Boomkat Product Review:
Phew's furiously original 1992 album is a collaboration with D.A.F.'s Chrislo Haas, who helped mastermind the enduringly intriguing session alongside Einstürzende Neubauten's Alex Hacke, Can's Jaki Liebezeit, and Thomas Stern.
What better way to follow-up 'New Decade', Hiromi Moritani's stunning return to Mute, than with a reissue of her last brush with the label back in 1992? "Our Likeness" was an album that had been years in the making when it arrived. When Moritani had been recording her 1981 debut album in Conny Plank's studio, after parting ways with her punk band Aunt Sally, she ran into Chrislo Haas who sat and watched her record without saying a word. Soon after he visited her in Tokyo and the two vowed to work together; a few months later they revisited Plank's studio and recorded "Our Likeness" with Haas's carefully picked team of session players.
Musically it's an album that was painfully misunderstood on its release and has matured like a fine wine. Moritani's guttural delivery is well-matched to her band's tightly wound post-punk instrumentation; she's a versatile performer and easily slides from manic screaming to pitchy ballideering, riding the rhythms like a rapper at one moment and swooping like a circuit bent theremin at another. Opening track 'The Last Song' is dark and ritualistic, and introduces Moritani's vocals slowly, with sparse, haunted instrumentation, but the title track is a complete about turn, setting wobbly guitar riffs against Moritani's acrobatic Japanese phrasing.
It's on 'Being' that we get a taste of how far Moritani is able to push things, screaming over pounding drums and Wire-like serrated guitars - moments later the mood is reduced to a low-slung dub crawl on 'Like Water And Water', and Moritani's vocals are more like a possessed whisper. There's a level of ambition here that's hard to overstate; it's quite clear that both Haas and Moritani were driven to produce music that wasn't simply a carbon copy of what had already done, they wanted to craft something that challenged both of them. Years later it still sounds like a wrinkle in time, an album that exists just outside the established logic of the early 1990s.