Seiko Oomori
Kintsugi



Release Date: 12/09/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Stop the music?

Few artists write an opener like Seiko Oomori. Almost all her releases kick off with a lightning-in-a-bottle mission statement that scores an instant highlight while offering a comprehensive digest of things to come. Sennou has a dizzying tribute to manic excess; kitixxxgaia has a rallying hymn that tears up Japan’s social fabric into innocuous once-upon-a-time-isms; Tokyo Black Hole has a sweeping assertion of pop stateliness, bombastic and bittersweet in equal measure. Hot off the press, her new full-length Kintsugi has its own calling card. The album opens as though sleepwalking out of a distant dream, picking up whatever expectations you’d have for a J-pop firebrand seven albums into her career and scattering them like a frozen pattern of stars over the stillest of night skies. It is immediately clear that we are in for something special.

The aptly named “Yuugata Mirage” (Evening Mirage) lays out one of Seiko’s strongest foundations to date. Kicking off with a shimmering haze of guitars and a vocal performance that stands at once among her most confident and fragile to date, the track explodes midway into a hair-raisingly momentous chorus and hangs over the rest of the album with unforgettable resonance. It’s a magical beginning on face-value, yet its thematic side makes for a particular rich opening. That hair-raising first peak is spearheaded by a yearning chant of “I wanna sleep”, yet in the deliriously intense monologue that marks the track’s most oneiric moment, Seiko invokes her assorted roles as a mother, a wife, a human, a vessel of love, and just herself as distinct shapes fusing together over the surface of her futon. This fusion and ambiguity is inadequate for her: her immediate wish is to regain those roles, by implication in their individuality, and her delivery suggests a near-breathless preciousness and wonder as she cites each in turn. This is striking for anyone familiar with her lyrics: until now, those roles and their balance were a source of huge tension within her work, particularly on her preceding album Kusokawa Party. That album had barely gone a minute before it referenced public contempt at Seiko’s model of motherhood in implied contrast to her controversial platform as an artist; it aligned this with a forced reconstruction of her most angelic qualities into the image of the grim reaper, an image that cast a long shadow over its runtime.

Kintsugi’s opening isn’t an active inversion of this dynamic, but it immediately suggests a different standpoint. Whatever else we might say for the Seiko Oomori of 2020, she’s clearly inclined to map herself out in less troubling terms. That said, the track is hardly peaceful. Its dreamlike layerings are complemented by explosive dynamics, its spoken-word climax is spellbindingly tense, and the lyrics are as full of polarity as anything she’s written. “I love everything, so I want to betray it all this evening” posits one chorus; “I hate everything, so I want to love it all this evening” ripostes the next. However, these patterns of contrast and contradiction are well established within her work by now, smacking of a wry sense of assurance rather than the chaotic self-realisation that ran through her earlier albums. Back then, she carried herself largely by raw conviction, but there’s a new sense of maturity and self-harmony behind “Yuugata Mirage”’s majestic rising and falling, its pacing more in tune with meditative breathing than the exhilarate hyperventilation of classic Seiko fare. Both lyrically and musically, it feels in tune with itself in a way we’ve rarely heard from her before: the stage is set accordingly.

If “Yuugata Mirage” sees Seiko Oomori rouse herself from a deep reverie to find herself more collected than ever, the rest of the album follows through with her most exuberant and varied effort since her 2014 masterpiece Sennou. “Echi Echi DELETE” immediately kicks up the energy with the kind of elated pop-rock banger that every other track on kitixxxgaia wished it could be, and it’s a blast from then on. “S.O.S.F. Yomei Ni Nen” is a particular standout and another of her best rockers to date, fawning over midtempo glory and the kind of tearaway whimsy that recalls Judy and Mary at their finest, while “Makka ni Somatta Christmas” (that’s Christmas Dyed Blood-Red) stretches that quality out in a uniquely strained take on festive kitsch. On the other hand, “Counter Culture” is template J-pop brightness that shows once again that Seiko’s songwriting chops can manage domestic crowdpleasers just as well as artsy subversion. It’s a bit of a safe bet for her, but then again she also gives us “Night on the Planet”, an unlikely foray into fuzzy downtempo psych-pop that stands as a kind of halfway house between post-Yoshimi Flaming Lips and vintage Tujiko Noriko. The gutsiness of this track is echoed in sequencing decisions further down the line, most notably between “Dakyoushi” and “Cunning Heel.” The former is silly, breezy fun, an almost infuriatingly twee schoolgirl banger that hands Seiko’s longstanding actress pal Ai Hashimoto a mic debut; the latter is an almost comically intense electro-pop throwdown that any one of the most obnoxious alt-idol groups on today’s circuit would doubtless sell a member to add to their catalogue. Either of these songs could have sunk the album’s midsection with even the slightest bit less oomph; back to back, they make up for one its most deliciously crass twists.

This gambit might have once seemed like pure audacity, but in keeping with Kintsugi’s prevailing collectedness, it smacks less of restlessness and more of a shrewd gauging of contemporary trends. Seiko appears to be playing the common game on her own terms. It’s a far cry from how Zettai Shoujo and Sennou seemed ready to throw out the pop rulebook entirely, but it sits well in the scheme of this album’s consistency. Other assets to this end are its full-bodied production and clear mix, along with its heavy predilection for twinkling piano accompaniments. These are convenient enough as threads of continuity, but the real factor holding the whole thing together is the sheer personality and forcefulness of Seiko’s performance. Her vocals show a small step up in tunefulness from Kusokawa Party, but she rarely makes her delivery entirely contingent on this, belting, whispering, yowling and stream-of-consciousness-ing as compellingly as ever. In this sense, very little has changed.

One thing is worth flagging up, though: the lead single "Singer Songwriter" uses the record’s most note-perfect charting of mainstream pop as a basis for realigning her angle on the role of music and her audience’s attitudes of consumption. There’s a lot to pick apart here, but the crux of track lies in its rapturous English language bridge mantra of “Stop the music”, climaxing with a stern chastisement against listening to any music-that-stabs (刺さる音楽) in which the listener mistakenly places themselves as the object (addressee). The song partially clarifies the sense of this earlier on, brushing off the gloom-mongering of contemporary radio “prophets” with overlong bangs. It’s easy enough to drop this into a Western plane of vision and insert the likes of Lana del Rey or Phoebe Bridgers into Seiko’s implied firing line, but I think the key takeaway comes from its less obvious implication of self-effacement. Music-that-stabs is, after all, a dead ringer for much of Seiko’s own emotionally acute penmanship and forceful performance style, not to mention that “Night on the Planet” is about as explicitly gloomy as a song can be, that Seiko actively assumed a priestess-prophetess standpoint during her kitixxxgaia era, or that her own bangs, as per the “Singer Songwriter” video, are comfortably over her eyebrows.

This self-alignment is less a dig at the platform she actively occupies and much more a rejection of her work being consumed in a way that would frame her as the kind of doom-artist she decries. “I don’t want to write the kind of music that stabs you” asserts the chorus; “Let me live, let me breathe” goes the incantation-like central hook. These are her songs and her intentions, and “Singer Songwriter“ is in large part a cry to leave her authorship in its own sphere of personality and spare it from conjecture and misinterpretation. Yet at the same time, her passionate style and her declaratively personal voice are still open invitations for us to try to understand her, lyrically or otherwise. The themes covered in the opener and the closer “Kekkon”’s affectionately backhanded ode to marriage (another longstanding Seiko theme) are two particularly obvious moments to this end. Where, then, does this authorship-that-wishes-to-be-approached ultimately leave its audience? The answer turns out to be incredibly obvious: in identifying the vast, generous, turbulent energy that courses through everything she has ever laid to record as a resolutely positive force. “Let me love, let me love; I love” clamours the final chorus, with the implication of a you-object hanging heavy over each iteration. Music-that-loves rather than music-that-stabs it is, then. Goodness knows she didn’t need to make this stunner of an album any more appealing, but if ever there was an artist to go the extra mile…



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user ratings (26)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2020


31659 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

thanks and fuck you Seiko Oomori and Ichiko Aoba for releasing two wonderful records for me to cover in consecutive days. i sleep now.



album is magic. not sure what my rating should really be other than a high one. mhm

Digging: Fushitsusha - Live I

parksungjoon
December 11th 2020


25690 Comments


pog

Digging: Government - Shitshitshit [japanese death poem]

Sinternet
December 11th 2020


23731 Comments


not the death cab for cutie album i'd choose to do a full cover of but good on her!

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2020


31659 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

what would be your pick

and when can we hear it?

LeddSledd
December 11th 2020


3014 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this has got to be a prank, japan's never made any good music

Digging: The Chariot - One Wing

SteakByrnes
December 11th 2020


22098 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dope, I'm gonna check this out later

parksungjoon
December 11th 2020


25690 Comments


>this has got to be a prank, japan's never made any good music


kazumoto endo

Slex
December 11th 2020


10923 Comments


And Envy???? Smfh

Digging: Seiko Oomori - Kintsugi

Sinternet
December 11th 2020


23731 Comments


post-industrial remake of plans, due out march 2042

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2020


31659 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

why are we earnestposting individual artists at that perfectly gauged comment, and why is Envy among the first artists being earnestposted lmao

2042 isn't nearly the best year of that decade, but i can fw a march release date

parksungjoon
December 11th 2020


25690 Comments


trying to get leddsledd to listen to some noise :]

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2020


31659 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

oh okay fair, continue

Lord(e)Po)))ts
December 11th 2020


64984 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Kintsugi pottery is pretty cool this album is probably a 2.4 tho

Digging: Goldie Boutilier - Very Best

vacantPlanet
December 11th 2020


20 Comments


Oh nice, I had no idea she had a new one coming out.
Where's the 'best' place to buy music from Japanese artists (aside from the stuff on bandcamp)? Don't mind paying but I'd prefer if more of my money went to the musicians rather than the platform.

CalculatingInfinity
December 11th 2020


9295 Comments


Buying from HMV.co.jp or Tower Records would be your best bet to help the musician the most in terms of pay cut (plus it counts as a charting sale, which actually matters in Japan). However, you'd have to use a proxy service like Treasure Japan or a forwarding service like Blackship (which cost more) unless the EMS shipping rates by HMV are reasonable to your country. Your second best option would be Amazon.jp or CD Japan for a new release.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 11th 2020


31659 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

yeah, just buy the disc by whatever means are most convenient. gonna snag a copy next time i'm tokyo

pots, can confirm you would vom this

FadedSun
December 11th 2020


2449 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The opener didn't draw me in at all, honestly. It was the second track that had me pulled in.

ChoccyPhilly
December 11th 2020


13114 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yes boi, will be sure to give this a go

Digging: Aethyrick - Apotheosis

Lucman
December 11th 2020


5106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Here it is haha. Amped to read this Johnny dude. Album is stupendous and crazy and brilliant.

Digging: Mew - Frengers

Lord(e)Po)))ts
December 11th 2020


64984 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

"gonna snag a copy next time i'm tokyo"



Yeah if you were an anamorphs character you would just transform into the city of Tokyo



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