Hex Kitchen showcases downtown New York musician Ikue Mori at the height of her compositional abilities. While her unique manipulation of samples and drum machines always yields interesting sounds, some of her improvisatory and recorded work leaves something to be desired in terms of musical structure. This release, however, offers the fascinating percussive and machine sounds Mori is known for, along with some highly inventive, yet listenable songs. Most of the tracks even clock in at the three- to four-minute range, making for the closest approximation of a conventional album that will ever come from this purely experimental electronic musician. Boasting an appearance by John Zorn on clarinet, Hex Kitchen is an all-star avant-garde ensemble piece with some inspired playing by Zeena Parkins on electric harp and accordion, trombonist Jim Staley, and violinist Hahn Rowe. The real highlights of the album come with the first three tracks, though. Album opener "Slush" showcases Mori's unique approach to rhythm with driving, syncopated solo drum machines and sampler. "Woke Up Aghast" is rather catchy with a rolling bassline courtesy of Hideki Kato and surprising use of bagpipes by David Watson. Here, Mori also introduces her haunting use of vocals, which have a sort of lullaby-ish quality that portrays a frightening innocence when coupled with Mori's abrasive samples. Zorn's clarinet work, coupled with Parkins' accordion and the odd vocalizations of Catherine Jauniaux on "Angler Fish" make for the album's best moments. Hex Kitchen remains consistently solid, however, with Mori laying a solid foundation for the other musicians to work on top of, using drum machines and samplers to create alternately strong rhythmic bases and brief blasts of utter chaos. The sum total is an engaging experimental work that would be a good starting point for the uninitiated.
Hex Kitchen Review
by Matthew Carlin