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Pseudo Nippon, the long time stage moniker of London based artist Peter Caul, has been on the fringes of the UK weird pop scene for a fair few years now. Having expanded his line up to include drummers Colden Drystone and Dove Kokojin, Pseudo Nippon now has a harder, groove led angle on latest set Colorama. ‘Lady Cactus Fog’ perfectly encapsulates the new found, drum led sound. Peter’s Flaming Lips-esque surrealist lyrical ramblings are masterfully offset with intense, glitch edit electronica and some excellent hard funk rhythms.
For all the wacky track titles and slightly grating yodeling, there’s a lot of thought and musical depth to the narrative of Colorama. From the fractured sample loops of what might well be a shakuhachi (Japanese flute) in ‘Green Surf Death Song’ to the Damo Suziki-aping ‘Skating Over You’ and the classic J-Pop electro bluster of ‘Universal Brotherhood (Cops Say Ow)’, Pseudo Nippon are well aware of their place in recent musical culture. The double drum attack certainly gives a wild, polyrhythmic element much in debt to Japanese experimental music heroes Bordoms.
Nippon is the Japanese word for Japan, so Caul’s literally calling himself fake Japan, an artistic statement that is very fitting given the willfully obtuse, chaotic nature of the music he’s trying to encapsulate. Hearing the kaleidoscopic electro pop of ‘Cat With Shark Teeth’ one can’t help but think of vintage Lips who, with their 2002 masterpiece Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, made a bold acknowledgment of the influence of Japanese musical culture. The movement of influence of music between east and west is an ongoing cycle that Pseudo Nippon seems keen to continue to perpetuate.
‘German Octopus’ has strong element of Can (who were fronted by Damo Suzuki, a Japanese ex pat busker) with the Germanic/Japanese lyrical interplay and the looping, hypnotic rhythms of drummers Drystone and Kokojin. ‘Paper Moon’ carries on the Japanese ethnic influence with what sounds like some time stretched Shamisen (Japanese banjo) in a classical Japanese sounding scale.
Aside from the J-Pop influence there are some interesting musical sidesteps: ‘Jeweled Eyes of A Carp’, which opens with an Animal Collective-esque tribal chant and builds into a Seventies jazz groove complete with glitchy piano loops and free form flute, is a welcome musical diversion.
Throughout the album the production values and virtuoso drumming are excellent but, with lyrics like “follow me into space we will skate over you” and “she says a man ain't nothing without a beat to hold”, it’s annoying that Caul feels the need to fall back on self-conscious wackiness. What separates Pseudo Nippon from the genius of Flaming Lips and fellow dayglo pop stars Of Montreal is that FL and OM use humour and surrealism as tools for cultivating a sense of bathos and light relief in contrast with the pathos and sadness of their music. Although there are moments of beauty and haunting atmosphere such as the space-y vocal montage opening ‘Sanshin Yo’ Colorama is lacking anything approaching genuinely affecting emotional content. As a result it is ultimately a disappointment.