Check-In to Cibo Matto’s Hotel Valentine: Real Vs. Dream

Cibo Matto return with their first album in fifteen years, and their third venture together as a duo. Yuka Honda (serving mostly as the instrumentalist) and Miho Hatori (vocals) disappeared for nearly ten years, disbanding after a 2002 tour. Honda and Hatori noted that it was a sad time for them, but they knew they had to grow out of what they had become, and their return is evidence of their growth.  Hotel Valentine, a concept album based on a ghost girl living in a hotel, is a journey coursed through retro trip-hop and electronic rock.

The Japanese duo from New York has actually seen little success in Japan, but they have achieved a cult following in the States, following the release of their 1996 hit single “Sugar Water” from the album Viva! La Woman (made popular via MTV and a performance in a fan-favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Cibo Matto’s sound is a marriage of PortisheadHooverphonicLali Puna, and Garbage, and they could very well be the band cousins of Little Dragon. On Hotel Valentine, the writing is atmospheric and abstract: words are hard to follow at times and concepts can get lost, and the storytelling is nonlinear.  But it doesn’t matter: Hatori’s voice is unique and creates a sense of allure, like whispers in ears from the residue of a recurring dream.   Almost jarringly, after she successfully lulls, Hatori turns into Shirley Manson, reaching into an aggressive and slightly vulgar (but invigorating) catharsis.

The instrumentals ride like a well-paced urban subway turned roller coaster. The thrill doesn’t overextend itself, but the dips and turns are present, without any warning or rising.  Honda turns “Déjà Vu” into a hip hop beat midway through, and Hatori blends right in rapping a few chill bars that feel natural to her voice.  She does it again in “Housekeeping,” displaying her comfort over a longer span. Hatori delivers a mysterious spoken word bit on “Lobby,” and allows their noise rock origins pulse through the addictive “10th Floor Ghost Girl.”  “MFN” is a genre-bending electronic rock-reggae fusion with edge (Hatori is clearly a fan of the f-bomb, but fashions it with an oddly charming braggadocio). The title track “Hotel Valentine” fits African percussion with horns pulled from a Japanese jazz band that swim with patience along the flow, creating a strong sense of movement. This is where Cibo Matto shows their progression the most, diverting from beat loops featured heavily in their previous records.

It’s exciting that Cibo Matto has returned. Their velvety samples with plucky riffs and abstract, puckish lyrics reveal their maturity. A cohesive assortment that has courage within its experimentation, Hotel Valentine is a satisfying story worth multiple listens. This is more than a lounge album with dope beats. Hopefully, Cibo Matto remains together and produces more albums over the next few years, and sooner than later this time.

Check out Cibo Matto’s video for MFN below!  Love it?  Hate it?  Tell us in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Deerhoof and Cibo Matto Rock Off Socks At Union Transfer - Rock On Philly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.