/

CD REVIEW

Uhnellys “To Too Two”

by Shawn Despres

Dubbed by some as a more sonically adventurous Japanese version of the White Stripes, Tokyo malefemale duo Uhnellys have gigged in Europe and Australia, and participated in last autumn’s Next Music from Tokyo Canadian tour with Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, Susquatch and Sgt. Their past albums have included collaborations with Mike Doughty from 1990s U.S. alt-rock act Soul Coughing and Canadian MC Shad. “To Too Two” is the third full-length effort from the band.

Uhnellys are at their best on stage. Using looping pedals, multi-instrumentalist frontman Kim creates a fantastic mini orchestra with a dizzying array of diverse samples to back him and drummer Midi. “To Too Two” opener “Central” comes remarkably close to mirroring the Uhnellys live experience. Trumpet plays atop of postpunk rhythms early on as Kim alternates between soulful crooning and rapping. Locking into a tightly spun, funky groove, the track builds into an explosive psychedelic climax of hypnotic horn and vocal loops accented with a splash of electronica and Midi’s crashing cymbals.

The rest of “To Too Two” follows a similar genre-hopping style. “You Kill Time” is a stripped-down slice of experimental garage rock, while “Black Panther” sees Uhnellys trying their hand at lo-fi blues. “Bo-Fu-U” comes closest to matching the intensity of “Central,” with Kim spitting out rapid-fire lyrics over a hybrid of dynamic art rock and spacey jazz.

Uhnellys play Feb. 27 at Blue Forest in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, and March 6 at Kichijoji Warp in Musashino, Tokyo.