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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Foods, Group_Inou, Gals-003

Foods is Group_Inou's first mini-album and it's more of a taster rather than a fully-fledged statement of intent. The album's five tracks (four songs and an alternative version of the opener, Status) are a good introduction to the duo's mix of skewed 90's electronica (think Orbital or Everything Must Go-era Moby underpinned with a Parliament bass line) and hip-hop vocals, but they don't really capture the frenetic energy of their live shows or the sheer level of noise that two people can produce. Then again, given that M.C cp is wont to wander off stage and perform from the audience, and imai (the musical manipulator) spends the show alternately pummelling his electronic box of tricks and flailing around like an electrocuted squid, it's difficult to see how they could ever reproduce this on C.D. They also have a D.V.D available and it might be a better way to showcase their talents.

Each of the songs are strong (although the alternate version of Status seems to be little more than padding – after all, four is an unlucky number in Japan) but the second song here, ROD stands out in particular. The first couple of minutes are fairly sedate (by Group_Inou's standards), with cp at his least manic and imai backing him up with some gentle burbles and squeaks. Normal service is resumed in the final minute of the song though when it appears that imai is imbued with a junglist spirit and all hell breaks loose. However, unlike most drum and bass tracks this song is gone in less than three and half minutes. While short may be sweet, on more than one occasion I was left wishing that Group_Inou had extended their songs and taken the chance to explore the soundscapes that imai seems to create effortlessly. This is especially true of PR which clocks in at barely a minute and a half. I'm not advocating a return to the dark days of prog and the twenty minute drum solo, but perhaps when Group_Inou come to release a full-length album they'll feel more comfortable letting the songs stretch out a bit just to see where they go.

Group_Inou are proof that there's much more to Japanese hip-hop/urban music than the bling-bling and faux-gangsta posing of the wannabe homeboys and girls that dominate the mainstream and Foods is a very promising d├ębut. However, they're at their best when they're frying your synapses in some Shimokitazawa sweat box so beg, borrow, or steal (or even just buy) tickets for one of their shows. Foods ought to keep you going in the meantime though.