Slap Happy Humphrey

Slap Happy Humphrey

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This one-off project from Japanese guitarist and producer JoJo Hiroshige brought to fruition his dream of fusing the ethereal songs of '70s singer Morita Doji with heavy, avant-garde noise. The arrangements are simple, stripped-down folk, mostly just Mineko Itakura's crystalline voice accompanied by acoustic guitar, violin, and occasional piano. Building on that foundation, the thing that defines Slap Happy Humphrey as a concept and makes the record unique is the addition of Hiroshige's howling, overdriven guitar at key points. Sometimes, as with "Sentimental Dori," the feedback remains a constant presence in the background as the tune progresses, mimicking the kind of static that comes from a slightly detuned transistor radio and thereby imparting a weird sense of nostalgia. Elsewhere, Hiroshige disrupts the light sense of reverie created by the melodic compositions with a completely unexpected and jarring blast. Hiroshige's noise interludes on "Tatoeba Bokuga Shindara" seem intent on destroying the ballad, but the song endures despite the periodic chaos. "Chihei-sen" begins with a heavy racket, then moves to a fragile minor-key piece with Itakura effectively performing a duet with the feedback on the wordless chorus. These odd juxtapositions keep the songs sounding fresh and unpredictable even after many listens, and the constant tension between these tuneful, gentle songs and the uncompromising psychedelic noise makes for an uneasy but ultimately fascinating listen.

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