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Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko - 28

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Artist: Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko

Album: 28

Label: FatCat

Review date: Mar. 9, 2006

Aoki Takamasa and Tujiko Noriko are a pair of Japanese ex-pats making their home in Paris, the city where they first met in 2002. The subsequent three years of on-and-off collaboration finally spawned a record this winter. 28 (which got its name from the common age of the artists), features the beatmaker Takamasa on production and Noriko on vocals. As a fan of the darker aspects of Noriko’s solo work, especially on Make Me Hard, I was initially disappointed, but after repeated listenings and a change of perspective, 28 proved itself an immensely satisfying and occasionally challenging pop record.

The record opens with the underwhelming “Fly 2,” a relatively non-descript two-and-a-half minute oscillation. Things immediately pick up with “Vinyl Worlds”; Noriko’s use of collage in her solo work makes an appearance, employing various filters and separation techniques to alter the immediately appealing vocals. Noriko takes the forefront here and never gives it up – teasing her audience with singsong and whispered lines before launching into an immediately memorable hook, the first of several to grace the record.

Listeners who do not understand Noriko’s lyrics should reserve any laments, as much of the words on 28 amount to formulaic love anecdotes about the smalls of people’s backs and going on walks to “anywhere.” Regardless, the vocals’ value is not found in the lyrical content but in the way their illustrious tones convey emotion without trivializing it.

Takamasa’s relaxed productions effectively fill in the atmosphere. The backing tracks can occasionally drift towards the complacency of Telefon Tel-Aviv style glitch pop, with none of the mechanical trickery surprising or seriously challenging ears, but neither does it feel forced or out of place. Rather then distracting, Takamasa’s use of advanced methods seamlessly adds to his straight-ahead production and effectively augments Noriko. Just as we start to feel the weight of her voice, a flourish of backward percussion sucks the air from the room. The bottom end of his compositions is consistently simple – something that in this case should not be looked down upon but rather lauded for its contribution to an overall laid-back, head-bobbing ‘pop’ aesthetic perfect for Sunday mornings.

By Mark G. Davis

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