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Tujiko Noriko - Shojo Toshi

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Artist: Tujiko Noriko

Album: Shojo Toshi

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Nov. 12, 2006

The material on this reissue of Tujiko Noriko's Shojo Toshi was originally released in 2001-02. The cover art is attractive with its hints of pinks, greens and yellows, its well-arranged photo collage aesthetic, and the kind but determined manifesto suggested by the images. Each of the three panels contains a hero figure at work reconfiguring urban spaces: a bird-woman returning to a giant yellow egg in a massive nest housed in what looks like a residential area on the outskirts of Tokyo; a rice-man adding giant onigiri to the landscape of Roppongi; and a giant Noriko playfully terrorizing urban dwellers with her bicycle and laser eyes. This visual theme invites the question “Does the music contained within this art have similar transformative potential?” For me, the answer is, yes, but only in small doses.

This album is less glitchy than some of her other works. These songs range from instrumental collage pieces with simple additive/subtractive forms and notable attention to timbre, to songs anchored in her particular style of minimalist pop.

The collage pieces work for me pretty consistently and it’s nice that the album opens with a few of them. Sounds I didn’t know I was dying to hear – sleigh bells, processed pan pipe sounds, vocal fragments – come in and out of the textures Noriko creates, contributing to soundscapes that, for me, have the transformative potential her cover seems to suggest they have.

The minimalist pop, on the other hand, gets tiring. She has a fairly consistent formula of laying down a very short intrusive figure that repeats as the foundation of the song. Too often these unappealing repeated figures are made worse by grating, ultra-reverby synths. Over the top, she introduces a variety of ornamental noise samples and a meandering vocal (with 99 percent Japanese lyrics). As the album plays out, this formula gets dull. In the era of iPod culture, Shojo Toshi contains a lot of shuffle friendly music; simple, noisy, repetitive songs that can work like ginger, cleansing the palate.

Certain tracks work better than others. “Machi No Kakera” makes interesting use of orchestral samples, has a beautiful melody, and offers a thoughtful use of percussion. “Marble Waltz” is built upon a rich drone sample and has a cyclical quality and a repeating melody that contains some of the dark eroticism more prevalent on some of her other albums. Her voice during all of this work is pleasing for its unremarkability.

Noriko is an exciting and noteworthy artist, every bit as arresting as Shojo Toshi’s cover art. The music here, however, is not quite as exciting as a felt man with a cape dropping rice balls from the sky. In general, not her strongest work.

By Suriku Rineto

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From Tokyo to Naiagara

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