It takes about three songs to realize that you love this album. While the
first two tracks are pleasant, it isn't until the speeding breakbeat of
"I'll Never Whistle" that the enchantments of Hi-Posi's driving force Miho
Moribayashi (who both sings and does the programming) knock you off your
feet. With its percolating beat, synthesized horn hits and wide-eyed
charm, this is an absolutely perfect pop number. Undeniably Japanese, "I'll Never Whistle"
captures the bustling exuberance of Tokyo -– rushing crowds, gleaming
surfaces and the unerring focus on a future brightened by technology. As with most of
the Japanese culture known in the rest of the world, Moribayashi's songs
contain a certain dewy-eyed innocence that gives a human face to the
clockwork of hyper-kinetic, polished machines. While this might sound like
a grating Playstation soundtrack, it is not.
Instead, much like Bjork, Moribayashi borrows from a globe's worth of
musical styles and blends them together to create her own quirky sound.
"Only "I Love You"" combines Caribbean steel drums and toasting with
whistles and a pleasant lounge kookiness, evoking the perfect sound for a
futuristic beach party. "The Result - Everlasting" paints the icy distance
of techno with a cinematic brush, yielding a dizzying array of textures and
moods. "Experimental Girl" combines funky organ with a riot grrl chorus
and not only makes it sound cool, but makes it sound completely natural.
The album's one difficulty is that the lyrics are in Japanese. While this
in no way impedes the pleasure of listening to the record, it almost
certainly means that 4n5 will be ignored by the standard media outlets.
Although the disc includes English translations, I prefer my own phonetic
versions, as it's far more fun to walk about the house singing "Mika
mika, if in town, Acapulco muck in the dirt" instead of "I woke up to the
barking dog / that lives inside a TV tube". Naturally, you can compare
Hi-Posi to other Japanese pop exports like Pizzicato Five or Fantastic
Plastic Machine, but before you relegate 4n5 to the Pokemon ghetto,
give it a spin. This is an undeniably fantastic record brimming with wonders. (Major points to Ron for using the phrase "Pokemon Ghetto" -- Ed.)