- Kiki Hitomi is best known as part of King Midas Sound, having lent her feathery presence to tracks on Waiting For You… and 2013's Aroo. The Osaka native has also taken center stage alongside singer Roger Robinson, proving to be a powerful frontwoman on Without You's "Tears" and Edition 1's "On My Mind" and "We Walk Together." But Hitomi's colourful, kookie personality—which was at the forefront of her Dokkebi Q project with Japanese producer Gorgonn—took a backseat in King Midas Sound. Her debut solo album, Karma No Kusari, feels closer to Dokkebi Q's Hardcore Cherry Bon Bon than anything she's done since. This time, though, the music is even weirder and more wonderful.
Karma No Kusari was written with Jahtari label head Jan Gleichmar (AKA Disrupt), whose style of 8-bit dub couldn't be better suited to Hitomi's warped takes on reggae and dancehall. The Game Boy sounds are everywhere, most notably on "Galaxy," which riffs on Stéphane Picq's music for the French video game Dune. Elsewhere, the digital bleeps and bloops form part of the album's wider enka-reggae sound, coming together best on "Yume No Hana." Another highlight is "Pink No Kimono," a Disrupt version of an enka instrumental written by Masaaki Hirao for the 1973 film Lady Snowblood. Here, Gleichmar weaves comically spooky organs, vintage synths and twinkly anime FX into Hitomi's melancholic pop, creating one of Karma No Kusari's most endearing tracks.
"Nen Nen Korori" features a spoken word piece from The Space Ape, written for Hitomi before he passed away. Like "Samurai Spoon," the track is delicate and not unlike a lullaby—made for children but with a dark premise. "Yellow Story" does a similar thing, delivering its racially charged message in Hitomi's cutesy voice. That one's a standout of the album, with a grungy bassline and a lick of punk spirit in its digi-dub.
Karma No Kusari is a criss-crossing, kaleidoscopic clash of Japanese pop culture and soundsystem skank from Jamaica via London (where Hitomi used to live). Everything has been made with hardware and given a retro computer aesthetic, culminating in a record that shouldn't sound as seamless as it does. Sonically rich, bizarre yet accessible, Karma No Kusari feels like the most personal record of Hitomi's career.
01. Tabidaichi (Departure)
03. Yellow Story
04. Every Time You Knock Me Down
05. Pink No Kimono
06. Nen Nen Korori feat. The Space Ape
07. Karma No Kusari
08. Yume No Hana
09. Samurai Spoon