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Stereotype A - Part 1
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Japanese Music Review
By: W. Dire Wolff

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MihoAfter the release of Super Relax, the band, Cibo Matto (touring members were then composed of Miho, Yuka Honda, Sean Lennon, and Timo Ellis), went back to what they enjoyed doing most, playing live gigs. During 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 has 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 prefer to take the extra time to personally oversee the application on the album's finishing touches. This includes paying attention to cover artwork, design, and ensuring the proper credits are included. Like a fine wine, it improves 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.

Cibo Matto had made a serious effort to create some well written and produced material for their first two "Cibo Matto" releases on Warner Brother Records. But their efforts became somewhat shrouded by the same stigmas that had made them successful. While the theme of food was important to induce the creative inspirations to produce Viva! La Woman, the world was expecting them to continue to write songs only about subjects like artichokes and chickens. Miho and Yuka were continually being forced to to shrug off comparisons to the other mainstay Japanese girl band, Shonen Knife, and the avant garde material of the Japanese duo know as Pizzicato 5. Furthermore, Yuka was feeling a little oppressed by chauvinist views that women could not become respected studio producers. While the band struggled for individuality, the press continued to try to cast them into conventional and oversimplified categories as musicians and as people. Their third major release and second LP (Long Playing Album) with Warner Brothers needed to be something even more focused to break out of the stereotypes they were being cast into.

Miho and Yuka are not ones to hide from adversity, and their time on the streets in New York City had taught them to react just the opposite. If the world was going to cast Cibo Matto into unwanted stereotypes, then they were going to lean back into the face of the wind and turn the force back against itself. Hence, the third major Cibo Matto was created with a new theme and title, "Stereotype A". Taking a Zen approach to the situation, the band stepped to the side of the blows and let the force of the opponent propel the project forward.

Stereotype AThe title of album, "Stereotype A", represents the focus of the band during it’s creation. Not only does the album’s title reflect the band’s desire to both deflect and capitalize on the stereotypes they were being cast into, it has a deeper meaning by separating the word "Stereo" from the suffix of "type". As Yuka explains, "Stereo is also what tells you where you are located. Dolphins can see what is happening with their sense of hearing. In a philosophical way, if you listen, you can tell where you are, or more importantly, where you are at. We have to learn to listen for ourselves with both our left and right ears, not just believe everything we are told." Listening is as important of an element to the creation of Cibo Matto’s music, as is the act of creating the parts of the musical arrangements. The band listens to each other’s ideas, they listen to the work of other artists and musicians, and they continue to listen to what they have created to see how all these ideas are blending together. With the themes of "Stereotype A" floating in the background, the band created a musical odyssey that would take their music and listeners to new and previously unexplored regions.

The material from their first LP had been generated from their early days of playing in tiny New York clubs, small art galleries, and any place that would let them set up and jam. After the success of their Warner Brothers’ release began to build the size of their fan base, they played in larger concert venues with new acoustic surroundings which required a different form of interaction with their audience. Of even greater consequence , Sean and Timo became a regular part of the Cibo Matto live experience. Having more musicians involved in the mix was both a necessary and desired component of performing in larger venues. Together with a changing cast of guest performers, the band’s performances at larger live shows continued to foster the need and the creative stimulus to work out new musical material.

Yuka HondaTo describe the music in Cibo Matto's "Stereotype A" is a task that cannot be done by choosing one particular stereotypical category. The album is a musical collage painted by the diverse musical backgrounds and interests of all four members of Cibo Matto, as well as the contributing artists. Within a given song, the listener can be taken from Rhythm and Blues (R&B) to Heavy Metal, or from Hip Hop Rap to a New Wave Country Waltz. The songs are arranged to take the listener through a series of musical landscapes that ease the transition from one level to the next. Each of the songs stands alone as a complex arrangement of diverse musical ideas that slowly build, dissipate, and then reappear as the journey continues. While presenting colorful musical layers that may challenge the technology to use every possible track of the recording medium, the listeners are provided frequent resting points in open spaces of simple melodies and effects. "Stereotype A" creates a unique musical sound to showcase Cibo Matto’s current "Soup Du Jour", and the album takes advantage of the best of many different musical genders.

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Photo Graphics on this page were created from larger format prints taken by Michael Lavine that are Copyright protected by Warner Brothers Records.

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