Cibo Matto feasts on cartoons.


One of the best things about Cibo Matto's debut album, "Viva! La Woman," is the way it conjures a whole world of people and emotions through its inventive use of sound.

Working with a small group of musicians and a whole lot of technology, the duo -- singer Miho Hatori and keyboardist Yuka Honda -- have created one of the coziest and most entertaining havens to be found on disc. From wispy puffs of synthesizer to clanking electronic percussion to whispered trumpet obbligati, the instruments combine in every way imaginable, turning the album into a sort of aural smorgasbord.

Given their reliance on digital samplers and rhythm loops, it would be tempting to assume that Honda and Hatori have taken their cues from hip-hop. In truth, though, the two owe much of their sound-sense to having grown up watching cartoons (anime) in their native Japan.

"I think we saw a lot of [cartoons as kids], and Japanese cartoon is very interesting, because there's also song in it, and every song is kind of unique," says Hatori, over the phone from her New York home. "Sometimes they express a feeling with sound and no words, and I think we got a lot of influence of that. Yeah, we like cartoon sound a lot.

"But you know, it's not just the cartoon," she adds. "All life is like that, I think. Sometimes you feel something without words, and sound is like how to express the feeling, also. In a way, it's very instrumental. I mean, music is a sign of language, also."

Hatori is a big fan of the "Lupin III" cartoons, but adds that she also was fascinated with a series called "Oishinbo" (that is, "The Gourmet"). "It's about food," she says, laughing. "It's totally serious about food.

"It's like a totally about gastronomy cartoon. It's really amazing, too, how, like they have always a theme for each story. Like today's it's sushi or omelette or whatever. And the story brings that food really seriously, like, 'You have to move the fry pan like this when you make omelette.' " She laughs. "It's so serious. But so many people are into that. Because Japan is kind of food country, you know. The people love to eat."

Hatori and Honda also love to eat and sing quite a bit about food. In fact, there's some sort of food reference in each of the 10 tunes on "Viva! La Woman," from the romantic metaphor of "Artichoke" ("Can you peel my petals one by one?") to the reflections on the epistemology of taste within "White Pepper Ice Cream."

All that food talk left many reviewers wondering why the band was so obsessed with food. But what Hatori and Honda couldn't figure out was why the critics were so confused by the table talk.

"It's very weird," says Hatori. "Because when I was in Japan, sometimes we go back to Japan to play ... nobody talk about, like, 'Why food?' But here, people ask about it. And I was like, 'Why not?' You know?"

Hatori admits to being puzzled sometimes by American food. "Like, when I was on tour, it was pretty hard," she says. "I would have to always eat greasy food, kind of like a chicken is [considered a] vegetable. It actually is pretty crazy.

"But I think food is very close to life," she adds. "The same with love. And people sing about love. It's the same to me."

Cibo Matto

When: Monday, doors open at 7: 30 p.m.; Tuesday, doors open at 8: 30 p.m.

Where: The New 9: 30 Club, 815 V St. N.W., Washington

Tickets: $25 and $35

Call: (410) 481-6500

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Cibo Matto's new release, "Viva! La Woman," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6189. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 12/26/96

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