Ohayo! Hoahio!

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This is the wildest of the girl groups to come out of Japan. Forget Shonen Knife -- this is the real weird deal. Hoahio features the outrageously talented Haco from Japan's near legendary band, After Dinner, the koto stylings of Yagi Michiyo, and Otomo Yoshide collaborator Sachiko M., who does all kinds of strange, wonderful things with keyboards, samplers, and the like. What does it sound like? Nothing you've ever heard before. Given the prominent place of the koto, there is a folksy quality to the proceedings, but that doesn't mean this is folk music -- far from it. Instead, it's a dreamy, drifty kind of Japanese pop that owes nothing to American or Brazilian music for a change. Layered vocals and samplers entwine with the koto in patterns and melodies that create pure bliss for the listener. This music is adventurous; it takes lots of chances, but is very easy on the ears -- so easy it's seductive. Three standouts on an album full of them include the band's theme song, "Hoahio Song," with its electric mandolin meeting the koto; "Marimo," with its piezo microphone and double koto (17- and 20-string); and "Sea Wall III," written by Yagi Michiyo, with its amazing electronic percussion. Without a doubt, Ohayo! Hoahio! taken as an album is a far more satisfying experience. This haunting, hallucinatory, and gorgeous work is a lullaby for the dream pop generation who so desperately need a new anthem. It is also a huge emblem on the Japanese music scene's flag; they are exporting truly wonderful music for the rest of the world to be enchanted by. Hooray for Tzadik.

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