Boomkat Product Review:
Kiki Hitomi (King Midas Sound) & Shige Ishihara (DJ Scotch Egg) mesh Min'yō - C. 20th japanese folk - with rhythms cadged from footwork, J-Pop, B-More breaks and techno in their 2nd album as WaqWaq Kingdom
Adapting the homogenous style of Min'yō folk song to driving, worldly rhythms, the Kiki’s lM.I.A.-style lilt and Shige’s off-kilter programming yield a colourful album brimming with cartoonish, psychedelic detail as reflected in the cover art’s blend of traditional and modern aesthetics. Make sure to check for standout moments in the Burundi Black-style chants and percussive churn of ‘Circle of Life’, their tense instrumental drone and drums piece ‘GaGa’, and a meeting of trembling avant-folk-pop with spy jazz and psychedelia worth of comparison with Mr. Bungle in the 10 minutes of ‘Medicine Man’, starring guest input from Jimi Tenor and Tom Page.
“Uniquely omnivorous in their approach, WaqWaq Kingdom’s endless range of stylistic adventures sees them draw lines between traditional Japanese and contemporary electronic, between Jamaican dancehall and 8-bit techno, between African polyrhythms and experimental music, with plenty more helping to colour a powerful, vibrant palette. This new record - after 2017’s debut Shinsekai - is the first under the new line-up of Hitomi and Ishihara, as former drummer Andrea Belfi leaves the band for his own projects. This shift in personnel and dynamic has allowed Hitomi’s vocal delivery and Ishihara’s production to explore even deeper new ground, borrowing infinitesimally small snippets of sound and style to craft a singular hotpot of musics. From opener “Mum Tells Me” (written after Kiki sadly lost both her parents in a short period of time) and its Shinto bells and Afro-trap percussion, to “Itakadakimasu” and its reproach of human greed via twisted Cubo-Cumbia beats, Essaka Hoisa rarely stays in one place at a time.
Conceptually, Essaka Hoisa draws influence and imagery from traditional Japanese history and mythology. The title is taken from the cry of kago carriers - seen as Kiki and Shige on Kiki’s illustration for the record sleeve - two people carrying ruling-class or religious dignitaries over great distances. The shout Essaka Hoisa was said to lift the carriers’ spirits and strengthen their unity. In her lyrics, Kiki uses this imagery to explore our own reflective burden - experiencing life without an understanding of its meaning. Carrying hardship, sadness, pain and difficulty like a kago carrier, shouting essaka hoisa to get through the struggle. “We keep on going and shouting Essaka Hoisa together with partners, our kin, friends and people that we walk together and carrying on our life with laughter and tears,” Kiki writes. “No matter what, I am carrying on my life. I won’t give up and keep on going, keep on making, keep on learning with hollering the word Essaka Hoisa.”