production of A Little Night Music, broadcast on public television, put the song in context.

The creepiness my 7-year-old brain perceived was actually bittersweetness — a haunting recognition of opportunity passed.

“Send in the Clowns” is Sondheim’s biggest hit, a tune so part of the pop culture lexicon, it may even overshadow its own author. (Nine years passed after I first encountered the song when I learned it was written by Sondheim.)

And it is a very good song — concise but evocative, unsettling but appealing.

But according to various accounts of its origin, “Send in the Clowns” was a last-minute addition. Sondheim wrote it in a single night after a run-through of the show, in which a gesture by one of the lead characters clarified the essence of the scene.

Compared to the rest of the score, “Send in the Clowns” does feel like a rush job.

A Little Night Music is probably the most amiable of Sondheim’s works. It’s no less impressive than Sweeney Todd or Sunday in the Park with George — and no less technically demanding either — but it’s a score with an appeal that’s immediate.

(That’s a roundabout way of saying you don’t need a college degree to like it.)

Sondheim’s wit is in incredible form on this work. “Remember” strings a number of suggestive reminiscenes, leaving more than enough room for the listener’s imagination to fill in. “What we did with your perfume/Remember? Remember/The condition of the room/When we were through”.

“It Would Have Been Wonderful” humorously posits what would have happened if the lead character Desiree hadn’t charmed the two men vying for her affection. “If she’d been all a-twitter/Or elusively cold/If she’d only been bitter/Or better looked passively old/If she’d been covered with gltter/Or even covered with mold/It would have been wonderful”.

Even “The Miller’s Son”, a song sung by a side character (Petra, the maid), displays a painstakingly crafted architecture. “It’s a very short road from the pinch and the punch/To the paunch and the pouch and the pension/It’s a very short road to the 10,000th lunch/And the belch and the grunt and the sigh”.

“Send in the Clowns” is no less a powerful song, but it doesn’t display the same kind of mastery. It still works, though, for the fact that it does capture the plot.

It’s a conundrum — musically, it sticks out, but dramatically, it fits right in.

The original 1973 cast recording was remastered back in 1998, and the sound quality does the score justice.

The role of Desiree Armfeldt was originally supposed to be a non-singing part, but the untrained reedy vocals of Glynis Johns conveyed a glamour that Sondheim and director Harold Prince couldn’t pass up.

All that to say her reading of A Little Night Music’s signature song may not be polished, but it’s far and away more affecting than performances by Judy Collins, Barbara Streisand or Frank Sinatra.

A reworking of “The Glamorous Life”, taken from the film version of the show, is an interesting bonus track but doesn’t work. What was once a whimsical scene turns into a nervous solliloquy.

A Little Night Music is as old as I am — which is a disturbing sentence to write — but it’s a score that resonates even today. Sondheim would go on to write incredibly challenging works, but this one shows he can handle that precarious balance between intellectual artistry and human drama.

Alternative funk

However much he tried to spread the wealth, Prince could not help but suck the oxygen out of any recording studio he was in.

Being a Prince “protegé” in the 1980s instantly relegated you to “also-ran”. He may have intended well trying to launch the careers of Sheila E., Apollonia 6 and even Carmen Electra.

But he’s far too eccentric a figure for anyone to escape his shadow. When Sinéad O’Connor scored a hit with “Nothing Compares 2 U” in 1990, it was called a “Prince song”, not a “song recorded by The Family”.

All that to say Wendy and Lisa had the cards stacked against them after Prince dissolved the Revolution in 1987.

The two women of Prince’s seminal backing band were its most visible members, being placed prominently in videos and on stage.

And while all the members of the Revolution released records in the wake of its dissolution, Wendy and Lisa, by comparrison, had the longest stretch, recording three albums from 1987-1990, and another in 1998.

At first, critics dismissed Wendy and Lisa for sounding too much like Prince, which rings hollow since their playing style had as much to do with Prince’s sound as his mercurial writing.

In hindsight, Wendy and Lisa were more akin to that era’s “serious” women rockers — O’Connor, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Natalie Merchant — than with their former boss.

The title of the duo’s third album, Eroica, was meant to be a confident gesture. Because, really — it takes balls to name your album after a Beethoven masterpiece.

On the surface, the funk that marked their immediate post-Revolution work permeates the 11 tracks on the album. But lurking beneath was an early alternative rock sensibility.

If anything, “Mother of Pearl” is downright blatant about being rock. A singer-songwriter ballad co-written with Michael Penn, the track features cryptic lyrics uncharacteristic of the more mainstream pop of the time.

“Cool day for a tidal wave/Drowned impressions falsely made/Cold stare makes light of this/Size me up make sure that it fits,” Wendy sings. It’s a couplet that sounds more New Romantic than Purple Rain.

The Middle Eastern-style guitar riff and thump-whack beat of “Strung Out” would never have fit next to Paula Abdul or Milli Vanili on a radio playlist.

And the grimy, wah-wah guitars of “Why Wait for Heaven” anticipated the advent of grunge’s crossover. (Back then, Nirvana and Soundgarden were still a regional phenomenom.)

But there are a lot of complex, funky rhythms on Eroica as well — “Skeleton Key” owes a lot to James Brown, while “Don’t Try to Tell Me” indulges in some heavy gospel influences.

But even a seemingly funky track such as “Cracks in the Pavement” has a rock grit — Wendy’s distorted voice in the chorus sounds like something an indie band would do today.

For all the maturity Eroica possessed — in a way, living up to its title — it lacked any real hooks. “Strung Out” and “Rainbow Lake” come close to the tunefulness found on the pair’s self-titled debut, but a song such as “Staring at the Sun” is more remarkable for its mix of influences than for its catchiness.

Eroica was definitely ahead of its time. Before the likes of Res, Eryka Badu and India.Arie blurred the lines between literate rock songwriting and R&B pop, Wendy and Lisa were already exploring the singer-songwriter potential of funk.

Eroica is out of print in the United States but may still be available as a European import.

So straight and slow

This album was destined for the cutout bins.

It’s too weird for country, but too country for avant-garde. It’s difficult, cryptic. It’s nearly hookless, and the singer? At the time the album was released in 1990, writers described her voice as “an acquired taste”.

Robin Holcomb’s self-titled debut album was not designed to be a star-making vehicle. There’s little evidence it was designed to be an indie statement.

It is, in the end, a purely personal album. It’s also one of my favorites.

Nonesuch Records must have spent a pretty penny on advertising through Tower Records to drum up back-channel enthusiasm for Holcomb’s music. For a month after its release, Tower labeled it a “No-Risk Disc”. Didn’t like it? Take it back for a refund.

So I took the risk. And I never went for the refund.

Holcomb is the wife of Wayne Horvitz, keyboardist for John Zorn’s Naked City and the leader of his own myriad of ensembles. Both were active in the downtown New York improvisation scene of the 1980s.

An accomplished improviser and keyboardist herself, Holcomb recorded an album of jazz instrumentals before making the leap as a singer-songwriter. Or, for anyone who buys into the distinction between high and low arts, a singer-composer.

Compared to her work with the New York Composers Orchestra — and later, a solo piano album of classical pieces — Holcomb’s debut was, well, conventional. The songs were songs — verses, choruses, solos.

But even within the limited confines of the pop song, Holcomb still managed to stretch the structure’s abilities.

“American Rhine” employs a minimal amount of lyrical, melodic, even harmonic material, but a dissonant clarinet melody provides a stark contrast.

The uneasy chorus of “Hand Me Down All Stories” makes the verses all the more solid. Booming percussion makes the already surreal piano backdrop of “So Straight and Slow” even moreso.

Even when Holcomb flaunts the influences on her music — the south on “Troy”, a Thelonius Monk quote on “this poem is in memory of!” — it’s never quite a straight reading.

“Nine Lives” is as close to a single as Robin Holcomb, the album, gets, and even that song is hard to sing along to.

Holcomb’s voice is indeed an acquired taste — a nasal, trembly instrument that muddies her own melodies as much as deliver them.

And yet, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else handling her music.

The album also features Horvitz and guitarist Bill Frisell — two members of Naked City on a set songs the polar opposite of John Zorn’s frenetic ensemble. It’s nice to pair the two self-titled albums together and realize they emerged from the same time period.

Robin Holcomb introduced me to the music of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and for the six years following, it would be a fruitful exploration.

This album may be found in the cutout bins, but its effect on me was far more profound.

Present tense

The Broanáin family of Donegal, Ireland were something of a Celtic music industry in the early 1990s.

Youngest sister Eithne stormed the new age market with a meticulously-crafted sound based on Irish melodies and classical arrangements. The rest of the family — two brothers, a sister and a pair of twin uncles — broke in the US when a carmaker featured the group’s Irish-language music in a commercial.

Eithne, of course, is better known as Enya, and her siblings are better known as Clannad.

Their success may or may not have spiked interest in traditional Celtic music during the early- and mid-1990s, but it sure didn’t hurt either. (Riverdance, anyone?)

In that mini-craze for ethereal, mystical music, Talitha Mackenzie released Solas.

Drawn to the Gaelic language at an early age, New York-born Mackenzie earned a Ph.D. in traditional Scottish music and became the first in a line of singers for the world-pop hybrid group Mouth Music.

Her solo debut, Solas, found her setting the ancient music of Scotland in a contemporary setting.

But it wasn’t just folk songs Mackenzie covered — she focused on the work songs which women sang while spinning thread and the shantys men sang while sailing the seas.

Waulking songs and mouth music required agility and speed. Mackenzie could have recorded an impressive album a capella.

But Solas went further, exploring the intersections where the music of the past met its descendants in the future.

Backed by a slapped bass and a funk beat, “Sheatadh Cailleach” sounds like the not-so-distant cousin to the Jamaican dancehall chants that evolved into hip-hop.

Toward the end of “‘s Muladach Mi ‘s Mi Air M’aineoi”, Mackenzie sings in a wordless chant more characteristic of Bulgarian women’s choirs than Scottish folk music.

Some of Mackenzie’s settings went for the obvious but nonetheless worked. The techno beat that drives “Seinn O!” suits the spitfire nature of the song. And a quotation of “O Seallaibh Curaigh Eoghainn” shores up a newly written song (“Owen’s Boat”) which wraps it.

The sampling of a speech by President John F. Kennedy doesn’t detract from the introspective “Chi Mi Na Mórbheanna”, but it doesn’t necessarily add anything either.

Although the Celtic craze of the early ’90s valued mysticism over scholarship, Mackenzie was bold enough to push traditional music much further into the present than her peers.

In a magazine interview, she stated performing traditional music with modern instruments kept it alive, preserving it without being shackled to some standard of authenticity.

And in pursuit of such preservation, she created an album that both entertains and instructs.

Intensity (you are)

For songwriters, there’s music that inspires, music that evokes jealousy, music that invites ridicule, music that amazes.

And sometimes, there’s music you just outright steal.

A few weeks ago, I decided to continue building the home studio I was distracted from building a few years back. (Thank you, economic downturn.)

I reinstalled an old version of Cakewalk, fished out my MIDI interface and hooked up the keyboards collecting dust since I moved back into a bigger apartment to my computer.

My original MIDI workstation was stolen many years previous in a burglary, so I faced the daunting task of recreating work I did at least 10 years ago.

But in sifting through the one demo tape that survived the burglary, it struck me some of those songs could spun into an entire album of adult contemporary pop — jazz-pop for middle class housewives. (Oh, how indie.)

But I didn’t want to sound like Norah Jones on this project. No — I wanted to sound like ACO.

Particularly, absolute ego.

The albums which followed 1999’s absolute egoMaterial in 2001, irony in 2003 — are far more adventurous. But this album fit squarely in the middle of ACO’s creative transformation.

On the one hand, absolute ego is incredibly melodic and deeply sensual. On the other hand, it’s also steeped in a dark atmosphere, sometimes contemplative, sometimes alien.

I studied absolute ego thoroughly — picking apart the elements that made this album such a rich listening experience.

There’s a simplicity to ACO’s writing on this album — the nearly same three chords used throughout “Spleen”, the uncomplicated bass line of “Yoroku Bi Saku Hana ga”. And there’s an economy to the arrangments — the embellishments that only hint at dub on “Intensity (You Are)”, the sparseness of “Ame no Hi no Tame ni”.

ACO could have gone for a more commercial sound with the material on absolute ego. The “Director’s Cut” of “Aishita Anata wa Tsuyoi Hito”, after all, sounds like it could have come off a ’70s R&B album.

But its the production of Sunahara Toshinori and Yamashita Hideki that sets this album apart. They bring out different shades to the songs that a live band may have colored another way.

Even the steady, snail’s pace of the songs aren’t a hinderance — never does the album fall into a mid-tempo homogeniety.

The more I listened, the more I realized — ACO’S writing combined with Sunahara’s and Yamashita’s production created a repository of good ideas.

Amateurs imitate, but geniuses steal. I don’t know where I heard that bit of wisdom, but I won’t use it to justify lifting entire bits of absolute ego for my own music.

Good ideas are good ideas, and absolute ego is the kind of music worthy of creative larceny.

(And just to be clear — the project I worked on ended up sounding nothing like absolute ego. Steal too much, and it becomes imitation.)

absolute ego is an album worth exploring. It’s a seductive work, single-minded in its intensity, but never overcrowded.

And it’s an album that doesn’t tire with repeated listens. If anything, it’s the opposite — it gets under your skin with each spin.