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Album Review

In Japanese, Taiga means "big river"; in Russian, it's "forest." Both are apt descriptions for the dense, winding, jungle-like music OOIOO craft on this, their fifth album. Not to push the connection too much, but Taiga's multilingual meanings could also allude to the band's magpie-like ability to pick the most vital, interesting sounds from other cultures and fashion them into what feels like world music from an alternate universe. Despite the Japanese and Russian meanings of "taiga," the most prominent influence on Taiga comes from Africa: dense African jazz and lilting African folk-inspired guitar melodies play large roles on most of the album's tracks. In particular, the vibrant "KMS," which makes nine minutes feel like the blink of an eye (well, maybe two blinks) incorporates these elements brilliantly. Building from hand drums, guitars, and a rubbery bassline, the track shifts to jazzy rhythms and picks up steam as it goes along, adding forceful singing and brass on the way. By the time it closes with an insistent guitar riff that weirdly echoes "Pictures of Matchstick Men," OOIOO make three very different-sounding stretches of music sound perfectly natural together. "SAI" is another standout, a 15-minute epic with a loping beat; hypnotic, slowly turning organ; and flute melodies and vocals that sound like wild birds. Elsewhere, the band fuses gamelan and psych-rock ("ATS") and calypso with drum rolls straight out of the big top ("GRS"). As always, Yoshimi P We's drumming is so vivid it's almost visible, especially on Taiga's opening salvo, "UMA." She plays cat-and-mouse with the rhythm (perhaps it's not coincidental that the album's name also sounds like "tiger"), rolling and batting it around before pouncing down with a satisfying crash that makes the track's chanted vocals sound even more feral. Most importantly, the album is a beautiful demonstration of how OOIOO keep changing and innovating without losing touch with what made them distinctive in the first place. Their inspired, eclectic mix of sounds and textures is always playful, but Taiga's powerful playing and sophisticated arrangements make it OOIOO's most mature album yet.

Customer Reviews


As I only found out after googling their name, Ooioo is an all female Japanese group founded by the drummer from Boredoms, Yoshimi P-We. As with Boredoms albums, this is instrumental music, although in my opinion it is more accessible than the Boredoms work. Any vocals are used for their sound not their lyric content - in fact I'm not sure the lyrics even mean anything in Japanese. This is rather minimalist, percussion based music but it has a great warmth and is also great dance music. My personal favourite is the call and response style track, UMO.


Formed: 1995

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Plenty of distinguishing characteristics separate OOIOO from the herd. First, you could mention the fluorescent body paint they wear on-stage. Or perhaps the demographics of their lineup: four Japanese women. Or their music, a furious amalgam of rhythmic guitars, patternless vocals, and energetic effects. The frontwoman of the group is the irrepressible Yoshimi P-We, the talented and multifaceted percussionist from the Boredoms. In this incarnation, she sings and plays guitar, but not in the way...
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Taiga, OOIOO
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