|Seksu Roba - Pleasure Vibrations|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 14 October 2003|
As Pleasure Vibrations begins, we are transported into some kind of futuristic Asian world, as a woman’s voice comes through the speakers as if she’s announcing the arrival of a train or giving instructions to a large group. A male British voice then comes along to reassure the listener “We have no fear.” As a techno beat builds from out of this announcement, the sound of Seksu Roba begins to develop. With influences that seem to run the gamut from Cibo Mato to Pitcicatto Five to Yoko Ono, this is funky Japanese-Korean-American techno disco at its finest.
When listening to much of Pleasure Vibrations, I could not help but think of The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations.” Why do you ask? Believe it or not, this duo has more in common with the Beach Boys than you might think. Seksu Roba's Sukho Lee is a virtuoso theremin player and his use of this distinct instrument adds a level of style and flair that sets the band apart from the countless number of groups in the genre. It pops up on most of the album, often used to just add ambience rather than to play specific melodies.
The track “La Freeway” is the first opportunity to hear Asian fashion designer/lead singer Lun*na Menoh’s vocals. It’s a repetitive dance track that would make a perfect soundtrack to a shopping trip at an ultra-hip Eastside used clothing boutique. Beck no doubt is a fan of everything Seksu Roba does. The drone of Menoh singing “LA….. Freeway” conjures up images of my 60-mile roundtrip commute from Long Beach to West L.A. every day, minus the road rage. Imagine a rave on the 405 freeway and you will begin to understand the sound that Seksu Roba is putting down.
Produced by Sesku Roba’s own Lee, the album is solid in terms of its sonics and production quality. Loungy vocals ala "The Girl From Ipanema” glide along over a funky staccato keyboard part on the song “Afternoon Rendez Vous.” These clever little production tricks add to the cerebral experience that is Seksu Roba. Old school synchs are a big part of the track “Fantasy,” a song that features guest vocalist Terryn Westbrook. I have no clue who she is, but surely most all of the Eastsiders, Beck included again, are big fans.
Most of the songs feature vocals, but this does not mean that you’re going to get traditional pop arrangements such as verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Vocals are used more like additional instruments, adding to the laid-back vibe of Pleasure Vibrations. It’s a strange hybrid of dance, techno and pop that shouldn’t be served up in tight little packages all the time.
The album breaks things down to almost ballad pace on the loungy and easygoing vibe of the track “Up Up and Away.” This instrumental just slides and shuffles along in the background and makes for a good song when you want to bring the tempo of a party down. A very dramatic and poignant synth part provides the bulk of the melody, but it’s never so overpowering that you lose focus on the real strength of this track, its laid-back beat. The theremin comes sliding in and then repeats the same melody and before you know it, you think they have moved that rave on the freeway to the deck of the Starship Enterprise.
Visually, the look of the band is as important as the sound. Menoh uses her background in graphic arts to create costumes and a look and feel for the album’s artwork that is ultra-futuristic yet strangely retro. One pictures Asian robots playing keyboards with bizarre images on a screen behind the group when listening to Pleasure Vibrations. My intuition was correct as I wandered over to the Seksu Roba website while listening to this album a few times on my Mac through a pair of Sennheiesr headphones. As this music was most likely made with the aid of a Macintosh, it seemed fitting to give it a spin or two on my computer while checking out the site. The photos of the band online have the same futuristic, robotic vibe as the rest of the album.
Pleasure Vibrations is 14 tracks long, but so diverse and often so groovy that it seems to go by in the blink an eye. A big underground buzz is building about this band and for good reason, so get out there and get it before your friends do so you can be cooler than they are.