/

CD REVIEW

Hifana “24H”

by Jeff Hammond

The concept behind Hifana’s new CD/DVD, “24H,” is to convey a day in the life of the Tokyo breakbeat duo via 12 tracks, each with its own video.

The album focuses on Hifana’s fresh approach to mix-and-match music-making, with over half the tracks featuring guest vocalists — mainly Japanese artists performing in their own language. These are either rappers, such as Twigy and Chinza Dopeness, or singers like the prolific UA. The latter jumps on board for the catchy “UFO”; where her distinctive vocals are underpinned by tough ragga beats.

“24H” highlights the duo’s versatility, with other tracks ranging from the demented harmonica and heavy-metal cutups of “Robot Nametake” to the slinky jazz feel of “Lan Lan,” on which singer Leyona struts her stuff as animated flowers and trumpets sprout from her alarming Afro hairdo.

If Hifana had an English teacher, he or she would no doubt charge them with supreme superfluousity for the title of “Touring Tour” (a fun jaunt around various world landmarks with the comedic Yohei Miyake), but might be impressed by the imaginative vocabulary that elsewhere peppers the album — “jet stream,” “unbalance” and a typically British “alright mate!” all make an appearance.

This cheeky cosmopolitanism plays against a celebration of the unit’s cultural roots, glimpsed through the use of ukiyo-e designs and other Japanese imagery, often (un)balanced with images of today’s Japan — cell phones, trains and the like.

It is particularly apparent in “Hanabeam,” which closes the album. With the drum being fundamental to the celebratory music of Japan’s festivals, it makes sense to see the duo busting out their beats from the top of a mikoshi (portable shrine) at festival time. And celebration is what this whole project could be seen as — trumpeting the creativity of 21st-century Tokyo.