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Friday, July 3, 2009
Following Sheena Ringo can be a frustrating business. Her third album, 2003's "Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana" ("Lime, Semen, Chestnut Blossoms"), ranks as one of the most wildly ambitious pop records of the past decade, which made it all the more confounding when she ditched her solo career the following year to form the frighteningly ordinary Tokyo Jihen with her backing band. If her occasional work under her own name since then — including the soundtrack to Mika Ninagawa's 2007 film "Sakuran" — has reaffirmed her talents, it's also suggested a slight dimming of ambition and an increased willingness to fall back on old routines.
Ringo's first solo album in six years, "Sanmon Goshippu" ("Superficial Gossip") seldom strays outside her comfort zone, leaning heavily on jazz-pop and big band numbers. The opening songs, "Ryuukou" ("Vogue") and "Roudousha" ("Blue Collar"), wouldn't sound out of place on a Tokyo Jihen record, though they might feel less overcooked than these obviously studio-bound creations do. Collaborations with accordionist Coba and club jazz band Soil & "Pimp" Sessions are more convincing, the latter's rip-roaring performance on "Karisome Otome" ("Temporary Virgin") providing one of the record's highlights.
Still, it's a testament to how conventional most of "Sanmon Goshippu" sounds that the rare moments of sonic weirdness — such as the heavily processed synth-rock of "Togatta Teguchi" ("Sharp Practice") — sound out of place. "No, please just go / I've nothing more to say," Ringo sings at one point. She may be more right than she realizes.