erasing clouds

Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Blues Du Jour

reviewed by anna battista

Beware of a 41-track album. Yes, beware of it because you might get too much into such a thing and it would end up in being the only album you would ever listen to from then on. This surely happens with Maher Shalal Hash Baz's Blues Du Jour, an epic album containing, diluted in 41 tracks, an array of sounds ranging from beautiful lullabies to piano soundscapes, from pop gems to 5-second bits and bobs.

Follow up to the retrospective From A Summer To Another Summer (An Egypt To Another Egypt) and released like the latter on the Pastels' label, Geographic, Blues Du Jour is the first Maher new album since the 83-song legendary album "Return Visit To Rock Mass" and retains all the originality, good inspirations and punk ethos of Tori Kudo, the genius behind Maher, founder of Japanese Alan Vega tribute band Tokyo Suicide and friend of psychedelic folk band Nagisa Ni Te.

Recorded in East Kilbride Arts Centre by David Scott and with a little help by The Pastels themselves, Blues Du Jour sees Maher and friends playing the most disparate instruments around such as pixiphone, glockenspiel, xylophone and euphonium, but to mention a few of them, apart from the ever-present guitar courtesy of Tori himself.

The album opens with "Sunrise", a typical Maher track enriched by other influences such as the Pastels' music, then we explore the sweetness of "Open Field", the track that gives the name to the EP released a few weeks before the album, the simplicity of the guitar ballad "The King Of The North" and we discover a very fine attempt at bossa nova with "Post Office".

Mostly, the tracks are sung by Tori and Reiko, his wife, sometimes in Japanese and English, more often in the latter. "Blues Du Jour" develops going through apocalyptic ballads ("31st December"), pure pastoralism ("For A Recorder And A Euphonium"), Sun Ra influences ("Blues Du Jour Cm 5.02"), and bedazzling, irresistible short tracks (check "Bus").

With an art cover of the "Finnieston Crane" by Jim Hills, a painting that struck the attention of Tori during a visit at Glasgow's Project Ability, a gallery and studio for people with special needs, Blues Du Jour is a melancholic and stellar work of art, a beautiful album which reconfirms Tori Kudo as the leader of one of the most original bands around.


Issue 17, November 2003

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