A Pre-Meal Appetizer From Cibo Matto

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!

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