Instead of releasing an album of brand-new material, Californian singer/songwriter Mia Doi Todd asked fellow Plug Research labelmates and other musicians to remix five songs from 2005's Manzanita (two are included more than once), added four new songs, and put it all out as La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita. Todd's music, her clean soprano, and her thin instrumental arrangements lend themselves well to interpretation and interpolation, so overall the album is fairly successful. Apparently, "My Room Is White" was a particular favorite, as it was covered three times in three very different manners. Dungen's remix is haunting, drawing out the mystique in Todd's voice, while Reminder decided to stick with the sparseness of the original, adding only some light synthesizers and guitar. The "Flying Lotus" remix is the most drastically different version, adding a funkier lounge beat, distortion, and mixing the vocals to the point of incomprehensibility, but it works well and adds a lively touch to the record. Of course, there are a few pointless remixes that don't bring much to the originals (Chessie's take on "Muscle, Blood & Bone," for example, preserves the austere simplicity of the version on Manzanita, but somehow, despite the additions of synths and drums, is fairly boring and drags on for its entire six minutes), but for the most part the producers are able to effectively explore their own personal preferences through the means of Todd's music. Her new material is nice, too. There are two synth-based tunes (the remix of the lovely "Amor," and the closing track, a loping instrumental) and two simple, pretty acoustic songs more in the vein of Manzanita, a cover of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" which, besides switching genders, doesn't change much from the original, and "Kokoro," which seems very much inspired by Caetano Veloso's version of "Cucurrucucu Paloma," onomatopoeia and all. La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita is a nice collection of the possibilities of Todd's work and a promising sign for future releases.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown