Cibo Matto, Hotel Valentine

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 02.11.14 in Reviews

Created 20 years ago by two Tokyo-born, New York-based expats, Cibo Matto was the Lower East Side answer to their home city’s Shibuya-kei, the feverishly diverse post-modern pop movement in the ’90s pioneered by Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, and other erudite and eclectic eccentrics. But after only two albums and as many EPs, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori split in 2002 to collaborate with kindred arty souls like Sean Lennon, Gorillaz and John Zorn.

Expanding into jazzier, more sophisticated realms while maintaining their whimsy

Having reunited for a Tōhoku earthquake benefit, Honda and Hatori here cut back on the samples and trip-hop of 1996′s defining Viva! La Woman. Now joined by horn players from Steely Dan, Antibalas, and Antony and the Johnsons, as well as Cornelius/Plastic Ono Band drummer Yuko Araki, singer/comedian Reggie Watts, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche and Nels Cline, the pair here expand into jazzier, more sophisticated realms while maintaining the whimsy of early jams like “Know Your Chicken.”

Sharing supernatural themes with Hayao Miyazaki’s classic anime Spirited Away, Hotel Valentine presents itself as an inn tightly packed with mischievous maids, phantom girls, and generous helpings of booze, weed, and — their favorite topic — food. “Check In” introduces the album’s musical polygamy as it switches from psychedelic dub to keyboard-driven rock to a “Push It”-like club banger. “Déjà Vu” funks along on a big fat bassline, joined for the chorus by slippery horns. The most danceable of the lot, “10th Floor Ghost Girl” brings off-kilter Afrobeat disco, but cuts it up like a DJ with a heavy fader finger. The plot of this hallucinatory concept album may come and go, but its churning and ever-changing rhythms never give up the ghost.