What do swimming pools, sexual voyeurism, elevators, and eco-terrorist extraterrestrials have in common? They’re all the subjects of songs on Hotel Valentine, Cibo Matto’s first release in 15 years. Much of the album is written from the perspective of a wry ghost who haunts a hotel and delivers deadpan lines like, “I had some cheese and seedless grapes for lunch and floated around for the rest of the afternoon.”
The band’s Japanese-born, N.Y.C.-based members, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, are musicians who seem to absorb every style of pop music, then spit it back out as bizarre, sprawling, and oddly cohesive soundscapes. The first track, for example, contains hints of dubstep, industrial goth, new wave, bossa nova, post-punk, ambient, and psychedelic rock—all in three minutes.
As on their previous albums, Honda and Hatori seem most heavily influenced by ’90s hip-hop; in fact, their closest musical relative may be Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys. But nothing here sounds derivative, because Cibo Matto can’t help but put a distinctive spin on everything they touch. This is partially due to their vocals—which vacillate between screaming, singing, chanting, whispering, rapping, and the occasional growl—and partially due to their surreal humor. It is a testament to the band’s creative powers that they can fuse all these parts together in a way that, inexplicably, makes sense.