15 years is a long time when you think about it. I mean it normally is a long time, I don’t think anyone could argue it not being… But when you put it into the context of a new Cibo Matto album, you might turn your head to a side slightly, squint, and a deep inward voice will just say ‘huh’.
It’s probably because I have no real sense of time.
I originally discovered Cibo Matto in the game ‘Jet Set Radio Future‘ for the Xbox, (probably around the time they’ve disbanded.) and didn’t actually acquire Viva! La Woman and Stereo ★ Type A until a year later. So my enjoyment of the band was a little more than ‘late to the party.’
But looking back at it, I probably came in at the right time. As soon as I became entranced by both albums, I got enough of a fill of everyone’s solo pursuits at the same time. Yuka Honda going into a direction you can describe as an entry level Yoko Ono (given that Sean Lennon was one part CB, I guess it’s a no brainer), and Miho Hatori just pursuing whatever seems to interest her.
Regardless of their other projects, they always found a way to stay connected.
At a certain point, I myself pursued other tastes in music and discovered other artists, because that’s just what we do as people. So I was actually caught off guard by my surprise that Cibo Matto released Hotel Valentine on Valentine’s day of this year.
I wasn’t even home to begin with, but that’s beside the point.
The album is essentially ghosts in a hotel, and the narrative that weaves around that concept. It’s interesting that their new project, back under the Cibo Matto name, is to tell a story. Perhaps all those years exploring and evolving has lead them to pursue and album that’s all supposed to mean something together. But that doesn’t mean that all the tracks can’t be enjoyed separately.
It actually starts out pretty strong with ‘check in’. That sound that they refined in Stereo ★ Type A feels very much alive in the opening track. Soon after from Deja Vu to Mfn it’s back into that familiar territory from 15 years ago.
That music flawlessly pouring out of some kind of ‘trip hop’ machine, backed by Miho’s vocals, is so distinctive. I got a strange rush of enthusiasm the moment Miho belted out a Rap in Deja Vu.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the thick accent. Maybe it’s the beat that compliments the rap to make it flow so well. I just find myself getting into it, the moment I hear it. I felt some sort of validation that after 15 years, Cibo Matto is still very much what it’s always been.
That can mean a lot in a long time. Especially after all those years apart, working on themselves. They did something to the effect of taking the old, and making a new version of it. Which helps me as a listener think ‘oh man, yeah! This is totally them.’ then it gets to me a little nostalgically.
[This is pretty much the part where, after buying Hotel Valentine I grabbed Viva! La Woman and Stereo ★ Type A off the CD rack, just so I could play them all back to back.]
But it’s not all completely perfect, mind you. I felt like it began to lose momentum around Empty Pool, as the last four tracks on the CD wanted to go into a different direction. While the album is attempting to give you a narrative (which is perfectly fine, rather interesting in retrospect), it’s latter half feels better suited for a different album. My overall experience felt shorter, as I’m only in the mood for one part or the other. Never, was I fully listening to the entire thing in one go.
I guess it begs the question how the whole album stacks up. Within the last 15 years both Yuka and Miho have really been able to explore their talents. Find what absolutely works for them, and hone it. Valentine Hotel proves that what Cibo Matto is, was always there. But within that 2 years of it’s production (since it was announced in 2012), part of it seemed like it was changed along the way.
Even still… As a fan of them like anyone else, I’m just happy to see another album.