oto: Time Capsule Sunday
Otokikiyama Records

Like Markus Popp, Kiku Hibino (aka oto) founds his material on CD-skipping sounds. Which creates a bit of a problem for the Chicago-based Hibino, considering how indelibly Popp cornered the market on the style with Systemisch, Ovalprocess, et al. Yet despite the magnitude of that rather towering detail, oto's (which stands for ‘sounds' in Japanese) Time Capsule Sunday remains a generally satisfying collection, largely due to some stellar music-making. Yes, there are moments when the differences between the two artists collapses entirely—the whistles and whirrs that dominate “Pappzezz” and “Numbernine” sound little different from the electronic noises that squeal throughout any number of Oval pieces, for instance—but that's not always the case. Not only is the skipping style less conspicuous on “Whitewall” but the almost ambient setting is both arresting and entrancing; both here and in the equally lovely piano-based rumination “Otokikiyama,” Hibino takes his material into a peaceful and melancholic realm that Popp more alluded to in his Oval tracks. In short, the stylistic range of Time Capsule Sunday is wider than one might have expected and oto's music is all the better for it. Hibino changes things up further by coupling the CD-skipping elements with field recordings most in the title piece, where people's voices and the loud honk of a saxophone collide with the blur of piano-based ambient loops, and in the outro “Film” where children's voices softly rise over the piece's shimmering splendour. Such pieces clearly suggest that Hibino would be wise to de-emphasize if not retire the ‘skipping' dimension, given that the release's strongest moments are those where that effect disappears altogether.

May 2007