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Yoshimi Battles the Gongbangers on OOIOO’s ‘Gamel’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: July 01, 2014
Label: Thrill Jockey

The nomadic odyssey into parts unknown that Yoshimi — drummer colossus for iconic Japanoise experimental aliens Boredoms — has embarked on has been a face-ripping journey in sound deconstruction. As the beat sensei behind visionary gang-leader Yamantakae Eye, Yoshimi helped paint Boredoms’ sublimely orchestral psych and noise splatter over a trailblazing catalog spread over two decades. In addition to influencing such diverse acts as Sonic Youth, Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance, Boredoms enjoyed one of the most monumentally bizarre major label stint in the 1990s (bizarre even by that era’s “next-Nirvana” exploitive standards).

But while Boredoms’ deep oeuvre has reached stuff-of-legend levels, Yoshimi has hardly been the creative slouch. In fact, she’s been a relentlessly prolific force of weird nature whose own output rivals that of Boredoms. Dig this epic troika: resident freak Wayne Coyne dreamt her up as the fighting muse of the Flaming Lips’ landmark 2002 conceptual opus, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (yes, that Yoshimi); she teamed with ex-Sonic Youth/current Body/Head goddess Kim Gordon and Pavement bassist Mark Ibold in art-noiseheads Free Kitten; and, since 1998, has been the guiding spirit behind bat-shit avant-everything fusionists, OOIOO.

With the switcheroo from drumming warrior in Boredoms to guitar-slinging chant-leader in OOIOO, Yoshimi has led her all-female crew through six gonzo records of tribal-centric screamoid fuckery. But since 2009’s Armonica Hewa, OOIOO have undergone a musical facelift, morphing from nihilistic shredders into utopian gamelan wizards on the fittingly titled, Gamel.

As illuminated in SPIN’s recent premiere of Gamel’s funkadelia head spinner, “Atatawa,” OOIOO has embraced the Javanese drum circle musical style of gamelan, beefing up its lineup with virtuosos of the ancient craft and reborn as a live-wired, percussive-pummeling, yelping cult of bell chiming gongbangers.

Distancing themselves from the anything goes experimentalism of past releases like 2006’s Taiga, Yoshimi and her band of misfits have flawlessly constructed and posited every sound on Gamel—of which there is a glorious wad—with dazzling precision. It’s no wonder it took five years to mold its 11 marathons, each throbbing with breathless polyrhythmic ecstasy and capped by righteous howling and clusters of harmony. Ritualistic nuances are transmitted in mystical adventures like the 10-minute revelation “Don Ah,” where slinking bass grooves and out-of-this-world guitar pirouettes melt into holier-than-thou chanting, gong jingles and massive percussive beat downs. Meanwhile, OOIOO’s natural calling of blending Gamelan inflections with fragmented spazz-core mayhem manifests itself on the elastic rhythms of melodic thumpers “Kecupat Aneh” and “Gamel Uma Umo,” and the cathartic ding-donging closer “Gamel Ulda.”

With likeminded ensembles like Brooklyn’s colorful psych jammers NYMPH and Switzerland’s Eastern-flavored, Voodoo-inspired collective Goat transmitting dreamscapes from the beyond while exuding familial, Zen master vibes, Yoshimi’s OOIOO has joined that spiritual fray with this Gamelan-inspired trance inducer.