Sha' Cho Mouse's Photo-Synthesizer presents an intriguing mix of trip-hop, electronica, musique concrete, orchestral pop, and traditional Japanese instrumentation. The first half of the album sounds like an entertaining but somewhat derivative cross between Garbage's bleakly glamorous techno-pop and Bjork's symphonic/electronic fairytales, especially on "Dead On," "Ice Scream!," and "Tiny Girl." As Photo-Synthesizer progresses, the Tokyo-based group begins to craft their own identity with hazy, dreamy pieces like "Arlite?" Significantly, the band's most original and effective songs are either sung in Japanese and/or feature indigenous instruments like the koto. "Toy Box" combines a stuttering trip-hop beat, emotive Japanese vocals, and percussion into a spooky, sensual delight, while the delicate instrumental "Day Dreaming" blends bird calls, layered, rippling shakuhachi flutes, a rainstorm, and subtle keyboard drones. The album also includes two bonus tracks: a brittle, music box-driven mix of "Ice.B" and a drum'n'flutes mix of "Ice Scream!" Though the extra songs make the album a bit on the long side, Sha' Cho Mouse can be forgiven, because Photo-Synthesizer is one of those rare albums that gets better and more original as it unfolds.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares