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Grind Orchestra - Botsukosei-Shu

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Artist: Grind Orchestra

Album: Botsukosei-Shu

Label: Tag Rag

Review date: Jan. 29, 2003

Rhythmic Smorgasbord from Osaka

For their latest album, Botsukosei-Shu, this Osaka-based group has expanded to seven members, led of course by ex-Boredoms vocalist Yoshikawa, the group's founder. In addition to his part-time percussion duties, the group boasts drums and percussion by Gaku, Yo-chan, and Yoshi-Yoshi. Add in Nakaya (electronics, also of Nasca Car), Motsu (guitar), and Nana Lala (bass), and you've certainly got quite a full-bodied thing going on. Driven by complex drum rhythms, Grind Orchestra draw inspiration from African drumming, Brazilian percussion, and modern electronic rhythms, pulling it all together to create something like a tropical wedding dance party.

"G.O Weather Forecast Says..." starts things off with a minute of weird sound collage, before "Soul Watcher" kicks in with a multi-percussion beat that will have you bouncing in your seat. Yoshikawa's chanting anchors a barrage of assorted percussion, funky bass, and rubbery wah guitar. Partway through it all opens up to leave just the bass, until Yoshikawa chants and blows his whistle to kick things back in.

"Chicken Feed" is a good example of the band's goofy sense of humor, as it morphs from a minimal martial rhythm led by chiki-chiki guitar work into a heavy psychedelic guitar jam. And check out that ultimate 70's synth-bass rumble. "Bazaar" gets into some territory akin to what a punk band might end up with by trying to play "Bitches Brew" before turning into a heavy call-and-response rockin', while "Cow Song" pulls out some country-Hawaiian stylings in a weird way, as well as farming various indie rock pastures too.

A set of short pieces occupies the center of the album, including "Temptation for Heteroconger," a brief combination of tropicalian slide guitar and a foot-stomping rhythm, "Night in Zoo," the bizarre vocal noise interlude, and "Mania Germ A," a quiet bit that feels a bit film noir-ish. These short bits run the risk in ending up like afterthoughts, but though brief, each has such a distinctive personality that they reiterate the theory that a two-minute song can actually be quite sufficient, thank you.

"A Man Standing in the Rain" is a dramatic piece of filmic music with some kickass guitar licks tossed into the middle. The pace picks up until it goes out in a blaze of rock glory. "O okoo" finishes off the album with an extended, frenzied assault of percussion and weird interjections from guitar, electronics, and vocals that break down into crowd noises and vocal chanting, then swerves back into chaos, then smooths out into a rockout, bouyed by a galloping rhythm, flying saucer synths, and a singsong guitar riff. Whew.

This album is wider-ranging than the band's previous efforts, which may leave some wishing for a bit more full-on percussion, but I think Grind Orchestra have found a good dynamic spread here. Since "So Wap," their marvelous debut album, the band has built in a wider selection of styles that maintains a listener's interest throughout. Botsukosei-Shu is a party album, no question about it, but the production will also reward detailed listening. Bravo.

By Mason Jones

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