Cibo Matto welcomes you to the remix nation where existing musical works
enter a regenerating feedback loop where artists cannibalize each other
and spit their peers out. Remixing, always a staple of dance-music and
hip-hop, has been embraced by legions of '90s artists working at pop
music's hinterlands. Tortoise, Bjork, and Yoko Ono have all released
full-length albums of remixes and dozens more have had their songs
subjected to the claws of various DJs and wannabe-DJs. Now Cibo Matto
enters the fray with Super Relax, a new EP which serves up mixes of
their latest single "Sugar Water" and adds five new songs to the plate.
Basically, this is a glorified CD single, in the same way the Beastie
Boys' Root Down EP was, except this one is better, more
substantive. It begins with the album version of "Sugar Water," followed
by a remix of the same song by Mike D., Russell Simins, and Beasties
producer Mario Caldato Jr.. Their remix reconstructs the song in a
familiar fashion, but provides exactly what was missing before: a killer
hip-hop beat. Keeping the almost-spooky (it's hard for these two cute
women to come off as sinister) background vocals, the la-la-la hook, the
original lyrics and throwing away the rest, this mix makes a good song
great. The deep, resonating backbeat and the buzzing electronic noise
that weaves between the right and left speakers are the missing
ingredients that push to the foreground a song that stood in the shadows
of some of the more engaging songs on last year's Viva! La Woman.
Ending the set is another remix of "Sugar Water" by British production/DJ
team Coldcut (a.k.a. DJ Food) which mines the other side of Cibo Matto
that favors dub-inflected noise and rhythm. The song is stripped down to
a skeletal beat, is extended to seven minutes, and is filled with random
noises, washes of sound, and electronic blips and bleeps (ok, so they
aren't technical terms--sue me). Into the third minute the vocals
disappear and Coldcut takes over, fully unleashing their dementia and
closing out the record.
Sandwiched between are five new songs and an acoustic version of "Sugar
Water." "Spoon," the first new song on the EP, equals most everything on
their full-length and is a promising indicator of what is to come from
this group. Building on a hypnotic bassline and syncopated beat, Yuka
Honda contributes a catchy keyboard line that changes in pitch creating a
disorienting feeling of slowing down and speeding up, even though the
tempo actually stays the same. After "Spoon" is "BBQ," another food
reference that actually stands for Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens--and is
their attempt at creating outsider hip-hop. Recorded at the 40 Watt Club
in Athens, GA, it features Cibo-collaborator Sean Ono Lennon on bass.
While the version translates pretty well to disc, it still doesn't match
the energy of the time I saw them perform to a NYC crowd on Central Park's
Summer Stage. Oh well.
Next comes a song that also appears on the recent Red Hot and Latin
compilation. "Aguas de Marco" is a cover of a song by Antonio Carlos
Jobim, the most well-known popular Brazilian composer/musician of the 20th
century. While not essential, it isn't a toss-off job either. The set's
other cover is a version of The Rolling Stones' "Sing This Song All
Together" from *Their Satanic Majesty's Request*. Like the Jobim song, it
is recorded with what sounds like a full band and little of the studio
effects they are known for, and the same is true for the acoustic version
of "Sugar Water."
EPs such as these are satisfying to listen to but, to continue the food
metaphor, they are only snacks that are intended to tide us over. While
Super Relax really satisfies, I still can't wait to see what main
course they serve up next. Pass the peas, pasta, and pies please!