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Cibo Matto Si Vous Voulez
Cibo Matto Review
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Japanese Music Review
By: W. Dire Wolff

Yuka Honda and Miho had started playing the improv nights and small clubs in New York City for fun. In preparation for their first "Cibo Matto" release on Warner Brother Records, they realized that they needed to get more serious about their musical production. More energy went into working out their musical arrangements and they struggled to write some fresh new songs. They had gained some experience in the studio, but they both realized that their release on Warner Brothers was going to have to be something special. For although the lure of the bright lights was not their main motivation, the knowledge that they had a chance to perform on a new level drove them to work earnestly at preparing their first major CD. They brought in two top recording producers, Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, to assist them on their project. Mitchell and Blake had already attained a bit of notoriety in the recording industry. Mitchell is a famous producer that has done work for Paul McCartney, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Elvis Costello, and Los Lobos, among others. Meanwhile, Tchad had some more minor success with his production of a album for a band called Soul Coughing in 1994. Miho and Yuka had to lie all their cards on the table and head into the Warners Brothers studio to either "Boom or Bust."

When Cibo Matto went into the studio to record their first major release, "Viva! La Woman", they pulled in all their markers. They relied on the network of friends they had made to back them up in the studio. The guest list at the sessions included Bernie Worrell of "Parliament" and "Funkadelic" fame, Rick Lee of "Skeleton Key", Dougie Bowne of the Lounge Lizards, members of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and several other noteworthy musicians were also included in the recording sessions. The production team of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake masterful guided Cibo Matto and the backing musicians through the course of the sessions. Yuka and Miho made all the artistic choices on the album's production, but they also realized the importance of listening to new ideas and approaches that the producers brought to the table. Having the experience of the mini album behind them, they had already done a dry run on producing an album. Now they pulled all of the loose ends together to create one of the most imaginative albums of the mid 1990's, "Viva! La Woman".

"Then I met a lover.
One night, she made me dinner.
Licking finger, I wondered
where she got the chicken."

"I know my Chicken!
You got to know your Chicken."- CIBO MATTO(Copyright © 1995 Soul Urchin Song)

Banana The hard work that Yuka and Miho had put in over the years came together in the release of the CD, "Viva! La Woman", in early 1996. With the distribution resources of Warner Brothers behind them, Cibo Matto found a great deal of new success and popularity. Material from the album found radio airplay on the FM and College airwaves in America. A small tour of Europe also helped to establish the band's foothold abroad. And of course they had also found a following in their homeland of Japan. Via! La Woman was composed of an eclectic musical collection that ranged from a cover of Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man" to the stormy bleating rap explosions of Cibo Matto's "Birthday Cake". The production included deep grooves, techno samples, guitar riffs, and a complete assortment of musical dialogues. Cibo Matto demonstrated their ability to weld their off course sense of humor with the art of creating catchy tunes and off beat lyrics. Sometimes the music of Cibo Matto is spacey and ethereal, while other times it is spastic and manic. Food was the theme of the album and the songs titles included such like as "White Pepper Ice Cream", "Beef Jerky", and "Artichoke". The successful release of "Viva! La Woman" launched Cibo Matto into the public eye.

While the music critics tried to pigeon hole the band into the same class as the already successful Japanese girl band, "Shonen Knife", Miho and Yuka just shrugged off the comparisons. Although they have some fun by playing into their crazy Japanese girl image, there is little musical comparison to the peppy punk sound of "Shonen Knife". Of course, as Miho continued to struggle with her mastery of the English language, her singing often came out in broken particles and a thick accent. This seemed to be more of an advantage than a disadvantage to Cibo Matto, as it further defined a very unique quality and sound for the band's musical presentation. The women's musical presentation could be viewed as sexy, but Yuka and Miho consider themselves feminist oriented musicians, as opposed to cute, sex symbols from Japan.

Sean LennonMiho and Yuka had made friends with one their idols, a Japanese expatriate of avant garde art music fame, "Yoko Ono". They met Yoko after Capitol records invited Cibo Matto to perform a remix of the song "Talking To The Universe", on Yoko's "Rising Remixes" EP. After hearing Miho and Yuka perform, Yoko invited them over to visit her at the Dakota. Through this interaction, Miho and Yuka met Yoko's son, Sean Lennon. After a short time, Yuka asked Sean to come play bass with them at a Cibo Matto concert. Following that performance, they asked Sean to go on tour with them as their bass player. As they began work on their next studio experiment, they brought Sean farther into the Cibo Matto fold. As they rode the wave of their now more widespread fame, they began work on their next CD release, "Super Relax". Cibo Matto relied on the same successful formula that had created the Via! La Woman CD to produce their mini CD, "Super Relax". This CD was released in 1997. Sean joined Miho and Yuka in the studio to provide the bass lines on most of the CD's cuts.

Their second release on Warner Brother record was the mini CD titled, "Super Relax". The second CD could be considered an extended re-mix album as it contains four different versions of the song "Sugar Water" (originally released on the Viva! La Woman album). Yuka took on production of most of the material for the album. She was assisted by MarioCaldato Jr. in some of the songs production, and Mike D. of the "Beastie Boys" helped produced one of the mixes of Sugar Water. Miho went ballistic on a live version of the song "BBQ", and then sang the part of an international siren in her subtle handling of Antonio Carlos Jobim's song "Aguas de Marco." The song, Aguas de Marco, was sung in Spanish. A happy go lucky version of a Rolling Stones song, "Sing This All Together", gave the album an even greater dimension. Super Relax further defined Cibo Matto as a multi talented band with diverse musical styles.

The diverse natural of Cibo Matto's styles, make them a band than can not be easily defined. They do not pander to a certain gander or trend, instead they blend the best of many different popular music cultures into the material they write. This type of experimentation makes widespread commercialism and Top 40 chart busters difficult to produce. The band is happier to have a chance to continue to have fun creating and performing music, than they are to take on a full assault on stardom. Moreover, their international smourgouboard of delights is not easily defined and marketed through normal industry channels. Their desire to create good live performances and their obvious enjoyment of playing music has created a very loyal fan base for Cibo Matto. They enjoy being spontaneous and don't believe that a song should always be performed the same way. While heading on stage they are often are still deciding the type of presentation to bring to a song's performance. While in concert, the band's songs can take on a life of their own. In this way, songs that have been written are developed over time and can remain in a constant state of evolution.

After the release of Super Relax, Cibo Matto went back to what they enjoyed doing most, playing live gigs. They started taking Sean Lennon along to accompany them on bass guitar. Over time, Sean came to be recognized as a member of what had been a two person band. While touring and performing they continued to write and build on their musical repertoire. They have continued to play live gigs both as Cibo Matto and Butter 08. They joined their friends, "Buffalo Daughter", and went on tour with Luscious Jackson, Pavement, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Their concert performances in America , Japan and Europe continued to be well received by their fans. Cibo Matto joined Yoko Ono and others for the "Tibetan Freedom Concert" tours. Further concerts included opening for acts like Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, and Natalie Merchant. Yuka and Miho continue to perform and build a following for Cibo Matto, and still find time for numerous other projects.

MihoCibo Matto has continued to build their network of supporting musicians by working on various side projects. They worked with their side band, "Butter 08", as time allowed. The band Butter 08 is made up of of Yuka and Miho, joined by Russell Simins of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Rick Lee of Skeleton Key on guitar, and Mike Mills on bass. They recorded a new song for the soundtrack of a film titled "Half Baked" by Tamra Davis. Sandra Bernard was working on a film, "Lover Girl", and Sugar Water found a spot on the sound track. Included on a special tribute album to the French pop star, "Serge Gainsbourg", Cibo Matto performed the song "J'Etaime". Mitchell Froom invited Miho to sing on a track for his CD. In her spare time, Miho also joined Arto Lindsay and Kat Bjelland of "Babes In Toyland" to record a song for the soundtrack of the film "Witchblade". In her off hours, Yuka continues to learn and experiment with her production talents and sampling tricks. In this way, Cibo Matto remains very visible despite the lull in time that has passed since the release of their second CD.

In 1998, Sean completed working on his own solo album, "Into the Sun". He brought Yuka into the studio to produce Into the Sun. The new album is handled by Grand Royal Records. Yuka helped Sean to bring out the emotional thoughtfulness in the quality of his album. Together they painted a picture of an introspective, young man's vulnerability in a chaotic and ever changing world. Like other Cibo Matto projects, Sean choose to diversify the project, instead of following one particular musical style.

YukaDuring breaks from their performances, Cibo Matto began work on their third Warner Brother album that was originally scheduled for release in early 1999. Instead of rushing the album, the band decided to further incubate the material through live performance and pushed the release schedule into the summer of 1999. Yuka has become an ever increasing perfectionist, and labored endlessly on bringing together the final masters to completion. Cibo Matto has a need to remain in artistic control of their presentation, they don't leave the work to outside chance by outsourcing to third parties. Instead they prefered to take the extra time to personally oversee the application on the album's finishing touches. This included paying attention to cover artwork, design, and ensuring the proper credits are included. Like a fine wine, it improved with time. While their fans waited for the new album, they had plenty of chances to see Cibo Matto on tour in their native element.

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