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Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce: Cibo Matto @ Japan Society

Miho and Jared Rap the Bossa Nova @ Japan Society


Good things often come in three’s and on the evening of October 20th, 2011 those three things came with a savory and sweet Japanese flavor. It was a great thrill to be able to cover the reunited Cibo Matto, be introduced to the music of Yu Sakai, in a sold out show under the roof of the Japan Society.

Japan Society incorporates a lovely concert space in its confines which are located near the United Nations Building in New York City. It’s lobby, with indoor waterfall and live bamboo garden, conveys the restive essence of Japanese architecture. I was lucky enough to see Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, AKA Cibo Matto, do excellent solo sets there a number of years ago. That show was followed by a Q&A session in the lobby where the main query was would they ever return to the stage as a duo. At that time it seemed unlikely the ladies, though clearly still friends, would work together again. Times change and after a couple of benefit show get-together’s this year a reunion tour was booked.

On the surface Cibo Matto is a melange of disparate sources and influences. Hip-Hop, Jazz, Samba, Bossa Nova, New Wave Synthesis and Sampling all play a part in the unique pastiche. In the creative hands of Yuka and Miho those components become a musical “umami”; a nearly indescribable listen that once heard is not easily forgotten.

Special Orders Don’t Upset Us…
Yuka and Miho started the set offering up “Apple”, “Beef Jerky” and “Le Pain Perdu” before bringing the rhythm section onto the stage. Bassist Jesse Murphy of Brazilian Girls and drummer Yuko Araki (Mi-Goo) turn Cibo Matto into a funky stage outfit punctuating the urban swing and sway of tunes like “BBQ” and “Know Your Chicken”. I’ve been impressed with Yuko’s tight, articulated, drumming style since first seeing her on stage with Cornelius. It was an amazing feat to keep synched to his video backdrops throughout the show. Her playing at Japan Society was highlighted by a superb mix through the exceptional sound system.

Future Kombucha
It’s great to report that the group will be releasing new tunes soon. They treated the audience to “10th Floor Ghost Girl” and “Check In” as part of their set. “10th Floor” has a slinky tribal tom-tom groove that places it somewhere between 80’s Talking Heads and Peewee’s Playhouse retro.

SkeletonPete Says…
Having seen their show at The Bowery Ballroom early in the reunion tour, it was interesting to note the difference in the tenor of the two audiences. While the Bowery show was fully participated in with everyone singing along and boogying non-stop, the Japan Society show – though no less appreciated – was more of an observation and veneration of what the duo have created artistically. Miho did get the audience out of their seats on the encore, a rapped out version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Aqua De Marco”, which brought onto the stage guitarist Nels Kline of Wilco, Sax player Doug Wieselman of Antony and The Johnsons and vocalist Jared Geller. Jared and Miho traded lines as the band percolated along on the Bossa Nova groove. The only disappointment of the evening is that they only presented the single encore tune with the guest line-up. Considering these players’ co-mingling in several other projects it seemed strange that they did not spin up another couple of songs together.

I’m working up a separate piece on pianist vocalist Yu Sakai, who wowed the crowd with his opening set.

Do yourself a favor and check out the up coming events at Japan Society, it’s a gem of a venue.