Cibo Matto

  • Cibo Matto
  • Cibo Matto EP (El Diablo) 1995 
  • Viva! La Woman (Warner Bros.) 1996 
  • Stereotype A (Warner Bros.) 1999 
  • Super Relax (Japan. JVC) 2001 

New York voice-and-keyboards duo Cibo Matto (the name is Italian for “food madness”) began as a side project of the legendary short-lived Laito Lychee. The two Japanese expatriates in that group, Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda, started writing songs inspired by the tremendous variety of comestibles available in NYC. They quickly evolved into an unconventional but delightful live act: tiny Hatori whispering, shouting, singing and rapping into her microphone, Honda behind her keyboard, impassively drawing out one wildly funky, unrecognizable sample after another. (“Apple” briefly uses a riff from Gilberto Gil’s “Ponto de Lanca Africana”; that’s as close as they ever get to obviousness, which is to say, not very.)

Viva! La Woman, the pair’s first full-length album, contains most of Cibo Matto’s early live staples — “Sugar Water,” “Beef Jerky,” “Birthday Cake” (with its unforgettable “shut up and eeeeeat!” chorus) — together with a couple of ringers, like the languid “White Pepper Ice Cream” and a very peculiar cover of Anthony Newley’s “The Candy Man.” Hatori plays up the cute-Japanese-chick thing, aided by her very strong accent, but consistently tricky, witty lyrics save her: “We love LSD/We die easily/Can we just say c’est la vie?” And Honda is amazing, gracing the fast songs with snatches of soulful organ (she was briefly in Brooklyn Funk Essentials) and the slow ones with great weird stuff, like the keening tone at the end of “Artichoke.”

The Cibo Matto EP collects two early singles — initial versions of “Birthday Cake” and “Beef Jerky,” a ferocious take on “Know Your Chicken” with Russell Simins (of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, also a member of Butter 08, the Cibo Matto women’s side band) drumming and a creamy cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” — and tosses in an improvised instrumental, “Crumbs.”

[Douglas Wolk]

See also: Morningwood