MARIAH -Utakata no Hibi (1983)

Reviewed by: Jonathan Moss
Assigned by: Van Kovalesky

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Bit late doing this review but whatever, I’m doing it now. I did listen to this album back when it was initially assigned, and I thought it was really cool back then. Listening to it again this has not changed, this is a really unique album, so I could completely fuck this review up.

Thankfully I don’t have to attempt to describe the lyrics, because they’re in Japanese, a language I don’t speak, due to the continuing image of my eurocentric ways, due to a bloody history of imperialism, colonialism, and the other monstrosities of capitalism. Anyway! I’m sure they’re good and accompany the music well. Moving on to the music, which I can talk about, this album is very synth based, but despite this still has an organic sound. And I don’t mean that in some bullshit rockist way, arguably the sound of a distorted electric guitar is one of the most inorganic things I’ve heard, I mean more in a folksy way. But at the same time, I can totally imagine the musicians working coldly and clinically in the studio, treating the music more like a science project than art. It’s a kind of dialectic that makes the music interesting, it can be warm and woodsy, and it can sound like psychedelia by people who never touched acid.

This is aided by the instrumentation, which as I said previously, is quite synth based, but also has snazzy- possibly fretless- basslines, groovy percussion which sounds influenced by world music (i know that term is Eurocentric but fuck off), colourful guitars, saxophones which would maybe sound a bit smooth jazz on their wonderfully on here, and other instrumentation I can’t quite make out, but adds to give it its idiosyncratic vibe. There’s also the soothing female vocals, which along with the percussion make the album feel most organic. The way all these elements mesh so well obviously equally contribute to that. I don’t know, imagine like new wave if it was born out of folk and jazz instead of punk rock, that’s kinda what this album is like, but also very ambient in how calming it is. So, also imagine if new age had been influenced by avant-pop instead of alternative medicine. The percussion and bright various synth tones work to make this much more exciting and melodic than most new age of course, along with the coherent song structures and melodies.

The opening song Sokorara starts off with some stuttering percussion, like the opening percussion for Gabriel’s “Intruder” but without any of the oompth and menace, giving it a kind of mesmerising vibe. This is joined by a very catchy synthesizer with a vibrant, peaceful tone, a repetitive sequencer line and a deep thudding bass. It’s joined by muttered vocals, a more alarmed synth and jagged guitar. Later a very busy frantic piano line comes, it sounds like someone rushing around in a shopping market in a old video game. There’s also neat male vocals which sound kinda chanted, but like no one else joined in on the chant, so it’s just a lone wail. These elements serve to make the song an exploration of of tenseness and tranquility, sublating in a very weird, original opening track whose enigma makes the originality of the album obvious. And you know, it’s also a catchy pop song basically.

The song “Hana Ga Saitara” is great as well, being one of the more upfront, quirky numbers, with a really weird squishy synth noise (it sounds like if a saxophone came to life and was alarmed by something), funky scratch-guitar, actually chanted male vocals, the female vocalist playfully singing something like “do-do-do, di di do”, an exotic and mournful sax line, fun clashing percussion, and a lot of bizarre elements. It’s like eight minutes long and is just a fun, funky number. You can dance to it with your sweetheart, and probably fuck as well.

The other tracks are of course good as well but those are the two which particularly stood out to me. You’ll probably have your own favourites for differing reasons. Anyway this is a good fun creative art-pop album with ambient and folk elements. Check it out, fuckos!

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