describe the music in Cibo Matto's album, "Stereotype
A", is a difficult task. The album cannot be described
by choosing one conventional or oversimplified category for
the music to fit into. Each song is a complex and unique production
effort unto itself. The nature of the mix reveals different
nuances that may or not be revealed according to the stereo
system being used and the acoustical setting surrounding the
listener. The Cibo Matto album, "Stereotype A",
is a very focused and directed effort to take the bands
music yet another step closer to their musical visions.
musical journey of "Stereotype A" begins with the
easily assessable and danceable tune "Working for Vacation".
The song features a lighthearted melody, futuristic effects,
and happy go lucky vocal harmonies that hint of earlier works
by the B-52s, although the lead vocal is more like something
from the Flying Lizards. Yet the song is more complex in its
musical arrangement than any of the B-52s compositions.
Although the song appears very lighthearted, the actual lyrics
express a more serious social commentary. The more astute
listener finds there are actually two different tempos playing
at the same time. Yuka also explains, "The melody in
the chorus is inspired by Indian Music." Driving a convertible
car with the top down on a sunny day, "Working for Vacation"
plays on the stereo while the listener starts down the albums
a live show or a dance club, the band or DJ needs to feed
the audience with some recognizable songs to peak their interest
and prepare them for new and unknown material that later will
be introduced. For their second track on the album, Cibo Matto
reintroduces from their EP "Super Relax", a song
titled, "Spoon". The new mix is more complex and
refined than the previously released version. Yuka created
ten different versions of the track, before settling on the
version that appears on "Stereotype A". Miho commented
on the mix by saying, "There are so many drum tracks
an engineer killer." This is the only previously released
Cibo Matto song to appear on the album.
band ventures forth in a very flunky groove with the Funkadelic
style arrangement of the albums fourth track, "The
Lint of Love". Mihos high spirited vocals are laid
on top of slapping bass lines and funky soul guitar chords.
The song features a sample of John Medeski on Clavinet, and
Josh Redman on Trombone jamming in some very nice jazz bridge
work. After the horns in the bridge slow the song down for
a moment, the engine revs and a rap by Duma Love follows that
echoes of Miles Davis final album, "Doo-Bop". The
horns come back to segue Mihos vocals reentry. Then
as Miho explains, "This like a Parliament song where
everybody gets to sing, and its a lot of fun."
Just when the song seems to have run its course, some
heavy metal guitar chords come thundering into the mix. The
heavy metal edge was inspired by the fuzz bass that Sebastian
Steinberg plays on the track. As the jazz horns come back
in over the heavy metal guitar, the song returns to its
soul music theme for the ending.
album's journey takes the listener from the dance club to
comfortable quiet lounges. A beautiful Japanese woman steps
up to the microphone illuminated by a single spotlight. The
well heeled patrons sip their expensive, blue cocktails with
little umbrellas and their dry martini's. Another woman tinkers
peacefully on the ivories, while the guitar player's fingers
dance up and down the neck of his instrument. The singer begins
to croon to the crowd. In this way, Cibo Matto handles the
quiet beauty of songs such as "Moonchild" or "Stone".
Occasionally a horn player adds some subtle jazz fills in
the background. Then before the audience can finish there
cocktails, they realize something has gone awry. The red stage
curtains have started to melt and nothing is how it seems.
In this way, Cibo Matto introduces the song "Speechless"
that erodes the pastoral setting with rap vocals.
like "King of Silence" feature the typical Cibo
Matto song writing approach where Miho writes the lyrics and
Yuka composes the music separately. Miho was not satisfied
to continue to leave all the musical composition to Yuka.
Neither was it Yukas intent to remain in control of
the musical arrangements. Miho had demonstrated her ability
to communicate her musical ideas verbally and through her
talent as a singer, but she wanted to increase the scope of
the context of her musical expressions. Based on this, as
well as her general love for musical expression, Miho taught
herself to play guitar and drums. She didnt settle to
merely learn basic blues, rock, and folk guitar or other western
music that revolved around the 1,4,5 standard chord progression.
Instead, Miho set out to master more complex chords and progressions
found in Brazilian compositions. "Stereotype A"
features compositions based on sophisticated chord arrangements
that Miho was able to bring to the table.
Brazilian guitar influence can be heard on the tracks "Stone"
and "Moonchild". The only bossa nova song to appear
on the album, "Stone", features Miho playing guitar.
The presence of acoustic guitar work on the album is blended
with several musical styles. While probably not intentional,
some of the guitar work and female vocal arrangements reflect
the works of "Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks". Miho
demonstrates on "Stereotype A" that she has been
hard at work at developing her vocal range and diction, as
well as helping to contribute more fully to the musical arrangements
and composition of the songs.
Cibo Matto still remains under the artistic direction of mostly
Yuka and Mihos songwriting, the additional collaboration
with Sean Lennon and Timo Ellis has become an essential element
of the bands sound. Sean and Timo helped compose three
of the songs for the album. During the past two years of touring,
Sean has become recognized as Cibo Mattos bass player.
He is also an important singer in the background vocals. Seans
role in the music of "Stereotype A" extends to playing
guitar, drums, and percussion throughout the album. Like Sean,
Timo can play almost every instrument that Cibo Matto would
want to use in their material, but serves larger as the band's
drummer. Timos background vocals are an essential part
of "Stereotype A" sound. The addition of these two
talented musicians has allowed Cibo Matto to take their sound
to yet a new level.
the release of "Stereotype A", Yuka emerges as a
serious producer that is truly setting her own standard of
modern sampling. She continues her upstream battle against
record industry stereotypes of women and explains, "There
are people who think women cant operate studio equipment."
Of course her experimentation with mixing, sampling, and production
will be seen by some, as mistakes in not following the old
school of how music should be done, as opposed to setting
new trends of how music will evolve in the future. Throughout
the music of Cibo Matto, there is a constant searching for
a new blending of sounds. Skeptics may view the experimentation
as lack of experience, those in the know will see that Yukas
production of "Stereotype A" is a brilliant attempt
to mold many types of music of the past century into a new
from fear of being cast into yet new stereotypes, Yuka seems
hesitant in interviews to endorse a particular musician that
she is currently listening to. People with a diverse interest
in musical styles have trouble explaining to others their
own musical tastes, because if they mention who they are currently
listening to, it detracts from the other musical influences
that are also important to them. Appreciation of a particular
music comes from selecting the right music, at the right time,
in the right order, to fit the changing moods of the audience
and the setting of the physical environment. Yukas production
of the album was influenced by a wide array of producers from
many different recording formats. Little tributes to various
producers seemed to have been lightly dusted on top of some
of the songs.
the music of the album cannot be compared to that of the Beatles
or the Beach Boys, there are traces of these bands recording
techniques in the format. Moreover, the band would be inclined
to shrug off comparisons to such bands. Yet, rarely do you
find an album that covers such diverse musical ground that
is blended so seamlessly into a single musical presentation.
Cibo Mattos technique of presenting a variety of well
written songs with diverse themes, speaks to the formula of
some of the most successful Beatles album. The albums
use of the human voice as one of the bands instruments
was pioneered by the Beach Boys many years earlier. In particular
the work of the Beach Boys albums "Hollad", "Wild
Honey", and "Pet Sounds", comes to mind. Although
the musical presentation of the songs is unique unto itself,
the tight harmonies and background vocals reflect the trademark
formula used by some of Rock n Rolls most successful
groups. Songs such as "Backseat" (a "Bonus"
track on Japanese/Australian CDs and on U.S. vinyl) ,
"Sunday" and "Clouds" showcase Cibo Mattos
use of multi-part harmonies and vocal choir arrangements that
bear the influence of a wide variety of musical styles.
A" continues Yukas personal battle to break the
stereotype that sampling is not a valid form of musical creation.
Music has advanced since the introduction of Hip Hop and Rap
Music almost 20 years ago. Like all music, there are very
original writers and others that borrow from the masters.
How many guitarists have used bits of Chuck Berrys guitar
riffs in constructing their own original songs? Thousands?
At what point does taking someone elses idea to a newly
defined and higher level become a valid art form? Yuka's own
code of ethics and beliefs about the use of sampling in Cibo
Mattos music can be seen in comments like, "People
are mistaken if they think sampling is just patching together
someone elses cool old music. I am not interested in
replaying someone elses music." Where groups such
as Us3 have attempted to merge Rap and Jazz sampling into
original work, Cibo Matto has sucessfully done this with their
material on "Stereotype A". Yuka has taken the use
of sampling to a new level on this album, the layers of live
musicians and bits of samples are seamlessly intertwined and
transparent to the listener.
hardcore Cibo Matto fans that have been waiting for some "Hard
Core Bad Little Japanese Girl from New York City Rap",
wont be disappointed by Mihos handling of the
song, "Sci-Fi Wasabi". The song was inspired by
Mihos encounters with bike messengers in the city. It
is your basic Miho rap with a sweeping musical backdrop that
can evoke images of space craft hovering through the streets
of dark, futuristic cities. Cartoon characters race their
bicycles on the video arcade contolled streets below. Sci-Fi
Wasabi illustrates the Cibo Matto sense of humor and their
ability to rap. Various other tracks on the album feature
Miho shifting from heavy Rapper to an elegant, beautiful nightclub
singer, through the course of a single song. Most notable
on the album is the song, "Sunday" which Miho begins
with a heavy duty rap and closes with her calling sweetly
in song, "Im living in the second world. Im
the journeys terrain was not varied enough for the listener
up this point, then track tens heavy metal adventure
will turn the tide. The song, "Blue Train" features
heavy metal power chords that sound like the destruction of
Metallica, Soundgarden, or Pearl Jam. The vocal comes in with
Miho singing a barren, ghostly punk melody. Then the fire
erupts as Miho screams the chorus of "Aint no Pain
on the Blue Train", with the pain and conviction of some
of the earlier works by the Plastic Ono Band. The power of
the electric guitar is lightly colored by Sci-Fi effects and
spacey guitar licks. It stands by itself, as an all out, heavy
metal, off-road adventure.
appearances are an integral part of Cibo Mattos musical
presentation. In making the album someone was heard to utter,
"Round up the usual suspects." In addition to some
return visitors, the line up included some other good friends
of the band. Yumiko Ohno and Zak of Buffalo Daughter worked
with the band to create the song, "Clouds". The
song (Clouds) features a techno world beat overlaid with wind
swept Thomas Dolby style keyboards. The vocals begin with
a female version of "Neil Young's"
Trans style robot vocals. The "Lost in Space"
robot vocal gives way to an ethereal female chourus. Yumiko
plays the moog and helps out on the background vocals of the
song, and Duma Love was featured as the human beat box. To
create a more jazzy feeling, Cibo Matto makes use of skilled
horn players such as Curtis Fowles and Dave Douglas on various
tunes. Other guests on the album includes Dougie Bowne, Marc
Ribot, and many others.
the journey has to come to an end, with an experimental piece
composed by Dougie Brown. The song, "MORTMING",
is made up of furturistic music and improvised vocal arrangements
aided by the vocoder. The words, "Stereotype A",
are repeated in stereo voice for the album's ending. The listener
is left quietly waiting in the driveway for the bands
next musical journey.
Cibo Matto album, "Stereotype A" is a very focused
and directed effort to take the bands music to a new
level of sophistication. The musicians took one step more
in defining the depth and variety of their musical interests
and backgrounds. Yukas determination at mastering the
art of musical production along with her already advanced
abilities on various keyboard instruments is evident in the
high quality of the album. The music successfully spans cultural
influences from around the globe, while anchoring the mix
in relevant similarities that allow the material to flow from
one song to the next without becoming disjointed. The vocal
arrangements lead by Miho, demonstrate her range as a singer
and her talent as a songwriter. The addition of Timo and Sean
as full time players with the band, has further increased
the bands musical horizons. By thealbum's completion,
Duma had also been picked up as a full time player with the
band. With the creation of "Stereotype A", Cibo
Matto has provided a complex musical presentation that virtually
eliminates the possibility of placing the entire body of work
into one simple category. If the World wants to stereotype
this album, they will need to create a new definition or new
musical genre to do so.
Matto has established itself as one of the finest alternative
music bands of the 1990's. Through their live performances
and recorded material, they have demonstrated themselves to
be serious musicians with a great sense of humor. Their Crazy
Food theme was used initially to provide symbolism of complex
emotional and social ideas, that might otherwise be lost within
international language barriers. The world view that Cibo
Matto has and the multicultural content of their music is
something we can all learn from. The band has been made more
successful by the friendly networking and shared experiences
with other musicians they have collaborated with. Miho has
demonstrated her diversity as a songwriter and singer, by
performing live and on albums in several genres and languages.
Meanwhile, Yuka is developing as a serious producer that is
setting her own standard of modern sampling, hopefully other
musicians will continue to draw ideas from her work. The addition
of Sean, Timo, and Duma has further increased the musical
scope and appeal of the band. As a band, Cibo Matto is in
a constant state of metamorphous and their music will continue
to evolve with each new performance.
Stereotype A - Pre-Release Sound Samples Available at the
"Ultimate Band List"
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