CD-R/free download, D-trash Records, 2008
It is no wonder Himiko’s eponymous latest appears courtesy of D-Trash Records, a decade-old label with an ever-expanding repertoire of digital-hardcore-styled artists and releases. Ten tracks of harsh experimental electronics, “Himiko” seats this Japanese-Canadian female musician firmly in the territory of, frankly, unhinged. An accomplished jazz pianist and educated composer holding a performance major in keyboards, Himiko here branches from her earlier work in favor of scrambled digital mayhem. Overdriven noise, oppressive guitars and ferocious staccato beats characterize this production, resulting in a cacophonous mix drawing on elements of breakcore, grindcore and speedcore.
“Himiko” begins with two previously released tracks, “Asobi” and “Thunder Dance” – both from “Mugen” (2005) – easing listeners into a distorted impression of what is to come. While the former is not much more than a feel-good intro groove, the latter, in retrospect, can be seen as harbinger to the onslaught that lies ahead. Accented by a crashing beat and 8-bit keyboard sweeps, it builds in intensity and, likewise, paranoia. “Genbaku” then reveals Himiko’s true intent: heavy-metal riffs, blast beats, forbidding voices and trilling arpeggios combine into a patchwork that proves to be the album’s archetype. Now and then are added to this formula the anarchistic, piercing and awfully repetitive screams of Himiko herself (“Phuck” and “Suck”). The oft-interjected jazz piano is at times more distinct (“Passage”), at others discordant (“Phuck”) and even agreeable (“Incantations”).
Slow and gritty “Kokoro No Omori,” with its demonic churning and unearthly calls, is a welcome album anomaly, considering that the stuttering drums on “Himiko” are delivered in a dizzying array of cut-up breakbeat bombardments, while the grinding guitars prickle with adrenaline – fans of such won’t be disappointed. Several compositions contain a good balance between full-blown sonic assault and moments of calm(er) respite (“Incantations” and “Phuck”), transitions that are perhaps an indication of Himiko’s otherwise latent musicianship. “MataMachete Scape,” perhaps the album’s standout, is a digital hardcore crusher, but it takes another D-Trash artist’s (MataMachete) reworked material to achieve.
What is most difficult to reconcile about this album is its apparent emptiness, an impoverishment of craft that occurs despite its passionate methodology, DYI punk sensibilities and creative improvisation. “Himiko” challenges only the senses, as it batters them to porridge. But maybe that’s the point?
— Dutton Hauhart