Mu – Afro Finger and Gel

Tigersushi Records TSRCD003
2003

With Mu’s “Afro Finger and Gel” I finally get that feeling that I’m hearing something so different, so strange, that I can’t really compare it to anything.

This was passed on by a friend and on first listening, it seemed very noisy, confrontational, and intentionally ugly. But unlike a lot of music that uses this tactic, that was just the surface. There’s a lot of things underneath, disturbing, murky things, along with some heavenly brilliance which may be sunlight, but may be me passing out.
In no particular order, here’s what caught my ear.
They love timbales. They love ’em like early ’80s hip-hoppers and producers did. Anytime is great for a timbale break. Except these breaks are coming in the middle of dark, electronic hell-rides. There’s also drum breaks that remind me of the African tribal kick that made its way into pop during Malcolm McLaren’s reign (remember Bow Wow Wow? Peter Gabriel? Adam and the Ants?)
The Japanese female singer here is completely nuts, in the tradition of Frank Chickens and Yoko Ono–it’s threatening, smeared-lipstick fuck-you delivery, occassionally manipulated into flanging and distorted squeaks. “My Name Is Tommi” features vocalist Mutsumi taking on several roles in a recreation of a cheesy “adulterers caught on tape” tv show. She plays announcer, jilted girlfriend, and narrator, while the guy in the band plays the part of the philandering male (or is that her?). What was probably once a distancing encounter on the original TV show, is split open into bloody emotions of jealousy and hatred, and is one of the most unnerving things I’ve heard since Throbbing Gristles “Hamburger Lady” on their Third and Final Report LP.
Each track is about 5 or 6 minutes. Within that time Mu go in several directions at once. “Let’s Get Sick” starts off with a rhythm based around a skipping CD machine, but ends in a beautiful ambient mist. Yes, [looks at CD machine] this is the same song.
I don’t know too much about Mu. They are credited as Maurice Fulton & Mutsumi Kanamori, and they’re married, it seems. He’s from Baltimore. Baltimore rocks! They live in Sheffield. Sheffield rocks too!
For those who grew up during the turn of the ’80s, there was a brief time where the art rock crowd and the freakazoid hip-hop people engaged in a musical dialogue. Afrika Bambaataa, Liquid Liquid, Talking Heads (Mu nicks “Once in a Lifetime”‘s vibe for the final track), Grace Jones, some of that stuff sounded so new it was scary, another-planet material. “Afro Finger and Gel” is like that all the way through. It’s one of my favorite albums of 2003.
Here’s a brief article on them and Mr. Fulton in particular that explains a little more Mu. But not too much. I mean, where does Mutsumi come from?

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