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L'Autre Cap

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Album Review

Maher Shalal Hash Baz is the artistic vision of Japanese visionary Tori Kudo. From record to record he assembles a sympathetic cast of musicians to play his fragile and beautiful compositions. Perhaps best described as Pet Sounds as played by the pets themselves, the sound of the group is perfect for K Records, since the label's leader, Calvin Johnson, knows a thing or two about innocent sophistication. For L'Autre Cap, Kudo decamped for two days in Olympia, WA, to record under the guidance of Arrington de Dionyso of Old Time Relijun with a band made up of a mix of Japanese and American musicians playing instruments ranging from traditional ones like guitar, drums, and trumpet to more esoteric choices like saw, recorder, bucket, and bassoon (which is used in place of bass guitar throughout). The general skill level of the crew could be generously called enthusiastic, and the recording is decidedly loose, but this is the way Kudo likes it. While L'Autre Cap is more song-based and straightforward than most other Maher Shalal Hash Baz records, there is plenty of room for freedom, and everyone takes advantage of that but hews closely enough to the structure of the songs to keep things swinging. The songs themselves vary from short snips of big-band swing ("Garland Has Gone Forth"), jangling indie rock ("Suspended Season"), and free-form weirdness ("The North Sea") to heartbreakingly sweet ballads ("Eve, Mary and Juliett") and are never less than interesting, sometimes quite exhilarating. Maher Shalal Hash Baz seems destined to be a musical nomad, wandering from label to label while releasing some of the most challenging and enjoyable avant-indie on the planet. If you want to catch up with him and discover the magic for yourself, this is probably the best place to start.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Maher Shalal Hash Baz is a Japanese group led by musician and composer Tori Kudo. Writing and arranging purposefully naïve pieces that are performed by an ensemble comprised largely of amateurs, Kudo's music thrives on the inspired mistake and fuses stray elements of psychedelia, pop, folk, jazz, and experimental music into works that are full of charm, vision, and fragile beauty despite their many rough edges. Little is known about Kudo's personal life, though it's been speculated that he worked...
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L'Autre Cap, Maher Shalal Hash Baz
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