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Friday, Sept. 25, 2009
In the anime "Macross," the top chart sensation was Sharon Apple, a cybernetic singer who bewitched a fictional future with her laboratory-engineered music and hologramatic cleavage. Here in real-life Japan, 2009, the defining act is Perfume: three carefully choreographed girls who sing autotune-crippled vocal lines over a blend of video-game synths and hard techno created by producer-of-the-moment Yasutaka Nakata.
And somewhere in between lies She. Debuting amid a flurry of both Perfume copycats and virtual pop singers, She does not exist — the CD inlay explains that she is a replicant, making for the sort of album detective Deckard would listen to in his flying car in "Blade Runner". Her sound is a dirtier version of the prevailing chart-friendly techno-pop; her voice provided by five different singers; her face designed in Photoshop.
On closer inspection, it turns out that She is a he. The music, production and artwork are the labor of Lain Trzaska, a Polish producer and artist based in Sweden whose catalog of free-to-download albums takes in chiptune, electro, house, ambient and acoustica, and caught the ear of someone at Japan's Pony Canyon last year.
All of these genres are represented on "Orion," but, there is also a noticeable Japanese flavor: "Just Your Eyes" samples "Tip Taps Tip" by pop-hop duo HalCali; the album is peppered with Japanese vocals; and the more mellow moments recall those on Cornelius' 2001 album "Point". Above all, it is a coherent, thoughtful album of distorted house and minor-chord electro-pop, hand-crafted by Trzaska with a love and care that is absent from so much recent J-pop.
She may be fake, but she is a perfect reminder that the best pop music is born of imagination.