Cibo Matto’s big comeback LP is about ghosts, romance and a hotel. That says something about the startlingly original pop/hip-hop/electronic-music duo consisting of vocalist Miho Hatori and keyboardist Yuka C. Honda, who reunited in 2011 after a decadelong break. The pair isn’t interested in going light or broad on its first postretirement album; Hotel Valentine finds Hatori and Honda inhabiting the same zany headspace that made their ’90s work so endearing. “Deja Vu,” especially, is classic Cibo Matto. The tune begins with sly, hushed vocals over a sinister electronic beat; then there’s a big dance-club chorus with jazzy horns. And Hatori raps a pair of verses with lines like “I read the last page of Nabokov” and “Smoke it up / Crank it up / Play some 50 Cent.” “Is it real or is it a dream?” goes one repeated line from the song, and with Cibo Matto it’s always both.
Founded in 1994—the same year Beck released Mellow Gold and the Beastie Boys dropped Ill Communication—Cibo Matto was a serious part of that era’s alternative-music scene. It performed at Tibetan Freedom Concerts, did a video with Michel Gondry, took part in a group that also featured Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins and welcomed Sean Lennon as an official member at one point. As if all of that weren’t ’90s enough, the band performed on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
On Valentine’s Day at Le Poisson Rouge, Cibo Matto will celebrate the new disc and, presumably, the 20th anniversary of its formation. Before checking into a hotel with your honey that night, check out the release show for Hotel Valentine.—Brad Farberman