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Friday, Aug. 11, 2006


Nikaido Kazumi "Nikaido Kazumi No Album"

Kazumi Nikaido's first solo album in three years is an odd proposition. It's scattered and insane, like a schizophrenic puppy that's been at the cough medicine. But when it shines, it really shines.

Understated opener "Rail No Sono Mukou" ambles along, Nikaido's high-pitched voice wandering aimlessly over bare piano. But with third track "Anoko No Ano Koro," her voice suddenly fills with charm, carrying a pensive mouthful-of-marbles quality that recalls Canto-pop singer/actress Faye Wong. The song's brooding melancholy provides a perfect background for her sultry, emotive, crystal-clear vocals.

Rapid-fire experimental jazz number "Kyo o Tou Part 2" follows, a sweaty pulse-quickener that crackles and spits like sparks of static from a cat's fur. Lazy summertime love song "Lovers Rock" carries dazed affection and is utterly sexy, its swooning horns and soft vocals tugging gently at both heart and loins. And as the album continues to unfold, it becomes clear that Nikaido's style is unclassifiable, a mish-mash of influences from Showa pop to '60s acoustica and beyond.

While some of its less focused moments let it sink into the background, "Nikaido Kazumi No Album" is a fine mess to get yourself into. Sure, it doesn't always work; but its whimsical palette offers inspired flashes of perfection.

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