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Yuko Nexus6
 Nexus6 Song Book
 (Sonore) CD
 Translation of Sightseeing
 (onomato) CD-r

My introduction to the charmingly idiosyncratic soundworld of Yuko Nexus6 came a little over two years ago, when I received an unexpected package in the mail, containing a copy of her first CD on Sonore, entitled Journal de Tokyo. Organized loosely around the book of the same name by the Japanese author, Hyakken Uchida, and the form of the cassette tape, Journal de Tokyo contained a wonderful, evocative hodge-podge of field recordings, spoken word, instructional tape excerpts, processed sounds of many varieties, and songs, often sung by Yuko herself. I was so thoroughly taken with this strange and delightful record (to my mind it's a stone-cold sound art classic) that I zealously sought out everything by her that I could lay my hands on, including two previous solo releases (Neko-san, Kill! Kill! and Bit Diary) and a pair of early CD-r only recordings. It was a seemingly interminabe wait for her next solo album, however, but thankfully 2005 has been kind, treating the world to a veritable feast of new Nexus6 music.

The first of a pair of new Yuko Nexus6 cds, Nexus6 Song Book features Yuko in Ella Fitzgerald mode, singing a typically unusual selection of songs that includes jazz standards, a toastmaster classic, traditional Japanese folk melodies, a German torch song (made famous by Marlene Dietrich), and a fight song/ode for the Hokkaido Tigers football team. Each of these non-standard standards is given the inimitable Nexus6 treatment, as Yuko manipulates her voice using a computer or more rudimentary, lo-fi gadgets. Her voice is chopped-up, run backwards, effected and distorted; and yet the songs are most ineffably surreal when they are sung relatively straight; in Yuko's capable hands even the most familiar tune is made ever-so slightly strange. As with so many song compilations, in spite of a number of sublime moments ("Rokkoh Oroshi," "Funazushi No Uta," "He's a Jolly Good Fellow"), Nexus6 Song Book doesn't hold together as an album all that well. The unifying element, Yuko's voice, eventually works against its forming a compelling and pleasing whole. Although the sounds are endlessly manipulated and there are many twists and turns, the basic sonic palette is surprisingly limited. Ultimately, you're best off skipping around to your favorite hits.

Her collaboration with photographer, Mariko Tajiri, Translations of Sightseeing, released on Portland, Oregon's small onomato label, is ultimately the more satisfying of the two cds. Conceived as a sonic travel diary, the album is a relatively straightforward collage of treated field recordings from Nexus6's and TAJIRI's sightseeing trips in Europe and the U.S. Although Translations lacks some of the disarming strangeness of much of Yuko Nexus6's work, it is no less intimate and charming with its brass bands, snippets of radio broadcasts, and chattering tourists. The CD-r also contains a large selection of photographs by Tajiri, documenting the duo's journeys, and, like Yuko Nexus6, beautifully captures both Kodak tourist moments (pictures of cathedrals, landscapes, train stations, and the like) and more particular and personal moments of travel (shots of meals, currency, hotel rooms, and graffiti). While it's nice to listen to the sounds along with the images whilst at home, I've found the disc is best taken on the road, as it makes an amiable travelling companion and an odd counterpoint to my own workaday, train-bound sightseeing.

 

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