Almost immediately after the end of last year's Siouxsie & The Banshees tour, the Creatures were at it again. They were in Tokyo, they were feeling inspired, they were feeling feisty, so they set up a recording session with legendary Taiko drummer Leonard Eto. The end result of the ninety-minute plus session is the foundation of Hai, the first new Creatures studio album in almost half a decade. Budgie, a huge fan of KODO (and of Eto's work in particular), utilized these sessions to give the Creatures an even more alive and fresh sound.
In the past, the Creatures have recorded albums in Hawaii, France and Spain. Recording music for Hai in Japan and their home in France proved difficult. Even more daunting is their augmentation of the relentless sounds of Budgie and Eto's Taiko sessions with Siouxsie's crafted lyrics.
Hai begins with the loosely constructed "Say Yes," which opens with a lengthy Eto and Budgie percussive throwdown that rises and builds before Siouxsie sings a word. It is a free track, not bound by traditional song arrangements. "Godzilla" sounds similar to Kaleidoscope-era Siouxsie. The xylophones are there, as are the odd bells. By penning the sublimely funny and simple song, the Creatures show a lightness in their mood rarely exhibited previously.
"Imagoro" is a definitively Japanese track. Siouxsie builds her vocals from the ground up. The verses ebb from underneath Shinto-esque chants. The quiet bells and shallow percussion underneath the track frailly hold the vocals up.
For almost ten minutes, "Tourniquet" wears sexual tension on its sleeve. It is slinky and smoky and dark. Siouxsie wraps herself around her words. It is a dark and brooding piece of music, festooned with grimy vocals and melodies.
"Further Nearer" is slow, quiet and creepy. Its lyrics are fatalistic. The goth kids will love this one -- it's definitely the saddest moment on the album. "City Island" is a silent panorama of the Japanese experience. It is also a song that idyllically describes what Hokusai sounds like. There are elements of solitude, isolation, crowded cities, tranquil shrines and silence. The tone is one of brooding and longing. The opposite can be said of the last number, "Tantara." It is more confident, hopeful and uptempo. After a pause they round it all out with an a cappella reprise of "Say Yes!"
The album cover is a work by Kimiko Yoshida, a rising Japanese artist who works in Paris. It is a work of art that suits the album well: a picture of a veiled face, present yet invisible, which also could describe the tone of the record. Through the course of the album, competing sounds dance around; they twist and contort. The vocals recall the snarling, spirited sounds of older Siouxsie records, but she sings over sweeping and orchestral tapestries that sound like a Kurosawa soundtrack. Budgie has made these songs appear quiet, ambient, tribal and transient. Upon closer inspection, they are well crafted, painstakingly shaped sculptures, tinged with Nipponese-influenced seasoning.
Hai is a record that utilizes minimalism and isolation to the fullest extent. The Creatures have made a primal album full of mixed hopes, wanting and searching. They have taken elements of Edonese music, added sparse, dark lyrics and nomadic atmospherics to create an album that is rich and alive. The duo have given themselves a new identity, and have maybe restarted an artistic awakening that has been dormant.
Instinct Records: http://www.instinctrecords.com/