TV producers and modeling agents shuffling young ingénues through a sunless world of nightclubs, parties, and restaurants… Tokyo as a massive amusement park with Akasaka, Shinjuku, and Aoyama instead of thrill rides… models who become singers who are tipped to briefly become IT, the Next Big Thing…only to find another slender figure marching behind them down the endless runway, silhouettes eclipsing and replacing each other as flashbulbs burst…
Since I wrote that last piece on model turned singer Yun*chi, the eternal spirit of the IT Girl Rising has sorta been haunting me, the specter emerging from my PC and leading me down a long and dark hallway to a certain Compact Disc device and pointing a fickle finger of fate at an album whose title reveals bold ambition writ large:
A READYMADE INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTION
Released in 2004, this was the first long player by model-turned-singer Karia Nomoto, produced by Konishi Yasuharu of Pizzicato Five fame. Sure, nearly all of P5’s output was rooted in the past, KARLY is probably Konishi’s most direct assault on the time barrier since the fundamentalist soft rock sound of Pizzicato Five’s debut album Couples.
Minus the modernist turntable tricks of Pizzicato’s later recordings, KARLY is less a collection of songs than a soundtrack to an imaginary groovy movie released somewhere between 1968 – 1971. The curtain rises and falls on a Cinerama screen to the sound a of circular bass line from the Melody Nelson school while soaring backup vocals from an Expo ‘70 pavilion swirl around joyfully and mournfully, simultaneously heralding KARLY, the “kawaii musume”, as the savior of the age and also acknowledging the finite nature of her presence on the scene.
Spoken word interludes appear between the tracks; male and female voices telling Karly (whom everyone wants a piece of) how cute she is, imploring here to go eat Indian food, and warning her against the advances of rich playboys. But while this is Karly’s “movie”, she’s not always center frame. Other songs unfold like Broadway showstoppers from Sweet Charity, shouted by a chorus rather than the lead herself, or are awash in “mad pad” sitar plunks, and punchy summery “Crystal Blue Persuasion” horn sections that often overwhelm the sweet + innocent + knowing vocals.
Allegedly, some reviewers took shots at Nomoto for her “amateurish voice” when the record was originally released, but I don’t think P5’s Maki Nomiya could have sung these songs without making the camp factor overripe. After all, Nomiya already had her IT Girl moment as the vocalist in the group Portable Rock before she teamed up with Konishi. KARLY captures wide-eyed Nomoto in the genuine moment of ascension, and music is only one part of this Readymade experience...
The CD comes packaged in an elaborate hardcover photo book (which gives the rental guys at Tsutaya nightmares to find) featuring stills from the imaginary KARLY movie, which see Nomoto remixed as a human mash-up of Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and an Art Theater Guild player. But the sum total is more than music or image alone can provide. KARLY is the perfect aligning of stars, however brief, between protégé and producer.
Then the film is over; celluloid flapping in the projector...but the saga continues.
Nomoto and Yun*chi appear to be friends, and travel now within then same circles in the Tokyo club circuit. I just hope one of them can pass along a copy of the KARLY CD to the other...