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Yoshimi & Yuka - Flower With No Color

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Artist: Yoshimi & Yuka

Album: Flower With No Color

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Jun. 26, 2003

A Dynamic Duo

Long before actually hearing Yoshimi & Yuka’s Flower With No Color, the album commands a certain respect. No matter the outcome, this collaborative effort occupied a position of esteem before a single note was recorded. Not only is any promotion or introduction unnecessary, these women don’t even need last names to guarantee attention. Given the musical histories of both, however, expectations are unavoidable.

Minimal knowledge of these multi-instrumentalists is sufficient when approaching Flower With No Color – even those in the know had to be prepared for anything from excruciatingly loud noise-rock to hip hop to moody avant-jazz. Some may be surprised at what Yoshimi & Yuka bring to the table this time around.

Yoshimi Yokota (credited here and elsewhere as Yoshimi P-We) is undoubtedly best known for her role as The Boredoms’ petite and energetic drummer. Since joining the Boredoms in 1986, Yoshimi has participated in numerous musical endeavors including Free Kitten with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, UFO or Die, Kill Rock Star’s OOIOO, and Pink Sabbath (yes, a Black Sabbath cover band) along with a handful of others. While she most often sits behind a drum kit with these outfits, Yoshimi’s original instrument is the trumpet (a treat she serves up on Flower With No Color), though one would never know it from how many instruments she has come to master throughout the years. In addition to working with countless icons in avant-garde communities everywhere from New York to her home of Osaka, Japan, Yoshimi has also released three solo 7”s on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label. More recently, this somewhat mysterious character has crept into the mainstream’s consciousness with her contribution to the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in 2002, not only as subject for the title but as a ‘performer’ on the album.

Yuka Honda relocated to New York from Japan in the mid-80’s and moved through punk and hip-hop circles before eventually settling in her eclectic band Cibo Matto with Miho Hatori. She has been part of an impossible number of projects with the likes of John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, Yoko Ono, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Brooklyn Funk Essential, Pom Pon, Buffalo Daughter, and the Small Circular Motions featuring Timo Ellis, Sean Lennon and Marc Ribot. Still residing in New York, Yuka released her first solo effort Memories Are My Only Witness on Zorn’s Tzadik label in 2002, and can often be seen performing at Tonic in Manhattan. It has been 10 years since Yoshimi and Yuka first met after a Boredoms’ gig at CBGB’s. Remaining friends since that night in New York, Flower With No Color is not the first time these ladies have worked together. Yoshimi accompanied Cibo Matto during their first ever tour of Japan, and Yuka appeared on an OOIOO album.

The opening track of Flower With No Color, “UMEgination”, is like opening your eyes first thing in the morning and feeling life spread through your body, awakening each sense individually. Vision gradually comes into blurry focus as sounds untangle themselves. Eventually the surroundings are unveiled and comprehension is nearly within reach. The audible chirping of birds welcomes all to rise from their recent slumber and join in the inauguration of a new day. Seamlessly flowing into “Ha Wa ii Na”, synchronized percussion creates a propulsive, yet scrupulous motion. Ramble through this dreamlike state with no regard for time, no obligations, and no specific destination. The only agenda at hand is to permeate the environment and allow each vibration to dictate advance.

Much of Flower With No Color communicates like this. The organic way in which these songs were constructed translates very clearly. The story goes something like this: Yuka stayed with Yoshimi at her home for a few months during Spring of 2002 while they worked on the album. During this time, they drove a tiny truck filled with instruments to the top of Mt. Ikoma where they did field recordings at a temple. Some of the basic tracks began in the truck while they were on the road – producing the low engine rumble audible in the background on occasion. The birds (credited in the liner notes as ‘elegant birds’ along with ‘temple dogs’ and ‘insects’), central to much of Flower With No Color, were recorded here with Yoshimi & Yuka playing along to their high-pitched twitters. After these sounds were gathered, they returned to the Free People studio in Osaka for overdubs and mixing.

The overall delicate and exploratory mood of Flower With No Color is consistent throughout, and there is never a shortage of audio snapshots to maintain interest. The ubiquitous personalities of both these musicians are wonderfully conveyed through these recordings as well. The multitude of instruments employed (including percussion, grang tang, guitars, piano, trumpet, bamboo flute, whistle and synthesizers) help create a subtle texture that ebbs and flows from beginning to end. In its entirety, Flower With No Color feels like spending all day outside in the sunshine meandering through the intoxicating aromas of nature. While each song may not be encompassing enough to stand alone, the disc as a whole is more than just pleasant mood music. It is an inspiring step in a new direction for two artists who request their music be met in a positive and free space.

By Nicole Mandala

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