Dusted Reviews

Tujiko Noriko - From Tokyo to Naiagara

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Tujiko Noriko

Album: From Tokyo to Naiagara

Label: Tomlab

Review date: Aug. 7, 2003

A Poppy Departure

For the past two years, Noriko Tujiko’s work has been the precise and defined needle in the unruly, glorious haystack of the Mego label’s roster. In her three releases, Tujiko has produced a handful of gorgeous songs comprised of manic popular culture collages in an advanced state of dissolution. Despite singing primarily in native Japanese, Tujiko’s hear-wrenching voice manages to communicate flawlessly, coming across with tints of a certain kind of grateful melancholy. Yet on her Mego albums, Tujiko seems to function as a narrator, she is a step outside of the music, describing the story and emotional drama seeping from each electronic sound.

In an interview conducted with avant-garde catalyst Noël Akchoté, regarding her new release on Tomlab, From Tokyo to Naiagara, Akchote asks what her songs are about. “They´re mostly fictions and stories,” Tujiko said. “I’ll give you some lyrics I wrote recently that I quite like, though I still didn’t found a precise melody. The song is called ‘Naiagara Byouin’ it means Naiagara fall´s hospital. It goes like this: ‘She is in a hospital room. There´s nice sunlight going through the curtain and she is thinking the last dinner was the last one. She can see her boyfriend rushing into her room wearing cool suites. She can hear the sound of slippers of nurse and it’s like tap dance, pata, pata’ ...”. etc. Yet From Tokyo, being Noriko’s first album to include English translations, seems to be her most innately personal. Substituting a headshot for what used to be her lush, indicative SlideArt collage covers, Tujiko, from start to finish, seems to be making a serious break with her past.

Regardless of Tujiko’s claim that she would feel better suited as an actress, From Tokyo gives the sense of an electronic evolution of the singer/songwriter album. Her use of static and organic backgrounds in her older work seems to be evolving here into something a little more conventional; the songs are vastly more melodic and the experimental electronics of releases past are restricted in Aki Onda’s production method. Also striking is the lack of narrative feeling that seems to emanate from Tujiko’s other work. This sometimes comes across as a weakness, yet on the standout track “Kiminotameni”, a stanza like “Lovers and Moms are / dancing / beneath blue and black skies / I’m far away and still / hear the rhythm” seems to show Tujiko working towards an intermeshing between her uniquely vivid storytelling and personal emotiveness only hinted at by the sheer quality of her voice in earlier albums.

This quirky sentimentality would bring more comparisons to Haruki Murakami than the commonly used and lazy analogy to Bjork. Tujiko even brings in a reference point herself, the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki, whose work seems to give a sense of possibility set in the landscape of Japan. Desire and location mingle in his often incredibly graphic pictorials of Japan’s entertainment districts. Tujiko similarly seems to share a sort of perverse lustfulness and resignation hidden underneath her melodic music. Tujiko sums up the sentiment of the opening track “Narita Made” by singing “I miss you terribly / I don’t wanna miss you”, yet closes with “I cry for no-one”, a tiny gesture that somehow simultaneously presents impenetrability and a sense of extreme vulnerability. The following track continues in this vain, beginning with “Unzip your / Pants for me / Slowly / What for / do you / undress?”, the next stanza once again sets up negation, “Let’s Dance, Just Dance / That’s All / A Nice Pair of Shoes / An Ugly Pair of Shoes / Your Choice.” A bomb drops in “Rocket Hanabi”, followed by the impending city-wide collapse in “Tokyo” – songs that come across as comic and apocalyptic, yet not tongue-in-cheek; they are sincere and almost mirthfully tragic.

Yet, the important idea here is that these themes are hidden underneath the music. With each album, Tujiko has strived to make pop music and on From Tokyo where she is completely successful in this regard, the experimental side of her work, the production that seemed to infer and represent all of the simultaneous dimensions – refracting little aural mementos of her narrative in a bleached and distant light – is gone in the weight and rigidity of Onda’s sentimentality.

In many regards, this album is essential to Tujiko’s development and her English-speaking fans that want to understand her increasingly vivid work. Yet, on some level, there is a disappointment. It seems that this release holds some of Tujiko’s most melancholy and romantic aspirations, and while Onda’s work is commendable in that it attempts to tailor the musical content to suit Tujiko’s impenetrable sadness by stifling the eccentric gestures of past albums, there is still too much production. Onda’s distorted beats seem to squelch the emotions, and the music occasionally comes across as somewhat commonplace in the shadows of prior albums. Yet, for all the leaps and bounds, for all of the chances taken, and for all of the beautiful moments on the album, it certainly seems worthwhile.

By Matt Wellins

Other Reviews of Tujiko Noriko

Make Me Hard

Blurred In My Mirror

Shojo Toshi

Read More

View all articles by Matt Wellins

Find out more about Tomlab

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.