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Oh, Yoko – I Love You

Normal Cookie

Oh, Yoko - I Love YouA brushstroke painting of a cherry blossom landscape/
dance floor abandon = = >
“i need a christmas tree”

Will Long and Rie Mitsutake create a slice-of-life synth folk sound collage on their own label, Normal Cookie.

With Oh, Yoko the pair were interested in exploring the openness of creativity in captured moments of a simple home and city life. Towards this goal, Long and Mitsutake began by playing about on vintage instruments, mostly analog synths but some rickety strings and toys as well, and letting that control the direction the ‘songs’ (read:sound movements) would take. A lot of the sounds that would make it onto the record are used more as interesting textures, or noises, than simply for their melodic content. Because of this, I Love You feels more like a sonic diary, or a softly surreal soundscape to send you into snowy drifts of idyllic revelry.

Both Long and Mitsutake both have solo projects: Will as the hyper-prolific dreamweaver Celer and Rie makes music as Miko. Celer makes longform, slowly shifting drones while Miko’s music is intricate and arranged, so it is interesting to watch the two different styles of music at work here. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Because of the “un-musical” (read: discordant or abrasive) usage of some sounds, like the sonar synth on the 2nd track, “Toumei”, it means that this record is most effective as an ambient/drone/noise record (for the people who typically listen to long droney music), but the languid daze is disrupted by outbursts of ‘song’, like the brittle-boom bap airy club pop of “Grand Prix” (which is probably the breakout single on the album, ironically). It’s not bad, it’s just a tad jarring, too sharp and abrupt, and could stand to have some additional mastering (even if it was done by Lawrence English).

The songs are the strongest part of this record, and come more frequently in the second half, which means it’s worth giving this record some time and attention, to let it work its spell completely, before casting stones. “Boite de Nuite,” with its slurry Twin Peaks Roadhouse Blues jazziness, and “Ice Skating In The Dark,” with its icy synths and lush Rhodes pads, are particularly lovely and effective, and should definitely make their way onto your mixtapes for falling leaves and new love.

Oh, Yoko’s I Love You is a loving document of folks who like to sit around and pet keyboards; who start tape labels and play in basements. They called it synth folk, and this is apt; it’s a different generation, who grew up miming Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never and Animal Collective instead of Led Zeppelin or The Cult. It’s a tad twee for my tastes, at times, but it’s young and it’s sweet and it’s innocent and emotional; its intentions are pure and often their experiments succeed. The one thing, which is common in dreamy droney soundscapes, is the abandonment of musical merit in favor of sound. Sure, it does make for a modern 12-tone listening experience, with some complex and convoluted emotions, but it could be done with more control and tact. I am still waiting for somebody to make the ultimate found sound drone collage industrial symphony.

Oh Yoko’s ambient pop will slake the thirst of anime fans who’ve burned out their Pillows CDs, as well as those that walk around with headphones on, or stare out the window. There’s some colorful dreams contained in this package.

-J Simpson-

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