Viva! La Woman (Warner Bros.)
Cibo Matto

By Allen Howie

Usually when a record is built around everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sampling and wild sonic experimentation, the result, while intriguing, is not very fun to listen to. That's what makes Viva! La WomanBy duo Cibo Matto such a surprise — it's an entertaining trip that strains against musical boundaries and is still eminently listenable.

The problem is in trying to describe the album. The closest I can get is this: Imagine Yoko Ono and Kate Bush jamming with the Carpenters and Tom Waits, and you're within shouting distance. Produced by Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, Viva! La Woman includes misty ballads like "Sugar Water" and the tart "White Pepper Ice Cream," awash in muted hip-hop rhythms, distant trumpet flourishes and silky vocals that are quirky and sensuous all at the same time. Wait awhile, though, and in rolls the brute elegance and energy of "Birthday Cake," with the singer gleefully demanding, "Extra sugar. Extra salt. Extra oil and MSG." over grunge soaked guitar.

Don't expect the lyrics to be anything but obtuse. The playful eccentricity of tunes like "Know Your Chicken" and "Artichoke" makes them sound like utter nonsense on first listen, but against this aural melange, they seem right at home. Singer Miho Hatori, a Tokyo native transplanted to New York, delivers every word with a delightfully rich Japanese accent that adds to their absurdity. Hatori's bandmate, Yuka Honda, makes the most of keyboards and samplers, using them to paint a dazzling canvas on which her partner can brush her wildly diverse vocal strokes.

The real key to the album, though, is the way it all hangs together, taking these eclectic elements and spinning them into something that seems completely organic and perfectly realized. Rarely has music this adventurous been so much fun.

Boys for Pele(Atlantic)