steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion


"Manchurian Candy" CD


Genres: electro, IDM, experimental electro

PO Box 39025
London E2 8WP

May 17 - 23 2004

Complex electronica is far from uncommon nowadays, although much of it tends to sacrifice melody in favour of quixotic beats and experimental sample carnage.  Every once in awhile, however, some electro pioneer taps into a style both accessible and wickedly complex.  We've seen Aphex Twin do it, we've seen Autechre do it (to some extent), and more recently there have been acts like Venetian Snares and DNTEL getting into the mix.  Judging by the success of these various names, there's clearly something brooding in today's IDM generation - someone's caught on: "hey, we don't have to be boring anymore!"

Enter UtabiManchurian Candy is the first I've heard of him (Utabi is really just the 'moniker' of Utabi Hirokawa), but I'm hoping it won't be the last.  This disc, though a bit of an earful (cut-up samples and confusing yet rhythmic beats are in excess), is actually very melodic.  Even on the first listen, the audience is greeted by catchy little segments of tunefulness and electro-harmony.  Although the compositions' arrangement abnormality will likely (and predictably) scare off unaccustomed ears, those who stick around will be rewarded.

"Three Tennies" is a fine slice of Utabi IDM-pop; videogame synths play the melody over a snippy, clippy electronic beat.  It's like Autechre versus the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack.  "Lighpotllution" and "Set Her Eyes Xochipilli" are wonderfully lush, pretty songs with joyously uplifting melodies - subtle comparisons to Royksopp are inevitable.  The album's epic finale, "Cassia Angustiflia," is very structurally similar to DNTEL's beautiful "Anywhere Anyone," except with more of a rhythmic angle.

Utabi's Manchurian Candy is a beautiful IDM release that should be heard by all true electronic music lovers.  Though it may be a bit too video game influenced for some tastes, its sheer melodic sensibility - an increasing rarity in modern "intelligent" electronic music - truly is a thing to behold.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 23 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2004]