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eX-Girl - Back to the Mono Kero CD (album) cover

BACK TO THE MONO KERO

eX-Girl

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.91 | 2 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Everything about this band boggles the mind at first glance. A manufactured J-pop girl group on Progarchives? And in the Avant/RIO section, no less?!

Well, I was intrigued enough to look them up on spotify and I liked what I found. There is no doubt this group belongs here, no matter how they may have started off. This is incredibly strange music, blending elements of zeuhl, metal, and even small elements of post-rock with sounds of the J-pop scene. The result is an album that, in my opinion, is just as experimental and frenetic as anything Koenjihyakkei has put out.

"Waving Scientist @ Frog King" establishes almost immediately what to expect from the album. With a faintly dissonant a capella section beginning the track, the song quickly develops into something that sounds like zeuhl crossed with avant-punk. Rhythmically weird drums and vocal lines play along with some strange things going on harmonically, leaving the track sounding completely nutty but also surprisingly catchy. The strangeness only increases with the introduction of some operatic style vocals, which facilitates the introduction of a brief middle section that comes close to symphonic doom metal territory. Absolute madness in a compact, four minute shell.

"Tozka" starts off sounding slightly more accessible, with a fairly standard pop-punk-ish riff and a vocal line that, while strangely delivered, isn't too far out in left field. An atonal synth solo in the middle of the track lends a little more of an air of strangeness, and there are some proggy time-signature switches, but on the whole "Tozka" is a fairly standard track with some rocking riffs and a bit of a post-punk sound.

"Aji Fry," on the other hand, is the farthest thing from pop you can imagine. Starting off with a strange instrumental section that sounds like Krautrock crossed with industrial music, there is a strong impression that you are listening to musicians gone insane. The addition of a rhythmically bizarre riff and some operatically chanting vocals do little to allay this suspicion. I can actually hear a strong thread of Henry Cow influence here (as well as similarities to Fred Frith's solo work), though there are shades of zeuhl as well.

A frenetic cover of M's "Pop Muzik" follows this up, making what was a pretty wacky song to begin with even wackier. Incorporating metal and psychedelic sounds to complement the bizarro-disco vibe the track already possessed, ex-Girl's version is exactly what a good cover should be: enhancing and adding to the track without taking anything away. It also fits in excellently with the rest of the album, thus avoiding another pitfall often experienced by covers included on albums.

"Gween-Kong-Zee" starts off with some repeated chanting before switching into a decidedly psychedelic, almost acid-rock vibe. I wouldn't be surprised if the writer of the song had been listening to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" as they were writing this; there's a similar kind of droning ambience, though there's also a lot more strangeness than ever appeared on a Beatles release (save perhaps "Revolution 9").

"Cucumber Surrender" is every bit as strange as its title would suggest. Operatic vocals overlay drums, bass, and guitar that all seem to be playing in different time signatures. A strange, playful synth solo takes up a good chunk of the middle of the track and almost sounds like it could have come off a Genesis album, or at least it could have were there not distorted guitars going behind it. For a section after this the track eschews melody entirely, instead consisting of a droning synth track and some chanted vocals. The end of the track returns to the bizarre rhythm juxtapositions of the first section and it's on this note that the track concludes.

"Wipe-Out #3" is the shortest track on the album, but it's certainly not short on originality. This track sounds like the composer took a jazz vamp, sped it up, and then overlaid vocals that sound like a cross between J-Pop and zeuhl. The second half of the track is mostly instrumental, delving into extremely avant-garde noise experimentations and generally giving the impression that the track is imploding on itself, which is actually a very effective way to close out the track.

"Solid States Kerok'n'Roll" begins with a fairly normal riff, but quickly dives off the deep end as switching time-signatures and operatic, zeuhl-esque vocals ensure that the listener is eternally left guessing as to what is going to happen next. There's even a brief section of what sounds like sampled electronica drums, and they're incorporated so perfectly that it's both jarring and totally natural sounding. Ex-Girl has a very interesting tendency to use non- standard harmonies in a way that probably should sound dissonant, but even though it sounds a bit strange there's never any doubt in the listener's mind that these harmonies totally work. This track is probably the best example of this, proving that avant-garde music doesn't necessarily need to be hard to listen to in order to be experimental.

"Zero Gravity" has a much darker tone to it, with ominous, low guitar riffs and a sound that is much closer to sludge-metal than J-pop. Layered vocals only add to the unsettling sound of the track, as does a decidedly dissonant guitar solo. A high-pitched vocal mantra that's repeated several times towards the middle of the track with minimal instrumentation around it doesn't help either. Overall, the track is much less upbeat and much darker than most of the material on the album, and as such it really sticks out as a highlight.

"Crime of the Century" begins on a rather similar note, with slow, pulsating drones playing underneath minimal percussion and electronics that recall, ever so slightly, sections of Dark Side of the Moon. This opening section of the track is much less frenetic than most of the album; it's slow, and dreamy (or perhaps nightmarish), and unsettling rather than wacky and insane. There are brief sections where the upetempo, bizarre rhythms of the other tracks poke through, but for the most part the track is content to take its time and go for a dark, slow- burning ambience that almost has a post-rock vibe to it. As the longest track on the album, "Crime of the Century" certainly carves out its own niche on this fascinating and certainly very diverse album.

"Sasuke" closes off the album with some droning, chanting vocals before giving way to a driving bass and percussion combination with some half-spoken vocals laid on top. As a result, "Sasuke" comes off sounding far more minimalistic than most of the tracks; with an almost post-punk flavor, it's a wonderfully bleak way to end such an insane album.

This is a very good album, and one with a sound that, as far as I've heard, is fairly unique. While this is about as far away from "traditional" prog as you can get, there's no doubt that this is incredibly forward thinking, out-there music, and if that doesn't qualify as progressive than nothing does. Highly recommended for anyone looking to hear something different from the norm.

4/5

VanVanVan | 4/5 |

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