When you call a band “artsy,” it can be an absolute epithet. An “artsy” band has no sense of humor; an “artsy” band makes music that us commoners couldn’t possibly begin to understand. Thankfully, there’s Cibo Matto. The New York-via-Japan duo is one of the few “artsy” bands to escape that albatross and score some hits. Part of that is, yes, due to their uncompromising musical vision. Cibo Matto’s songs are kaleidoscopic pastiches of hip-hop beats, samples, child-like melodies, and electronica–no one else sounds like them. But the band does it all with a sly smile. “We used to call ourselves comedians, not musicians,” says co-leader Yuka Honda. Cibo Matto, after all, is Italian for “crazy food.”
Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori first hit big in the ’90s with a couple of food-inspired songs that wound up on MTV and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. After only two albums, Cibo Matto broke up, but Yuka and Miho stayed busy. Over the years, they’ve collaborated with Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Gorillaz, and Martha Wainwright, never content to sit back and relax. Even with the reunion of Cibo Matto, Yuka and Miho were painstaking about the process, spending two years on their comeback album. The result is Hotel Valentine, a song cycle that finds the band’s powers undiminished. It’s nominally about a ghost that lives in a hotel, but the narrative is only half the fun. Cibo Matto cram so much sonic detail into their songs that listening becomes one big easter egg hunt. “10th Floor Ghost Girl” is the album’s funky centerpiece, perfectly danceable and joyous in equal measure.
Catch Cibo Matto at the Mohawk tonight and tomorrow live from Studio 1A at 7pm on KUTX 98.9.