Friday, April 13, 2007

Review: Yoko Ono - Yes I'm a Witch (2007)

This review is overdue. I didn't get the disc until a month or so after it was released, and then I had to ship it back for a replacement. Wait no longer, dear readers!

Following the incredibly disappointing Stooges record, I'm pleased to report that the latest project from another one of my favorites was well worth the purchase.

Of course, this isn't really a 'new' Yoko Ono album. Rather, it's a compilation of tracks spanning Ono's career, remixed and reinterpreted by a slew of contemporary artists. I can't even call this a straight 'remix album,' because it isn't. Certainly, that's true of some tracks (Peaches, Blow Up, Shitake Mushroom, etc.), but others are somewhere between covers and remixes (The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Antony) - so I'll call them reinterpretations. I hesitate to say that they effectively 'update' Yoko Ono's music for the modern age, because so much of her work was ahead of its time to begin with (a point illustrated by her reevaluation in the last decade ).

The artists involve are essentially a who's who in modern music: Peaches, Le Tigre, DJ Spooky, Apples in Stereo, Cat Power, The Polyphonic Spree, Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), The Flaming Lips, Public Enemy's Hank Shocklee and The Sleepy Jackson (another group I discovered via IckMusic). There are also a handful of artists that I'm not familiar with yet, based on their contributions to Yes, I'm a Witch, I'm compelled to check them out (particularly Shitake Monkey and Blow Up).

I'm not going to say every track is great. But each is at least interesting. I'm not particularly fond of Jason Pierce's reworking of the classic "Walking on Thin Ice," for example. But I applaud him for completely altering the feel of the song. Whereas the original is indisputably dance oriented, Pierce has made it into a sparse, low tempo piece. It's a complete recontextualization, which is what remixes ought to be - not simply slapping a throbbing house beat over a track.

Along those lines, perhaps the most impressive of these tracks is The Flaming Lips' take on "Cambridge 1969," originally from Unfinished Music no. 2: Life with the Lions. The original is a 25 minute sonic experiment (performed live, I might add) featuring only Lennon's guitar feedback and Ono's voice. The Lips have taken the piece and reworked it with a melody, making it almost (note I said *almost*) a pop track.

Other highlights are Blow Up's take on "Everyman Has a Woman Who Loves Him," Le Tigre's "Sisters O Sisters," DJ Spooky's "Rising" (the original being a personal favorite of mine), and Peaches remix of "Kiss Kiss Kiss."

I'll share the latter with you. Even before hearing it, I thought to myself "This is the perfect song for Peaches to remix." And it doesn't disappoint.

Peaches-"Kiss Kiss Kiss"

For some reason, Amazon has waited a week to ship my order of Open Your Box, a compilation of remixes from the last 7 years of Ono's work. Ah well. Enjoy the track, and enjoy the weekend.

Again, posts will be sporadic for the next month or so, but I'll try to post when I'm procrastinating (like right now).

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