Kahimi Karie – Kahimi Karie – 4/5
So this would be my opening confession: those who have noticed the ‘Shibuya-Kei’ reviews up to this point have probably been given a narrow view of the genre thanks to my own interests, which have just begun to shift in exploration of this genre. Taking influences from Bossa Nova (a smooth brazilian samba/jazz), J-pop and electronica (often picopop and trip-hop), naturally some artists will favour one side over the other. This is the first that features very little in the way of electronic effects, leaving an almost avant-garde indie pop in its wake. Born in Japan, she spent most of her time in France and both languages – as well as English – are frenetically mixed in the cornucopia of styles she has created.
Working closely with fellow Shibuya-Kei-er ‘Cornelius’ and indie pop musician ‘Momus’ in producing much of this album, her openness and willing to diversify her style allows for such a variety that feels like a music 101; from the blues guitar and harmonica work in ‘Elastic Girl’ to the folk-like ‘The Way You Close Your Eyes,’ the overt jazz not content with one specific style, the bossa nova coming strong from the acoustic guitars oddly interspersed with ‘Sun Ra’ like psychedelic effects in the background and the more than occasional ska like melodies coming into their own. And through it all comes the dream-like vocals that take precedence, hazily whispering through the layers of instrumentation behind her like Okabe for ‘Strawberry Machine,’ lending a beautiful simplistic elegance that allows you to spend as much or little time devoted to the carefully orchestrated backing.
Whether performing the more conventional bounciness of ‘Candy Man’ or the almost twee-pop ‘La Roi Soleil,’ the consideration of the backing melody is spared no expense either; lavishly layering bossa nova acoustic guitar melodies on top of the psychadelic electric; 80s style post-punk keyboards and synths combine with jazzy bass rhythms and rock drum beats to create odd contrasts that inexplicably fit together seamlessly. This degree of genre mixing feels as though it should all come unwravelled in a big mess of experimentation, but the dominance of the vocals in the production maintain its continuity. Only the poor cohesion between the tracks bringing it down, being formed from the ashes of her scattered early EP’s, the sheer variety of styles interspersed with the beautifully atmospheric whispered vocals and strong jazz sensibilities make this one of my more impressive discoveries.
Highlights: Elastic Girl, Le Roi Soleil, Serieux Comme le Plaisir, The Way You Close Your Eyes