Category: Blues / Rock / Electro
Blurb: As much a snapshot of the prominent Japanese guitarist’s long and versatile career as it is a step forward into new musical territory, marking his first truly international record release with a few guests to boot.
With a career that has spanned more than three decades, Tomoyasu Hotei has proven one of Japan’s most prolific and most versatile artists, having performed with the likes of David Bowie, Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay, The Rolling Stones, Brian Setzer, and Iggy Pop to name just a few, and having his music appearing in more movies, commercials, video games, and other notable events than perhaps can be counted. Having relocated to London three years ago, Strangers is a landmark in Hotei’s esteemed career as his first album released outside of his homeland, featuring numerous guest vocal performances as well as Hotei’s signature riffs and licks. Where most albums of this kind tend to run the risk of being disjointed due to the guitarist’s need to showcase different musical styles and influences, with the guest vocals serving to enhance such disparities, Strangers manages to accomplish the exact opposite and present Hotei’s distinctive style with great consistency and power. Indeed, from the onset of the opening instrumental “Medusa,” Hotei’s steely guitar is immediately recognized as harmonized layers create a simple but infectious melody driven by a booming beat that sounds like what would happen if Ennio Morricone were to team up with Link Wray. This continues in the title track as shrill electronics pulsate with a strident beat to give Hotei ample room for his guitar hooks to shimmer and soar, while the atmospheric and danceable rock of “Departure” evokes images of driving through neon-lit city streets after midnight in search of sensual pleasures best left unspoken. Of the vocal tracks, Shea Seger brings her pipes to songs like “Kill or Kiss” and “Texas Groove,” her smooth Texas voice complementing Hotei’s fluid, bluesy licks marvelously, while Iggy Pop’s baritone drawl adds a ghostly quality to the strutting guttural swagger of “Walking Through the Night,” ascending to a searing punk howl on “How the Cookie Crumbles.” Similarly, Richard Z. Kruspe’s shouts of “Get outta my way, I’m bringing the pain” on “Move It” along with Hotei’s snaky riffs amid thrashing metallic percussion is simply impossible not to chant along with. Tracks like the instrumental “Into the Light” and the ominous and ghostly “Barrel of My Own Gun” may be quieter, but no less intense or atmospheric, the latter track with its jazzy beat and Noko’s raspy voice recalling the likes of Dire Straits. Strangers ends with the track that put Hotei on the international map, having most famously appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill – the bombastic and punchy “Battle Without Honor or Humanity,” ending the album on a boisterous note and signaling Hotei’s first internationally released album quite marvelously. With additional writing and production credits from Killing Joke’s Martin “Youth” Glover, Leo Abrahams, and Stephen Lipson, Strangers is as much a snapshot of Hotei’s impressive career as it is a step forward into new territory, both globally and musically – all the world is his stage, and he is clearly at the top of his performing game.