Got an Appetite for Dance? Cibo Matto's Modern Mix Defies Labels, but It's Got Some Tasty Grooves

By Kening, Dan | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 21, 1997 | Go to article overview

Got an Appetite for Dance? Cibo Matto's Modern Mix Defies Labels, but It's Got Some Tasty Grooves


Kening, Dan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dan Kening Daily Herald Music Critic

The scoop

- Who: Cibo Matto, the Pulsars

- Where: Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago

- When: 10 p.m. today

- Tickets: $9; (773) 549-0203

You can call the female duo Cibo Matto (pronounced Chee-bo Mott-o) lots of things. You can call their blend of dance, electronic, R&B, trip-hop, Brazilian and punk music wacky, goofy, intense, hypnotic or quixotic.

Just don't refer to vocalist Miho Hatori or keyboardist-sampler Yuka Honda or their music as "cute."

The c-word really bugs the Japanese expatriates who live on New York's Lower East Side and who recently released the "Super Relax" E.P.

' "Viva! La Woman' (1996) was our first experience with an album of our own, so we didn't know what to expect," said Honda, who, together with Hatori, bassist Sean Ono Lennon and drummer Timo Ellis (the latter two currently on hiatus from their group IMA), will perform today at Metro in Chicago.

"We didn't get that many bad reviews, but we hated the good ones that talked about, 'Oh, they're so cute!' Also, people would compare us with (the all-female Japanese punk group) Shonen Knife, and we have nothing to do with them except for the fact that we're Japanese.

"This 'cute' stuff is very frustrating. I worked very hard on this album and locked myself into the studio for weeks and months and got really stressed out. So then when people can only say, 'Oh, you're so cute,' it's really annoying."

Indeed, the music of Cibo Matto (the name is broken Italian for "Food Madness") can be deceptive. If you focus strictly on Hatori's heavily accented English on songs like "Birthday Cake," in which she gleefully chants, "Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil, MSG/Shut up and eat," you might miss some of the creative sampling provided by Honda.

And while songs like "White Pepper Ice Cream" and "Know Your Chicken" are bizarre to the point of surrealism, the lyrics to "Artichoke" are quite poetic: "My heart is like an artichoke/Your hands are like a rusty knife/Are you gonna keep on peeling me?"

Although Honda and Hatori attended the same high school in Tokyo, they didn't meet until years later, when they were both living in New York on the fringes of the downtown music scene. They naturally gravitated together, with Honda joining Hatori's punk band Leitoh Lychee (Frozen Lychee Nut). Aside from their background, the two discovered they had another thing in common: a love of food.

"After we'd finish rehearsing with our punk band, Miho and I would go out and eat together," Honda said. "We liked to find funky restaurants and try different types of food. A lot of people in this country underestimate the importance of food. Even though they eat it every day they think it's odd to pay attention to it. Food is a great art. Food is like the air: it's the only foreign substance that goes inside of your body. It's a pretty important thing, food."

With Leitoh Lychee going nowhere, Honda and Hatori began to get invited to perform as a duo during improv jams in New York clubs. …

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