Music Flashback//Sanmon Gossip - Shiina Ringo

As music events go, this was a big one for many. Shiina Ringo’s last album before this was the much loved Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana, much loved for its inventive production and off kilter sound. If you were in Japan at the time of its release you would have known the great expectation from fans coming up to its release date and in retrospect it’s difficult to say that following such an iconic album would be easy.

Music Flashback//椎名林檎 - 三文ゴシップ

Many buying Sanmon Gossip in retrospect of its release would wonder what the fuss was all about but for many of the fans who consumed Sanmon Gossip at the time of its release it was big step away from the strange universe of her solo work. Many enjoyed its often lounge music leanings but the more critical corners of the internet were not impressed. And that's important because it proves that irrespective of the sands of time and the passing fads and music trends of Japan, Shiina Ringo's recorded work stands apart from the rest in sheer terms of creativity and originality alone.

More so than many Shiina Ringo has increasingly produced music that seriously divides people into distinct camps of taste. The vogue has never been here way despite a song translated into its English title as Vogue opening the album. The song in question entitled Ryuukou 
is a jazz and beats inspired piece with rap appearing in its intro somewhat incongruously on first listen. It’s a step then from the funeral of the previous albums closer to a fashion show for the opening track here. Quite a step some may say! After a few listens - and this is a classic Ringo production technique - it all makes sense and melds together like it as natural as anything. In fact, one could easily like it a lot. It’s step out from the more overt jazziness of her work and works surprisingly well.

Like previous album Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana though the sheer amount of styles in the mix is migraine inducing on occasion. In fact anybody expecting the more gentler orchestral leanings of Heisei Fuuzoku will be only partially gratified, as the orchestral songs are juxtaposed by electro jazz influences, smatterings of out J-rap - as and James Bondian antics in the charmingly mad Mittei Monogatari.

On the whole though the stand out tracks are, apart from the whole album, those which take a chance with their sound. These include opener 
Ryuukou,with its hybrid of hip-hop sounds and electro jazz, the much debated Karisome Otome which appears in it's Soil and Pimp Sessions mix, Futari Bochi Jikan, a sub-jazz love song to her son that should seem out of place but doesn't at all, and the grunge accordian come pseudo French cafe tune Bonsai Hada which consists of only said accordian and Ringo's voice. So many sounds on an album which visually belies it's extremely busy sound content.

If I was being honest, I'd say that the best way to get any idea of what this album sounds like is to actually listen to it with an extremely open mind. The sheer scope and density of sound present on Sanmon Gossip, whilst not even close to Karuki Zamen Kurinohana's dark mixture of aural brush strokes, is still impressive and definitely worth a listen if you appreciate good alternative music that really challenges the senses.

The six year gap between albums dimmed Sanmom Gossip’s impact perhaps but it was worth the wait for many. 

Words by Sebastian Gahan.